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Last updated: July 25, 2021
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If you have started to play clarinet as a hobby and found that you’re actually pretty good at it, you might be looking for the best intermediate clarinet. Beginner clarinets are great to get into the hobby, but longer term you will probably be looking to invest in something with slightly better quality. This will mean a product that lasts longer and can provide a better sound and more reliability. Make the right choice and your clarinet can last many years, especially if looked after properly.
Making the right choice isn’t easy, and our clarinet reviews are built around important features such as the key of the instrument, the material used to make the body and the keys and the barrel length. On top of this, we’ve looked into other functional aspects such as how much it weighs and whether or not the clarinet ships with a carrying case.
Our researchers have spent a lot of time putting this guide together, and it is split into three parts. Firstly, we have the overview table, then we have in-depth reviews on some of the very best models we would class as ‘intermediate’. On top of this, we have a buying guide at the end to help you to understand some of the terminology and features of top clarinets. Our sources include professional musicians, instructional videos and other consumer reviews which have been aggregated to help form our overview.
This is the best Yamaha intermediate clarinet, and in-fact it is our favorite intermediate clarinet overall. The product is a big upgrade on a lot of the beginner options and is made out of high quality grenadilla wood. It also has durable, nickel-plated keys which feel really good to play, making it a popular choice among those making a step up from amateur models.
The tone is great, and the grenadilla has been selected for its tonal qualities. With a 65mm barrel and a Bb tuning, this is a pretty standard and versatile instrument (most clarinets have this barrel length and tuning).
A case is included with the product, but this is only semi-hard, and some users have said that a hard case could be included to improve the offering overall and protect the instrument better.
However, besides this one small pitfall, most users are in agreement that the tone and quality of this instrument gives a good, professional feel, rather than being a small upgrade on a beginner clarinet. The hardware is built to last and though it costs a little more than some of the other options, this is an instrument that could last for many years.
Yamaha manufacture excellent soprano, contra-bass and bass clarinets in a huge amount of varieties. The YCL450 proves they can provide great instrumets.
Why are we impressed?
Great tone and quality grenadilla wood.
Standard Bb tuning.
Comes with carry bag.
What negatives must you be aware of?
Would be improved with a hard case being included.
More expensive than many other intermediate clarinets.
This is another very high quality clarinet made of Grenadilla wood. Though the brand Jupiter isn’t as well know in the world of instruments in general, they make some great clarinets, and this is an example.
The brand explain their choice of wood as giving a fuller-bodied and mellow tone, with ‘vibrant overtones’.
Nickel plated keys and metal tenons are in place, which makes it easy to put your instrument together and mean that it will last a very long time if treated right. The keys don’t just have long-lasting quality, they feel great when playing, too.
The case which ships with this product is attaché-style, and it also comes with some accessories to make your life easier when playing, including grease and cleaning cloth/swab for maintenance, a totally adjustable strap for comfort when playing, and a high-quality Vandoren reed. A C/G key riser is also included to increase the playability of the palm keys. This is ergonomic and feels natural.
In terms of price, this is a far cheaper option than some other intermediate options but still offers a solid tone and an upgrade from beginner clarinets.
What makes it stand out?
Represents good value for money.
Comes with accessories including adjustable strap.
Adjustable thumb rest.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Good tone, but not quite as supreme as the Yamaha model above.
The Buffet Crampon E12 France Intermediate Bb Clarinet is another great option for those looking to upgrade to an intermediate model. Some have claimed that it is the best intermediate wood clarinet when it comes to tone. The clarinet is well-built, and the wood is grenadilla (again).
An adjustable thumb rest combined with quality nickel keys make this comfortable to play as well as very durable and hard-wearing.
Though it isn’t always an indicator of quality, the French and German craftsmanship that have gone into this are evident. German efficiency comes from the assembly in Markneukirchen, Germany. The product is described by the brand as setting standards for young musicians.
Interestingly, this comes with a ‘backpack’ style case instead of a more traditional case. This means a lot of room for accessories and comfy and easy transportation.
The tonal abilities of this have been praised in many different circles, and it definitely has a professional sound that is worthy of studio recordings and professional performances, but the tone is perhaps most impressive with high notes, such as the high G note.
Some users have reported slightly tight corks and the need for some of the keys to be adjusted. This could be down to personal preference and may not be something you need to do, but be warned it may be more likely than with the Yamaha, for instance.
