Eating the clarion register for lunch

July 26, 2005

I was a clarinet major in college. After graduating, I taught while working toward advanced degrees. On completion of the doctorate, I accepted a University position and spent my professional life conducting opera, musicals, and the major choral/orchestral works. Sometime after retiring, I decided to play the clarinet again. I got an old Bundy Resonite; couldn’t make a sound, not even open G,( no doubt due to 64 radiation treatments I had endured for a cancer in my mouth.) I kept at it, however, and made progress. Bought a Buffet R-13. Its in perfect condition. Presently using a VanDoren B-45 mouthpiece with a #3 Rico reed. Can get around the horn now pretty well, from low E to A above the staff. Pretty good sounds, nice, musical legato. Thereafter, frustration!!! Bb, B, and C are under pitch no matter how much I firm-up the embochure. I can journey up to G, but with a shrill, thin, ugly sound. Ugh! (I once ate the Clarion register for lunch.) I have tried a VanDoren #3 reed, but cannot activate it well on lower pitches. Not worth the musical, phrasing sacrifice. Can you help? Mouthpiece suggestion? Reed? Anything (but giving up)? Thank you for any suggestions.
Panama City, Florida
———————————————————————The first thing I will suggest is certainly not to give up. Certainly not after all you have been through and the distance you have come since your illness and return to the clarinet.
I would venture several solutions to the frequently heard dilemma of flat upper register, but without seeing and hearing you play I must tell you that you most change to a reed with more heart to it, and that would be anything but a Rico #3, which if an ordinary Rico will play well for only a little while, and will certainly give you little in the upper register which even that will diminish and become exceedingly thin, exactly the situation you describe.
But wait!
There are other cuts within the Rico reed rubrick that at least purport to give you more support in the upper register, namely Rico Royale to begin with and they have others as well. There is a great player named Morales who has become their spokesperson (kind of like the lovely ladies that speak up and represent the various perfumes.) He is a wonderful player and so they bring out their various different kinds of cuts of reeds and they are better than the ordinary Rico upon which you are playing (and eating with your clarion register). Their reeds are designed to to sell, just like the perfumes.

I would investigate these different cuts, and do ask for one with more heart.
Now, you mention that you tried “a Van Doren reed”. One doesn’t just try “a” VD red, one tries more than one, even many more. But they do get played by most clarinetists, a fact that has remained for many years. And, I think they are better now than before.
The B45 mouthpiece is also played by many folks, but that is probably not your problem.
I would think that you need to take a bit more of the mouthpiece into your mouth so that you are allowing more reed to vibrate. But that means just a small amount, or else you will be extremely sharp and experience many extraneous unpleasant sounds. Remember you want more reed vibrating ,so without sacrificing your embouchure just take a small amount more. When you first attempt this, the feeling will be uncomfortable, however you will become accustomed to it. You should experience an immediate or gradual opening of the sound in the upper register.
I congratulate you upon getting through a career within the academy and surviving both that and your illness, and I wish you the best of all things: a lovely and vibrant and intune upper register.
most sincerely, sherman friedland

Thank you for your response and suggestions. Very helpful!!! I remember back in the forties and fifties, we would buy a box of reeds and then get out the sandpaper. Is that still necessary? I just bought a box of 10 VanDoren #3s, but only one came even close to my liking. I soaked a few overnight in a glass of water. Some help, but not much. A future article by you in the Clarinet Corner about reed selection and care would, I think, be interesting and beneficial to many. Thanks again.

Buffet or Selmer, that is the question, a tired one at that

July 21, 2005

Hello, I have been reading your clarinet corner with interest. I have played clarinet and saxophone “semi-professionally” in the western australian naval band for 15 years or so (this being a reserve – ie. part-time) band – the rest of the time I am a school psychologist. I studied clarinet for 15 years at school & joined the navy band on the strength of this. However in the course of my musical career since leaving school I have actually ended up playing more saxophone than clarinet. I have recenltly decided to re-continue having lessons on both of these instruments and am currently experiencing the following clarinet dilemma:

The selmer recital clarinet that I have been issued with (ie. it didn’t cost me a cent) is not thought to be any good by my teacher as it plays quite flat in the higher registers and has strange problems with the notes played by the “little finger” keys – they often don’t speak fluently/easily. My teacher is one of the best players in town and will only really consider the buffet R13 and wants me to buy one saying that I can’t really progress as a player until I do this – I have played on his R13 and was surprised at how much easier it was to play/better it’s intonation is.

I have been a little reluctant to spend a significant sum of money on another clarinet when I already have what is meant to be a good one. However I am determined to improve my playing and would like to own a quality clarinet of my own. So I have been saving up and doing some research. I am nearly ready to buy one. Are you aware that there is such a striking difference between the selmer recital and buffet R13 clarinets? maybe the navy’s selmer just needs some expert sevicing? (although teacher won’t be persuaded about this at all) Also – if I do buy a buffet I have been interested in the “vintage buffet R13” – new but modelled on the older style R13’s do you know anything about these?

ps – can’t resist adding that the only clarinet that I currently own myself is a metal one stamped “leon du- pre – made in paris patent pending” I am told it dates from the 20’s – It actually plays very nicely (has better intonation across the whole range and plays much more fluently than the selmer). The big difference being that it has a different tone to wooden clarinets – much lighter, clearer and less complex but I think still capable of a beautiful sound. Again my teacher is very dismissive! I had considered selling it to help finance a new clarinet but have decided that it is worth keeping!

