Special Mouthpieces and ordinary mouthpieces.

August 27, 2005

Mr. Friedland:

First of all, thank you so much for sharing your expertise on so many topics. I have found them very helpful. I have two questions.

Q1. I have read some of the articles pertaining to mouthpieces and “which clarinet is better, Selmer of Buffet?”. In several of them you make a statement that the “right” mouthpiece to use with a particular clarinet is X, Y or Z. For example, you state that the correct mouthpiece to use with the Selmer Recital is the Selmer C85. How do I know what the correct mouthpiece is for a clarinet? Is there a recommended list?

Q2. I have a 45 year old Selmer Series 9 Clarinet I recently had overhauled by a questionable source that I was glad just to get it back(long story). However, now that I am playing it on a regular basis, it continues to play very sharp and I have to pull the barrel out quite a bit to be in tune. I have taken it to a couple of stores and they tell me they do not see any reason for it to be so sharp. I use the Selmer mouthpiece that came with it, an HS(?), with Van Doren 2 1/2 reeds. Any suggestions as to what is causing it to play so sharp? It didn’t used to play sharp. Do you think I have reached some sort of “blowout”, a hotly debated issue I have also read about.


Thanks for your note and for the compliment.
Regarding mouthpieces, the C85 Selmer mouthpiece works best on the Selmer Recitalclarinet because there are certain intonation problems on that instrument that this mouthpiece resolves.
The low f-c is not so flat and the throat is better and the intonation in general is improved.
It is roughly analagous to the Boosey and Hawkes 926 mouthpiece being corrct for the Boosey and Hawkes 1010 which also had a different bore than other carinets made.
However that is as far as it goes, and the standard mouthpiece is best for most clarinets and players.
Many many people are “out there” peddling their wares and some play better than others, but every single mouthpiece made is different, as far as I know, and one may try a certain facing in two or three mouthpieces and all will be slightly different.
Kaspar, Chedville are names that come to mind, however they all play differently as well. So…..it is individual.\Articulation, responsiveness, and intonation come strongly to mind and of course, will it play different reeds?
After those, it is an open field and I know that there are people who will disagree.
Fine, however my experiences with mouthpieces and playing in many different kinds of situations lead me to strongly believe what I have just stated.
Incidentally, if the horn you are playing is playing quite sharp, I would suggest getting a “click” barrel in which you have 10mm with which to play in either direction. I have one in my case, but am not using it presently, however I know I will again.
There is no better clarinet within Buffet and Selmer. I was a Selmer Clinician for 30 years and played the Mazzeo System clarinet for that length of time and longer, so I may be biased. However I think that perhaps I serve to keep everybody honest.
I have heard great playing on Buffet, and Selmer, and I might add on Leblanc clarinets.
The top lines all play well. If a particular group plays Buffets, that does not mean that one has to play this kind of clarinet. Or Selmer, or Yamaha. Yamaha clarinets I have tried have tuning that far surpasses most french clarinets. Quite uncannily that is true.
Best of all good health and fortune.

Considering a change? Think well.

August 22, 2005


——————————————————————Yes, they are pretty good, even better; let us say they are very good. While I have not tried one for any length of time, Selmer makes a wonderful clarinet and this is the top of their line.
The end of the story is how they compare with your Leblanc LLs, a lovely instrument, highly underrated, and one of the finest contemporary instruments as far as sound,feel and tuning ever made.
They are alas not made anymore and the company is now sold to Selmer-Conn.
They will probably appreciate considerably, and you may not be able to replace them. Consider well any change you may wish to make.
How much better than a good LL can you get? In the end , it is for you to decide.

For(and from) a retired professor, a special bonus!

August 13, 2005

This is one of the most gratifying responses I have ever received from a writer,(colleague). It has to do with the fact that he a retired Music Professor who had had the misfortune of contracting mouth cancer.
He subsequently had 64 radiation treatments and has returned to playing the clarinet.
He had been having difficulty with reeds and I suggested that he try the Legere synthetic.

