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Which clarinet to buy for an intermediate?

Hello
My daughter is about to take Grade 4 ABSM clarinet and we have been advised to buy her a YCL 450S clarinet.
Luckily we have been able to rent one up until now.
Is the YCL 450S clarinet a good model. Our daughter enjoys her music, plays in a local band yet isn't going to study music at university. Which economical models should we be looking at for her?

We are based in the UK yet happy to purchase a suitable model online if needed.
Thanks
Claire
 
Hello @clar1reapril26
Welcome to the forum.
Although I frequent this forum regularly, I very rarely comment on forums. But this is one subject that is very close to my own experience. I'm older now and looking back on my gradual advancement through the models as a jungster, I would never waste (nor money) my time on an intermediate clarinet/Saxophone again.

I play purely for my own enjoyment, not professionally.
The first reason is that once I got hold of a pro instrument my tone and end ease of playing jumped to a high level with in hours of playing. Some say this is nonsense, but from the bottom of my heart, it was amazing how perfectly consistent it was and the hard slog of practice literally disappeared. I actually thoughly enjoyed playing and played the more. Looking back, I would never buy a Instrument lower than a YCL-64, or equivalent, in the main brands again. Remember once the child has persevered past the initial stages and stuck to the learning schedule, chances of them going onto greater things is very high. I still play 30 years later.

Yes, my instruments need servicing, but what "mechanical device" doesn't?? This is part of having a good playing experience and enjoyment of what one does.

Just my 2c
 

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
As SaxBoss notes, intermediate horns in general are not really a great value proposition. They play better than a student instrument, but sometimes not a lot better. They also don't hold their value well in the used market.

With what you would pay for a new intermediate, you can often find a used pro model in good condition for just a little more. Or you might find a pro model for less that needs a couple hundred dollars of work to get it in good shape. Either way, you will have a professional instrument that should last a lifetime.
 
Yamaha are one of the major makers of musical instruments. Personally I think the Yamaha 450 and 650 clarinets are among the great bargains to be found in the market today, While they are marketed as intermediate models they are both capable of delivering professional-level performance. They are well made, have good tuning and ergonomics and Yamaha provide good backup in terms of spares availability, although you'll probably never need it. Yes, they are a very good instrument.
 

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Agreed that Yamaha intermediates are a cut above. I haven't played a Yamaha clarinet, but I tested a YTS-480, and it was a fine playing sax - not very discernible from the YTS-62 that I ended up buying. Case in point though. The 480 was close to $2,000 new, and I picked up the 62 for $1,500 used. About $150 to get it in top playing condition.

I also have a YBS-52 that I prefer over some 62s that I have played. It's got more bark in the sound.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I have the older version of the 450 - the 34 - and if you could pickup one of these used it would probably be enough clarinet for any casual player at any level. I use the 34 as a backup/outdoor for my "golden age" Buffet silver plated full boehm and have no problem playing it anywhere. It is a nice clarinet.

I think the tricky part is finding a good mouthpiece to pair with whatever clarinet you end up with. I had a nice clarinet crack on stage due to hot lights (theatrical show). When I replaced it I had to find a new mouthpiece that matched the new instrument. I could tell the new clarinet was fabulous, but something wasn't happening. A mouthpiece got it 95% there, and a custom Barrel brought it home. The closer the piece is to the player's mouth, the more important it is so don't overlook the mouthpiece and barrel.
 
If she has been playing a few years and is committed to the instrument, it may make sense to move up to a grenadilla wood model from the beginner ABS models. Wood instruments require more care, and can be damaged if dropped, but they have the ability to produce a wider variety of tones and will likely help her grow musically. Without speaking of a specific company or model... let's focus on the qualities you want: seasoned Grenadilla wood (meaning it rested for 10-15 years before being finished), forged solid metal keys (not plated), high quality cork, high quality pads, tight tolerances, tapered toneholes, and good ergonomics. The instrument needs to be efficient with air, and be easily able to transition across the registers (octaves), as well as allow for subtle changes in air and tone by the player. The clarinet itself is important, but the tone is affected very significantly by mouthpiece, ligature, and reed combo. Don't skimp on the mpc and lig.

