Lyons Nuvo Clarinéo Clarinet in C

July 26, 2004

This is an update of the Lyons “C” Clarinet written some years ago on this site.
(I discovered some 15 years ago, when visiting the Summer Meeting of the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain, actually to demonstrate the Mazzzeo Clarinet for my teacher Rosario who was a guest there, that the folks in the UK absolutely adore the clarinet, much more zealously then we do in this hemisphere. I was really overcome by the great variety of players that visited that meeting of all levels from amateur to professional but really loving it). Suffice it to say, it was an unforgettable experience.
Now several weeks ago I received a letter from a young player asking me about a clarinet that was made of all plastic and no metal and that came in a case that was very difficult to open, and suggested that perhaps I write about this instrument. But alas , he could not think of the name of the instrument.
For the record and your information, it is the Lyons Clarinet, built in the key of C, all plastic, one piece, in a one piece case that IS first and foremost, a BEAUTIFUL SOUNDING clarinet!
That is where we start when judging a clarinet, on the sound, isn’t it?
The mouthpiece is about the size of an Eb clarinet mouthpiece and takes eb reeds and it plays like a wonderful mouthpiece. I took it out of the box, (one has to turn the top, which lines up two columns and out the clarinet comes.
The clarinet is in one piece, a boon to children and adults alike. You remember of course that many clarinets came in one piece at the beginning of the last century.I am told that they changed to several pieces when the grenadilla got more and more scarce, which could be somewhat of a myth. But with the emergence of the Buffet “green” clarinet or something which is made of ground and pressed grenadilla powder I am told, I believe the story.
It comes with a list of parts if you need to replace, very inexpensive a few dollars up to 12 for the mouthpiece and 15 for the case.
The pads are all silicon rubber and permanent, (hooray!)The keys are all plastic as well.Here is a clarinet which in 1993 won the British Design prize and here I am only in 2004 finally finding out about it. Makes me feel old, but then again……..
Now here is the most salient thing for you to remember, the clarinet plays and sounds terrific. It is in tune, better than many profession clarinets and the sound is rather lovely. No, really lovely. Ithink that the only problem may be the fact that it has a special mouthpiece, meaning only that , that’s it, which may tend to put off the more experienced clarinetists, who already play Bb with their Bb mouthpiece, and when buying a C, much much more expensive than the Lyons, they simply play their Bb mouthpiece. But remember, the horn plays, and very well and is designed for children. Considering that, the Lyons is without peer.

Now here are more particulars:

Of course, the inventor and developer of this wonderful addition to clarinetopia is Graham Lyons, clarinetist, bassoonist and composer who deserves all our praise.


Boston, New England, Mrs. S

July 14, 2004

As a student at The New England Conservatory duting the 60s there were a few simple stops on any given day. There were classes at the NEC, most specifically orchestra,(was anything more important?) and the other drudgery better known as History and of course Theory and Music Lit, which I liked because I got to play in them, demonstrating repertoire we were learning. I had Chamber Music with Fernand Gillet, the elderly principal Oboe of the Boston Symphony who boasted receiving pensions both from the BSO and the Lamureaux Orchestra in Paris. He was the greatest teacher, could spot any problem within miliseconds and give the solution in less time than that. In 1958 or so he said to me, “I like zat stacatto”, a comment I have never forgotten ever. ( I never asked him what it was he liked, but I think it was the fact that I did not stop the air after every articulated note.)

