New Clarinet VS a harder Reed????

August 26, 2004

hello, Mr. Friedland

I’m a sophomore student in high school, and I have two questions that has been sticking with me for a long time. I tried to ask my band teacher since he used to play a clarinet, but I wanted to get more opinions from other people so that I can get more information.

Q #1: I’m getting a new clarinet, and I was wondering what model you recommend for me to get so that I’ll be able to play well in jazz and orchestra bands. I’ve had a selmer CL 300 ( plastic clarinet) for around 4 years, and I’m thinking of getting a professional wooden Bb clarinet.

Answer by Mr Friedland:
What do you mean by a professional clarinet/ by definition a professional instrument costs at least 2-5 thousand dollars, certainly not what you need at the present time. A wooden instrument, for instance the Yamaha 34 would be much more suitable for you, more importantly a good mouthpiece will serve you better than a new clarinet. Get either an Selmer HS* or a Van Doren B45 mouthpiece, ideal mouthpieces for you, and play them with a medium reed, 2/12 or 3.; Hardness of reed has nothing to do with sound of a wooden clarinet

Q#2: I’ve been playing my clarinet with a reed 5 for around 2 years, and I was wondering if a lower reed sounds better when I change to a wooden clarinet.

please reply to me as soon as possible!

Mr Friedland’s opinions are those of a reknown clarinetist who has played professionally for almost 50 years and has had many many hundreds of students. …….Hard reeds are really a NO-NO for you. Trust me, and good luck to you.

thank you


New Begining Clarinet

August 25, 2004

I am currently trying to buy a clarinet for my son who is in “beginning
band”. The school requests only wooden instruments. After searching the net for days, I am still a little confused as to which brand to buy and whether to purchase a used instrument or brand new. Is there much of a difference between the Yamaha YCL-450 and a Selmer 100? Do used instruments sound any different to a brand new ones? Would a used instrument require more maintenance than a brand new one? What is the working life of such clarinets? I have tracked down a brand new Yamaha YCL-450 for approximately $650 US. Is it wise to consider buying this instead of a used Selmer 100 for $395 US.
I appreciate your time in considering my questions. I hope you can help me out.
Your note poses some complex questions but to sort them out, first, the request for wooden clarinets “only “is really not intelligently placed. A beginning clarinet student can play on an ebonite or plastic clarinet and sound just as good as he or she will on a wooden clarinet. More importantly, the mouthpiece much less expensive than the clarinet and,it is really the crucial issue here.
There are several good mouthpieces made and I need only mention a very few, Selmer HS* is one, and Van Doren B45 is the other and they are played by more than any other mouthpiece and it can make a much bigger differenc than does the clarinet itself.
You can get a piece of junk made of wood or a reasonably decent clarinet of plastic. BUT, if it must be wood, I would not
necessarily buy the 450, rather a Model 34 which is wood, will suffice is much less expensive, or I would prefer you buy the Selmer 100. It is that simple. The mouthpiece is where the difference really lies in a beginning
band , beginning student or anything beginning, the rest is of little

Good luck , sincerely, sf

The Tongue and Tone

August 18, 2004

> Dear Mr. Friedland
> Your comments are very helpful. Mr. Wrights playing
> is an inspiration, indeed. I always thought that you
> needed to tense up to get a good sound out. The high
> notes still need some work–I think I may be using a
> reed that is too hard. I have been using a 3.5
> vandoren reed (on an m13lyre mouthpiece) and was
> pretty satisfied with my tone, but had trouble with
> upper register reponse (tounguing involved
> undertones). Faster airspeed helped, but I could only
> play fortissimo (and it was fatiguing). I had my
> friend listen to me and she noted that I am not very
> fluid in my playing. It sounded like I was struggling
> to get through–and I was. This reed strength,
> dispite its nice sound, gives me problems with air
> management, expression, and response in the upper
> register (above A). I (slightly) sanded the sides and
> tip–staying clear of the heart–of one reed and it
> seemed to have helped me get a clear focused tone and
> a better response and articulartion, but the high
> notes sound a bit thinner. I have tried recording my
> playing, but somehow it doesnt sound quite the same on
> the tape recorder. Anyway, do you think it is a good
> idea to modify a not-so-strong reed–will the reed
> (and my muscles) fast deteriorate (ie should I work on
> being fluid even without modifying the reed)? What do
> you suggest for getting a more fluid (seemingly
> effortless) sound?
> Than you very much for your advice and illuminating
> articles!
Hi Kris:
Your latest note strikes several very important responses which I will
present as partially anecdotal:
I was very impressed with two great players of the clarinet because of their
effortless sound and felixibility. They were Harold Wright and Gino Cioffi,
and both of them played principal clarinet with the Boston Symphony, in
reverse order.
I first knew Wright when he had that position with the National Symphony in
Washington DC where I was stationed and attended the Naval School of Music.
The sound was the most beautiful thing I ever heard and it was truly
He played double-lip and I once played a mouthpiece of his and it
practically played by itself, it was that easy to blow through. Certainly
for both the reason of double-lip and the ease of resistance of the
mouthpiece would point only to an easy reed , one without too much
Cioffi had a different slighter “brighter in quality” sound, but just as
beautiful . When he first came over to this hemisphere from Italy I was told
by many that he played in the Italian custom, that is with the reed on TOP
of the mouthpiece. Yes, that is true.
Perhaps not pertinent but true.
Now, I did study with Gino and he used a crystal moutpiece, an Obrien I
think and it looked like he took a millimeter of mouthpiece into his mouth
when he played. I am serious, a tiny amount , and of course, he played
double-lip as well. That way of playing the clarinet is the most successful
for sound because it is simply impossible to bite for you will cause pain to
yourself, impossible to bang your fingers for the same reason and for many
many teachers is the most therapeutic embouchure. I used it in that manner
and it always helped my playing , and when I played in the orchestra, I
would use double-lip to play the unison passages.