Buying new clarinets makes little sense, as there are so many good used ones in the market, and clarinets lose 50% after being used about 2 years.

Used buying guidelines:
1. No cracks. If it has cracks, even repaired ones, just pass. Ideally, there are no chips either, but there may be tiny marks from use.
2. Try to find Solid nickel silver keys, which can be plated in sterling (look for discoloration from wear). You definitely don't want cheap "pot-metal" keys that are plated with a thin coat of shiny metal.
3. Wood that is oiled (look inside the bore and tenons) and has been maintained.
4. New cork and pads (this costs about $400-500 to perform on a used instrument). If you're buying used, you want a fully restored instrument
5. If you're not an expert, buy from a local music shop, or restorer. Ensure it has a full repad and cork replacement, and make sure you can return/exchange if unsatisfied.
6. If you wish to buy online and the instrument has not been fully restored, add $500 in assumed refurb costs.

Here are a few used professional models can be purchased for under $1,200 fully restored, or for $350-650 pre-restoration.

Selmer 9* , 10, 10G
Leblanc Noblet DN Model 45, Artist or Laureate (Pre 1980 is best)
Buffet Crampon R13
Yamaha YCL-650

The Buffet R13 is ubiquitous in highschool and college. They are very easy to find in great condition. If you want to go with Yamaha, skip the YCL 250 and get a used YCL 650. There are 5-6 of these on sale from Japan on ebay right now in the 400-800 range.

Best of luck,
David
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
If she has been playing a few years and is committed to the instrument, it may make sense to move up to a grenadilla wood model from the beginner ABS models. Wood instruments require more care, and can be damaged if dropped, but they have the ability to produce a wider variety of tones and will likely help her grow musically.
You have opened a huge can of worms with that statement.

I fall in the camp that the material makes extremely little impact on tone. I have plastic, hard rubber, metal, entry level wood and top of the line wood clarinets. They all sound like a clarinet and sound like me playing a clarinet when I play them. Notice I said nothing about durability or ergonomics or intonation.
A true professional instrument - in theory - has been given more attention to assembly and finish than a student instrument - the price point dictates it has to be that way. The materials are chosen by a pressure to do what is accepted as being suitable for a top of the line instrument. These days Grenadilla is king, but even Buffet is making non-wooden clarinets - they call the line greenline, but it isn't wood any more than masonite is. It's wood fibers suspended in glue.

I'd suggest taking a hard look at THIS SITE and play one of his clarinets before you dismiss anything which isn't wood. This man knows his stuff and his work shows it.
 
"If she has been playing a few years and is committed to the instrument, it may make sense to move up to a grenadilla wood model from the beginner ABS models. Wood instruments require more care, and can be damaged if dropped, but they have the ability to produce a wider variety of tones and will likely help her grow musically."

I really can't agree with this. The material from which the instrument is made has a lot less effect on the sound that the actual construction of the instrument and the ability of the player. I have several professional-level instruments in both grenadilla and hard rubber and for the quality of the sound my choice would be the hard rubber instruments. I'm sure that Buffet wouldn't make their Greenline instruments if the thought that they were in any way inferior to the woodinstruments, likewise hard rubber is the material of choice for Ridenour.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Just wanted to mention that mouthpiece selection might also be something to look at.

As I've not played in years, I will now back away from this thread very slowly...
 
Carl, Tony,
Combinations of wood and resin/ebonite have been out since the Gigliotti. My point in the post is to buy a higher quality instrument, which for the most part are Grenadilla. I happen to really like the Buffet R13 Greenline and it's price-point. However, the poster asked about Yamaha clarinets, so I focused my response on the available models in their range. Discussing exceptions like Ridenour and others draws us away from the context of the question we were asked to respond to.

