The clarinet is one of the more popular woodwind instruments, finding itself in orchestras, chamber music groups, military and marching bands, jazz bands and more. Though the B♭ clarinet has become the standard, the clarinet family includes other instruments, ranging from the BBB♭ octo-contrabass all the way to the A♭ piccolo clarinet.
There are plenty of options for the student, intermediate and professional clarinetists. This isn't only true of individual instruments but also of solo clarinet makers and larger clarinet brands.
With such a wide variety of choices, knowing the market's top brands is useful. Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect of a clarinet, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgement. In this article, I'll share my take on the top clarinet brands.
Though subjective and prone to biases, I've done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Performance of the clarinets
- Longevity of the clarinets
- Variety of clarinets available
- Accessibility of the clarinets (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let's list out the brands.
The top 11 best clarinet brands are:
- Henri Selmer Paris
- Fratelli Patricola
- Jean Paul USA
Let's get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best clarinet brands. I'll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable clarinet, and a link to their official website.
Although this brand's achievements are too many to name, perhaps the most remarkable is that they were responsible for co-designing the Boehm System for clarinet with Hyacinthe Klosé, a famous clarinetist in the 19th century.
Nowadays, the company is the world market leader in manufacturing Boehm clarinets, from a 1,000-employee factory, selling to the entire world. If Boehm clarinets are what you are looking for, you need to give this brand a chance before buying anything else.
Notable clarinet: Buffet Crampon BCXXI (link to check the price at Gear4Music)
After the market-changing innovation of the Boehm clarinets, the Buffet Crampon research and development team didn't stop searching for innovative ways to create a better clarinet. This model represents the summit of that path, taking the innovative design of the R13 and RC clarinets from 1954 and 1975, respectively, one step further.
As a result, this is a longer, B flat clarinet ready to make even more history. It was approved by professional testers like Eric Baret, Nicolas Baldeyrou, Paul Meyer, Michael Arrignon, and Martin Fröst.
Denis Buffet-Auger founded Buffet Crampon in 1825 in Paris, France. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Mantes-la-Ville, France.
Official website: buffet-crampon.com
The Yamaha Corporation excels in every business niche they manufacture products for, ranging from world-class motorcycles to pianos, clarinets, and music classes. Indeed, the Yamaha name is synonymous with excellence, obsessive attention to detail, and cutting-edge technology.
Moreover, Yamaha's corporate mission is Kandō which could be translated to English as “emotionally moving”. That is exactly what you can expect from every Yamaha clarinet leaving the factory: the perfect blend of excellence and heritage that can move you with every note.
Yamaha is a must-try before buying any other brand.
Notable clarinet: Yamaha YCL-CSGIIIHL (link to check the price at Sam Ash)
Few companies can take a classic design and improve it to create a brand new paradigm. Such is the case of the YCL-CSGIIIHL (B♭ version) and CSG-AIIIHL (A version), clarinets designed with a barrel and bell exuding breathtaking richness and depth. Furthermore, it offers a super-clear, focused center with a wide array of musical overtones that add the exact amount of mid-highs to the warm sound achieving a beautiful result.
Finally, the expressive nature of this top-notch instrument will surely take your playing to unexplored territory at ease.
Yamaha was founded by Torakusu Yamaha in 1887. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Shizuoka, Japan.
Official website: yamaha.com
Yamaha is featured in many other My New Microphone articles. Check them out here.
One of Jupiter's main differentiators as a brand is its accompanying musicians in their learning journey. This is because they offer a model for every stage of the way, from very affordable clarinets for the starting musician to state-of-the-art clarinets that can easily be spotted at some of the most demanding stages in the world.
Nowadays, the company offers excellence in every tier and helps those taking their first steps in the music world learn with a quality instrument at a competitive price. Regardless of the stage you're at in your music career, I'd suggest giving Jupiter clarinets a chance.
This Jupiter clarinet represents the pinnacle of the company's long heritage in the woodwind world. The hand-picked Grenadilla body gives this instrument a warm tone throughout the register. Also, the raised C/G tone hole and offset register key make playing it a true delight. Finally, a French-style case and cover round-up a premium package that can be a great ally for endless playing nights and even the toughest road tests.
Jupiter was founded by its parent company KHS in 1980. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Taiwan.
Official website: jupitermusic.com
The main reason behind the company's name is that Henri Selmer had a brother named Alexandre, who was established in the USA, while his brother, Henri, made it in Paris. Eventually, Alexandre sold Selmer products in the USA, and the H&A Selmer Company was created.
This rich heritage of over a century making some of the best wind instruments in the world gave the Conn-Selmer company the insight and know-how to build instruments that can compete directly with the best brands in the market.
