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Looking for a new clarinet and wondering whether the Jean Paul USA CL-300 student clarinet is the right one for you?
With so many budget clarinets entering the space in recent years, looking for a quality model at a reasonable price can be like digging through a beehive with an ungloved hand to find the queen—you’re bound to get stung a few times along the way.
I’m here to show you why the CL-300, in production since 2013, continues to be a popular choice for students.
By the end, you’ll learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision for yourself as to whether this is the right clarinet for you or someone you know.
The Jean Paul USA brand
Jean Paul USA is one of the most widely recognized clarinet brands on the market. Based in the United States, the company also sells several other wind instruments, including trombones, saxophones, trumpets, flutes and various accessories.
One of the things I like most about Jean Paul USA is that they manufacture clarinets not only for students, but for intermediate and professional musicians as well. This is common among top brands like Yamaha, Buffet Crampon and others and shows the company has the expertise needed to build a quality instrument.
Speaking of quality, Jean Paul USA claims that their technical team checks each instrument in the U.S. before shipping.
On top of this, Jean Paul has an excellent reputation for customer service. They tend to respond fast to any questions and issues and are pleasant and easy to speak with. In fact, I’ve contacted them through their website with questions and received a response within 24 hours.
I feel Jean Paul USA is a reputable brand overall and one that clearly stands behind the quality of their clarinets.
Key criteria for rating the Jean Paul USA CL-300
Whether a Jean Paul clarinet review or any other student clarinet review, several key criteria apply. Let’s talk about those considerations likely to be most relevant to your purchasing decision.
- Strong tone with good projection
- Decent set of accessories
- 2 barrels for tuning
- Excellent customer service from manufacturer
- Keys are slightly delicate
- Ligature included may be loose-fitting
The Jean Paul USA CL-300 is priced between $200-260 new. This falls in the low-mid range of most student models (related: 15 Best Student Clarinets and How to Choose).
One advantage the CL-300 has over other clarinets at this price is that is tends to hold its value nicely. Musicians who take proper care of the instrument are often able to resell it for two thirds or more of the original price.
If your budget doesn’t allow a couple hundred dollars for a new clarinet, there are less expensive models that may be a better match.
But of course, price alone doesn’t begin to completely describe this clarinet. Several other factors make this an attractive clarinet for many.
Different clarinet models play a bit differently. Some are harder to play than others, regardless of price.
For example, professional clarinets are often made from wood, a material which gives the instrument a richer sound. The downside—and one of the main reasons beginner clarinets aren’t made from wood—is that typically only experienced clarinetists can play these well.
Other features, such as overall workmanship and what mouthpiece is used can affect ease of play, or play-ability.
Play-ability is an especially important consideration for anyone wanting to buy a clarinet for a child. A clarinet that’s relatively easy to play helps encourage a student to stick with the instrument for longer. Whereas a model that’s harder to play needlessly challenges and discourages the same student.
Jean Paul USA’s CL-300 student clarinet ranks highly in play-abilty. It tends to play well right out the box without the need for pad or key adjustment. The mouthpiece included, though not great, is also of decent quality (more on that below in Accessories).
3. Clarinet durability
How well a clarinet holds up with regular playing, or durability, says much about the quality and value-for-money of the instrument.
The Jean Paul USA CL-300 is more durable than others at or below its price point. In fact, its strong durability is one of the reasons the CL-300 tend to hold its value. You can generally expect this model to last 2-3 years or more with proper care.
When we consider durability, we’re mostly looking at the quality of workmanship and materials used in manufacturing a couple specific parts of the instrument (relevant: Parts of a Clarinet Explained):
Clarinets tend to have a body made from either wood or some kind of plastic.
All else being equal, wood clarinets usually sound better than plastic ones. But they’re also vulnerable in ways plastic clarinets are not—wood models can easily crack or warp from exposure to temperature or humidity changes.
Plastic models can still crack or break if handled roughly. But their resilience under a variety of indoor and outdoor conditions makes them more durable than wood models overall. They’re also the ideal choice for marching band.
The Jean Paul USA CL-300 is made from Bakelite, a common plastic.
Durability in a clarinet’s keys is determined mainly by the quality of metal used.
It’s very common for clarinet keys to be made from nickel with a nickel or silver plating, as is the case with the CL-300. But nickel keys with better metallurgy will make the keys feel a bit heavier, hardening them against bending or breaking.
Softer keys, by contrast, are more likely to bend or break. They also don’t normally hold their adjustment as well as harder keys—meaning the pads over the tone holes can lose their seal and require maintenance.