Here is his response:

“I wanted to tell you that, as a result of reading one of your pieces, I bought several Legere reeds. The #3 works fine for me. BUT THERES A BONUS! You may recall that I had to have radiation on my mouth for cancer. That procedure removed most of my ability to salivate. Among many other deleterious effects, keeping a moist mouth and reed for the clarinet is almost impossible. (I drink gallons of water) But the Legere NEEDS NO MOISTURE? WHAT A BONUS! Thank you again!”

Returning to the clarinet…and being flat, what to do?

August 13, 2005

Over the last couple of years, I have taken up my clarinet after many
years of hiatus. I play a LeBlanc L7 with a Luyben mouthpiece and a
Mitchell Lurie 2.5 reed. My intonation, of course, is not what it used
to be. I tune to my piano on F in the chalumeau, and my pitch is a
little under. I have tried adjusting the angle of the clarinet when I
play. The tone is rich, but often is flat. The mouthpiece I am using is
the one I used in college 25 years ago! Also, FYI the pads were replaced
two years ago. My embouchure is weak, but like riding a bike, it is not
difficult to remember the basics.

Would you recommend a new mouthpiece and if so, which one best suits my
clarinet? I only recently found out that my L7 is a professional model.
I was a good clarinet player when I was younger, now I think it was the
instrument not the musician!
Love your website! You give great advice.Sincerely,
Hi L:
I think that more than the mouthpiece, the kind of reed that you use is doing
you a diservice. This kind of reed is not very sturdy in the heart
and my experience is that they play quickly out of the box,quite responsive, even encouraging however they
also die as quickly especially in the high register. The mouthpiece may by fine, though I do not have playing knowledge of Luyben.
I find that most students play on some kind of Van Doren or Selmer
mouthpiece.Selmer HS* is sometimes quite suitable and so too is the Van Doren B45, or 5RV Lyre.
I myself am currently playing a Van Doren M13, which seems quite good.
One more thing to remember: all mouthpieces play a little differently one from the other.(I know a lot about the Leblanc L7. Lovely instrument, and I have one and just sold a set.)
good luck,L

A Syllabus for professional preparation.(For Rosario Mazzeo)

August 7, 2005

After being discharged from the Army, I returned to my home in Boston and waundered around between several teachers for a about a year, while attending Boston University. I studied with Gino Cioffi, Principal of the Boston Symphony for a year and with Pasquale Cardillo, First clarinet with the Boston Pops before I found that if one wanted the finest teacher, that would be Rosario Mazzeo, bass clarinetist with the Boston Symphony  and personnal manager, ornithologist, photographer, and inventor.
(Talk about impressing a student, I saw him walk out on to the roof of Symphony Hall to rescue a wounded pigeon).
Well, I heard that he only took 6 students and in order to be accepted, one had to audition. I auditioned with the Neilson Clarinet Concerto, and was accepted as a student.
All lessons, actually it was a kind of seminar) were attended by all of the 6, where each one would play to be evaluated by Rosario and of course, the others.
On Friday evening, I would go through 5 boxes of Van Doren reeds, and at that point each box consisted of 25 (bad) reeds, ($3.75), in preparation for Saturday morning.
Those seminars were the most intense sessions of playing that I have ever had, before or since. There was literally no time to swab out the instrument and Saturday afternoon was universal crash time.

At the first meeting Rosario  explained that it would take at least a year or a semester to understand his vocabulary, which I found not to be the case, but the instensity with which he used words was unforgettable.

I was prohibited from playing any repertoire, solo or chamber music for the first year. Well,not prevented, I was given only the following exhausting preparation for each time I played.:

There were three main books upon which each student worked: Emile Stievenard, Study of Scales, Gaston Hamelin, also a study of scales, however with emphasis on legato playing and even-ness, and finally, and this was the coup de grace, Eugene Gay, Book two, a rather bulging hard cover book of every conceivable kid of study, including works by Baroque composers, legato and staccato and rhythms and all of the possible permutations of any particular passage.