As the parent company, Steinway's leverage helps make each Conn-Selmer instrument a one-of-a-kind wonder.
Notable clarinet: Selmer Model CL211 (link to check the price on Amazon)
George Bundy was the man who was left in charge of Alexandre Selmer's USA endeavours. Besides taking care of all operations, George designed clarinets set to revolutionize the market. This quintessential Selmer model has held the brand to the highest standards ever since.
That reputation comes from the warm, controlled, and focused tone that the hand-picked, unstained, naturally-aged granadilla body can deliver. Plus, it is a delight to play due to the undercut tone holes, hard rubber mouthpiece, and silver-plated keys. If you want quality that can last for a lifetime, this is a serious choice.
Conn-Selmer Inc. was founded in 2003 as a wholly-owned Steinway Musical Instruments subsidiary. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Elkhart, Indiana, USA.
Official website: conn-selmer.com/en-us/our-brands/selmer
Parent company: Conn-Selmer (Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.)
Henri Selmer Paris
Some names like Paul Desmond, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane can proudly be named Selmer players. This is not just a coincidence; top-notch players in the world regard Selmer as “the best money can buy”. Moreover, the classic models made in earlier decades of the company's existence are considered by many people as the holy grail of woodwind instruments.
If excellence is what you are after, Selmer is a must-try before buying.
Notable clarinet: Selmer Paris B16PR2 Privilege (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Refined in every possible sense, the Privilege line of clarinets represents the top-of-the-crop of Henri Selmer Paris clarinets. This also means they are among the best in the world.
The mechanical response is superb, making it a pleasure to play. Also, it is an exceptionally stable instrument capable of staying in tune in all scenarios, regardless of weather and humidity changes.
Finally, the hand-picked ebony construction finished with water-proof varnish makes this exceptional instrument a dependable, great-sounding work of art.
Selmer was founded in 1885 by Henri Selmer. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Mantes-la-Ville, France.
Official website: selmer.fr
Parent company: Conn-Selmer (Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.)
Henri Selmer Paris is also featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Saxophone Brands On The Market.
To tell the story of Morrie Backun's groundbreaking company is to say that talent, passion, and hard work can pave the path to success. It all began in 2000 when Morrie was approached by the Principal Clarinet of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to overhaul his number one instrument.
Such was Morrie's skill in building a new barrel entirely from Cocobolo that Selmer approached him to redesign their clarinet line in 2004. As a result, the combined effort and heritage from a master designer and one of the largest clarinet makers in the world took Backun to be regarded as one of the best by professional musicians from all latitudes.
If you are after an instrument that can take your playing to the next level, you have to give Backun a try before buying anything else.
Notable clarinet: Backun CG Carbon Bb Clarinet (link to check the price at Backun)
An exotic wood core brings life to a carbon fibre body to make one of the most advanced clarinet designs in the world. The result of this combination is an instrument capable of uncanny projection and unmatched intonation. Furthermore, the company offers a wide range of options to make a custom instrument that won't shrink or expand with weather changes and will deliver a to-die-for sound for a lifetime.
The Backun sound just made it to the new millennium, and it sounds better than ever.
Backun Musical Services Ltd. was founded by Morrie Backun in the year 2000. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Official website: backunmusical.com
LeBlanc was one of the best-kept secrets in the clarinet world for over a century until Steinway Musical Instruments purchased it in 2004. At that moment, after being placed under the Conn-Selmer subsidiary, LeBlanc's reputation grew non-stop, granting them a spot among the best clarinet makers in the world.
The spirit and heritage of the centuries-old building tradition still live in each LeBlanc clarinet leaving the factory. Thus, you can expect nothing short of the warmth, focused tone, and uncanny quality that made LeBlanc a legend.
Notable clarinet: Leblanc LCL411S (link to check the price at Gear4Music)
This model by LeBlanc features a unique multistage aging process, premium materials, and legendary design to make it the best possible option for the aspiring clarinetist. Furthermore, the playability, projection, intonation, and even response across the entire register are usually found only in instruments in a very different price range.
It is safe to say that if you are looking for the best price-quality balance, you have to check this LeBlanc model before buying anything else.
LeBlanc was founded in the 1890s by Georges LeBlanc. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA.
Official website: conn-selmer.com/en-us/our-brands/leblanc
Parent company: Conn-Selmer (Steinway Musical Instruments, Inc.)
Every clarinet leaving the Patricola factory proudly bears silver-plated or gold-plated 100% handmade mechanics. In contrast, the hand-picked Grenadilla or Bubinga bodies are worked to perfection with a CNC machine.
As a result, every Fratelli Patricola instrument is the perfect blend between tradition and heritage with cutting-edge technology. Moreover, the company takes care of every step of the process, including the distribution to several shops in Italy and many countries around the world.
