Clarinet Brass or Woodwind – which is better?

Over the years, clarinetists have always debated how the material of a clarinet affects the quality of sound produced. Read on to find out whether brass or wood clarinets is the better of the two.

I have watched my sister play the clarinet for a long time, and recently I decided to start playing. A few things stood out when I purchased my first clarinet. With guidance, I learned that the type of clarinet impacts the quality of sound produced. Among the most sought out are wood and brass clarinets.

There have been debates among clarinetists over which of the two is the better. In this review, we have broken down the differences between wood and brass clarinets, the overview of each, the pros and cons of both wood and brass, answered FAQs, and given a verdict based on the review over which of the two is better, and more details.

What are the differences between Brass clarinets and Woodwind clarinets?

Clarinet model Brass clarinet Woodwind clarinets
Material Metal, brass. Wood
Sound Unspecific.


Specific, resonant, and unmistakable.
Durability It lasts for years. It stays in good condition for a shorter period.
Care and maintenance It requires less maintenance. It requires a lot of care and maintenance.
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Brass vs. Woodwind clarinets – How do they compare?


Brass clarinets were popular in the 20th century; however, plastic clarinets were preferred over time. Brass clarinets produce a relatively loud sound that may be out of pitch. Companies making brass clarinets use metal and brass to make these types of clarinets. Alto clarinets have metallic bells and necks. Metal is also used to construct contrabass and contra-alto clarinets’ bodies. Other clarinet parts, such as mouthpieces, are mainly made from hard rubber. Ligatures are mostly made of metal.

Wood clarinets are the most widely used, especially at the professional level. The main types of wood used are African blackwood, hardwood, rosewood, and granadilla. Back in the day, boxwood was one of the woods used. Wood clarinets are preferred over the other clarinets, given the quality of sound they produce compared to metal and plastic clarinets. Unlike other clarinets, wood types make quality sound, as clarinetists argue.

Wood clarinets are a better choice when comparing the material since they offer better sound, as many professional clarinetists prefer.


Wood clarinets fit this role better when you want to purchase a clarinet and prefer one that offers quality sound over the rest. They give a more pronounced, unmistakable sound and good resonance. You can regulate your pitch while playing a wood clarinet which is why professional clarinetists prefer this kind of clarinet over the rest.

Brass clarinets give a slow response and produce a loud sound that is not resonant; that’s why it is less valued. The sound produced with a brass clarinet lacks specificity. Over time, there have been better introductions into the market which give quality sound.

When it comes to tone, wood clarinets are better than brass class clarinets, which lack specificity, resonance, and unmistakable sound quality.


A brass clarinet may last for years, depending on how well you take care of it. Brass clarinets do not need a lot of maintenance which is why they stay in good condition for years. However, the owner is careless in how they handle and store the brass clarinet; it may not last the first year of purchase. Like other clarinets, You must take proper care like keeping in its case, regularly cleaning the clarinet, polishing the surface, making repairs, and replacing any damaged parts.

Wood clarinets are a bit delicate compared to other clarinets. The clarinet will crack if exposed to extreme weather changes such as heat, dryness, or cold. In wet temperatures, the clarinet may absorb moisture and grow molds. Therefore, you must take proper care of a wood clarinet to survive the test of time. Make any repairs if needed and replace broken parts. Store the wooden clarinet in its rightful case to protect it from environmental dangers and possible breakage if it falls.

In terms of durability, brass clarinets last longer than other clarinets, making them a preferable choice.


During the ’80s and ’90s, all through to the 2000s, brass clarinets had great value. Over time, companies such as Yamaha developed better clarinet innovations from cheaper materials such as Resin. Therefore, players preferred plastic clarinets over other materials over time, given they were more affordable. For this reason, the value of metal clarinets took a big dive. In recent years, brass clarinets have been auctioned at low prices. With a low budget, you can get a classical brass clarinet.

In contrast, wood clarinets fetch high prices. The type of wood used to make a clarinet will determine the pricing of the clarinet. Exotic wood types cost higher than those sought from Africa. Wood clarinets require much care and maintenance, which explains why they are more costly. Professionals mainly prefer wood clarinets since they produce better sound compared to other types of clarinets.

