They keep coming back, the innovators

May 29, 2005

“I recently picked up a used clarinet and can’t seem to find much, if any, information on it. I came across your website in my search and would really appreciate anything you can tell me about it! Here’s what I can tell you:
It came in a brown case marked PARIS, FRANCE LEBLANC KENOSHA, WISCONSIN.The inside is crushed red velvet. The clarinet itself has a number of markings. Two of the pieces have a small gold emblem inset in the wood which has an S in the middle surrounded by Wm H Stubbins. The mouthpiece is marked Noblet Paris France 2V. It has a silver metalcover. Also two of the pieces have a serial number 19365C.That’sabout all I know about this lovely instrument! Thanks for taking the
time to share your knowledge and educate amateurs like me!”
———————————————————————-These kind of rare but not considered with much import. William stubbins was a professor of music,(Michigan) clarinet, and an author and an inventor who developed a mechanism to clear up the throat Bb of the clarinet, which worked and didn’t. It was licensed by Leblanc and a limited number of instruments were made, but the instrument never did take hold ,so-to-speak.
Curiously,as I have heard,it was not a top-of-the-line production of Leblanc, but made for students. I have come across several and am always hearing about them through good folks like yourself who find them in all kinds of places.
I guess the important thing is that it was not considered a professional instrument and did not take much of a place in the pantheon of innovative clarinetistic ideas.
Leblanc however made some superior clarinets, really great. They(Leblanc) were just sold to Conn-Selmer
best regards, sherman friedland

Clarinet Fingering Commentary: other systems

May 15, 2005

Excerpts from a letter to a friend in Oregon:

You know, I have mastered the Mazzeo Clarinet and its improvements and found a tremendous amount of derision, criticism, and almost hysteria at the picture of me playing those clarinets.
I had accepted a summer playing job with theAmerican Wind Symphony (1959) and had to learn the horn within three or four days of my arrival in Pittsburgh, so needless to say I was practising almost constantly for that time.

Basically,you know what the Mazzeo system is, a way or actually 309
different ways of fingering the throat Bb, for any combination of keys or rings and the a spatule opens the side Bb , and that is it.

My Mazzeo clarinets also had an innovation that was for me even as
important: playing the notes from middle B to C# in exactly the same manner
as B to C, in other words, playing them both then lifting the B. There was
an articulation there as well, as well as a connetion between the left hand long Eb and the G#.
These were full-boehm Mazzeo System.
Full Boehm incidentally has been around for years and is played only in a few countries. The prime improvement there for me is not having a flat low e which is a terrible curse if you are playing Mother Goose, or even Peter and the Wolf. The articulated g# is so great, and it never failed me, not once.
So, the price for the Mazzeo System was the flexibility of being able to shade or color different notes around the break of the instrument, as any number of fingers can be put down for any number of passages. The cost: one cannot leave fingers down, for if one does you will get a blip as the A closes. These are the facets both good and not so desirable when playing the Mazzeo system.
Now I have read that there was a similar problem with the Stubbins, though much smaller for there are a couple of springs that must be balanced or can be problematic.
As far as improvements are concerned, they can considered improvements or refinements or they can be looked at in a belligerent manner.
There is a basic thought that is seldom if ever spoken. The clarinet is an old instrument going back several hundred years and has developed from one or two or three keys to the current 17-6. I played professional concerts on Recorder, Classical (three-keyed_ clarinet) in addition to the hundreds I have played on whatever you want to call the regular Boehm or Mazzeo. The reason I have not played Stubbins was Mazzeo, simple as that, so I cannot really comment on it, except to report what I have read.
So, in conclusion, perhaps it is this sense of the tradition of the clarinet expressed subliminally by those who reject so-called improvements as being
absurdly unnecessary.
The three-keyed clarinet I played taught me more about clarinet fingerings
through the use of the harmonic overtone system than any clarinet I ever played and I still use them from time to time.

An Extremely Frustrating problem

May 3, 2005


Firstly I want to say thank you for such a fabulous website with loads of information for Clarinet enthusiasts !

