Leblanc Opus and Small Problems

March 8, 2004

I’ve read your Clarinet Corner posts, and saw your name on the Woodwind.org list of folks willing to provide personal help, so I am being bold enough to write with my question.

I have just received (yesterday) a new Le Blanc Opus (from Weiner Music). In general, the instrument performs as I had hoped. It is a very responsive instrument, with an even scale and a beautiful tone, particularly in the lower register. I also like the “feel” of the keys. However, I notice two little anomalies — perhaps related to each other? First, there is a little bit of wobble in the “long” B natural key (l.h. pinky). Second, the clarion “d” is unclear, “off”, unfocused, dead, buzzy — very out of character with the rest of the clarion.

I don’t want to just start tinkering around with this instrument until I get more familiar with it, but this strange inconsistency of the clarion d bothers me. If it is something minor (like maybe the wobbly b nat key buzzing sympathetically?), I can probably deal with that. But what I am afraid of is that there might be something fundamentally out of kilter with the clarion d. Is there some simple troubleshooting I can do (i.e., without taking the instrument to a tech, or sending it back to Weiner) to tweak the d?

I might mention that this is my second “good” clarinet. I have played a Buffet R-13 for about 10 years (and for 15 years before that, a pre-R-13 Buffet). The positive qualities of the Opus — responsiveness, evenness of scale and intonation, fluid and comfortable keywork — go a long way toward resolving my long-standing issues with my oh-so-sweet but oh-so-balky R-13. But I really can’t deal with that dead “d” !!

Thanks for any suggestions.

Sorry to reply so late….not really late, but I wanted to answer as soon as I read your comments because they seem so transparent and perhaps interconnected.

I am surprised that they would ship a clarinet prior to checking the bottom end for leaks and/or adjustments.

The stuffy d has to be a slightly leaking eb key, or a slightly closed c key…there seems to me to be no question about those possibilities. Could have happened in the transport, and it happens all the time.

I suggest first and foremest if you have not as yet already done so is the following:

Slightly(slightly) moisten the pad of the eb key and then wrap a thick rubber band around the eb holding it down and hopefully adhering the pad impression along the tone hole.(it will or should open with a slight bit of pressure and could be from then very good. To secure it, wrap the rubber band around the eb key everytime to you put the clarinet away. That can help to keep a tight seal on that pad, or then again, the spring that holds it down could be too loose or could have weakened somehow. I hope you know how to tighten that spring.
If not let me know.

I am not sure of what you mean by “wobble”. If an actual movement in the b key, that is a simple enough tightening of the proper screw, but not overly so,because the whole mechanism can tighten (which means you simply unloosen the screw until it swings freely), but doesn’t wobble.

I think it is important to remember that new clarinets are most unstable at this time of the year and that taking them in from a cold car into a warm room means you open the case and let the horn breathe for a while until it feels like room temperature. Better for the pitch as well. Same thing taking them into cold, make sure you have a good total cover over the case cover. I always like a thick padded cover with a fur like inner lining.

AND, lest you think I am totally crazy, keep it moist. The easiest way to do that is fun: at least for me, orange peels contain a lot of moisture and they are fragrant as well……or you can use one of those store-bought moisture holders. (too much moisture is not good though, just a bit)

You know, I have myself and know many players who have always put their horn away with rubber bands keeping the long pads closed tightly, and it works as long as you are careful.

Depending upon where you live, a clarinet is perhaps better to obtain when the weather is on the warm side or at least stable.

New horns are “breathing” and reacting to the atmosphere all the time. And in time they wiill settle, and you will become part of them as well.

Hope these things help, I remain on call in case you have any more questions.