Undertones mean in general that the air is not passing fast enough or soon
enough into the mouthpiece and causing the reed to vibrate; there is a lag,
hence the undertone. Practise all staccato passage legato and the opposite.
The staccato passage should sound the same as legato except for the fact
that the notes are separated, and you will have much more sound.

One more example: My last recording included the Copland Sonata, the violin
sonata of which he made a transcription for the clarinet. The last movement
is really staccato, or apparently so, and that is the way it is on the
recording and….it is for me horrible, perhaps my worst playing.(no, it is
my worst)
Later I included it on a recital and when I came to that last movement, I
played it in the manner that I had developed while in school, very relaxed
and not so short, but separated. The performance was much more successful
than the concert. (I really can stand it)
Short short short staccato is not natural for music, even though many
clarinetists make a specialty of playing notes so short that one can insert
a small rest between the notes, a rest that is not written.
If a conductor asks for this type of short short attack, well, one has to
comply, however if the sound you make is beautiful enough he will not bug
you about it.

Remember, sound should be continuous, even when the sounds are separated,
the sound should come immediately after the attack and one can practise that
easily by played reverse : staccato /legato, and the reverse, or very
slowly, allowing the tongue to come off the reed and the air to enter and to
vibrate the reed immediately….right away, in any register.
Someplace in this large tome of articles there is an article on the slow
study of producing the notes with the tongue.
When in high school, I learned to play very quickly tonguing without
touching the reed, just from the roof of the mouth, however that is neither
correct or practical, so I had to learn it all over again, but I believe ,
like everything else, it became one of my strongest features, because it had
been my weakest.

Anyway…..not the point, but three months ago I ruptured my quadriceps
muscle and had to have an operation and have not been able to walk since May
1. Today, I started riding my exercise bike again and I am only ecstatic, so
I will take my wife out for a small celebration.
Good luck and let me know how it goes.
By the way, playing with a tape recorder is a whole other life and I have more experience with that that I think anyone for I recorded everything I played and it is an art almost unto itself and you cannot sound good until you learn all about recording, ….and the clarinet as well. (In reverse order)
best, s

Tuning the clarinet

August 16, 2004

I can’t find anything on your site about out of tune clarinets. Have I missed something? If not, do you have any comments about
For the record, I am 76, returning the last year from 57 years away from the instrument, serious and really enjoying it. Your comments on reeds are so clear and helpful! Thanks!

Hi Bob:Hi, and thank you for your letter, Bob. Congratulations on returning to the clarinet . There are many facts concerning tuning in my site, however the following may be helpful to you and perhaps others:

1) “blown out” clarinets? when I play a range of notes on my clarinet, watching a tuner, are all the differences from in-tune due to me/ the humidity/etc. or do clarinets get out of tune?

Answer: Some clarinets are not necessarily intune from day one. The whole concept of tuning has to do with issues of a personal nature, considering how one is tuning, the ambient temperature when tuning. As far as the tuner is concerned it depends on the actual technical specifications of the tuner. I used to use a Korg that had a spring loaded needle activated by the pitch which would always go past the pitch then come back to it . I had to learn this because many of the notes seemed sharp.
The temperature in the room is a factor which muct be considered, and as you play, the pitch will rise on the instrument, most any . Clarinets do not get “out-of-tune”. We become more sensitive to them as we go/ a tuner is not the best way. An ensemble is better and your own sense of pitch, and timbre are important. It is easy to get used to an intonation of an instrument: For instance, if you have a sharp throat bb, then if you play on a horn that has a perfect bb, it will sound flat to you.