Now, I am hoping you can help me. I have been playing the Clarinet for about 15 years now and have to say it is the one thing that gives me absolute pleasure in life. For many years I have been playing my Buffet R13 clarinet with a B45 mouthpiece and Vandoren 3 strength reeds, which up until recently I was happy with.

About 2 weeks ago, I suddenly was unable to hit any altissimo register notes (anything above top ‘D’). I would either get a ‘fuzzy’ sound with no note produced or it would advance to the overtone above. After much frustration and a whole box of reeds, I thought I would go shopping and try a new mouthpiece/ligature/reed combination (I wanted to look into improving my tone quality anyway).

I spent hours trying different combinations and was really happy when I combined the new Vandoren M13 lyre mouthpiece with a Rovner Mark II ligature and Vandoren V12 reed strength 3 1/2. I produced a beautiful rich tone (which I love) and was able to hit the notes fairly effortlessly, including at very soft volume, which is a real feat for me !

Well 3 days later after playing the same combination, it has happened again. I believe the reed has softened and has lost the nice full rich tone I originally produced. I have tried watching myself in the mirror to ensure my embouchure and throat position remain consistent and have concentrated on centering my column of air and not biting etc. But no good… When I put a different new reed onto my mouthpiece I can play some of the notes ok. I am at a loss as to why I used to be able to play up in the altissimo register on my old mouthpiece with the softer strength reeds, and now all of a sudden cannot.

Should I be going for a harder reed or perhaps a different brand? Or is it more likely to be something I am doing wrong?

I am extremely frustrated. Please help!

Thank you for the compliment and for your note.
Without hearing or seeing you play, it may be difficult to find just what is causing you this difficulty, but not impossible.
Not be meant as to sound condescending, your description of the difficulty is concerning and causes me to start down many different paths, some which can be the source, or not.
First, I want you to do something with your clarinet: I suggest that you take the register key off the clarinet(screwdriver) and with a pipe cleaner, carefully clean out the vent where that key is. Do it this way: After you have taken off the key, relatively simple, for the spring is in a small tunnel and will kind of snap out without difficulty. Once in a while it is necessary to take the screw out with a long nosed pliers, all of which is simple.
Then look down the inside of that top joint and slowly push the pipe cleaner through it so that you can see it emerge into the bore. If it is preceded by a small clump of dirst, dust or varia we call gnnurr, put the key back and try the clarinet. If the problem is gone you are “home free” as they say, however this infintessimal dirt ball can cause you untold misery. It did me, and I almost quit the clarinet completely when it happened. I was, as you say, “extremely frustrated”, fed up and ready for a long trip. I do not know where I found this piece of information, however I have obviously made it mine and it has saved quite a few students.
However that may not be the problem.
You have used the word “suddenly”, which I find unusual because I think that this kind of difficulty doesn’t just happen suddenly. It usually happens over time.
You could have simply reached another level of self-criticism. We study and criticise ourselves constantly, which is how we improve and you could have reached another level perhap shakily and you are getting used to it.
The new mouthpiece is a great one, I think. I use an M13; however the drift backwards leads me to believe that it might be a problem with the instrument, one that has just happened, a leaky pad, even an out-of-alighnment bridge key could be the problem. The second ring of the top joint could be not covering the hole above it as well as it should be.
What I am saying is check all of these things on the instrument first before you start changing your setup and your everything. That can add variables that you do not need at the present time. I try mouthpieces and clarinets all the time, but I have been obsessed with this thing for many many years, and am kind of used to it, I guess.
You may have a better mouthpiece for yourself with the M13 lyre;certainly it is more interesting than the B45 or I think the other B’s. I just tried an M15 and sent it back. It was fine, but not really an improvement over what I have.
Try not to become obsessed with setups and mouthpieces. When I was a young person there was simply not that huge variation of everything from which to choose. Now everyone wants your money and they come up with all kinds of stuff that can dissuade you from the beauty of the sound you so love and the music you love to play.
Wishing you all the best in all of your work, and with good wishes, I am