The investment is relatively high for an intermediate clarinet, but tonally this is very hard to fault and with the correct maintenance it will last a very long time.
Why are we impressed?
Excellent tone, particularly for high notes.
Comes with backpack carrying case.
What negatives must you be aware of?
Some users have reported having to make some adjustments.
The CL-400 Intermediate Clarinet is an interesting model, and a good upgrade for those who have been playing a cheaper, entry-level clarinet. It is in Bb and also has both long and short barrels so you can choose between the two to suit your playing and performance.
This is a step up because it has high quality Rico H ligature which looks and feels great, but the fact that it is still made of ABS plastic (as many of the cheaper options are) means that it still doesn’t cost a great deal. It is far cheaper than the very best clarinet for intermediate players.
That isn’t a huge problem, though. While the tone might be improved if it were made out of quality wood, the ABS plastic is robust, as are the keys.
It ships with the accessories you need including ligature cap, reed and mouthpiece. It also has a good quality case, which has robust handles and is even waterproof to help protect your instrument.
The value-for-money is exceptional, and there are many reviews out there saying that this stands up to the quality of some products two or three times as expensive, and that the plastic constructions certainly isn’t a big disadvantage. We certainly have no complaints about the craftsmanship.
Why did it make our list?
Quality ligature, reeds and mouthpiece all included.
The Mendini MCT-30 is a great affordable option, and makes our list as the best cheap intermediate clarinet.
It is made out of rosewood, which doesn’t quite have the tonal quality of some of the other materials used to make clarinets, but it certainly is popular among affordable instruments. Many guitars use rosewood for their body and neck.
The Mendini is designed to create a quality package for intermediate clarinet players. Those who have quickly upgraded from their beginner model will likely appreciate the accessories and spares included. This has 10 reeds, grease for the cork, gloves and cleaning cloth.
There are two different barrel lengths included. In its standard mode, this clarinet is in B flat, which is standard for the vast majority of clarinets.
As a bonus, it even comes with a stand! As you may also expect, it comes with a case which is pretty good quality and hard shelled. Considering the price, this clarinet includes plenty of extras.
Though the tone is good, and it describes itself as being an intermediate product, this is perhaps a little more towards the ‘beginner’ end of the market due to its build quality and materials.
Why is it special?
Comes with lots of accessories.
Two barrel lengths.
Ships with a bonus stand and pocketbook.
Case is hard-shelled and good quality.
What are the flaws?
Closer to a beginner model in terms of quality and tone.
Made of a cheaper wood (rosewood) than many of the rest of the best intermediate clarinets.
Things to Consider
Our buying guide is designed to help you ensure you get the correct clarinet by matching up the many choices on the market to your own level of ability as well as your budget and the level you feel like you will need. For instance, if you are going to start recording and playing in bands, a cheap model won’t be good enough. Buying a plastic clarinet which is low quality will probably lead to you delving into the market again as you find it lets you down.
Reasons to get a top-quality intermediate clarinet
As alluded to already, buying a top-quality intermediate clarinet will open doors in terms of being able to play in bands, record your playing and more. Though it won’t directly make you a better player, it will mean that you aren’t being let down by your instrument when the time comes to play on stage.
A top-quality intermediate clarinet can last many, many years. Some say that you’re never a true pro until you’ve had 10,000 hours of practice. This can mean a lot of time where an intermediate clarinet is more than sufficient. Kept well, and properly looked after, your clarinet can last a decade or even more.
Features to consider when choosing an intermediate clarinet
The following are the main features you should be considering when you are making your choice of clarinet. Some people may prioritize some features over others. Generally speaking, the aspects covered below will dictate the quality of the model in question.
The vast majority of clarinets are in B flat (often written simply as Bb). This means that you are probably already playing a Bb clarinet as a beginner. Buying one in a different key can mean having to relearn a lot of pieces of music and skills you’ve picked up.
You should probably be looking for the best intermediate b flat clarinet you can find within your budget. Playing anything other than a Bb clarinet is quite a specialist thing, fine for some types of music, but not the ‘standard’ way of doing things. If you are looking to purchase a clarinet to give you the easiest route to being able to play your favorite songs. Opt for Bb! A key clarinets are also available.
Fortunately, all of the products on the list are in the more common key of B Flat.