As to the first, the Stievenard (published by Associated), these were simple scales in every key, divided into two pages of simple one line exercises, facing one another.
The key factor here was the utilization of the metronome which was used while we executed each line.
The metronome (and I will never forget the setting) was set on 43-46, or the slowest it can be set).
The idea was to play the first exercise, a simple scale in eighth and quarter notes played broadly and articulated with equal strong attack, and then there was one measure rest and here was the trick, for the next exercise was in eighth note triplets, pianissimo instead of forte, and legato instead of staccato and to be started exactly on rhythm waiting only the three beats of rest beween.
I remember finding this the most difficult work I had had, yet it was the best preparation that I can think of for learning to play in time and also to follow a conductor
If you did not make the rhythmic modulation exactly you simply had to go back, and there were no exceptions. This could take seemingly forever and it was trying and it was frustrating and yes it was criticized and many students dropped out, yet I still say there was no better training than this wonderful little book, (of course as directed by Mazzeo)
If you were successful, you went on to Hamelin, (who of course had been principal with the Boston Symphony early on and was really, along with Daniel Bonade, the father of the American school of clarinet paying, which was an essentially French “school” Ralph Maclain legendary principal of the Philadelphia studied with Hamelin and Bonades students were many).
Hamelin was all beauty and legato and even. I learned so much about true legato from this wonderful book of studies, really studies of scales. There were also lovely whole tone scales and interesting rhythms to play or execute actually, and by then you had raised a sonsiderable sheen of perspiration.
The final part of your syllabus was the Eugene Gay Book II which was a hard covered compendium of every conceivable study from the simpest Mozart, to the most complicated Bach, divided with scales, followed one to another of major and minor thirds. (for instance, play a scale of thirds using only minor thirds, than move to major thirds and do it rapidly and slowly and with only the most beautiful legato.
No mistakes were tolerated and repititions were endless. Yes it was like some kind of very rigoruous military training, yet if you able to keep your senses about you, you had a real technic when you got through.By technic we mean control, not just the ability to astound your colleagues with your wipeout warmup, but the abilty to have total control over every facet of clarinet technic and …of music.
Do I use this syllabus for every student. No, I do not, but certainly the serious students must confront these problems and resolve them if they hope to be employed in any kind of playing position. There are many different approaches and everyone does not have that special intensity, that great ear that was enjoyed by Mazzeo and his students.
Was he perfect? No,(none are pefect) he was not, but you were definitely prepared. (as Rosie always said) “as ever” I will always say thanks.
sherman friedland

Did I find the right mouthpiece?

August 7, 2005

HI, Sherman i was reading one of your comments about a great GG-1 mouthpiece and i was highly intrested because I myself was looking for a Crystal mp as the one you described, well I found one saying GG+1 but i was told it was done in italy..what do you think???…i have some pictures if you seem intrested.THANKS.. Peter
Of course, I am interested and yes, you have found the right mouthpiece. This may have been made in Italy as it says, however the importer, an old frind, Guigui Efrain from Argentine where one of the Pomarico Brothers lived. Pomarico was the maker.
The other brother lived in Italy, hence the divergence in provenance.
There are two facts worth noting about mouthpieces,: 1, is that no two mouthpieces are the same, especially if they are handmade, and 2:, is that mine was a -1, not a +1, also not terribly important, however the final answer to your question is a question rather than an answer.
Does the mouthpiece play for you?
If it does, guard it carefully….if not send it here and I will evaluate should you so desire. There are very many variables from mouthpiece to mouthpiece. While I really enjoyed that GG, it was repalcable as they all are.
For instance I am currently trying a Hawkins and a Smith(K). Both are “better” products,however they are not perfect and each has strong and weak points.
The mouthpiece I am actually playing these days is a Van Doren M13, in my opinion one of the finest thay have made.
Is it perfect?…..stay tuned.

With mouthpiece, ligatured, reeds and all the rest, keep an open mind.

best wishes in all of your work.