Rosario’s Oil

I think my 25 year old Series 10 Mazzeo is tired! I don’t know how else to explain it, and I am not mechanical-minded, but here is what it is doing:

First, it’s flat — all of it. I am now playing with a Click barrel, just to be able to play in tune with others.

Second, after playing for a really long time, the Bb mechanism seems to get flat and almost close up, and I am forced to play the regular Bb fingering instead.

I’m thinking that I may just need a new clarinet. Is there a way for me to get the Mazzeo mechanism put on today’s clarinets? Or do you have any suggestions as to how to resurrect this one?

Thanks for any thoughts.


know your name; you must have studied with him or else he mentioned your name. Rosario ..

I do not think that you series Mazzeo is tired, though 25 is old I guess.

As to flatness, there are many reasons for that, one of which could be you, your current embouchure and/or the mouthpiece, however usually they go sharp with age, I think because of many repeated swabbings. At least that is the usual reason given. Sometimes we relax, or we are not so insistent in our entire demeanor and that can mean flat, as perhaps there is no real reason for a clarinet to go flat by itself. Why? Clarinets are simply, at least in my experience, not that unstable, and you say “all of it” You say instability, but consistently?

No, I do not think so, but I know something that can be giving you the problem. It happened to me when I was practising like a madman for Rosario, like 7 hours a day, writing things down to attempt to rationally resolve problems, fingerings, the high register, everything. Really … quite neurotic, I guess.

I was about to throw in the towel … or the bell, or whatever you throw in when you decide to take your mothers advice and become a dentist, when I either read something someplace or heard someone, can’t remember, however, here is what it was:

Take the register key off the clarinet. Get a pipe cleaner or something long enough to NOT get caught in that all-important aperture. Push the cleaner gently and straight into the hole and draw it out. If it comes out full of gunk and what we generally call gggnur, (what you find inside a pant cuff, or perhaps in your belly button), or if you find nothing but look into the bore of the instrument and see a cloud in the space where they register key was, you have found the problem … YOU HAVE FOUND IT. That dirt that does accumulate in every register key, again from swabbing or from the peach fuzz in Georgia can throw the intonation and the player for a loop. Really.

When I found that in my clarinet, then screwed the key back into place, the clarity made me almost cry, and I was OK again.

(Actually, it probably would have been better to become a dentist, but that is a whole other story.)

Please try that if you have not already. There has got to be gggnur in there after 25 years in Georgia. Tell me how it goes.

Now, as to the Bb key closing, that is not a difficult problem, at least I do not think so.

That mechanism is an articulated one: one key moves another through the articulation of another spring, not directly (opening the a key is a direct motion: you open it, the spring closes it, period). The Bb works with another spring and another resulting motion is the opening of that trill key. It is a difficult adjustment to make, and certainly the reason for difficulties that some students had at the beginning. However if it was adjusted correctly initially as yours was … well, it lasted 25 years. You need to have the springs readjusted or changed: the down motion which opens the key and the up motion which allows it to close must be placed in correct adjustment, or made stronger. I KNOW that is the problem, having adjusted this many times.

Also you may have ggnur in that hole as well.

Remember the adjustment have to be made by a person with the kind of mechanical understanding that perhaps you do not have. You have got to find someone, or you have to develop it yourself. I could show you how to do this in a short time.

I remember when I took up the Mazzeo clarinet, I was a very advanced player and resented the hell out of Rosario for literally making me make the change (he did not really make me; he made me an offer that I could not refuse) then I changed in about three days, and hid for a while until I had not only learned the mechanics of it in my fingers but also had learned how to fix it and how to toy with it.

I finally surmised that it was wonderful MUSICAL advantage, really. I felt that it freed me to play musically the kind of phrase I wanted to make, with complete timbral and intonational freedom … I think so anyway.

How did I sound?

Heck, Jill, I don’t know. When you are young in Boston and in search of a job playing that instrument, you are a bit nuts, I am sure.

I have so much to say that I pardon myself for going on. My mind has opened up to Boston and Symphony Hall in the 60’s and Rosy and lessons with that group … “Les Six” as we were. I played that clarinet longer than anyone (I am told), just about 35 years and had to play my retirement concert on it, because I had extreme pain in my left thumb, making my regularly played Bb impossible to play cleanly. I used a plain Series 10 Mazzeo, actually a new one given to me by Selmer Canada. I had had that clarinet changed so that I could use both the Mazzeo Bb when I wanted and the ordinary Bb, at will, with a tiny but great mechanism made for me.

The big difficulty was that the spring under the A (first line), was too stiff because it was the Mazzeo mechanism spring. I had it changed so that it can do either. It is the only one made that I know of, and it helped me get through that last concert … until I had the operation to widen the aperture that was squeezing my wrist. Called DeQuairvains syndrome, like carpal tunnel, but not the same.

Hope that I have been reasonably clear … Go ahead, ask me anything about anything … Make my day.

Sincerely and with love and respect


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