Marching Clarinet (Your Complete Guide) 

For many students, the clarinet is a popular choice when starting to learn an instrument in the school band. A clarinet’s warm, clear tone only adds beauty to the music played by a band or orchestra.

While you might associate marching bands with drum lines and shiny brass horns, the Clarinet is also a member of the Marching Band.

The Marching Band Clarinet is a single-reed woodwind instrument in the key of Bb that is made of five pieces: the mouthpiece, barrel, first section, second section, and bell.

marching band members holding clarinets on their shoulders

Clarinets have the most extensive pitch range of all woodwinds and can play across three distinct registers. The most common clarinets found in a concert band or a Marching Band are the Bb Soprano Clarinet and the Bass Clarinet.

Clarinets are popular instruments and are one of the main sections in a marching band. However, Clarinets and other woodwinds will not be found in a traditional brass band or a drum and bugle corps. 

Are there Clarinets in Marching Band?

Yes, you can find Clarients in the Marching Band! The Clarient section in a marching band in a college or university is usually very large. 45-60 members in the section are relatively common.

Clarinets, along with the Flutes and Saxophones, are the only woodwinds in a Marching Band.

Marching Clarinet 

While it can be difficult to hear them on the football field, the Marching Band Clarinet often has the melody of whatever song they are playing (along with the trumpets).

In a high school marching band, there will usually be about four clarinets at the minimum. Because the Clarinet bell points directly to the ground, it can be hard to hear them when the entire band is playing. This is why college marching bands have so many clarinet players and, as they say, “strength in numbers.”

Fun Fact: One really great thing about playing the Clarinet in the Marching Band is that they are in the first rows while seated in the stands. If you are in a college marching band, you will end up on TV during the game. Also, because the Clarinet is relatively light, it is easy to dance with.

Often the Clarinet section in the Marching Band will create their own dance moves for the songs in the stands, making even a losing game fun. 

What is a Marching Clarinet Called? 

A Marching Clarinet is called a clarinet. A clarinet is an instrument that can be played in an orchestra, band, small ensembles, and on the marching field. 

What is a Clarinet Player Called?

A Clarinet Player is called a clarinet player. This is what clarinet players call themselves, but some Marching Band Clarinet sections come up with their own nicknames for the section.

Students naming their section is fairly common in marching bands and very common when you march in a college marching band.

🎵 Note: For universities, the sections have been around for decades and develop their own name, mascot, flag/banner, color, lore, etc., that are passed down to new members yearly. This self-assigned title is for fun and is a way that members of a section can bond.

For example, the Clarinet Section of the Florida State University Marching Chiefs is known as “The Five Easy Pieces,” aka “Pieces,” which was named by students in the 70s after the 1970 film with Jack Nicholson and Karen Black of the same name. The section members thought the title fit because a clarinet comes in 5 pieces. 

How Much Does a Marching Clarinet Weigh?

A Marching Clarinet (and a concert clarinet) can weigh between two to five pounds. The weight of the clarinet depends on what material it is made of and the brand of the instrument.

Clarinets can be made from wood or plastic, and wooden clarinets will weigh slightly more than plastic ones.

TIP: It is strongly recommended that if you own a wooden clarinet that you play in a concert band or in an orchestra, you acquire a plastic instrument for marching season.

Bringing your wooden clarinet to the marching field is a bad idea because repairing it is not cheap, and you should always keep your good horn or professional-level instrument inside. 

What is a Marching Bass Clarinet?

A Marching Bass Clarinet is a bass clarinet that is played on the field with the marching band. Instead of sitting in a chair and placing the bass clarinet before you, resting on its floor peg stand, the instrument is worn like a Saxophone.

A Marching Bass Clarinet is used with a neck strap which makes the instrument portable and easier to march with it. 

marching bass clarinets laying in a line on a blue blanket on the ground

A Marching Bass Clarinet is just like a standard bass clarinet. The instrument is pitched in Bb and can play notes an octave lower than a standard Bb clarinet.

Note: While some marching bands march with Marching Bass Clarinets, it is not a regular fixture in all marching bands.

Here are 3 reasons why bass clarinets may not be in your marching band.

The Marching Bass Clarinet is heavy, and the length of the instrument can make certain marching maneuvers difficult. 

Its sound can get lost when the entire band plays. All Marching Clarinets can be hard to hear on the field because of the direction the bell points in.

The curved bell of the Marching Bass Clarinet does not increase the projection of sound on the field. 

What is the Difference Between a Marching Bass Clarinet and a Marching Clarinet? 

While the Marching Bass Clarinet and the Marching Clarinet are both Clarinets and have almost the same fingerings (because the range of the bass clarinet is greater than the standard clarinet, some of the lower notes will have their own fingerings/keys), there are several differences between the two.

