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When you visit our John Packer shop in Taunton looking for a first wooden clarinet you will find a good selection of instruments on display to choose from and test. The various midrange instruments that we stock are designed to get the player through the higher grades and some can even go beyond this.

You should consider a wooden clarinet if…

  • You are at roughly grade 5 standard or above
  • You are prepared to put in the extra care needed


Of course there is nothing wrong with giving a wooden instrument to a beginner but to start with they will sound the same whether the clarinet costs £300 or £3000.


So how do the different wooden makes and models compare?


Buffet E11

The E11 is Buffet’s starter wooden clarinet and will take the player comfortably to grade 8 level.  It is our only stocked clarinet to feature a German bore which offers a focused and clean sound that is very responsive.  This model has a fixed thumbrest and comes in a lightweight backpack style case. 

Buffet E11 - John Packer Ltd

Buffet E12F

Priced a bit more than the E11 the Buffet E12F’s body is based on the French professional models, made in the French factory and later assembled and inspected in Germany. The resulting sound is warm and dark. This model has an adjustable thumb rest and no metal bell ring which helps open up the sound.

Buffet E12F - John Packer Ltd

Yamaha 450S / 450M Duet +

Andy recently wrote about the difference between the S/M models but both compare nicely with the Buffet E11.  The 450M is a little bit more expensive than the S and is lined with plastic in the top joint which makes the instrument a little bit more responsive and helps prevent cracking.  The thumbrests are adjustable and the keywork design suits smaller hands well. Both come in the same backpack style case.

Yamaha YCL450S - John Packer Ltd

Yamaha YCL 450M Duet - John Packer Ltd

Yamaha 650

The YCL650 is the next model up and can take the player beyond the grades as it shares many of the same features as the Yamaha Custom SEV clarinet.  It’s tuning is accurate throughout the registers and the sound is light and easy to produce.  A hard case and case cover with shoulder strap are provided for storage.

Yamaha YCL650 - John Packer Ltd

Buffet E13

As one of the most popular clarinets we sell the E13 has been a longstanding favourite of teachers and players.  It again shares a lot of features with the professional range of clarinets and the new RC style bell improves the projection immensely.  The tone is rich and the keys can be manoeuvred with ease.    

The E13 is available in two different styles of case, a hard briefcase or a backpack style for the E13GB that is a little cheaper.

Buffet E13 - John Packer Ltd

A couple of others worth trying alongside the Buffet E13 and Yamaha 650 that can go beyond the grades (and in the same price bracket) are the Leblanc Bliss 210 and the Selmer Prologue which also have their own distinct sounds and features.

When trying wooden clarinets…

  • Try as many different makes and models as you can
  • Try more than one of the same model
  • Remember that on new clarinets the sound will mature over the first 6 months
  • Ask about the extra maintenance your new clarinet will need
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