NEC was like a rabbit warren in those days. It was full of all kinds of nooks and crannies where all kinds of things went on.
The organ rooms all had mirrors in them so one could see anything that was happenning inside from out in the hall which most emphatically , kept the place from being a carnal zoo.
“I’ll meet you under Beethoven” the huge statue in the hallway and from there we would go for coffee or to listen to someone in Jordan Hall, or to rehearse or to class. I remember only being happy: days were filled with laughter.
As a clarinetist I spent hours learning all the chamber music parts I could find and orchestra studies. The corridors sounded like every clarinet part ever written all at once. And yes, we would meet to listen to music in the record library. They should have had mirrors there as well.
On Friday afternoon, I would go to Rayburn Music on Huntington Avenue to get reeds for my lesson which was Saturday Morning.
Van Dorens came in boxes of 25 and cost 3.75 a box.
I would ask Mrs S. the tny old lady for 5 boxes , which would usually get me one or two that I could play for Mazzeo the next morning, after five or six hours of trying them that night.
Mrs. S was the wife of Mr S., better know as the “Bolero” drummer of the Boston Symphony as he had been the snare drummer on the famous recording.
He was also a chemist by training and designed and manufactured “Revelation” Valve Oil in the back of the store. Theye were all very nice to me, including Ray ,the son who played trumpet, but just kind of for fun, as he only played a few parades in the summer.
After Mrs. S bagged my five boxes of reeds, I would ask her . “how much? and she would always reply, “Oh. thats OK . Sherman”
Right, I never paid for reeds. not at Ray Sternburgs shop and I would hazard there were many like me who received those mini-scholarships. You know, it was a different time.

Once, I remember a wonderful Baritone Saxophone sound coming from the store as I walked in. It was huge and gorgeous, the player totally professional and very gifted.

It was Serge Chaloff, perhaps the best know Baritone player next to Harry Carney of our century.
Serge was bargaining with Ray for the Bari neck he was trying. I remember the final price was something like 5.00. Serge seemed strung-out at the time, little money for anything except those terrible necessities and Ray was always there to help. Serge played Baritone Sax with Woody Herman at the time in that famous section whose names scared me to even mention.
It was a nice time to be growing up and playing in Boston during those years, and I am grateful for all of the wonderful people I met as a young clarinetist.
sherman friedland

The Van Doren Nursing Home

July 12, 2004

The stretch of metallic ribbon from Queens to the Midtown Tunnel is crowded with all manner of things while contemplating in what ways one may incur debt or just seperate oneself from money upon reaching the goal of NYC, where everything is attainable.

It is a gently hilly ride though punctuated with agressive and speeding vehicles,dipping down a long way surrounded by small Long Island communities, shopping malls, Levittowns copied over and over, and the huge cemetery endelssly acompanying the trip.

One soon sees the NYC skyline begining to emerge as one approached the tunnel, but there was always one landmark that reminded me and others of my ilk of our possible future somewhere down the line.

The was The Van Doren Nursing cropping up over the horizon for a few minutes on the way to the city.

The curious thing about the Van Doren Nursing Home was that the colors were the very same as those found on a box of Van Doren Clarinet Reeds, blue and yellow., and by extension one thought that the inhabitants or the patients in this home were all clarinet players, somehow committed through unreality in the inexorable search for “that” reed. Van Doren was the most popular clarinet reed of the time with some justification.

This was uncanny and suggested endless possibilities and scenarios of the sounds of reeds being tried over and over again completely without success, violence in the hallways, morphine drips for those clarinetists who had completely lost everything in the search for first a pleasant sound of a new reed, then finally as the end drew near of no sound at all, just the death rattle of a reed vibrating emitting nothing save vibration, accompanied by rolling eyes and strong orderlies equipped with cattle prods for those who had allowed themselves to be lead down the path of the impossible reed,mouthpiece, and instrument,always unattainable, just a bit out of reach.

By this time, we were beginning to line up into one of the lanes leading into the Midtown Tunnel, where I would become one of the future candidates for admission into Van Doren Nursing, for the route was similar: shopping for reeds in Lynx& Long, or Schirmers, or Mannys, returning through the LIRR to practise and audition endlessly for positions each which thousands of hungry clarinetists, attempting to continue the circuitous route to and from the LIRR, hoping not to finally end up, either out-of-gas or luck to find oneself ,on the way to an audition, at the Van Doren Nursing Home.

