If you’re ready to buy an intermediate clarinet, you’re not new to the process and you’ve probably bought a clarinet before. However, choosing this instrument is a long-term investment and will cost considerably more than your last one so it can definitely put some added pressure on getting the decision right.
In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about purchasing a clarinet as an intermediate player as well as review some of the models we think are the best intermediate clarinets on the market in 2023. Let’s get started.
Quick Answer: The Best Clarinets for Intermediate Players
Best Rated Intermediate Clarinet Reviews
Now that we’ve covered all the things you need to know about before purchasing we’ve included some intermediate clarinet reviews to help you make a decision of which one to buy.
1. Buffet Crampon E12 France Bb Intermediate Clarinet
As one of the top names in the clarinet industry, it’s no surprise that Buffet’s Crampon E12 France takes the number one spot on this list. It’s the best intermediate clarinet for hitting those high notes. Like other Buffets, you can expect exceptional sound quality and a versatile pitch range.
This intermediate clarinet features delicate grenadilla wood with silver-plated keys. It also has leather pads and an adjustable thumb rest. It’s one of the lightest clarinets in its class, including the ones on this list.
Aside from the impressive craftsmanship, the Crampon E12 France delivers professional-quality sound in an intermediate-level package. Players can rely on this clarinet to produce the sound they desire.
The only possible downside is that some users report tight corks, which is mostly a matter of personal preference. You may also have to adjust the keys more often than some others, like the Yamahas. That said, the Crampon E12 France remains one of the top sellers with exceptionally high ratings.
2. Yamaha YCL450 Intermediate Clarinet with Nickel Keys
Yamaha is known for making exquisite instruments, and this clarinet is high-quality from top to bottom. The grenadilla wood body and nickel-plated keys look sharp and feel great when you’re playing. Plus, the grenadilla wood delivers impressive tonal quality.
Some players may worry about the grenadilla wood’s delicacy, but Yamaha integrated an ABS resin into the upper joint’s inner bore for enhanced durability. You still get a stellar response and impressive intonation with an exceptional key response.
The Yamaha YCL450 should be a step up from most beginning clarinets. It’s one of the more versatile, well-balanced, and durable options available, giving you room to grow as a musician.
If you choose this clarinet, you may want to go for a case upgrade. The included case is somewhat disappointing because it’s only semi-hard, and though the design appears to be versatile, it’s basically a backpack. Additionally, you may need a humidifier because the case doesn’t do a great job humidifying the clarinet.
3. Yamaha YCL-255 Standard Bb Intermediate Clarinet
- Bb Clarinet with Matte ABS Resin Body
- Nickel-plated Keys
- 4C Mouthpiece
Modeled after professional clarinets, the Yamaha YCL-255 Standard features an ABS resin body painted to resemble real wood. It’s lighter than the YCL450 but durable enough to withstand heavy use.
As a step up for intermediate players, this clarinet features nickel-plated keys and an adjustment thump design that includes a neck strap. Yamaha also incorporated a valentine pad to prevent damage due to temperature variations and a strap ring for added comfort.
The YCL-255 Standard is one of the more affordable instruments, but that doesn’t mean you compromise sound quality. Like other Yamaha instruments, the YCL-255 Standard delivers rich sound with an excellent tone.
Yamaha advertises that this versatile intermediate clarinet can handle almost any situation. However, some users note that it doesn’t produce high notes as well as others. You may notice some improvement if you play around with different mouthpieces and reeds.
4. Jupiter Grenadilla Bb Intermediate Clarinet
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Jupiter may not be as well known as Buffet or Yamaha, but the company makes a decent clarinet. The Grenadilla delivers full-bodied, mellow tones and comfortable play for intermediate users.
This well-constructed clarinet features metal tenons and nickel-plated silver keys for enhanced durability, easy assemblage, and comfortable play. Jupiter includes several accessories, including a briefcase-style carrying case. You also receive a high-quality Vandoren reed and several useful accessories, making this an exceptional deal.
