In April 2013 Christopher Walters joined Trinity College London as Head of Teacher Development (Music), with responsibility for developing Trinity's new Certificate for Music Educators, a government-backed vocational qualification for music teachers. In December 2013 he then assumed the role of Head of Qualifications (Music) at Trinity, overseeing the development and renewal of all music qualifications. Christopher recently reviewed our new JP221 Bb Student Clarinet
"Buying a student clarinet has changed a lot over the last couple of decades. Once it was a familiar choice between Buffet, Yamaha, Jupiter and a handful others, but recent years have seen an influx of mass-produced instruments from China. The first of these were no match for the established models, relying solely on the fact that they were shockingly cheap. However, as the years passed, manufacturers slowly started producing instruments that could give the leading brands a run for their money.
"I have no idea whether the JP221 is manufactured in China, but it fits this general storyline nevertheless. A few years ago I reviewed an early version of the JP221 for MT; it was cheap and promising but also somewhat flawed. Now, Taunton-based wind and brass specialist John Packer Ltd have worked carefully with their manufacturer (who I would guess is based in China) to develop a new version of the JP221 – not really recognisable as related to the earlier model, and much improved for it.
"Anyone who has been handling student clarinets for more than a few years will tell you that production values in this category have generally gone up, and the JP221 is no exception. This instrument gives an impression of quality, from the smart black case with detachable rucksack straps to the smooth wood-effect body and shiny silver-plated keys. Additionally, the design of the JP221 gives a pleasing feeling of individuality – not bad at this price point.
"To play, the JP221 lives up to its exterior. The instrument I was sent had been superbly set up and was convincingly airtight – not always a given with student clarinets. The intonation was secure and the tone was full and even, giving little suggestion that this is plastic clarinet. The mouthpiece supplied was ample for the job, and the instrument also responded well with my own mouthpiece.
"For readers who are wondering why I can’t offer any negatives, the reason is that there aren’t really any. This instrument should definitely be among those you try before you buy."
For full instrument specification visit the JP221 Bb Student Clarinet item page.