Sherman Friedland

Memoires/early 60s/reeds

July 8, 2004

During that summer, as usual I was having terrible trouble with reeds; I would spend hours at the Van Doren room and factory choosing reeds which were unmarked and cost .10 each. (It was located at 56 rue Lepic, directly next to a house which bore a placque stating that Joseph Conrad had written “Heart of Darkness” there. After you had completed your choice, someone would take away the tray and one could hear, “marquez son boite”, or something close to that. The reeds would reappear marked with the familiar Van Doren superiore inkstamp on the back, one paid, and off you went, back to Fontainebleau where I spent the summer in a room in a small hotel built in 1624 and situated directly adjacent to the castle, which had been a hunting lodge of Francis I. The Conservatoire Americain was located within one of the wings of the castle. I lived in a small room in the ramshackle old place, but had asked the lady who ran the hotel to allow me to use the living room in which to practise, and she had graciously allowed. There were bullet-holes throughout the room and when I asked her, she screamed “les Allemagnes” over and over again.I had had no particular system for choosing reeds at the time and I cannot imagine how I chose, it must have been insane. I have since devised so many systems which have helped me enormously in this practise of choosing a reed, a practise which is really insane. To return to paris, as I was saying, it was horrible, trying to find a reed, or several to choose to play. Although I was a good player, considered professional, I really understood so little, hence my difficulty. On this particular morning, after about an hour of choosing reeds that either played or didn’t, a man came into the room; I learned later that this was a Van Doren, one of the owners,; I think he was Robert Van Doren. He smiled and saying hello, showed me his hand, on each finger of which was a Van Doren mouthpiece. I had no idea of what they were like, for at that time the importation of Van Doren products into the US was only beginning to emerge, mouthpieces especially. (Later, the reeds began to become so popular that the company hit upon the idea of allowing their purchase and importation with Van Doren mouthpieces. This a indeed a good idea for two reasons: the mouthpieces were excellent, and they played the reeds better…they just fit and sounded better.) Robert offered to have me try the mouthpieces, my very first time , and I found them first very very different: staccato seemed less immediate to me, they seems a bit more resistant, and later, only a few minutes laters they began to emerge as something special indeed, and they accepted more and more blanks than my Selmer mouthpieces ever did. ( I think I played HS*) at the time.I purchased several and off I went , back to Fontainebleau and with the excitement that a young man carries within him when he thinks he has made a musical point, I was happy indeed.Now for the record ( and 50 years later), I never really stopped using VD mouthpieces , except for one too short time when I really expereinced magic on a mouthpiece. But that is a story for later.

Lyons C Clarinet

July 6, 2004

Thank-you for contacting me about my recent enquiry.

On Tuesday 06 Jul 2004 5:56 pm, you wrote: Hear the Lyons C Clarinets this the clarinet you refer to in a recent email?????

Yes indeed they are Excellent! What do you think about these? Are they a good brand to start with, in your opinion?

I would say yes, especially if you are practical. Like different things, love music, and do not have the money that a “good instrument” can cost. Frequently these are not good instruments, merely looking good, and sounding far from good.

Hope to hear from you. Thank-you very much indeed.


Hi, and thanks for your question. I am all for the instrument and hope to try one soon. It looks absolutely terrific or ghastly depending upon your acceptance.The tuning is supposedly terrific.everything is replaceable. It is cheaper than sliced bread.I think the presentation of an instrument that is in tune, plays well and isinexpensive, as well as user friendly is terrific. While I have not playedthe instrument, I would be happy to try one and in any event endorse this VWof clarinets. The UK is absolutely in love with the clarinet and this furthers that love.

Sincerely, Sherman Friedland

Clarinet and Trumpet: incompatible?

July 1, 2004

In my former life as a clarinettist, I used what I now know to be the “double embouchure”. In those days I knew of no one else who used it, and every teacher I had contact with discouraged its use. Being a naturally good player, and because I played at a high level, I wisely told the lot of them to get stuffed.

However, I became a brass player instead, and I just bought a clarinet in order to satisfy the yen for playing the instrument that would just never go away. The thing is, I’m now wondering if the “double embouchure” technique will affect my brass playing. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t played in a very long time, but my top lip after the first couple of practice sessions was absolutely numb!

