Dear Mr. Friedland,
I thoroughly enjoy your Clarinet Corner, not only for being a fountain of knowledge on technical issues but also when you talk about Boston, NEC, and the BSO. It brings back a lot of memories when I was a student at the Berklee College of Music, many moons ago. There I majored in Alto sax, but I am a doubler on clarinet and flute. Lately, I find myself obsessed with the clarinet and devote most of my free time to it (which is not much, between gigs and a day job)
I would appreciate your thoughts, comments, on the following:
I had a Selmer 10 G that I bought new at E U Wurlitzer on Newbury St. in 1980, before they close the store. At the time it was a great instrument and served me well for many years. However, I had a 20 % rate of dissatisfaction with this instrument and I could never pinpoint why. It sounded stuffy, the tone was not centered, it always played kind of flat, (I had to use a shorter Selmer barrel) and quite often produced a “dull” sound.
I thought it was me or the mouthpiece; I only played on two mouthpieces most of my life; A Vandoren B46, and a B45 dot. I had them touched up by Ralph Morgan a few years ago and that made them sound a bit better, more open sound. I have to mention that I tend to have good luck with reeds, find good ones all around and keep using them for long times. I rarely throw out a reed. Most of the ones that come out of the box are playable…..and for long periods of time….I do sand them as needed from the underside.
I only used the clarinet for doubles with big bands or pit jobs, I never considered myself a legit player until a couple of years ago. I moved to MD and started playing in concert bands, (in addition to jazz bands) and even a woodwind quintet. I am really devoted to the clarinet now. I decided to experiment with mouthpieces, so I tried several; I liked a Combs LC3, a Jewel Concert, Selmer S, until I got my hands on a Selmer HS**…wow!!….what a difference!!. And not all HS** sounded the same, it was just one that seems to have a more open tip that the average ones. I love that mouthpiece; it made all the difference in the world. I play it with 2.5 reeds, any brand. I use it for classical and jazz.
My embouchure is some sort of “rounded” embouchure, more that the “arched lip curve” with pressure on the lip joints, as shown in Keith Steins’ book. I drop my jaw and try to let that reed vibrate the most…
What do you think about this? My buddy section players say I have a great sound but I don’t hear it as a “legit” clarinet sound. Is bright, jazzy….What can I do to change this? Probably go back to a “legit” embouchure?
On another token, one day I see on Ebay a Selmer 10 S with the extra ring on the left hand. I saw the photos, and the clarinet looked great. It was advertised as excellent, so I made a swap and when I received it, I was not very disappointed. It is a good horn; I like it so far. It needed a couple of adjustments, so I brought it to my technician and he fine-tuned it. What do you think about oiling the bore? I used to oil my 10 G regularly, both with bore oil and almond oil; that kept the bore nice and shiny. I read on one of your articles that this may ruin the instrument?
Also, the joints are very, very tight; I grease the corks, but to no avail. The tenons get stuck and I am afraid that I’ll break the horn putting it together or taking it apart. Anything I can do besides grinding down the wood at the joints? I bought this horn used, so I cannot imagine what the prior owner did to avoid this…
I appreciate your thoughts on my “dilemmas”. I hope I don’t sound like a “clarinet freak”.
Thank you very much indeed, and if you are in the Baltimore area please let me know, I would like to treat you to Maryland crab cakes, probably the best ones you’ll ever try.
Dearb Leo B/
Thanks for the nice letter. First, I will take you up on the Crab Cakes, though I do not think I have ever had them.
Next, we are all clarinet freaks. It is a nice thing to be. Why not?
I have played just about all of the mouthpieces you have mentioned, really, and one of my favorites was the Selmer S which I played in the Milwaukee Symphony and wish now that I had used something less bright, and my first mouthpiece was aSelmer HS* which I still rcommend to everyone.
All mouthpieces play differently, every one. And every time as well. I am crazy enough to have changed three minutes before a concert and almost did not suffer the consequences. And sometimes I changed for pitch reasons. In Montreal when the temperature gets below zero F, the halls are quite cold and the pitch low, so if you are playing a chamber piece where you rest and have to some in in-tune, it is a neurotic nightmare, so once I played a sharper mouthpiece and had a heater blowing against my lower legs and bell during the whole concert. I don’t remember how it sounded, (they took me away right after), and I once switchred to a German mouthpiece before a concert because it was sharper and undortunately for me, it got too sharp as the evening wore on.
There is a famous story, probably true about Philip Farkas, first horn of the Chicago bein g complimented by a student after a performance of Oberon or Midsummer Nights Dream or something. He said, “thanks”, but then frowned and said, “mmmmmmmmmmmm, I wonder which mouthpiece I used.” So, there you have it. It is really a game, and I have enjoyed and sufferd it immensely.
Daniel Bonade said that a new mouthpiece should immediately play better and be more pleasant to play and I believe that…. except for one notable time.
Many years ago, I was trying some crystal mouthpieces made by an Argentine maker. I thought them quite stuffy. Then I got to one and my wife said, “whats that?” I said, “it is one of the GGs I am trying”. She said, “keep it”…..and it was the most beautiful mouthpiece I every had, really really really.
One time at intermission an idiot came back stage to compliment me and brushed the mouthpiece on the floor with his raincoat…..Sayonara mouthpiece, and I never found one like it. It did not bother me at the time because I went home and got my spare crystal and finished the concert quite well…….but it was not like the other, not really.
I own a 10G and it is an excellent and very well intune instrument with great tuning, just a bit too bright in my “today’s” ear. The extra ring is very convenient and makes a lot of passages easier, and elps keep both hands on the horn. Benny Goodman told me one time he liked to have both orns on the horn as much as possible”. I go along with that.
He was trying my Mazzeo system clarinet at the time, which is my 10G actually.
I like the VD M13 and find quite a good one, played it on my Opus Clarinets. I think you will always play with the sound you have in your head, maybe from your first teacher or a recording or something. I will probably always play light and bright and frequently have admired “darker” sounds, but I have certain problems which pointed me in that direction.
You see, Leo, I too love the clarinet. Best and save us some crab cakes.