Should I Get a New Horn?

I’m in a quandry of my own making, and seeing a relevant post you
made on Woodwind.Org in 1999 has prompted me to write you. Perhaps
you have some words of wisdom you’ll be willing to share.

My background: I’m 46. 2 years ago I picked up the clarinet after
a 27 year absence. In a relatively short time I was able to
recover a good portion of my former skills in terms of the sound I
produce on the horn (but not yet in terms of manual dexterity –
although I’m getting there).

Anyway, I had an old student Artley model lying around, and
several months after I joined a community band and was convinced
that playing wasn’t going to be a passing fad, I purchased a new
R-13. At first it was somewhat difficult to blow but I adjusted to
it. I’m fairly happy with the horn, but I don’t think it’s perfect
in terms of playability. About a year ago, I sent it to Francois
Kloc at Buffet for an adjustment because playing a B just above
the break with my right pinkie wasn’t easy. Also, I’ve never liked
the way the Bb on the break sounds. Anyway, whether he actually
made any adjustment or not I’m not sure, although the problems
still persist.

Recently I started getting the itch to try a new horn,
specifically one of the pro grade Leblanc models. I chatted
extensively with someone I met through the Woodwind.Org pages and
then, just yesterday, bought a new Leblanc Concerto. I was
disappointed when I had the same difficulty with the B key on the
right. Also, I noticed a definite difference in terms of tone –
the Leblanc is much brighter than the R-13, not necessarily a bad
thing but I prefer a darker sound. I chatted again with my friend
who’s personal favorite is the Leblanc Opus. She says the Opus has
a much darker, focused sound than the Concerto.

My problem is deciding whether I can find a horn that seems
perfect to me, or whether I’m merely searching for the holy grail
and/or whether if I was a much better player I’d be perfectly
content with my R-13. I also suspect that most of the new horns
one buys through mail order sources aren’t thoroughly tested and
inspected. Do you think I should just stick with my R-13, or
should I try looking for a used Opus? And if so, where on earth
does one find a used Opus as well as a competent person who can
tell whether it’s really playing up to its capability?

I really appreciate any advice you can give me. Thanks. Irwin

Dear Friend:

You are experiencing one of the more pleasant aspects of the
clarinet: trying new ones to determine the best. That is nothing
but pure fun. It may cost you more than you wish to spend, but it
is the quest that always seems important. I have been through
years of it myself. The nice thing about the clarinet is that it
was the last of the well-made woodwinds to gain in price to the
levels of the ther others. You used to be able to buy a good new
French instrument for about $450, and you know that is no longer
the case … well, maybe the case, but no clarinet.

The adjustment of the left or right little finger B are very easy
to make, perhaps a minute, and I would be happy to do it for you;
however that would require a trip for you must be present. Anyway,
I have played all of the clarinets you mention in your letter.

The Concerto is fine, however it is too bright and really
constructed for a pop/jazz type player.

The Opus is their finest clarinet and I purchased my set used, and
sold it on eBay. I dare say if you look on ebay you will find one
or two. There have to be a Leblancs.

I also played an older model, the L27 … best clarinet as far as
tuning I have ever played. Beautiful scale, sound, the whole
thing. Paid very little, but found fault with it, and it is gone,
alas, like my youth, too soon.

The last set I had were the Opus, the best in my opinion, the most
fun to play, the nicest scale, the nicest basic tone.

Your purchase must be in perfect adjustment when you purchase it.
It HAS to be and what you are telling me is not the case.

I have played Yamahas, several sets, Buffets, several sets,
Selmers, many sets, Selmer Mazzeo-system, many sets, Leblanc Opus,
one set, Leblanc L27, one instrument. That is all I can think of
right now. I have beautiful recording made on each one, or each
set – lousy ones as well.

The point: it is really not the clarinet, but more the mouthpiece,
the reed, the evening, the attitude, and the particular piece.

Partially seriouskly – if you have the time to come out for a
week, I will straighten you out. If not write and i will try to
answer.

Sincerely

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