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

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


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