Review: Yamaha CS-GIII A clarinet

Does this clarinet go with its smaller brother?

I bought this A clarinet a month or two after getting the B flat instrument (see separate review) and have been delighted with it. It matches the B flat instrument extremely well but has its own characteristics in terms of tone colour; in that sense a perfect partner. Whereas the B flat instrument is very focussed regarding intonation, the A clarinet has a little more ‘give’ (although is no less secure in pitch) and is a little easier to play on the high notes, being slightly less fussy which fingering you use.

Perhaps one might expect an A clarinet to be that way compared to the B flat instrument, but it is very easy to use the two instruments alongside each other in spite of them having their own characteristics. The YCLCS-GIII projects very well and it is easy to find the middle of each note. Expression is not hampered by technical problems. Tone is warm and rich and I can get the depth in sound that I associate with a British clarinet (eg the 926 I used to play on), however, this instrument gives me everything I already had plus a whole lot more in terms of security. It took me a while to sort out my right hand position, never having had an adjustable thumb rest before, but this has settled on both instruments within a few months and I can get round the instrument better than with my previous one. I like the shaped register key – a small and seemingly insignificant thing – but it really does seem to make the instrument easier round the break.

Tone is warm and rich and I can get the depth in sound that I associate with a British clarinet

The left hand E flat / A flat key (I thought I would never need it) has proved very useful – I recently did a recital where two pieces I played actually required it (arguably!) and the layout of the keywork (including the unusual shape of that key) made it very easy to cope with. Since having this clarinet with the extra key, I have got a lot more used to its presence on my bass clarinet, and feel that its use is a bonus to my overall technique – I would not go back to a clarinet without it. Both B flat and A instruments are available with an extra key operated by the RH thumb; this extra hole raises the pitch of low E and F (flat on many instruments). However, I opted for the model without that addition as (1) I was not convinced that I could easily operate the key when I needed to without compromising my RH technique and (2) the intonation on these lower notes is actually pretty good and well within an acceptable range (eg last note Poulenc Sonata 2nd mvt). However, that’s a personal choice and you have to make your own mind up about that one. I like that Yamaha have really pushed some boundaries with design with this instrument and come up with something that is a bit different to the competition. If you want a new pro clarinet, you cannot afford not to try this one.

Mike Halliday

Mike is a UK-based clarinet and saxophone specialist and founder of this site. When not out performing, he is usually at the computer composing, arranging, or engraving and editing music.