  • One of the most notable differences between the two is that the Marching Bass Clarinet can play a far lower range than a Bb (also called the soprano) Marching Clarinet.
  • The other obvious difference is the size, a Marching Clarinet is around 26 inches long from the mouthpiece’s tip to the bottom of the bell, and the Marching Bass Clarinet is approximately 43 inches long. Almost twice the length of a normal Marching Clarinet! 
  • The weight of a Marching Clarinet is far lighter than the weight of a Marching Bass Clarinet. As mentioned earlier, a Marching Clarinet will weigh between 2-5 pounds depending on the materials it is made of. The Marching Bass Clarinet can weigh between 15 – 20 pounds. The weight and length of the Marching Bass Clarinet mean that it requires a neck strap and is held similarly to a Saxophone when in a Marching Band.
  • The musical range between the two is very different, and the Marching Clarinet can play in the upper registers, which enhances the melody. The Marching Bass Clarinet plays in a low register and often plays the bass line in a piece of music alongside the tuba, baritone, or bass trombone.
  • A final difference between a Marching Bass Clarinet and a Marching Clarinet is that the Marching Clarinet is more popular. Most clarinet players will learn to play the clarinet and then either choose to play the bass clarinet or a band director makes a student play the bass clarinet. It is easier to rent or afford a Marching Clarinet than it is to rent or buy a Marching Bass Clarinet.

How and Where to Buy A Clarinet for Marching Band? 

Clarinets, like all instruments, can be expensive and should be considered an investment. There are three options for purchasing a Clarinet for Marching Band. 

The first option is to purchase a clarinet in person at a local instrument store. While aGuitar Center may have clarinets, it is best to go to a musical instrument supply store where the staff will be more familiar with the different kinds of clarinets and can assess which one will work best for you. 

The second option is to buy a clarinet online. If you like a specific brand or a teacher recommends a specific brand, you can go to the brand’s website and select the Marching Clarient you want. You can also order online from a music company.

Some reliable and trusted music companies that sell Marching Clarinets are: 

  1. Woodwind & Brasswind
  2. Musician’s Friend
  3. Music & Arts
  4. Pro Winds
  5. Sweetwater

The final option for buying a clarinet is via an online auction site like eBay or Reverb. Do some independent research to make sure the instrument you purchase is the correct one you need.

Writing down some brand names and model numbers for the horn you want is a good idea. Ask sellers for videos or detailed photos of any serial numbers on all pieces of the instrument. 

How to Rent a Clarinet for Marching Band

Renting a Clarinet for Marching Band is something that is regularly done. Many clarinet players will rent a plastic clarinet for the duration of the marching season. As mentioned earlier, the clarinet is either made of wood or plastic.

Wooden clarinets should not be played outside in the Marching Band. This is because the wood will expand and contract due to the humidity, which can trap moisture in the wood and lead to cracking or splintering.

A plastic clarinet will not be impacted by humidity like a wooden clarinet. 

You can rent a plastic Marching Clarinet from any local instrument/music supply store in your area if they have a rental program.

A small amount of money will be paid each month for the horn, and at the end of the season, the clarinet will be returned to the store it came from.

While instrument insurance may sound unnecessary, investing in it for the marching season is a good idea. Instruments fall, get hit, loose pads and cork, etc., and insurance will ensure that you only have to pay for part of the fee to repair the instrument rather than the total repair cost.

What Brands Are the Best?

There are many excellent brands of clarinets on the market, but these are the top 4 plastic clarinets regarding sound quality, construction, and general reviews.

Remember, the cheapest plastic clarinet doesn’t mean it has a good tone and sound quality. If you are buying a Marching Clarinet, it is best to do so in person and with your own mouthpiece.

That way, you can test-play each option to find the one you like best.

NameBody MaterialKeyMaterialMouthpiece included?Weight (lbs)Dimensions(inches) Price
Yamaha YCL-255ABS ResinNickel PlatedYES4.6 14.9 X 5.91 X 12.2 $1,140.00
Buffet Premium Student Bb Clarinet 
Polymeric ABS

Silver plated



16.25 X 11 X 7.25

Selmer CL301 Composite** Nickel PlatedYES4.514 X 4 X 10$1,539.00
Jupiter JCL710NAABS ResinNickel Plated YES5.2314 X 7.7 X 4.5$1,164.00

* The Buffet Premium Student Bb Clarinet is the exception to the “the cheapest isn’t always the best” rule.

Buffet is a well-known brand, and its grenadilla wood E-11 Bb clarinet is widely recommended for both intermediate students and professionals.

The Premium Student Bb Clarinet is made of plastic, so the tone differs from a standard Buffet wooden clarinet. Test-playing is recommended before purchase. 

** The Selmer CL301 clarinet is made of a composite material designed to look and feel almost identical to grenadilla wood.

The composite is made of a hard rubber and plastic mixture and is very durable. The sound is darker than a standard ABS plastic clarinet. Test-playing is recommended before purchase. 

How To Hold A Marching Clarinet

Holding a Marching Clarinet is incredibly easy, and if you already know how to play the clarinet, it will be held the same way. For those who have never held a clarinet, this is how to do so correctly. 

Steps to Holding a Clarinet 

1. Left Hand Placement

The left hand will be placed and operate the instrument’s first section. The left thumb will cover the single hole on the back of the instrument, and the rest of the fingers will wrap around the first section.