It may not sound quite as rich as the Buffet or Yamaha clarinets, but it’s not disappointing. Though Jupiter designed the Grenadilla for easy assembly, users noted that it’s a little tight at first and takes some time to work it in, even with the cork grease.
5. Buffet Crampon E11 Bb Intermediate Clarinet
- Bb Clarinet
- Dalbergia Melanoxylon Body w/ Stained African Blackwood
- Silver Plated Keywork Finish
Buffet earns a second spot on the list with the Crampon E11. The brand’s reputation for quality, reliable instruments cannot be understated, and this clarinet delivers quality sound in a durable, attractive package.
Expect stellar tones and professional responses when playing the Crampon E11. It’s lightweight and easy to play with a decent range for intermediate players.
The E11 weighs a little more than the E12 France, but it’s still one of the lightest on the list. Some players may see the E11 as a step down from the E12, and it may be. However, the E11 is a little more affordable than the E12 without compromising on sound. The tone is excellent with professional-level responsiveness.
Some people noticed issues with pitch, but it doesn’t seem to be a pervasive problem and may simply indicate a learning curve with the intermediate instrument. Others note that screws may need tightening more often than other brands of clarinet, but that’s a relatively minor complaint.
6. Jean Paul USA CL-400 Intermediate Clarinet
- Key of BB with a Boehm 17 key system
- Abs body resin construction with matte finish to simulate the ACTUAL grain of wood
- Silver-plated keys for a softer and warmer sound
The Jean Paul USA CL-400 may be the most unique intermediate clarinet on the list. It comes with two barrels, a long and a short, so you can choose which feels better when you play.
This clarinet also happens to be the most affordable option on the list, thanks in part to the ABS resin body. It’s painted to look like real wood, and the CL-400 is durable with robust components, including the silver-plated keys and Rico H ligature.
For students transporting their instrument regularly, it hits the mark in terms of price and durability without significantly compromising function. Though one could argue that the tone might be better with a wood body, the sound quality works well for intermediate users.
You may have to adjust the keys, but it’s not difficult once you learn how. Unfortunately, some users noted that the clarinet might require regular adjustments, which may frustrate some younger players.
How To Choose An Intermediate Clarinet
The process of choosing an intermediate clarinet isn’t much different than your experience in finding a student instrument.
Luckily, you have a little more experience this time which should help with confidence in making the decision.
Are You Ready For An Intermediate Clarinet?
The first thing to ask is are you ready for an intermediate clarinet? Once you’re comfortable with the basics and committed to the clarinet, an intermediate clarinet is a worthwhile investment.
These instruments are made to last much longer than the student ones.
They’ll also be able to produce better quality sound and be more responsive.
The label of student clarinet may seem tricky here, but intermediate clarinets are really better for devoted students who have a few years of playing under their belt.
Types Of Intermediate Clarinets
Most clarinetists start off by playing the Bb clarinet. Usually, by the time you’re considering upgrading to an intermediate clarinet, there’s more variety in the clarinets seen in the ensemble.
Bass clarinet and Eb clarinet are the most common to be seen at this point.
However, there are more than 10 different types of clarinets, most of which you’ll be able to find at an intermediate level.
If you’re hoping to deviate from the Bb clarinet, make sure that you consult your teacher or band director first.
Related: For more information read our guide to the other types of clarinet.
Intermediate vs. Beginner vs. Professional Clarinets
How do you know which clarinet to pick? What constitutes being an intermediate clarinet instead of a professional or a beginner clarinet?
Quality craftsmanship of the instrument is one of the main things that separates these different labels on clarinets.
However, don’t let the label shake you up. Some companies will put out ‘intermediate’ clarinets that aren’t any better than a higher-quality student clarinet.
A quality intermediate clarinet should retain value. It will be more responsive than a student clarinet and produce better quality sound and a professional clarinet will continue to improve upon these qualities.
