A Twelve year old who has a nice sound

June 23, 2005


My slight of build, soon-to-be 12yr old daughter is currently playing on a Forte clarinet, with a Gennusa mouthpiece, medium opening and Vandoren V12 2 ½ reeds. With that instrument she made it into the County Band, has secured a place in the advanced band for next year (her first year in middle school when most in her grade will be in beginning band), and has consistently been told that she has excellent tone. She recently switched instructors, and the new teacher says her instrument is “OK, for now…” and that he would like to see her upgrade to wood “soon”. He says she is a better player than we realize, but that we can’t see/hear it from this instrument.

You have historically been of the opinion that wood vs. plastic is less important than the mouthpiece. Could you recommend a mouthpiece for her to try on her current clarinet before we invest lots of money in a new wood clarinet that she won’t be able to play in outdoor concerts or marching band anyway?

Thank you in advance. I’m a non-musical mom trying to steer my musical kids through this maze.

———————————————————————-Thank you for your note concerning your daughter and her progress with the clarinet.
While I do not have a Forte clarinet, I have read the reviews and they read very well. The mouthpiece I find to be especially interesting because usually the mouthpieces found on a new instrument are not very good. The Gennusa is excellent. I happen to have one which I am playing . The sound is very pleasant and the mouthpiece can only enhance your daughters progress. Ignatious Gennusa was at one time the Principal Clarinetist of the Baltimore Orchestra and a respected clarinetist
I do not feel that she need change her mouthpiece for a good long time if at all.
The clarinet as well sounds as if she is doing quite well.
I would have to take issue with the comments of her new teacher. They were controlling comments, and new teachers sometimes have to establish control. The key phrase is “for now”,and “upgrade soon” which, made to a young new player (or her parents)who has been receiving good comments about her progress, are without much meaning except for the person making them. (Given the context,I myself find them self-serving)
I see no reason to change anything and while of course, I can only read what you write, it is quite clear to me that any new wooden instrument would be superfluous at this time. Wood has only been the material of choice through tradition. There is actually a clarinet made of hard rubber that is supposed to be really superb. Don’t believe the things you hear about a clarinet costing three thousand dollars. The industry thrives on such sales and is not in such a great position presently.
The reviews I have read say good tuning and good manufacture and good keywork, so as I say, there is no reason to change a thing, especially the mouthpiece, but certainly the clarinet as well.
Good luck to you all.
Sherman Friedland


The Van Doren Ligature….Star Wars?

June 1, 2005

Hello Mr. Friedland,
I was wondering what your thoughts on the new vandoren optimum ligature were? as to how it actually improves your tone quality and if the 3 pressure plates actually do anything.
thank you
Right off Joey, I know that a ligature cannot and will not improve your tone quality. That quality is something that you make, you work on and it is yours, or should be.
The ligature can make you feel as if the sound is different and perhaps you do hear it differently, however with that particular ligature, there is so much weight to it; it seems like a tail wagging the dog. You make the sound, not the ligature.
The plates will given you a different aural picture of your sound but it will remain yours, no improvement at all.
The thing I did not like at all about it, not counting the weight, was the sheer gadgetry of it. It is a big heavy shiny thing and it costs big bucks as well.
For me it is not worth the weight nor the investment. The other day I taught an adul,t a lesson and had to assess her in about 30 minutes. I noticed a couple of interesteing aspects. One was the fact that she used a neck srap to help support the instrument, and she moved her shoulders as she played. I asked her about the neck strap and she answered that it helped support the instrument. The movement was not particularly graceful and it does take away from your finished product. Finally she used the heavy ligature which is the VD ligature. It seemed to me to add to her problem, rather than to simply them. Certainly there is nothing particularly wrong with using a neck strap, however one would think that difficulty in holding the clarinet ought to be lightened as much as is possible.
best wishes,
sherman friedland
these ligatures have plates that grip the reeds in different places with different shapes of three different plates which are changeable.
I find that my students at the Crane School who use these ligatures may distort a reed terribly by tightening the screw too much leaving a mishapen reed. Is this a good idea? I think not.

