Clarinet Toss-up

Mr. Friedland

I have been reading some of your responses to these messages, and I am quite fascinated. I currently play on a Selmer CL200, and it has done wonders to my musical experience, but as a college student, I feel it is time to upgrade. I once played on a Selmer series 9 (which belonged to a friend of mine) and loved it, and I found someone who is selling one (one of which seems to have been used either very little, or not at all). I was also told that this instrument has just been repadded. However, my clarinet instructor insists that I should play on a Buffet, and only a Buffet.

I will be heading off in a few days to look at this instrument (and to possibly purchase), but my instructor says that I am making an extremely stupid decision here. How do I explain to my instructor about it if I find this instrument to be an eye opener? I am all for letting him to also view the instrument, which I plan to do if I do purchase it, but he seems to have a negative approach to Selmer instruments.

I would look into purchasing a new instrument, but my funds are short.

Can you help me shine some light into a general direction?


Dear Edward:

Thanks for your letter concerned with teachers preferences for clarinet purchasing. The Selmer/Buffet controversy is indeed a very old one, one that I had though must have dissipated by now, what with the many clarinets on the market, the differences in bore sizes and the many improvements made within the last ten years.

Prior to then, Buffet, a fine clarinet was always the choice of the symphony player, and Selmer was the only choice in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which at that time was easily the best playing and the best paid orchestra in the US.

But the clarinet had nothing to do with it. It happened that in Boston Gino Cioffi, the principal there played Selmer clarinets, all his students did and the players in the section followed suit. But literally every other US orchestra was a “Buffet” orchestra, if you will.

It was mostly tradition and little else. Selmer did have a better reputation in more popular music, jazz and the swing bands mostly used Selmers. It was really tradition more than anything else, for clarinetists of that kind are really a “hidebound” lot. Cases, reeds, all was the same and most had to do with Buffet.

Leblanc also made a quality instrument, however the prejudice against those clarinets was even more than Selmer. It wasn’t until Yamaha entered the scene with a good selections of clarinets that started selling, that the Buffet tradition HAD to begin to diminish. But … you are telling me that it is still here. And so it will be a battle of wills between you and your teacher, which is really another story completely, an old one, and one that has little fact mostly; it is legend.

He will never forgive you if you buy Selmer, and you may have to move on to another instructor. Unfortunately. Let me know how it turns out.

Or … Get a Yamaha; they offend the Buffet people less.

Continuing perhaps, the Yamaha makes so many different numbers and different bores that you can get one exactly the bore of the Buffet R13. The nice thing is that it is better in tune that any Buffet, and that it is much cheaper, or at least used to be cheaper.

Not a lot of resistance, however the intonation is almost without peer.

The Leblanc is wonderful. I play the Opus, the top of their line, buying my set from a prominent principal clarinetist in the midwest.

He mentioned that he could not play loud enough on the instruments. I had no such problem. The Opus is beautiful but the price for new is very very high. It may not be worth your while and your teacher will still berate your decision.

The Selmer 10S clarinet is so much like the R13, but then again, it still says Selmer and it is not cheap.

You could try a Buffet Evette. It is the same clarinet as the R13, I believe, save for the fact that you have to try a bunch before you find one that is really fine.

The price is much lower though and you have the R13 bore, and your teacher cannot fault you for thrift.

Anyway, that is about all. Good luck with all you do


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