Those looking for a quality instrument with a one-of-a-kind sound and obsessive attention to detail should check this brand out before buying anything else.
Fratelli Patricola only manufactures Boehm system clarinets like this model. Within the boundaries of that design, the company introduced minor improvements every year since it was first released.
Moreover, this is the strange case of a clarinet that offers solid results for those just starting, knowledgeable students, and professionals alike. This is because it is made of a combination of 15-to-20-year-old Grenadilla and Bubinga Ebony wood, silver or gold-plated mechanisms, and high-quality skin pads tested to last over 10 years.
If you want great sound and ease of use in an instrument that will last you for decades instead of years, you have to check this one out.
The word “Fratelli” in Italian means brothers. This is not a minor detail since it was founded by three brothers: Francesco, Pietro, and Baggio Patricola, in 1976. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Castelnuovo Scrivia, Italy.
Official website: patricola.com
Although the company was founded in 1959, the musical instrument-making tradition came a long way for the Wurlitzer family; it started in 1659. During those more than three centuries before the foundation, the Wurlitzers gathered an uncanny level of insight over every aspect of the instrument, allowing them to bend all the rules known to the industry.
As a result, the company builds German System clarinets as well as “reform Boehm system” clarinets (developed by Fritz Wurlitzer, Herbert's father), delivering the Oehler sound with the Boehm fingering system.
The company manufactures small quantities of each instrument completely custom-made. If you have the chance to pick one up, beware, you might not be able to put it down again.
Notable clarinet: Wurlitzer No. 185 E/F (link to request a price at Wurlitzer)
Because every Wurlitzer clarinet is made to be one-of-a-kind, it is possible to speak about the general aspects of each model, but you need to submit a form with your specific requests to receive one. That being said, each clarinet requested to the factory bears the heart and soul of what made Wurlitzer an unsung legend of the clarinet world.
In this particular case, you can choose Cocobolo or Grenadilla wood, silver or gold keys, and you can enjoy the wonderful German clarinet sound while you're playing as fast and easy as with any Boehm system clarinet.
This Wurlitzer indeed brings the best of both worlds into one uncanny instrument.
Wurlitzer was founded by Herbert Wurlitzer in 1959. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Neustadt an der Aisch, Germany.
Official website: wurlitzerklarinetten.de
Luis Rossi is among the very few virtuoso players who can also claim to be a master-builder of the instrument. Indeed, after founding the initial workshop in Santiago, Chile, he set out on an endless tour of masterclasses and solo concerts through countless universities and concert halls around the world.
He reached the pinnacle of his career as a musician playing instruments designed and built by him, blending the cold air of the Andean range with the core of the European building tradition. As a result, each Rossi clarinet is ready to make history in any stage, studio session, or university in the world.
Try a Rossi clarinet today if you want to have an instrument like no other made by a man who has mastered every aspect of the craft.
Notable clarinet: Rossi Cenit (link to check the price at Rossi)
As its name implies, this Chilean-made wonder represents the summit, the pinnacle of a long tradition of creating woodwind masterpieces. In this vein, what the Cenit brings to the world of clarinets is an improved version of the Boehm system. By improved version, we mean that the company finally solved the chronically out-of-tune low F with no extra tone piece.
Besides, the Cenit is capable of a beautifully warm tone, focused performance, and a remarkably musical range with sweet overtones and powerful projection. The Rossi Cenit is the choice of a clarinet virtuoso. Thus, it can be the best vessel to take your playing to the next level.
Rossi Clarinets was founded by Luis Rossi in 1986. The company's headquarters are in Santiago, Chile.
Official website: luisrossi.com
Jean Paul USA
What sets Jean Paul USA apart from the competition is that they are a brand on a mission: they want to offer good instruments at competitive prices to help starting musicians. This is not just a random decision made out of thin air but the outcome of working as an importer and distributor for brands like Yamaha for almost 20 years.
The company saw the market lacked instruments that were affordable enough to be purchased by any family and good enough to learn how to play without struggling with the instrument itself.
Thus, what you can expect from this brand are sturdy-made, good-sounding, affordable instruments for students and beginners.
Being a step up from their entry-level model, this clarinet features several upgrades that can make a big difference for those starting out.
To begin with, it comes with an upgraded case that gives it a more professional feel. Also, the synthetic pads make playing easier, offering effortless in-tune notes throughout the register.
Finally, the price tag is among the most competitive in the market for the student segment. Try one of these out before buying anything else. It offers a superb price-performance balance.
Jean Paul USA is a small family business founded in 1994. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Miami, Florida, USA.
Official website: jeanpaulusa.com
Jean Paul USA is also featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Trumpet Brands On The Market.
- Roy Benson
- P. Mauriat