Yamaha has long been a maker of high-quality band and orchestral instruments. One of Yamaha’s great advantages is that they make instruments for a wide range of player levels – from professional, handmade instruments for the world’s top professionals to sturdy, mass-produced instruments that have given the gift of music making to thousands of students, Yamaha instruments cover a wide range of musical experiences.
This kind of range is definitely evident in many of Yamaha’s beginner-level instruments, and the YCL-255 clarinet is no exception.
This clarinet is both affordable, relatively sturdy, and is capable of making a good sound even in the hands of a beginner! Read on to find out more!
A Quick Word On Buying A Clarinet
Shopping for any instrument can be stressful, especially if you don’t have a musical background. If you’re new to clarinets, here are some things that you want to keep in mind when you’re trying out any clarinet.
- First things first – if you’re a student or unsure about your ability to tell a good clarinet from a bad one, make sure and take along someone who can! A more experienced colleague, a teacher, a friend, etc. can all give you feedback on the instrument and how you sound on it!
- Check that all the keys work with the instrument assembled. Nothing should bind, catch, or make too much noise. Also, check that all the pads are glued on evenly with the keys open (you may need a flashlight to see some of them).
- Test the keys for tightness and leaks by assembling the clarinet minus the mouthpiece and bell, close all the keys, have your friend seal the far end of the bore, and blow (gently) into the other end. You should hear no air escaping.
- Test out the intonation in a room about 72 degrees F. Tune the open G with the barrel, and tune the clarion G with the middle joint until both octaves are in tune with each other. Then test 12ths to make sure that the clarinet is in tune with itself (i.e. both notes are equally flat, sharp, or in tune) and make sure that the throat tones are close to in tune as well.
- Play from the lowest to the highest note, testing the sound, intonation, and response on all the notes. While a student instrument won’t have the same consistency as a professional model, no notes should be overly difficult or wildly out-of-tune.
About Yamaha’s YCL-255 Clarinet
The YCL-255 is Yamaha’s entry-level clarinet. It is made with a resin ABS body, barrel, and bell, with nickel silver keys. It has 17 keys and 6 ring keys, stainless steel springs and Valentino pads.
New features of the YCL-255 over the older model are a newly-designed bell that is lighter than many beginning clarinets’ bells. In addition to being lighter, this new bell adds a resonance chamber that improves both the instrument’s sound and intonation.
Another nice feature – especially for an instrument designed for students from 11-12 years old to 16 or older – this clarinet features and adjustable thumb rest with an integrated ring for a neck strap.
This can make the instrument much more comfortable to hold for all ages of students!
- The newly-designed bell is one of those small things that has a huge impact on both the instrument and the players who use it. The redesigned taper and flare of the bell makes the entire instrument (especially low notes) sound great and play in tune more easily. The lighter-weight of the bell also makes it easier to hold the clarinet at the ideal angle away from the body (instead of the “almost-straight-down” you sometimes see from beginners). This has a great effect not only on the student’s posture, but breathing, embouchure, and comfort!
- Another well-done ergonomic addition by Yamaha is the inclusion of a built-in neck strap ring. Every beginning student should start out with a neck strap to help avoid excess hand and thumb tension (which can easily lead to discomfort, pain, and can affect overall fingering technique).
- Along with the neck strap ring, Yamaha has included a built-in adjustable thumb rest. This is another small upgrade that can have enormous positive benefit for students – not only in the beginning but also as they grow with (and into) the instrument!
- Valentino pads are considered by many to be among the best pads that you can get, and the inclusion of these means that the clarinet should have a very tight seal on all the keys not just when brand new – but for a good, long time!
- Despite being made of ABS, the YCL-255 does look more “wood-like”, with a subtle grain effect. It doesn’t really improve the sound or response, but it’s a nice aesthetic touch for a student clarinet.
- It seems that some versions of this clarinet come with a hard case, and come with a semi-hard case. Both provide excellent protection, although the hard case is a bit smaller and easier to tuck into a bag or backpack.
- A bit more expensive than other beginner clarinet models (such as those by Jupiter or no-name Chinese brands), but its quality is also far above all those other instruments. While this is technically a “beginner” instrument, the quality, design, and engineering can make it last much longer than some other brands beginner horns.
Yamaha YCL-255 Conclusion
The Yamaha YCL-255 is one of the best student level clarinets that you can find today.
It’s the successor to the Yamaha YCL-250, and the improvements that were made – while not groundbreaking – all make the YCL-255 a much more ergonomic instrument for younger students.
When a student can sit with good posture and hold an instrument comfortably for a 60-minute band class or a 30-minute lesson or practice session, improvements (and enjoyment) will come rapidly!
Bottom line, if you’re shopping for a beginning clarinet, the YCL-255 deserves a spot on your short list!