You can pay a few hundred dollars more for a higher-end student model, such as the Buffet Prodige, and get stronger keys. But as long as you handle the CL-300 with care, the keys should work just fine.
The few cases where the keys bend or break on this Jean Paul clarinet are usually due to the student gripping the keys while trying to assemble or disassemble the instrument—something to avoid (related: How to Assemble and Disassemble a Clarinet).
The best clarinets have a rich, resonant sound with even and consistent tones. Lesser clarinets can sound a bit muffled or out of tune when certain notes are played.
How well a clarinet sounds is mostly a function of the mouthpiece used and the shape and consistency of the bore—the drilled hole that runs the length of the inside of the body.
I feel this clarinet has a decent sound overall, especially for a new player and considering the price. Having said that, let’s address a couple minor (and rare) sound concerns surrounding Jean Paul USA’s CL-300 student clarinet:
Difficulty hitting higher notes
Hitting the higher notes, such as a hard C, can be a challenge. Doing so can take a bit more effort than playing in a lower register.
I personally wouldn’t worry about this too much. Playing in a higher register, or “crossing the break”, is almost always difficult for new players, even with a higher-end clarinet. And it’s a skill that improves with practice.
Some musicians have also commented that the ligature or mouthpiece included with the clarinet makes the instrument sound a half-semitone flat.
More experienced clarinet players can typically correct for this issue with their embouchure (related: How to Develop the Proper Clarinet Embouchure). But replacing the mouthpiece or ligature upfront may be worthwhile if a new player is finding this to be a problem for them.
The CL-300 also comes with an extra barrel for tuning. So I’d suggest experimenting with both. Adjusting these could help fix any tuning problems (more on this below in Accessories).
This model is generally well in tune. And the above issues won’t typically make much difference for an inexperienced clarinetist.
5. Commitment to playing clarinet
Like any new skill, getting good at playing the clarinet takes commitment.
Some clarinet students are passionate about the instrument and confident they’ll continue playing for years to come. Others may simply be trying out the instrument to see whether they like it.
This is an important difference.
The more committed a clarinet player is, the more it makes sense for them to invest in a nicer instrument. That’s why new clarinet players often rent a clarinet or buy a lower-end model as their first instrument. Then, once they feel more confident that they’ll stick with clarinet, they upgrade to a higher-end model.
It’s also why I don’t normally recommend first-time musicians spend $1,000 or more on a new Yamaha YCL-255. Yes, it’s a great student clarinet. But it’s only a great investment for a student who knows they’ll still enjoy playing three, four, five years from now.
The Jean Paul USA CL-300 is a good student clarinet for a first-time player who’s committed to trying the instrument for at least a year.
There are less expensive options for anyone who has no idea whether they’ll like clarinet and wants to try before they spend more on a decent model.
6. Accessories included with the clarinet
If you’ve ever bought a battery-powered gadget, you’ve probably come to expect you’ll need to buy batteries separately. The words “batteries not included” and “[insert part essential for the function of this product] sold separately” are drummed into our heads from the moment we’re old enough to watch TV.
But if you’re buying a clarinet for the first time, you may not know what accessories you’ll also need—like reeds, cork grease and a cleaning swab—before the instrument can actually be played.
Understandably, you might be tempted to buy a clarinet that includes lots of accessories. In fact, lots of clarinet brands will package their instruments with these “extras” for this exact reason.
But in my experience many of the accessories you see bundled with a clarinet, especially a lower-end model, tend to be almost useless. They often either won’t work at all or will work so poorly that you’re better off replacing them upfront.
With that caveat out of the way, let’s look at the accessories that come with the Jean Paul USA CL-300. Depending on where you buy it, the CL-300 should include:
- Rico brand reed (2.5 strength)
- Extra barrel for tuning
- Soft-shell carrying case
- Cork grease
- Cleaning cloth
- White gloves
Most of these accessories are actually decent enough. But I do have some advice with regard to some of these:
The stock mouthpiece included with the Jean Paul USA CL-300 is decent. It’s not particularly hard to blow into. And a student isn’t likely to create dimples from biting down in on it like many of those that come with budget clarinets.
This is a mouthpiece a new student could get by with for months of playing. But since the mouthpiece has such an impact on sound and play-ability, many students choose to upgrade to a nicer one anyway.
If you choose to update the mouthpiece, the one I always recommend to students is the Yamaha 4C. It’s a great mouthpiece and usually runs about $30.