I don’t recall having this problem before, but if it’s going to go away, I’m going to stick with it.

Yes, I’m probably using far too much pressure, and it undoubtedly stems from the fact that I have the embouchure strength of a guy who practices hard 4-6 hours per day, 365 days a year- but on a brass instrument, which means my inner-top lip needs a lot of toughening up.

That said, I’m certainly no expert in this department, and I’d like to hear your opinions on the subject.



First, the double lip embouchure is the best therapeutic embouchure for the clarinet.And there is no question it produces the best sound and intoation. I have used both for years and I subscribe to it completely. The finest clarinetists in our history have used this embouchure all of the time.

That is quite enough concerning me, but the trumpet and the clarinet may not be compatible bedfellows.

If you play single lip, you may have less problem, but intrinsically, double-lip is a wonderful way to play.

good luck

A and Bb, and switching

July 1, 2004

Subject: A vs. Bb

> Mr Friedland,
> I am a 15 year old junior, beginning to find it necessary to play on my
> clarinet in the key of A more often. I have been having a bit of trouble
> lately with the transition to my A clarinet. I find it more difficult to
> play than Bb, and I require more air to make a decent tone quality.
> Unfortunately, most of my orchestral repitoire has an A part, not to
> the fact I am beginning to play the Mozart concerto. Besides plenty of
> do you have any suggestions that would solve this problem? The instrument
> itself is not a new model, so this may also play a part in my troubles.
> Thanks.
> Aaron

Hi Aaron:
and thanks for your comments on the A clarinet. It is a very common
problem for the A to play with more difficulty than the Bb.
Many times, an infequently used A will need to be really played a lot, and
sometimes they may be out of adjustment.

The A is longer and bigger and therefore takes more support.

Years ago, many A clarinets were not as good as Bb, but now that is not the
case. All of my A clarinets have been terrific and I frequently choose to
play passages written on the Bb on the A. It simplifies many difficult
passages, and the sound, you will find is more lovely, luxuriant, if you
will. The transposition is simple after you get used to it.

When I studied in Rosario’s Mazzeo’s Master Class, there were many players who played everything on the Bb, utilizing a full-boehm instrument with the low Eb. I did not subscribe to that, however it opens ones mind, playing things on clarinets in different keys.

What I did, as a young clarinetist was to practise for a while only on the A
clarinet, supporting well all the notes. That will do the trick and when you
play your Bb it will feel simple to fill up by comparison.

Keep switching until they play the same, and then you will have it made, as
they say.

Good luck, sherman friedland

air escape through throat

July 1, 2004


I am looking for some advice about my breathing.

i am having problems with tension in the throat, when i play my epiglotis is giving way causing the air to come out of my nose. is this a common problem? – are there any excercises you know of that could help?

i would be very grateful for any advice

London, UK.

Hi and thanks for your interesting and evocative question.

You may have to define what you call tension in the throat. That is the problem with the written word; it means different things to each of us, while just watching and listening to a few notes can define everything.

But there are generally two different ways of holding or thinking about the position of the throat when playing the clarinet: One is the position closely simulating the syllable “e”, the other , “ah”, and then there are all the positions in between these two which are used by most clarinetists at different times when they play.

There have been studies actually photogra[hing the inside of a players mouth while he or she plays, but none that I know of with the clarinet, only with trumpet. The range of closure was truly amazing as I recall the lecture, fully dependent upon the particular passage, the kind of music, many many conditions govern the popsition, rather the changing position of the throat when playing the clarinet.

I myself have frequently allowed breath escape from my nose when playing or when breathing, with no ill effects as far as I know. And occasionally on recording I can hear these sounds, though I hope others do not.

So, I am reluctant to say you are doing anything wrong , simply because the throat and breathing are so very flexible and consist of literally hundreds of variables.

I know wonderful players who emit all kinds of noises, some of which I would call hideous, however this is not to say they are musically bad.

THAT is the question.

Now, think about what I have tried to say and wrote more, if you wish, if more.
good luck