2) correcting the tuning?
Answer: In general correcting the tuning is only appicable for certain notes on the instrument, and is better left said than done. In other words, do not start cutting or taping to change tuning, it will be infinitesimal and I can tell you as a young man I broke a tone hole trying to “open it up” to make the note play sharper, and I was a fool to do it, and have never ever touched an instrument in that manner. I can tell you also that from time to time it is necessary to clear out the register key hole because one that is plugged with dirt and stuff will be stuffy and can make the clarinet really sound bad. It comes from swabbing out and getting the dirt from the swab wedged into the register key opening.

In general tuning and/or correcting the tuning can be done by the player using the throat, (open or closing), sometimes with finger shading, holding the finger almost across the key will flatten a note. Or sometimes a key is too close to the clarinet and not open enough and you can make is more free and perhaps a bit sharper by opening up the key a bit, but be careful because some keys are brittle and will break off rather than bend, so be careful, and go slowly.

Barrels can help in general but really only closest to the shorter or longer barrel will be affected. I believe firmly in these new tuning barrels which give you about 10mm one way or the other, so that a small flick of a dial will shorten or lengthen a barrrel making the note higher or lower, and most importantly pulling out a normal barrel changes the pitch because of that space you have created, hence the use of “tuning rings”, something eliminated by the movable barrel.

Good luck with your return to the clarinet.



August 13, 2004

Dear Sir

I am just returning to semi serious playing for the first time since high school (finished 1999). I played quite well (playing to a Grade 7+ Trinity level) and I am desperate to get back to making music. Ideally Iwould like to audition for a university performance course. I am currently looking to take lessons from a principl player and university tutor in Christchurch (4.5hrs north of Dunedin). She is a graduate of R.A.M Uk and I hope she will set me straight on my technique and help me in attempting some serious repertoire.

I was very fortunate that my parents bought me a new Buffet RC in 1997. It is currently off with a wonderful woman named June Byng for a little TLC – well over due. She is going to put leather pads throughout – just for a try as I hear thy wear very well. Time will tell a guess.

My RC has a beautiful dark sound but it has and has always been a pain the backside to get in tune throughout. The bottom F particularly is flat and it gets sharp on E-F over the break. It could be my mouthpiece (Charles Bay) which I bought because it just blow sooooo freely and I immediately loved the sound compared to vandoreens I tried which seemed to take a lot of air to fill out the sound and an extremely firm and developed embouchure. I appreciate it could also be my technique.

At the time I bought I also tried a Yamaha Custom which seemed a little boring in comparison. Now I think maybe it would have been a safer more consistent instrument? I am working and earning my own money (thanks mum and dad!) and am investigating other instruments. Do you know much about Howarth or Peter Eaton clarinets. I really like the broad english sound such as that from the B&H 1010, but I don’t want to sacrifice tuning again. I read that you play Leblanc Opus’ and seem very contented with their fine service. Are all Leblancs so consistant or did you just happen to select a winner?

It is rather difficult to try many instruments so far south in NZ, as the freight costs get quite out of hand.

Your advise and encouragement would be sincerely appreciated.

Kind regards.from New Zealand

Dilemmas about Clarinets,Mouthpieces,and sundry choices

Well, it is true that I am pleased with the Opus, very much so, however I was also pleased with my Selmer Recitals, my Yamaha Customs (which had the best tuning, bar none), my Leblanc l27, my Buffets, well all of them. The thing to remember here is, the clarinet does not make the sound, you do.

Each of us has a sound that somoehow comes into the consciousness of every clarinetist and it remains there always, as I believe mine has.
You can change it with clarinets with bores,mouthpieces with reeds and other clarinets with mouthpieces, different bores and different reeds. You (me or anyone) can lead themselves a very merry chase indeed with all of these many variables. It is easy, you are reading the example of one such player.
There are so many anecdotes that concern you within the 155 articles in my corner that one hesitates to add any more.
If your low f is flat, well then you get to join the club, for so goes the clarinets of most of us, these low notes are flat because of the nature of the beast and the nature of the bells as well. I played Mazzeo Clarinets for as long as anyone did for the simple reason that low e and f were not flat nor was the middle b and c. That was one of the many advantages of that particular clarinet.
Most clarinetists in the big orchestras get around these problems in different kinds of ways. In the Mother Goose Suite of Ravel, the first clarinet simply plays much softer in the low e of the solo(can’t remember the name of the section) bringing the e in tune or close to it, or not, some simply play the note flat, but with vigor and it does not matter that much. If you back off on notes and timbre, you sacrfice everything including your job.

Does your clarinet blow easily, play the notes in tune, the high register in tune, the throat in tune, well then keep it.