In terms of cost, brass clarinets are cheaper; however, wood clarinets offer musical beauty matching the pricing, a good value for your money.

Care and maintenance

Among professional clarinetists, wood clarinets are more popular than brass clarinets which tells of the extra care and maintenance that is given to wood clarinets. These clarinets are prone to get affected by temperature and humidity changes. Therefore, you must be vigilant about such climatic changes as an owner. Before using a wood clarinet, a period known as breaking-in where you start playing it for 15, 30, 45, and lastly 60 minutes each for one week exclusively while completely swabbing the bore after.

Keep wood clarinets away from very hot or cold temperatures, which can lead to cracking. You can use humidifiers in extreme dry climatic conditions to prevent cracking. In wet conditions, apply lightly bore oil, so the wood clarinet does not get mold. After each performance, wood clarinets should go through bore swabbing. Afterward, they should be stored in their cases to prevent exposure to these adverse weather conditions.

On the other hand, brass clarinets are easier to maintain and do not have the ‘breaking-in’ period. Regularly wipe down and polish the outer surface of the metal clarinet to keep the shine using a soft brush or cloth. After using the clarinet, always swab the bore and remove any trace of moisture. Metal clarinets should not be exposed to extreme weather conditions, facilitating wearing off.

Wood clarinets require a lot of care and maintenance and may be tiresome to carry out frequently; therefore, metal clarinets are preferable in this category.

Brass vs. Woodwind clarinet – Are they redundant?

Brass clarinet overview

As discussed, brass clarinets were famous back in the 20th century; however, over the years, they have gained irrelevance and have seen a significant setback in the market. The mentioned clarinet produces a loud, not specific sound and gives a slow response quality undesirable to professional clarinetists. Despite this, if you master the art of playing the clarinet, the brass variety will not be difficult to handle.


  • Companies take a short of producing brass clarinets.
  • Brass clarinets last for many years as compared to wooden ones.
  • They are resistant to weather changes.
  • Unlike wooden clarinets, brass cannot crack.
  • Require less maintenance.


  • Produce loud sound that is unspecific.
  • Brass clarinets give a slow response.
  • High temperatures affect the brass clarinet’s sound production quality, precisely the pitch of the clarinet.


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Woodwind clarinet overview

Wood clarinets are famous among professional clarinetists. There is no secret as to why they are preferred over the rest. Wood clarinets offer a more specific resonant sound and quickly respond when playing. However, some disadvantages pull clarinetists away from owning one. For one, they are costly compared to brass clarinets. Secondly, they require much care and maintenance since they are sensitive to weather changes such as excess heat, cold, and humidity. If a wood clarinet falls, it will get damaged; therefore, great care must be taken when handling it. Regularly caring for and carrying out repairs on a wooden clarinet makes it expensive to purchase. Other than the few cons, the wood clarinet remains the most preferred clarinet.


  • Wood clarinets produce specific, unmistakable, and resonant sounds.
  • Wood clarinets give out a high-quality warm tone.
  • Over time, as a wood clarinet ages, the sound quality gets better.
  • Professional clarinetists can perfect the pitch while playing wood clarinets.


  • Require a lot of time for care and maintenance.
  • Wood clarinets are sensitive to weather changes.
  • They are costly to purchase and maintain, thus restricting student clarinet players.


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Verdict: So, which one is better? Brass or woodwind clarinets?

After comparing the brass to the wood clarinet, the latter is the better option. Wood clarinets are expensive; however, professionals commonly purchase this type over the rest. They offer a specific tone, good resonance, and unmistakable sound. In contrast, the brass clarinet is loud and gives out slower responses and unspecific sounds. If you are a beginner, you may opt for a brass clarinet since it is cheaper, but you may only find previously owned ones as companies rarely produce brass clarinets.


1. Are brass clarinets better than wood clarinets?

Wood clarinets are better than brass clarinets in terms of the quality of sound produced.

2. Which material is the best for clarinet?

The most preferred material for making clarinets is wood. The main reason is a wood clarinet’s resonance, unmistakable and specific sound.

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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