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



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