Questions about Leblanc Clarinet, latest models and specs

June 1, 2005

I enjoy reading your excellent columns. I know that you have a familiarity with Leblanc instruments so you may be in a position to answer this question.
I suspect that a lot of the statements made by players in general about subtle differences between clarinet lines may be hype or just plain untrue. I certainly subscribe to the claim that the mouthpiece/reed setup is in most cases the primary discriminant in the sound, not the clarinet.
Recently I purchased a Leblanc Opus II clarinet, favoring it over the Leblanc Concerto model because of its left hand Ab/Eb key. I do a lot of jazz improvisation and wanted the extra key to minimize the frequency of improvising myself into a corner where I needed an additional little finger. But another consideration was that I favor the sound and style of Eddie Daniels, who I believe uses a Concerto model. My guess was the difference in sound between the two clarinets is not signficant and so went with the extra key of the Opus II, figuring that the two horns are not that different acoustically. Can to shed some new wisdom on this speculation?
I have checked the specifications and must say that there is as you say, not too much difference from one clarinet of this calibre (expensive) to the other.
I just received the Sonata, which is so-called entry-level professional, It is superb and also has a terrific mouthpiece, highly unusual to be found on a new instrument. Usually they are to be destroyed.

I did own a set of Opus I and found them rather lovely, but sold them later. I have also owned a Leblanc L27, a terrific instrument, and I now own also a Sonata, and a set of L7s which could be the best of all and they are old.

There are many questions to be answered in considering clarinets, for me it is mostly the way that legato works and sounds and feels, the ability of the instrument to be lyrical and to be able to “sing”. Very few clarinets or clarinetists really sing when they play, to kmake one feel drawn to the musicality of the player.

I think that the Leblanc clarinet in general does this as well as any clarinet.I have played all manner of clarinets and played Mazzeos system for many years and find them to be terrific and lovely. I had found a beautiful crystal mouthpiece which simply transformed me, or so I thought, and that is a lot of it right there. I felt that I could play, color if you will a phrase so as to be special with that phrase, that piece. That mouthpiece meant a lot to me for I felt that I had arrivd with it, perhaps so, perhaps not.
It was broken by a student during the intermission of a concert, and so much for that. It of course, as you say, was the combination of reed and mouthpiece, but my horns were certainly a part of the component that I was attempting to present, that of a singing clarinetist, though without words. Regardles of medium I hear this less and less. There is racous competivness and I cannot stand to witness it, like testosterone powered clarinetistry.

Eddie Daniels does this marvelously(singing lyricism), however I know that he would do it on whatever clarinet he was playing. You know everyone is attempting to cash in on him. Larry Combs is another. Harold Wright, who did not play Jazz was my favorite. While in the service I heard him play with the National Orchestra, then with the Boston Symphony, unbelievalbe legato and dynamics, but alas, he has passed on. Below please find the specs as they are listed. Best regards, sherman friedland

Sonata Specifications
Bore: Polycylindrical, 14.60 mm (.575″)
Key mechanism: 17 key, 6 ring
Key style:In-line “Jump” trill keys
Body material: Aged grenadilla wood
Pad cup style: Conical
Key finish: Nickel-plated

Opus IISpecifications
Key: Bb
Key mechanism: 18 key, 6 ring
Key style: Offset trill keys, auxiliary Ab-Eb key, adjustable bridge mechanism, adjustable right hand E/B and F#/C# keys
Body material: Aged unstained grenadilla wood
Pad cup style: Ronds bombés (rounded)
Key finish: Silver-plated
Mouthpiece: 2571-LC1
Case: Deluxe wood-shell
Options: Model 1191S available in the key of A as model 1191AS

“Concerto II” offers the same rich, expressive tone and ease of play as the original Concerto model, but with the added advantage of a revolutionary keywork design based on that of the highly acclaimed “Opus II” model introduced in 2001. Its gracefully sculpted keys lie perfectly under the fingers for increased dexterity and endurance, and numerous enhancements, such as its adjustable bridge mechanism and E/B and F#/C# keys, save trips to the repair shop. The Concerto II was designed in collaboration with jazz legend Eddie Daniels.
Key: Bb
Bore: Polycylindrical, 14.61 mm (.575”)
Key mechanism: 17 key, 6 ring
Key style: Exclusive Leblanc “sculptured” hand-crafted key design, offset trill keys, adjustable bridge mechanism, adjustable right hand E/B and F#/C# keys
Body material: Aged grenadilla wood
Pad cup style: Ronds bombés (rounded)
Key finish: Silver-plated
Mouthpiece: ED1
Case: Deluxe soft-sided case
Option: Model 2002S available in the key of A as model 2002AS