looking forward to your reply with interest
I guess the easiest way to respond to your question is with the following:
If you did not pay anything for your Recital, and the Buffet plays better, then get the buffet.
But make sure you are getting what you tried, for there are as many bad clarinets of one make as there are of another and I have dozens of stories and articles concerning the dilemma you mention, that of the “you must play Selmer, or you must play Buffet, Yamaha, or really whatever.
The Recital is a bit of an idiosynchratic clarinet because the wall is thicker and the bore is narrower, however there were some terrrific ones, and some really doggy Buffets, so just read all you can about it and try to decide for yourself. Also, what mouthpiece is on the instrument? The correct mouthpiece for the Recital Clarinet is the Selmer C85. It comes in three tip openings and if you play saxophone, perhaps the 120 would suffice for you. If you change to buffet, also take care to have the proper mouthpiece. Many Buffet players enjoy a Van Doren mouthpiece. It is said that the 5RV is made especially for the R13, however you can get many opinions on that score.
Good luck in all of your work.
sherman friedland

Mazzeo Clarinet,: do not take the gizmo off

July 20, 2005


Is there documentation somewhere about all of the alternate fingerings
that available on the Mazzeo system clarinet? I played a Mazzeo from
junior high through college without really knowing what I had – I just
knew it was different. Now, 30 years later, my daughter is playing the
same horn in high school and doing quite well. However, her teacher is
wanting me to have a shop dismantle the gizmo at the top that is
preventing her from doing a standard B-C# trill. I, of course, am
refusing because I’m sure there is a proper way to do it on a Mazzeo
system. Your help with this specfic problem would be appreciated, s well
as any information about all the things that are different on a Mazzeo.

The gizmo at the top of the horn does not need to be dismantled, but I will
tell you that the trill you mentioned, B-C#, (if these are the written notes
for the clarinet part) are impossible to play accurately on any clarinet in
any octave. Either that I need further clarification or her teacher wants the mazzeo-system disconnected for another reason.
If the trill is below the staff the only was to play it is while holding the middle finger on b, by trilling the C# key, which works but is not intune,
(unless you have an articulated c#-g#, which you do not)
An octave up, it is even more of a false trill, you hold the b down while
trilling the c#.
By false I mean that if the notes being trilled were played slowly they
would be out-of-tune.
I am a player of these clarinets for more than 30 years, so I know. It is an
instrument that was not widely accepted the clarinet community.
So, in addition I will send you a fingering chart concerning the instrument
by emil. (if anyone needs a finger chart, write to me)
Good luck,
“ilegitimi carborundum”


Advice For a Grandfather with advice to give

July 5, 2005

I have been “directed” by my son to help select a clarinet for my twelve
year old granddaughter continuing from elementary band into middle school
in WA.

My son was a disaster playing clarinet in HS. I was much better but after 50 years and a new bridge on my lower front teeth I feel that I need more advice. I only get to see her a couple of weeks per year.

At least as best a I could tell at Christmas her rental clarinet was
terrible and her mouthpiece worse. However, I am reluctant to give her my old Selmer (Paris) “center tone” clarinet and Vandoren HS star
mouthpieces. However, that’s what I have to work with next week.
Last time I think I taught her the basics of adjusting reeds to her
existing mouthpiece and ligature using a reed clipper and single edge
razor blade as I was taught by a Italian clarinetist in the US Army
concert band. He favored a focused but resonant sound with little ibrato.
Now I have to figure out what kind of a mouth piece (hard rubber) facing and she needs to start the process of solving the problem of correcting elementary school music teachers seeming to seek clarinetists who meerly
play in tune.
My thoughts were to start by digging up recordings of class 3 to 6 music by several clarinetists with different style to see what she would ike to sound like. And then have her try several mouthpiece, reed and ligatures that can be amplified by my Selmer.
Do you know of any DVDs or CDs that take that sort of approach.
Technical proficiency is one thing but at the intermediate schoollevel I think that it is more important that the kid likes the sound being generated. If they are trying for sound quality the other things will follow with solo practice. What are your feeling on how to motivate?
I particularily enjoyed the differences between Goodman, Kell (?) and
Shaw’s sound when playing classical music. I eventually was satisfied with my playing of von Weber and Mozart’s more popular style of HS solo pieces but could never play the Premier Raphsody worth a damn
I think that you could do no better than to allow your grand daughter to use
your Centered Tone clarinet.
The mouthpiece is a Selmer HS * one of the most popular for the clarinet, or
it is a Van Doren , probably B45.
I remember very well starting the clarinet and listening to all kinds of clarinetists prior to starting, but the luckiest thing I had was a first teacher with a beautiful sound, one that I have never ever forgotten and still think of it as I write now.
So, I say that she needs a teacher who can play, and with a lovely sound, like the one you know.
Then, she will determine how far she takes the wonder of that first sound she hears.
That is what I did and I have been a clarinetist for 55 years and I still love the sound.
My kids, four boys, hate the sound of the clarinet, and studied it in
grammar school, hating every minute; I looked and looked always for someone
to show me the way, and I have not been sorry.
I practise every day, and you do not want to hear the story of my teeth.
If I were teaching her, that is what I would give, my sound and my love for
the horn. Lasts a lifetime!
best of luck, sf

I would suggest that you do the following: Find out what kind of music she likes, and get her what she likes to listen.
Also get you best reed and practice for a few hours so that she can hear her grand dad play with a beautiful sound. I am sure you sound well.
She will never forget your playing, never, just dont play the Debussy.