Buffet Crampon E12F Bb Clarinet Review

The relatively new Buffet Crampon E12F is a very popular intermediate clarinet that musicians respect. It’s based on the highly trusted Buffet E11, Buffet’s previous intermediate model.

The wooden Buffet Crampon E12F intermediate Bb clarinet is a good choice for clarinetists who are transitioning from a plastic student model. Its easy response and excellent intonation make it appealing, and its tone is rich and warm. Some feel it is as good as a professional instrument. 

This article discusses the Buffet Crampon E12F Bb clarinet: its features, who it is suitable for, the pros and cons of the instrument, and some common questions.

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Buffet Crampon E12F Bb clarinet features

Made of unstained grenadilla wood, the E12F Bb clarinet is made in the same style as professional models. The body is made in France, while key assembly and quality control are accomplished in Germany.

The Buffet E12F clarinet sells for $1,700 to $2,000 online.

Pitch442 Hz
BodyUnstained African blackwood – grenadilla
Included partsAdjustable thumbrest with neckstrap hook
Mouthpiece and mouthpiece cap
Ligature
Thumbrest cushion
Cork grease
One reed
KeysSilver-plated
PadsLeather
CaseBackpack
WarrantyTwo years

The majority of wooden clarinets are made using grenadilla, a high quality hardwood. It is also called dalbergia melanoxylon or mpingo. The body of the E12F Bb clarinet is treated and lacquered, but is not stained. This gives each instrument a unique look that is black and brown.

Thumbrest, mouthpiece, keys

A nice feature of the E12F is the adjustable thumbrest. This allows the player to more finely tune the instrument to their hand size, making playing much more comfortable.

In addition, a thumbrest cushion is provided. This small piece of rubber fits over the thumbrest to give a bigger and softer area for the thumb to hold.

The thumbrest on the E12F clarinet also includes a neckstrap hook, as more and more players are using neckstraps now. The neckstrap takes much of the weight of the instrument off of the right-hand thumb, allowing for better hand position and ease of playing. The instrument doesn’t come with a neckstrap, however.

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The mouthpiece provided is of a much higher quality than those found in other clarinets at this level. Mouthpiece specialist David McClune designed a new Buffet mouthpiece to go with the E12F Bb clarinet. Players generally find this mouthpiece quite good.

Many intermediate clarinets provide nickel-plated keys. The silver-plated keys on the Buffet-Crampon E12 Bb clarinet give a higher quality plating that will be more durable and give the instrument a professional feel. The silver plating will need to be polished at a musical instrument repair shop periodically.

Pads, case, reed

Beginner, intermediate and some professional clarinets often have skin pads. These are made up of a cardboard backing, felt and double skin for moisture protection. Sometimes they aren’t installed properly, or the pads can shift or tear, causing a leak.

The Buffet E12 Bb clarinet comes with leather pads. These are firmer and more waterproof, providing a better seal when closing a hole. They also last longer than the traditional skin pads.

The case provided is a backpack style. It’s lighter weight than some of the hard cases, and students enjoy being able to carry their instrument as a backpack.

This instrument comes with only one reed, so additional reeds will need to be purchased separately. For more on this, see the frequent questions section below.

Who is this clarinet for?

The Buffet Crampon E12F Bb clarinet is an intermediate instrument. Buffet lists it as a student clarinet, but it’s a big step up from their beginner student models, the Premium and the Prodige.

This clarinet is made to be durable, have an easy response and good intonation. These are important qualities in order for clarinetists who are moving up from beginner plastic instruments to be successful.

As a middle school student progresses on the instrument and plans to continue playing in high school, they would find it very natural to transition to the Buffet Crampon E12F. It’s wooden, it  produces a more mature sound and the intonation is more consistent.

If a high school student is planning on playing in college, the E12F Bb clarinet  is also a good choice. The instrument is reliable and tough – although the player needs to be careful of the wood in extreme temperatures – and can perform in many different situations.

Professional clarinet players

Professional musicians who play clarinet as a secondary instrument often choose an E12F because a higher-level instrument is too big an investment. They find the E12F is exactly what they need.

A number of the design features take after those found on the Buffet R13, which is the brand’s standard professional model clarinet. Some players that the Buffet E12F is comparable in quality to the professional model R13.

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While some college music majors, professional musicians, teachers and doublers opt for the E12F, the majority move up to an instrument that is at the level of the professional R13.

Pros of the Buffet Crampon E12F Bb clarinet

Feedback from E12F owners are generally very positive.

