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Step-up Clarinets

Step-up Clarinets Menu

Step Up Clarinets

Clarinet in case

When clarinetists can reliably produce the basic notes, they begin working on tone quality, intonation, and articulation.  At this stage a step-up clarinet is a major advantage; it produces a larger and warmer sound, notes that are more naturally in tune, quicker response, and more positive control.  The improved tone and control is encouraging to young musicians and often inspires them to practice and play more.

Step-up Levels

Clarinets are typically classified in four levels: beginner, intermediate, performer, top-line.  Beginner clarinets are almost always made of high-grade plastic. Plastic is appropriate for beginners because it’s durable and quality of the tone is not as important at this stage as learning to play the correct note.  In addition, beginner clarinets are small bore, requiring less effort to play but producing a thinner tone.

Intermediate, performer, and top-line clarinets provide a darker, fuller sound because they are made of wood and their larger bore creates a bigger sound.  Clarinet step-up The difference in tone between a plastic clarinet and a wood clarinet is substantial and always noticeable. 

While all step-up clarinets are made of grenadilla wood, performer and top-line models are made with wood that is aged longer, sometimes as much as 11 years.  This makes the clarinet more stable and less likely to develop cracks as well as allows it to produce a fuller tone.   In addition, the better clarinets usually get more custom adjustment by the master instrument builders, especially in tone-hole undercutting and other fine adjustments that affect the intonation and response of the clarinet.  On some models very high quality springs are used to make the key action as quick and effortless as possible.

A student who has played six months or more will benefit from a wood clarinet to keep up with their abilities and allow them to progress adequately.  For students who are serious about music or plan to play in college, a performer or top-line clarinet is likely to be the appropriate choice.

A step-up clarinet, whether intermediate, performer, or top-line, should last all the way through school and much longer — with regular maintenance step-up clarinets don't need to be replaced.  (Ask about Amro's Maintenance and Replacement plan.)

The differences between beginner, intermediate, and performer clarinets are summarized in the chart below.

Features Found on Most Beginner Clarinets:



ABS resin or Viplex (plastic) body

Durable & inexpensive
Power-forged keys

Strong, adjustable without breaking
Small, cylindrical bore

Easier for beginners to play
Molded case

Durable and inexpensive


Features Found on Most Intermediate Clarinets:



Grenadilla wood body

Produces warm tone

Power-forged keys

Strong, adjustable without breaking

Larger conical bore

Larger, fuller sound

Metal bell ring & tenon ring

Protects wood from cracking

Individual attention & adjustment

Improved response and intonation

Carry-all case

Holds music and more supplies


Features Found on Most Performer Clarinets:


Aged grenadilla wood body

Optimum tone and stability; less cracking
Power-forged keys

Strong; adjustable without breaking

Larger, conical bore

Larger, fuller sound
Adjustable thumb rest

More comfortable playing position

Steel needle springs

Maximum sensitivity and fastest response

Nylon-tipped adjustment screws

Won't back out

Maximum attention in adjustment

Best response and intonation

Carry-all case

More room for music and accessories


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