You will place your pointer, middle, and ring fingers on the three open holes on the front of the instrument. Your pinky should rest on the closest side key that it can reach.

The hand should always be kept in a soft C shape, and only the tips of the fingers should cover the holes.  

2. Right Hand Placement

The right hand is placed on and operates the second section of the instrument. In the second section, there will be a thumb rest that you will use to hold the instrument.

Your thumb goes underneath the flat part of the thumb rest, and you can buy cushions for the thumb rest if you feel uncomfortable. Again, much like the left hand, your right hand will wrap around the front of the second section.

Your pointer, middle, and ring finger will be used to cover the three open holes, while your right pinky will rest lightly on the bottom keys. Only the fingertips should cover the holes, and the hands should be in a soft C shape.

Keeping the hands in the C shape allows you to easily reach any of the bottom or side keys that are used for the upper and lower register.

Check out the video below to see how to hold a Marching Clarinet. 

Pros and Cons of Playing Clarinet in the Marching Band

Every instrument or piece of marching band’s equipment has pros and cons.

Please note that while there are cons to playing the Clarinet in the Marching Band, it shouldn’t stop you from joining the clarinet section.


Some cons of playing the Clarinet in the Marching Band are that your instrument goes through a lot each season.

The negative thing about woodwinds being so fragile is that you are likely to lose pads and cork, which can make assembling or playing your clarinet difficult.

If you lose a pad and you see it on the ground, pick it up and hold on to it; that way, it is easier to be reattached at a music shop.

PRO TIP: Keep several bandaids in your case or your bag that you bring to the field for practice and games, along with a small pair of nail scissors.

If you discover you lost a pad, you can wrap the bandaid around the key with the missing pad, and it will still allow you to play relatively well. 

Another con of Marching Clarinet is that you will need two mouthpieces and ligatures if you are using a plastic clarinet for marching and a wooden one for indoor concert band use.

Mouthpieces and ligatures are cheap, but it is easy to forget or misplace the designated marching mouthpiece and ligature.

It happens to everyone at some point (or the ligature breaks), so…

Another Marching Clarinet PRO TIP: is to carry a hair tie in your case or in your marching bag.

The hair tie can be used as a substitute ligature to hold your reed in place during practice or a game.

One of the biggest cons to playing the Clarinet in the Marching Band is that unless the section is really large, the audience in the stands will not hear you playing. Because the bell points directly to the ground, that is where the sound travels to.

Brass instruments have forward-facing bells that project sound straight at the stands, while the clarinet’s sound must hit the ground and then bounce into the stands.

Not all high school marching bands have a large clarinet section, so some sound will get lost if you are positioned in the back of the field.


As you can see there are a lot more pros than cons to playing clarinet in Marching Band!!


There are so many pros to playing Clarinet in the Marching Band! While your sound might get lost on the football field, you are definitely able to be heard in the stands.

While seated in the stands, flutes and clarinets are always sitting in the front/first two or three rows in the stands. That means that in the stands, you can really hear the woodwinds and the Clarinets.

You will have the melody of most stand tunes, so it can be a lot of fun playing in the stands and seeing fans get excited or sing/dance along to what you are playing.

Another benefit of being in the front is that if the game is televised, you will probably be shown on the TV. 

Another pro is that your instrument is light and won’t hurt your arms or back at all. You do not have to wear a Marching Clarinet like the drumline or tubas if your band uses sousaphones.

Your horn angles are not constantly being corrected, and your arms are at the most natural position, which relieves pressure from your arms and shoulders.

The lighter the instrument, the less it will hurt to carry and march with it. Plus, it is easier to create dances and instrument movements to accompany your music.

As mentioned multiple times in this article, the Marching Clarient will often play the melodies of the show music, which is really fun to do.

While the bass lines are important in any piece of music, it is way more fun to play a bunch of notes and runs instead of the same three or four notes the entire time.Good music is undoubtedly a pro of playing the Clarinet in the Marching Band. 

In college bands, you will be surprised at how many people will approach you while you are in uniform, holding your clarinet, and ask to take their picture with you—especially young school kids.

To them, you are the coolest person on the planet, and taking a moment to say hi or take a picture with a young musician can be the thing that makes them want to be in the marching band when they are older.

If you have time to take a picture with a fan in uniform, do it. The excitement on the fan’s faces is something that you will never forget. 

One of the biggest pros of playing the Clarinet in the Marching Band is being in the marching band.

Marching band is a lot of fun; you get to go to almost every football game for free, people love the band, and some come just to see halftime shows.

Everyone in the band loves music and marching just as much as you do. If it is your first year in high school or in a marching band, it can feel intimidating showing up on the first day of band camp.

The truth is, as soon as you step foot into the band room that first day, you have a brand new family.

You immediately have X number of friends before you even introduce yourself because your section is now full of your friends, and you will grow closer as the marching season progresses through the fall. 

We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you in your musical journey. Please let us know if there is anything that we could add or change to make this article a better resource for our readers.
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