Dear Mr. Friedland,
I am currently a Junior in high school and have been playing the clarinet since sixth grade. I have been playing on a Selmer model 100 (wood). I am at a point where I think buying a new clarinet would be best. My question is: What clarinet do you recommend I get? I am looking for a professional or almost professional instrument. I have asked my band teacher and assistant teacher about it and they both seem excessively biased toward the R-13. But I’ve play two R-13 A clarinets in the school symphony orchestra which are on loan from the orchestra department, and I don’t peticularly like them. One of them seemed stuffy in the lower register, and the other seems barky in the upper clarion register. Maybe this is just a characteristic of Buffet’s A clarinets. In any event, I would be grateful for your input into this dillema.
Thanks for your letter. I can answer with a very long response, however let me spare you,and me for that matter.
Buffet A clarinets, especially ones on loan from the orchestra department are stuffy. That is the way an A clarinet is as a condition, Compared to the smaller, lighter Bb, the A is stuffy. Buffet especially. On the other hand, the R-13s play very easily, most all of them. However, I recommend neither.
The best clarinet you can buy is the Leblanc Opus, period. Easiest, best response, intonation, also the most ridiculously expensive clarinet. I had a set, they were great. I would suggest however that you invest in a Yamaha professional clarinet. I do not remember the numbers any longer, but my set was Y68 or 69, or 72, 73. They are not cheap, but are good, and well-in-tune and are just perhaps a bit too easy on the response.
The Selmer clarinet is good, but too expensive, and not that good. Leblanc is good, and perhaps you can get a deal. Never pay list price. You should be able to buy any of the above at a discount of 30% or more off the list price.
If you have a private teacher, let him select it. If not, don’t ask the band director. Unless they are actual clarinetists, all they do is ask someone, but they don’t really know. (Sorry, but that is the truth.) That is why they teach and do not play.
Good luck with your purchase. Make sure that the clarinet you are giving up is not up to your standard. Perhaps all it needs is a repadding, or a good overhaul, or even a new fine mouthpiece. All that is much cheaper than a brand new instrument. Also if you are in a cold winter climate, do not buy until the spring when the temperature is a bit more stable, less chance of cracking that way.