  • Much richer tone quality than other intermediate clarinets: owners feel the E12F Bb clarinet has a superior tonal quality when compared to other clarinets at the same level. It has a distinctive Buffet tone that is the accepted standard.
  • Great sound in the high register: the instrument works well, even on the high notes, and sounds fantastic.
  • Expected quality from a Buffet Crampon clarinet: the Buffet Crampon brand is well known for its high quality instruments.
  • Easy adjustment to intermediate level: the transition from a beginner clarinet to the E12F is not difficult.
  • Suitable even for symphony playing: many feel the instrument sounds professional enough for orchestral performing.
  • Comes with a good mouthpiece: many clarinets come with a mouthpiece that is a student-level piece of equipment of lower quality. The Buffet Crampon E12F comes with a mouthpiece specifically made for this instrument.
  • Great value: the cost of the E12F Bb clarinet is comparable to other intermediate clarinets. A number of clarinetists feel it’s a great deal given the quality of the instrument.

Cons of the Buffet Crampon Premium Bb clarinet

  • Corks are too tight: one small issue on the E12F is the thickness of the cork on the tenons. New instruments usually come with tight corks and they wear down with use, but the corks on the E12F seem to be especially tight. Some players have a musical instrument repair shop adjust them.
  • Some keys need adjusting out of the box: while not optimal, instruments sometimes arrive from the store with something needing adjustment. A music teacher can usually fix the problem, otherwise the clarinet will need to take a quick trip to the instrument repair shop.

Common questions about the E12F

Why are Buffet clarinets so popular?

The Buffet Crampon company has been making clarinets since 1825, and because of their successful history, they are highly trusted to offer quality instruments.

With such a high quality product, Buffet clarinets have become a standard choice for professional performers, music teachers and students. The Buffet clarinet tone is considered a reference.

What’s the difference between the E11 and the E12F?

This line of clarinets has a long history. It was first called the Evette, providing an intermediate wooden clarinet for students stepping up from beginner instruments.

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Then it was known as the Buffet Crampon E11 and become the standard intermediate instrument music teachers and students turned to for many years. 

With a few upgrades, the E11 became the E12F in 2012. The two instruments are very similar, with the same acoustic bore. But the E12F has some improvements, including silver-plated keys rather than nickel-plated.

Threaded and mounted key posts (rather than glued on) make the keywork much more stable. The Buffet Crampon E12F also comes with the leather pads and specially made mouthpiece.

Can the E12F be used for marching band?

With wooden instruments, there is always a danger when playing outdoors. Abrupt and extreme temperature changes can cause the clarinet to crack.

So, while it’s possible to use an E12F clarinet for marching band, it’s a risky idea. It would be better to use a plastic instrument.

What mouthpiece does the E12F come with?

The mouthpiece provided is really a special feature for the E12F Bb clarinet. It was created by mouthpiece specialist, David McClune, and made specifically for this model instrument. Many clarinetists feel it is a high quality mouthpiece.

What kind of warranty does the E12F come with?

Buffet Crampon provides a two-year warranty against all manufacturing and material defects.

How does the E12F compare to the R13?

The textbook answer to this is that the E12F is an intermediate clarinet and the R13 is a professional one. The E12F is considerably less expensive.

As a professional instrument, the Buffet Crampon R13 is considered Buffet’s flagship clarinet. The company has been producing the R13 since 1955, featuring a polycylindrical bore that helps produce the characteristic Buffet tone.

The E12F also has a polycylindrical bore, but the bore size is slightly larger. This gives an easier response than the R13. Many professional clarinetists are looking for the resistance found in the R13.

The R13 comes with skin pads, while the E12F has leather pads.

Many experienced players feel it’s possible to find an E12F clarinet that is just as good as the R13. With wooden clarinets, it’s important to try out more than one, just as you might test drive multiple versions of the same car. Each one is different, and there are some excellent E12F clarinets that may play as well as an R13.

What kind of reeds work with the E12F?

Any type of Bb soprano clarinet reed will work on the Buffet Crampon E12F. By the time a clarinetist is moving up to an E12F clarinet, they probably know what brand and strength reed works best for them.

Final Words

A large majority of clarinetists play on a Buffet Crampon clarinet, whether it’s a beginner Premium or a professional R13. Buffet clarinets are the standard because of their high quality instruments.

When looking for an intermediate clarinet that is a step up from a plastic beginner instrument, the Buffet Crampon E12F is an excellent choice.