If you start changing you are asking for a trip to tiger country…..but it is a great way to pass the time and have lots of fun, which the clarinet is….as long as it does not cost you your job,that is.

Play the mouthpiece that is most in tune, plays the most reeds, and allows you to retain as much endurance and dynamics as you need… that order.
The mouthpiece must play in tune.
The clarinets you mention are terrific. I played and own a Lyons clarinet built in the key of c, a student instrument, came the other day. It plays beautifully, really does, super mouthpiece, grabbed a reed that came with the instrument, put it on and there we went…..(read my review elsewhere)
I do hope you have good luck in your quest. I am happily besieged by players who are absolutely obssessed with mouthpieces, ligatures, reeds, and on and on, and somehow never talk about the beauty of music, the gorgeousness of this wonderful addition to our lives, even the lives of clarinetists. Thanks for your letter. I hope I have been of some help. And regards to you in New Zealand


Auditioning for Curtis

August 9, 2004

Good day!

I have been visiting the site and I have seen your email for questions. I have a question and I hope that you could help me.

I am planning to audition at the Curtis Institute next year and one of the requirements is a prepared piece of the applicant’s choice. I have prepared the Mozart Concerto already and the 2 rose etudes but I can’t decide what piece should I play. Should I play a fast piece or a slow one. Or better yet do you know a piece that balances technique sound and musicality. Or a piece that is something impressively beautiful and slow.

My playing is more focused on sound and musicality but I also have technique.

I hope you could help me sir! Thank you very much

Respectfully yours,————

Hi, and thank you for your question.
The piece that requires a balance of technic and very beautiful sound and legato is of course, The Debussy Rhapsodie, a piece which was originally composed by Debussy for a Concours Piece at the Paris Conservatoire. It is the perfect piece and remains always a challange for any clarinetist, for all of the reasons you mention.
The opening is very much adagiodemanding a perfect legato through the break of the instrument and tonally very demanding, followed by a measured transition to some of the more difficult writing for the clarinet, specializing in rapid articulation and passages especially featuring the more difficult registers of the instrument.
In another article in the repertoire section you will find my performance analyses of the work.
Of course the Mozart is the most transparent work in the repertoire, however the Debussy is just as challenging and most of your competition will be playing these same works. Make certain that you are familiar with the absolutely correct interpretation, and breathing as well. This is what the jury will be looking for. Make certain that your teacher works with you and is very familiar with the works and that you have a fine and experienced pianist.
Good luck.

Throat Position, high register and Weber

August 8, 2004

Dear Sherman
>I have enjoyed reading the articles you have written
> on your website–they have helped me in my playing. I
> have been playing the clarinet for about 10 years, but
> did not seem to have established some of the basic
> fundamentals early on (eg embouchure, concept of air
> speed, etc.). I am now trying to correct for these
> shortcomings. My former clarinet teacher helped me
> with the embouchure, but failed to train me on
> airspeed/proper tongue position. I have been playing
> with the “ahh” position of my tongue (which has
> enabled me to play some piano and legatto pieces
> pretty well), but apparently the “ee” position is the
> appropriate position of the tongue for all dynamics
> and registers (in order to sustain a clear and
> consistent tone). But, even when sustaining the “ee’
> position, the high notes (high C and above) still come
> out thin and unstable (often with
> undertones)–sometimes I even squeak! I am preparing
> the Weber Quintette piece and having difficulty with
> the runs.
>I would appreciate any thoughts you have on the
> matter. (i have standard equipment: buffet r 13,
> rovner ligature, vandoren m13 lyre mouthpiece,
> vandoren blue box reeds 3.5)
>Thank you very much,
Hello K:
you are certainly correct with the concept of the EE position for the
throat, however there is always the possibility of overdoing it. Example, if
you consciously make a certain motion prior to playing, you may have had it
already second nature and the redoing it may overdo.
My feeling is that the sound should always lead, and you should always be
critical of the sound rather than the method in which you make said sound.
Upper register thin sound and squeak may be overblown or somehow bitten out
of trepidation or worry of some kind.
One of my favorite sounds ever was that of the late Harold Wright, principal
of the Boston Symphony. I was always amazed by the sound quality he made in
the upper register and was (and am) still pleasantly surprised when I hear
the records I have. Why? Because he played very softly in this upper
register, a very great lesson to me because before I learned it from him, I
was always blasting or biting or something up there and it was thin and
sharp and sometimes flat. Do not play loud in the register, it is high and
unpleasant, so make it as pleasant as you are able. Wright taught us all a
lesson there.
The runs in the Weber have to be practised as slowly as they are fast in
performance. The best players practise in slow motion , really slow,
conscious of every finger movement, up and down. Really. Those runs are too
easy, hence play them even more slowly and evenly and always with the most
beautiful sound of which you are capable.
Hope this helps.