Basset horn vs. bass clarinet – which is better?

Musical instruments cannot be mentioned without including the instruments in the clarinet’s family. Basset horn and bass clarinet produce unique musical tones to make excellent music, but which is better? Keep reading to find out which one you would prefer.

I developed an interest in playing instruments in the clarinet family, and I have played since I was seven. I have played the instruments in my school and church band, where I have learned and gained extensive experience. I have understood the differences in the instruments and I can tell the one that is suited for each function.

In this post, I will compare the basset horn vs. the bass clarinet and discuss the differences between the two. If you are interested in playing such instruments, you can decide which instrument to choose.

What are the differences between Basset horn and bass clarinet

Clarinet model Basset horn Bass clarinet
Dimensions in inches Approximately 39 inches long Approximately 40 inches long
Wood Grenadilla wood African Blackwood
Key material Silver plate German silver (an alloy of nickel, zinc, and copper)
Key F B♭ (B-flat)

Basset horn vs. bass clarinet how do they compare

The body

It has a cylindrical bore and a single reed. It is large and is bent between the upper joint and the mouthpiece. Most other instruments, especially the older ones, have a kink in the middle, making the basset horn unique. It is also larger than most of the earlier instruments in the claret family. It is, however, shorter by an inch or less than the Bass clarinet. Its timber is darker than that of a bass clarinet. It is made of grenadilla wood and has the vital material as the silver plate.

On the other hand, the modern bass clarinets have a straight body that is slightly upturned, a curved metal neck and a silver-colored metal bell. Some have a double body and therefore have an appearance of a bassoon. They are heavy and have a neck strap to support the player’s neck. Some have an adjustable peg on their body designed to offer support while playing. They are made of African black wood and German silver, nickel, zinc, and copper alloy.

The two instruments are equally suitable for experienced players because their bodies are delicate, not only because of the details but also because of the material that makes them- require skilled maintenance.


The Basset horn has shiny silver keys that are delicate and difficult to maintain for an inexperienced individual or a beginner. The silver plate that covers the key is prone to dirt and stains and requires a player who understands the need to keep them clean and stain-free.

Similarly, the bass clarinet keys appear shiny and delicate. The German silver which is an alloy of zinc, nickel and copper, makes them less shiny. They are also not as delicate as the ones in the Basset horn. They are easy to clean and maintain.

Beginners will find it easier to maintain the keys on a bass clarinet. The keys are also durable because they are made of an alloy with more stain and rust-resistant qualities. Therefore, the bass clarinet has better keys for experienced players and beginners.


Instruments in the clarinet family use reeds to produce different musical tones. The basset horn has a reed rating of 2.5 that have a high degree of flexibility. It is the reason that they are the best for many jazz styles.

Various bass clarinets have different reed strengths. For instance, the Rico bass clarinet has a reed strength of 2.5. Bass clarinets have reed strength that ranges from 1.5 to 4.0. although the reed strength heavily depends on the mouthpiece, most bass clarinets have a strength of 2.5. The bigger the mouthpiece, the softer the reed.

Both instruments provide maximum versatility and therefore are best for beginners. Most players remain at that reed strength level because they feel comfortable playing where they started and have more experience.


The basset horn has a rich and highly reedy tone. The horn and the fingering, similar to that of a clarinet, produce the corresponding tenor but are pitched a fifth lower than the clarinet C. Due to the pear-shaped contracted bell, the basset’s horn produces a constrained alto. The tone is also different in the E alto♭ due to its wider bore.

On the other hand, the bass clarinet has a broader tone range than the basset horn and than most wind instruments. The four additional keys in this instrument make it possible for it to reach down to a deep C that almost sounds like a B flat and almost reaches as high as a soprano clarinet

The Bass clarinet has a broader tone range thanks to its additional four keys. Due to the broader range, experienced players find it advantageous because they can play around with the different tones to produce a complex but desirable sound. It is also suitable for beginners because it enables them to grasp a broader range of distinctive tones for a wind instrument.

Basset horn vs. bass clarinet – are they redundant?

Basset horn

The Basset horn is a unique instrument with a higher versatility than most wind instruments. A skilled player will enjoy the various playing situations and the range of skill levels that apply to the instrument. Although the keys are delicate and require careful maintenance, the instrument is generally long-lasting and will deliver consistently.


  • It has a high versatility making it an instrument of choice for beginners and skilled players.
  • It has fewer keys, is easy to learn, and is less complicated for beginners.
  • It has a good sound and can be used for all types of music played by an instrumental band.
  • It is light and hence easy to carry and play for an extended time.
  • It has a strong body, and hence it is durable.
  • It has the right reed strength providing high versatility.


  • It has delicate silver keys that may be challenging to maintain for beginners.
  • It has a narrower key range and does not allow skilled players to experiment with more tones.


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Bass clarinet overview

Bass clarinet provides the best experience for a professional musician due to the broader range of tones. The instrument’s ability to reach down to a deep C that almost sounds like a B flat and almost reaches as high as a soprano clarinet makes it a unique choice for orchestral players. When beginners use it to train, they have an easier time dealing with other wind instruments of the same family. It has an excellent long-lasting body that is easy to maintain.


  • It has a broader tone range and is, therefore, more desirable for an experienced player who would like to experiment with more tones in certain types of music.
  • It has a strong and durable body.
  • Its keys are made of an alloy and are easy to clean and maintain.
  • It has high versatility and is hence desirable for beginners and experienced players.
  • It has four additional keys, making it possible to attain a more comprehensive tonal range.


  • The additional keys make it complicated and complex for beginners to learn.
  • It is heavy and requires the user to strap it to the neck; it cannot be comfortably played over extended periods.


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Verdict: So, which one is better? Basset horn or bass clarinet

The Bass clarinet is an excellent instrument for beginners and experienced players. Although it may appear more complicated for beginners, learning to use it makes it easier to adapt to other wind instruments, including the basset horn. Additionally, it has a wider tonal range that is crucial when playing a wide range of music in a band. The wide tonal range makes it enjoyable to play solo in an orchestra or band. Moreover, the wide note range allows a skilled player to play extremely low notes like those of a tuba and high notes, such as in a flute. Therefore, it can play essential music parts that a basset horn cannot. I therefore recommend a bass clarinet for beginners.


Why is using an A Basset horn important for a player?

A basset horn is less complicated, giving a beginner the proper foundation before graduating to more complex forms of playing. It is also lighter, so a player can play for prolonged periods.

Can I transition easily to a Basset horn if I play a bass clarinet and vice versa?

If you play a bass clarinet, it is easy to transition to a basset horn. The reason is that playing a basset horn is easier than a bass clarinet. On the other side, it is a little difficult to transition from playing a basset horn to a bass clarinet because a bass clarinet has additional keys and a more comprehensive tone range. switching may require more practice to ensure that one can balance between very low keys and very high ones.


Charlotte Moore is a Clarinetist by profession and has over time offered lessons on how to play the clarinet among other musical instruments. And while a majority of clarinet players are well versed with the process of settling with a good clarinet among other accompanying features. There is little information about clarinets. The reason why Charlotte prepared comprehensive experts touching on the various facets of the clarinet. The consolidated information will offer more insight on everything clarinets including the best stand to use, and the best plastic clarinet that you can invest in, among other information. Charlotte Moore is a devoted mother of two and a professional clarinet player.

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