I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, proper positions are KEY in weightlifting! In regards to the elbows in the receiving position of a clean, keeping them high should be priority number one. Before anything, the rack position needs to be addressed first.
The front rack is not a simple position, it’s quite the contrary. It should not come as a surprise that the position of the bar, grip width, and elbow position when receiving the bar in the clean should be identical to that of a front squat -- as far as specificity is concerned anyway. It’s crucial that the bar is RESTING on your shoulders and not held in position with the hands. The hands are secured around the bar with a closed or almost closed grip, however, it’s due to the scapulas being protracted and slightly elevated that the bar is able to rest in the front rack position. Contact on the clavicles is acceptable, but only lightly since the majority of the weight should be on the shoulders.
Despite the fact that the elbows are not only contributing to the security of the bar whilst standing, during the clean and/or front squat the elbows do play an essential role for maintaining good posture. If the elbows drop the thoracic will immediately start to round forwards and therefore increasing the likelihood of a missed lift. Yes it can be uncomfortable to raise the elbows when the bar has just crushed your soul, however, the only option for making the clean at that point will be to raise the elbows, regain good posture, recover your balance, and fight your way out of the hole, even if it requires a bounce or two while the bar is strangling you to death.