Don’t try to jump ahead of which instrument fits your needs though. Not only will it be more expensive, but it may also be more difficult to control an upper-level clarinet if you’re not ready for it.
Related: See our list of the best professional clarinets here.
Clarinets are all built differently but while they may appear similar, different models will produce different sounds and they each come with their own pros and cons.
A lot of these differences can be explained by the composition of the different parts.
Most beginner clarinets are made of plastic and there are quite a few made of ebonite as well.
Professional clarinets are usually made of wood with Grenadilla being the most popular type, but others including African Blackwood, boxwood, and rosewood professional clarinets are also on the market.
Intermediate clarinets have the most variety in material composition and they can be made from any of the above materials.
A plastic intermediate clarinet typically isn’t much better than a high-quality student clarinet so this is something to look out for.
The best clarinets for intermediate players are usually made of wood, but there are some good ebonite intermediate clarinets for those on a tighter budget.
Beginner clarinet keys are almost always nickel-plated and the keys on professional clarinets are usually silver-plated.
Once again, the intermediate clarinet is a middle ground that can have either of these options.
The nickel-plated keys tend to be more durable and considerably cheaper.
The silver-plated keys will stay shinier and always look new but require more maintenance.
Bore size refers to the size of the opening (in mm) at the top of the upper joint.
Some people argue that this causes minimal differences since the range in size for most clarinets is between 14.75 to 15 millimeters.
Instruments with a larger bore size tend to play a little sharper. However, they also tend to be preferred by jazz musicians.
Many clarinets are closer to the 14.75mm bore size and this is considered optimal for most uses.
Beginners will often just play with whatever barrel is included with a clarinet but many intermediate and advanced clarinetists have barrel preferences.
Most Bb clarinets will come with a 66mm barrel. But, if you have issues with playing in tune, changing the barrel size can be extremely helpful.
Those who tend to play sharp should consider a longer barrel and those who are typically flat may do better with a shorter barrel.
Only make changes in 1mm increments or you might end up overcorrecting.
If you’re unsure of which size to get, having a barrel that’s 1mm too short leaves you the wiggle room to pull out. A barrel that’s too long can’t be shortened.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Maintenance and cleaning will be pretty much the same as it was with your student clarinet. Make sure the instrument is fully dry when you put it away.
Each piece should be in its designated spot inside of a secure clarinet case.
Keeping a small screwdriver on hand can be helpful for loose screws and making minor adjustments.
Just ensure that the screwdriver isn’t stored anywhere that could potentially harm your clarinet.
Don’t worry too much about the included mouthpiece when picking out your intermediate clarinet.
While clarinets almost always include a mouthpiece, most stock mouthpieces are of inferior quality. You’ll likely be purchasing a new mouthpiece or continuing to use one that you already have.
The weight of an intermediate clarinet doesn’t necessarily denote quality. However, a lot of the better woods tend to be a little heavier.
Therefore, many of the better intermediate clarinets are on the heavier side. Just be careful not to pick something too heavy.
Since the clarinet is held up solely by the right thumb, a heavier clarinet could strain your wrists and forearms.
Type of Carrying Case
There’s a wide variety in the types of clarinet cases with the general rule being that the harder the case is, the better.
It’s also best if the case is waterproof or at least water-resistant.
Some cases will have more storage space than others so it’s preferable to get a case that has ample storage space so you have enough room for a cleaning kit, repair kit, multiple reeds, and anything else you may need.
Conclusion: Which Intermediate Clarinet is Best?
As one of the leading instrument manufacturers, Buffet delivers once again with the Crampon E12 France.
It delivers exquisite sound quality and an impressive tone range in a lightweight package, making the E12 an excellent option for intermediate players.
Buffet instruments, including the E12, are an investment in your musical future.
This model gives you room to grow, and it’s durable enough to last.
However, if you’re not quite ready to splurge on the top pick, you can’t go wrong with any of the intermediate clarinets on this list.