Every new clarinet should come with a ligature—the component that fastens down over the mouthpiece to hold the reed in place. And there’s not normally huge variance in quality for ligatures. But this one bears calling out here due to the number of comments about it from musicians who bought the CL-300.
Some musicians have mentioned the ligature on this clarinet doesn’t stay on. The ligature is metal, although you can find ligatures made from other materials also, like leather.
If you find the same issue with the ligature sliding around, I’d suggest trying the following:
- Check to make sure the ligature is tightened firmly on the mouthpiece.
- Remove the ligature and try rubbing the inside with coarse-grit sandpaper. This should leave some impressions in the ligature’s inside surface that help it to grip better to the mouthpiece.
- Contact Jean Paul USA and ask them if they can send a replacement ligature. This is the kind of issue that their warranty should cover (more on that below).
Buying a replacement ligature is also a solution. But I’ve seen ligatures ranging in price from under $10 to as much as $80 or more. So you might consider the above remedies in case you find your instrument has ligature problems.
Rico brand reed
Rico is a mainstream and reputable brand for reeds. And their 2.5 strength variety tends to be my go-to recommended reed for new clarinet students.
Reeds can typically last at least a couple weeks with regular use. But clarinet players often use multiple reeds in rotation to break them in gradually.
I’d suggest buying a full pack of reeds upfront. A 10-pack of the same Rico 2.5 reeds should be fine for a student and will typically cost $15-20.
Extra barrel for tuning
Some clarinets come with two barrels of slightly different lengths. The added barrel gives the player more control over tuning—switching to the slightly longer barrel will lower the pitch of the instrument.
For clarinet students that find their CL-300 plays a bit flat, I’d suggest trying the shorter barrel. All clarinets will also tune downward if the barrel is pulled out slightly. So this could be another cause for flat playing.
Changes in the environment where the instrument is stored and played can affect tuning. And knowing when to switch between barrels and adjust them can be handy for keeping in tune.
Cleaning the clarinet after each and every playing session is essential to preventing excess moisture that can lead to mold and other issues (related: How to Clean and Maintain Your Clarinet). And having a proper cleaning cloth or swab can make a big difference.
Unfortunately, the cleaning cloth included with this clarinet doesn’t make the job of cleaning the instrument easy. And it’s probably worth replacing.
The good news is decent cleaning kits aren’t pricey—you can get a Cecilio brand kit for around $15 that includes a swab, multiple brushes, a polishing cloth and cork grease.
7. Manufacturer’s warranty
A warranty can be a valuable feature to look for when buying such a fragile instrument with so many moving parts as a clarinet.
Even if you’re buying a high-end instrument from a top brand, there’s no guarantee it won’t arrive with leaky pads or some other quality control issue. A decent warranty coupled with responsive customer support helps you resolve such issues as quickly as possible and at no cost to you.
The Jean Paul USA CL-300 comes with a 1-year warranty to protect against manufacturing and quality defects. The brand also has a customer support team that normally responds to queries within 24 hours.
Even in some cases when customers have been at fault in damaging their clarinet, the company has offered to repair their instrument free of charge, often covering the cost of return shipping as well. I’ve also heard of cases where the company will exchange the clarinet if they’re unable to repair it.
The dozens of reviews attesting to an easy and pleasant service experience show Jean Paul USA’s dedication to keeping their customers happy. And that’s a major advantage over most student clarinet brands whose interest in your experience with their product tends to stop at the point of sale.
Here’s an overview of the specs for the Jean Paul USA CL-300:
- Body material: Bakelite with Ebonite finish
- Bore: Cylindrical
- Case: Soft-shell case
- Key of: Bb
- Key system: Boehm / 17 keys, 6 rings
- Mouthpiece: Stock mouthpiece
- Plating: Nickel
- Springs: Blue stainless steel springs
- Thumb rest: Adjustable
- Tone holes: Straight
Now that we’ve scrutinized this instrument in greater detail than Sherlock Holmes examining a crime scene, we’re left with the question that likely brought you to this Jean Paul clarinet review in the first place: Is the CL-300 the right clarinet for me?
Well, is it within your budget? Does the person you’re buying a clarinet for plan to play for a year or more, or have they at least expressed a strong interest in the clarinet? Does that person have little or no prior experience playing clarinet?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, then I feel confident saying you’ll be happy with this model. Both the model and the brand behind it have an enduring reputation among musicians and band directors alike—and, at this price point, not many do!