The barrel length usually relates to the key. If you are buying a Bb clarinet it is usually 65mm in length, whereas an A key clarinet will usually be 66mm. This isn’t always the case, and it depends on the manufacturer and the design of the clarinet itself.
The right barrel shape, without getting too scientific, is about intonation, and the clarinet responding to the keys being played.
Body and keys materials
The keys are vital, they are how you interact with the instrument as they ae used to both uncover and cover the holes of the instrument. This is how the pitch is changed and you can play melodies.
The material and the plating of the clarinet keys is important for both the feel and reliability. If you have a key which is poorly made, it could stop working or reliably covering the holes which can let you down when it comes to your performance.
Keys are usually nickel or silver plated, especially in the intermediate range.
The body of the clarinet will usually be made of either wood or ABS plastic, which is a composite material designed to be strong and reliable, but it doesn’t have the best tonal qualities. ABS is often used for cheaper models. Wood is the better call in terms of audio quality. The top three models on our list are all made of Grenadilla wood, including the Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet, our Editor’s Choice.
Keys and rings
The keys themselves are vital for playing the instrument, as already discussed. In our reviews, we’ve mentioned the number of keys and rings included. Keys must be good quality and they are attached to springs which bring them back into position. These must be excellent quality. Barrel rings constrict the barrel in order to stop the pressure from splitting the barrel.
The mouthpiece is a really important part of your clarinet, it is the bit you put to your mouth and blow air into. The vibrations created are the origin of the whole sound. The shape can alter the tone. The size of the opening at the tip also has an impact.
The clarinets on the list all have mouthpieces included, which have been optimized for the instrument itself. Most are made out of vulcanized rubber but there also wooden mouthpieces for clarinet. In more rare cases there are even glass versions. Mouthpieces can be replaced, but a good quality mouthpiece should be included with an intermediate clarinet.
The weight of the instrument is related to the materials it is made of, and though it isn’t directly an indicator of quality, a lot of the better woods are slightly heavier. On top of this, though none of the instruments on our list are hugely heavy, if they are being played over a long period of time, they can put a strain on your hands or specifically thumbs.
Type of carrying case
There are a surprising amount of carrying cases available. These are quite self-explanatory.
A soft-shell case may be cheaper, but it isn’t going to be the most durable.
Some are semi-hard shells, meaning hardened panels to resist water. Hard cases and waterproof cases are ideal, and some products have tried to be even more experimental and useful with the case. For instance, the Buffet Crampon E12 France Intermediate Bb Clarinet which has a backpack-style carry bag.
Tips on caring for your clarinet
Clarinet, and other woodwind instruments can take quite a lot of maintenance compared to other instruments.
These tips can help you to ensure your clarinet stays in good shape and lasts a long time:
Always clean the mouthpiece after use and rinse it out.
Regularly wipe fingerprints off the ligature and keys to stop oils from your fingers causing damage and degradation of the keys (or rust).
Oil your keys with the oil provided to keep them protected.
Swab each and every part of your clarinet after use.
Oil the bore once a year.
Keep the clarinet in its case and make sure the humidity is between 45 and 55% to keep the wood from warping.
Don’t expose the clarinet to extreme temperatures.
Nobody said that caring for your clarinet would be easy!
All of us have different hand shapes and slightly different playing styles. Being able to adjust the thumb rest to your own preference means that you will be comfortable playing even in longer sessions.
Decide on both your budget, materials and also the type of music you want to play. The standard mouthpiece which will come with your clarinet is likely to be suitable for most genres, but some jazz players prefer mouthpieces with more space between the tip and the reed for their tonal qualities. If you get the chance, try multiple options. If you have a tutor, they may even be able to choose the right mouthpiece to suit your playing.
The Yamaha YCL450 Clarinet is our top-rated clarinet at 9.8/10. As well as having high-quality ligature and nickel plated keys, it offers an exceptional tone that we’ve come to associate with Yamaha instruments. The Yamaha 4C mouthpiece is also extremely good quality and comes included with the product.
The Jupiter Intermediate Grenadilla Bb Clarinet has a fantastic set of accessories and is our second highest rating at 9.6/10. This clarinet is only slightly lower in tonal quality than the Yamaha model, and the price makes it the best intermediate clarinet under $1000.
By doing a little research up front, you can make sure you purchase the right clarinet for you. As an intermediate, there is a big range of prices and features, but all of the products on the list offer great qualities, depending on the type of clarinet you are looking for.