Respectfully,
David
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
The original post was not which Yamaha model was best, but if the Yamaha YCL450S was a reasonable instrument. Beyond that, "Which economical models should we be looking at for her?" was the primary question.

Calling instruments on par with a midline Yamaha "exceptions" does no service to the OP.
 
Carl, I appreciate your points. The school/teacher advised them to get a Yamaha. I take that to imply that the poster has a Yamaha store and tech support locally. For a parent who is not a tech themself, this plays a significant role. My assumption might be wrong... figured it was worth clarifying.

Best,
D
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
dschon, you should probably look at OP's post that started this thread, again.

* Answering OP's question no, there's little reason to get an intermediate model over a professional one, except if price is a factor.
* As I'm the guy that generally shills for Yamaha, I'll also agree with the statement that Yamaha's intermediate instruments are a step above a lot of other manufacturers' instruments.
* I'll somewhat disagree with the statement that it's difficult to tell the differences between Yamaha intermediate horns and Yamaha non-Custom-model pro horns. I've mentioned many times that I can pretty easily tell the difference between the YBS-52 (older intermediate baritone sax) and the YBS-62, but I don't think the differences were worth the price difference between the 52 and 62 ($3000).
* I tend to agree with dschon's comments on what to look for in condition. However, dschon's comments regarding keywork isn't applicable to the instruments we're talking about in this thread. Yamaha, Selmer, and Buffet don't use "pot metal."
* I have no comment regarding dschon's price list, but I will agree that if you buy a used horn from ebay or similar, you should assume that it'll need some repairs.
* I'll give this a separate bullet point: some people are allergic to either silver or nickel. I know off the top of my head that Yamaha and Buffet at least had the option of using either metal.

The thing that Tony, Carl, and I are reacting to is dschon's comment that wooden instruments, "...[H]ave the ability to produce a wider variety of tones." That's just not necessarily the case and I think that's proven by the existence of the Buffet Greenline horns. In other words, support your argument, dschon!
 
You have opened a huge can of worms with that statement.

I fall in the camp that the material makes extremely little impact on tone.
^^^^^ I attended an MMEA All-State convention in Massachusetts a while back and one of the sessions (for educators) really struck home. The presenter (a professional clarinetist from Boston) staged an experiment: He had two clarinets; a Bundy with a student mpc and his personal R13 with his custom mpc.
- He instructed us (the attendees) to close our eyes and listen to each instrument separately
(He put his custom mpc on the Bundy and played an excerpt and then put the student mpc on his R13 and played the same exerpt.)

He asked us which sound we preferred.......
It was about 50/50 between us (I actually liked his custom mpc / Bundy combo slightly better.)

As far as a step-up inst goes, for what you'd pay for a new "intermediate" instrument you can get a used pro instrument.
Last year I found a used R13 (in need of pad work) for a student of mine for $900 US......
 
Here's a discussion ~ 1 year ago pertaining to Clarinet materials.

I believe that if Tan or Brown clarinets were the standard issue, then black clarinets would have a cool factor

 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
I believe that if Tan or Brown clarinets were the standard issue, then black clarinets would have a cool factor
I owned one of the clear Buffet clarinets, back in the day. Yes, I probably purchased it primarily for the coolness factor, but it did play really nicely.

Before a bunch of Chinese companies started making clarinets in any colour you'd like, the Vito "Dazzler" student horns were available in a variety of colors. Kohlert also had a clear clarinet model in the 1930s.

Conn's "second line," Pan American, had the beautiful violin finish clarinets in the 1940s or so.

In the modern pro world, we have clarinets and clarinet parts made out of cocobolo wood and Buffet's new Legende Boxwood. There's even a Chinese "pro" horn in pearwood. (Boxwood and pearwood were used in Baroque clarinets, so this isn't a new development.)
 
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