Buying a new clarinet

September 14, 2004

Good morning, afternoon, or evening, depending on the time you have received
and/or are reading this letter. Your graciously given time in writing your
informative responses has been a great help to me and, I assume, many other
aspiring clarinetists like myself. I am now a 14-year-old sophomore, and
have been reading your “Clarinet Corner” since, oh, about the seventh grade.
Your articles have helped me greatly and offered much inspiration in my
education and practice of the clarinet. I simply have to, at this point,
express my gratitude and admiration for your continued patience in the
imparting of your knowledge to dedicated students.

Having wasted enough of your time in what may be percieved as trivial
admirations (although I assure you they are anything but), I’ll get on to
what I assume, at this moment, you consider the supposedly nonexistent point
of this letter, which concerns the following:

As I have previously mentioned, I am a sophomore in high school, and, having
been playing for the past four years on my Buffet E-11 student horn (which,
it should be mentioned, has served me admirably well over those years,
despite ineptitude on my part in the early years ;)), I am considering
purchasing a new instrument to serve in furthering my studies. It has been
suggested by both my band director and private lesson teacher that I look
into buying a new clarinet, this being the apparent suggested point in a
student’s career for such an endeavor.

Having read your website and extremely helpful replies to any and all
enquiries almost religiously, and, of course, doing some off-the-side
research on my own, I’ve acquired what I believe is sufficient knowledge in
my search as to choosing a clarinet. Of course, we all have the dream of the
wonderfully acclaimed Leblanc Opus; however, this is largely too expensive
and most likely impractical for someone at my level. Both my band director
and private teacher have suggested a Buffet R-13, as it seems to be the most
popular choice by advancing students in my band; reading the articles of
yourself and others, I have chosen instead to go with an upper-level Yamaha
model. In this regard, you have helped me immensely.

However, my question (yes, finally) is the following: how does one go about
acquiring such an instrument? The method that seems to be ever growing in
popularity is ebay, or online ordering; is this a wise decision? I’ve also
seen classifieds, mail/internet ordering from the manufacturers themselves,
or buying from a local music store. Which do you propose to be the best
method, and how should one go about buying an instrument of good caliber
that will last long and serve well? What specifics should I look for in my
search for a good instrument that will last me through the next several
years of my growing education in music?

Many, many thanks for all of your help to aspiring clarinetists like myself,
your articles are well-written, informative, and extremely helpful. It has
been enjoyable learning, in at least some small way, from such a
knowledgeable source.
With many thanks,
A .

Hi A. and thank you for the lovely letter; having taught for perhaps half a century, I will say that you are the finest writer of your age of whom I have read.
If you play close to that, you must be a wonder!
Enclosed is a Yamaha list, something to go on. (on which to go)I do think the Yamaha is a better instrument than the R13 becuase mainly of better tuning, really better. Throat and high register especially.
I believe that back in their prototype days they began with an R13, and I remember many carefree performances playing on what was called a YCL 65-62 (Bb and A) Their A clarinet is better than most becuase of less resistance.
But you must tell me where you are and perhaps I will be better able to direct you.
There is a world to be said about trying a new clarinet and I have been through that lovely horror many many times.
Kind of like a 15th Century madrigal title….Painful Joy, or Joyous carnage.
Perhaps UK? Let me know.
Trying a new horn is more like trying three and choosing the best one, using only one or two reeds and definitely on your best mouthpiece, most dependable. The trick is to keep the variables as limited as possible. Even the room in which you try the clarinet is crucial. You have to know it from the standpoint of its basic resonance, and then you will be better able to judge.
Make sure you have the opportunity to try at least three, no more than that at a time. Use a tuner for the open G, throat Bb, middle B and then the notes above high C. Play legato intervals slowly, See how it slurs down and up for that matter.
There, that is a days worth already.
Immediately ask for their trial policy, and get the lowest possible price.
Note the resistance of the reed(s) you are playing when trying a new horn.
And go with a free mind, not with a worry of a rehearsal or another appointment or even a train home.
Teachers can be great or horrible depending upon their prejudices and possibly their advantages in having you buy their suggested horn.
Anyway, I hope that this has been of some help. Yamaha is a fine choice.
best, sherman friedland


Another Selmer 10S admirer

September 3, 2004

Dear Sir,

I have read your articles on several occaisions and always find them
interesting… thanks for the time you obviously put into answering

I recently bought myself a new (old) clarinet, A Selmer 10S. According
to the serial number it was made in 1981. I’d been looking for one for
some time; there’s a bit of a story why…

I saw a ‘french, wood’ clarinet offered in the local paper two years
ago, and went to have a look, it was a 10S. It was an absolute dog…
dried out, almost no corks, no case. Just for a laugh I tried to play
it. The notes that played had an awesome sound that I’d never heard
myself produce before… I almost bought it, but they’d been told it
was worth a fortune, which it clearly wasn’t in that condition, so I

I found the current one going for a good price on ebay and grabbed it.
It didn’t disappoint when it arrived, plays for me with a similar big
sound to that I remembered, and my family seem to like the sound it
makes too. It’s a bit rough though, lightly corroded on some of the
keys etc., so it’s currently with my tech being cleaned up and repadded
at the same time.

OK, so after the preamble, the question….

I can’t seem to find very much on the web regarding the 10S, but I note you’ve mentioned it once or twice in your anecdotes as an instrument
you once owned. I was wondering if you would care to give an expert
opinion on the instrument, and how it compares with the oft recommended
Buffet R13 and its peers.

Secondly, I would like to set it up with a nice mouthpiece. It came
with a Selmer C*, which is the only one I’ve played it with so far. It
sounds OK, but maybe not quite as big a sound as the ‘dog’ which I
think had a 5RV on it. I have a 5RV which I haven’t tried yet but have
read somewhere that the bore of the Selmer doesn’t suit that of the
Vandoren (maybe I should stop reading…). Anyway, would you recommend
a mouthpiece or two to try with the 10S? I play exclusively solo stuff
with a very modern church band, so the big sound is an advantage, and
I’m not looking to ‘blend in’ with a section. (I also play tenor and
alto saxes).

I expect with the amount I play that, providing it works well for me, I
will keep this instrument forever. However it would be nice to know
what I have bought, and also to have it set up as well as I can get it.
Your reply would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time, and apologies for rambling!

Hi there:

I still own a Selmer 10s. It is most surely the best clarinet for even register
and intonation I have known.
Mouthpiece is kind of tricky. I would suggest trying one of the following
Selmers 108,110, 0r 120.
Also try a Van Doren M13, my latest but more for my Opus than 10s.
You need a deeper quality for this really nice instrument.
It tends to be rather bright sounding with an HS* or B45. I like all of the
others much more on this instrument. But regardless the tuning is best. Keep
the instrument.
They are close to the R13, but better in tune as I remember.
The 10G had something to do with Gigliotti in the instrument. The 10S is a
refinement of that clarinet.
I am quite sure it speaks very well and with resonance, just watch
brightness, which was my problem.
The 108-10-or 120 are better sounding, also a bit better in tune and perhaps
a little lower in pitch which may be problem.
Congratulations on your new acquisition, and the best of good luck.

sincerely, sherman