Buzzing, buzzing, where, where?

October 31, 2005


I am currently thinking of changing my clarinet pads to upper-joint cork and lower joint Straubringer pads. Is this advisable? The reason for my action is because I am very irritated by the constant buzzing sound that my pad makes when I play “Line E” and the pad for D vibrates as the air passes through it.

Secondly, I’m wondering why there’s a very audible buzzing sound when I play Middle B below tuning note. It doesn’t happen with the tuning note. Only when all the keys are closed that it happens.

For your information, I am using a Leblanc Concerto II, Eddie Daniels Mouthpiece, ED ligature and V12 reeds.

Please advice and thanks for your time.

With musical regards.

Impossible to say anything without seeing and hearing you play.
Vibrating pads can be the cause of the “buzz” and this can be repaired in several ways, but again I would have to look at your clarinet.
There are many repair people out there but very few who know how to replace a pad perfectly.
Changing pads may or may not fix the problem depending upon who does the work and the quality of both the product and of the repair.
During the past six months I have had several clarinets overhauled and I am not happy with the seating of the pads, just not perfect.
In this part of the world, excluding NY, the only place I know that pads are done to perfection is in Twigg Music in Montreal.
Perhaps there are other places, but I am not aware of them.
I use kid leather in the bottom joint and cork in the upper joint, and right now they are perfect. I just read an interesting article by Clark Fobes who talks about replacing pads. It is excellent. It is located on the Jazz Clarinet part of Woodwind. There is also another excellent repairperson in North Carolina. , His name is Donald Hinson. He is excellent.
best of good fortune in all of your clarindeavors.
sherman friedland
Crane School of Music
SUNY Potsdam

A School to attend, choices , and mouthpieces as well

October 29, 2005

Mr. Sherman,

To save you time, I have condensed several questions (a few already posted on the board), though I have gotten no definate answer.

Here are my current setups. I’ve been playing for 6 years, currently a junior in high school.

Bb – Leblanc Concerto, B45 Mouthpiece, inverted Bonade Ligature, Vandoren V-12 3 1/2s.
Bb – Conn Cavalier – same setup as above.
Eb – Buffet R-13, Hite Mouthpiece, regular Bonade Ligature. Traditional Vandoren 3 1/2s

1.) I have asthma and reactive airway disease, and it makes it very difficult for me to play the clarinet most of the time. Is there a mouthpiece I could use that would still keep a focused and dark sound without taking so much air? It’s to the point where I have to breath once every five or six measures, and that’s not working for Stravinsky’s Three Pieces. I have approximately $230 to spend on a mouthpiece, and I need one that will see me through college. Should I have someone custom make one for me, or is that simply compensating for my weaknesses as a musician that could be fixed with excercises?

2.) Metal clarinets – no lamp comments please – I play on one for marching band and the intonation in the throat register tends to run flat. It also has a tendancy to get stuffier when the weather is cold. Is there anything I can do to remedy this? Otherwise the horn plays very well, projects on the field – and while it sounds a little more like a flute than a clarinet, it’s not at all piercing. (Conn Cavalier, made in the 1930s.)

3.) I’m having awful, awful reed problems. The Vandoren 3 1/2 V-12s are usually very, very reedy and bright, despite all my attempts to polish and seal them. I’ve tried several different methods of sealing and finishing reeds, and they still remain bright and piercing. Sometimes they work very well and produce an acceptable clarinet tone, but I’m taking too many auditions to have my reeds be unpredictable.

4.) My band directors have been extremely discouraging in regards to me playing Eb clarinet. I have made all-state and several other honor winds and band programs on the instrument, and enjoy playing it much more than Bb clarinet. I have smaller hands then most clarinet players (who are, I have found, with the exception of Sabine Meyer, to all be male and very tall.), and it seems to put me at a disadvantage when it comes to physically playing the instrument. Should I focus on the Eb – which I am better at than Bb – or give up and keep struggling with the Bb?

5.) I’ve picked out 7 colleges for a double majoring in clarinet performance and music education – possibly only majoring in clarinet performance. Do you have any opinions on the following: Eastman, Julliard, Cincinatti, Curtis, Northwestern, LSU, Peabody. My parents want me to attend college in state (Florida), but I have no interest or desire to remain in Florida, and FSU is too big.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

————————————————————————My dear Jeanna :

Thank you for your questions concerning musical varia.
Let me set about answering them using a half century of music making and teaching as background.

Look up the name Richard Hawkins in your browser. He makes one of the better, if not the best clarinet mouthpiece available today. Please use my name as reference.Also Gregory Smith of the Chicago Symphony makes good mouthpieces as well and almost the same superb league as is Mr. Hawkins, who is a Professor at Oberlin in Ohio.
I play his mouthpiece,and one of Gregory Smiths as well. so indeed does (and one of my students).

The Hawkins is a fine and correctly made mouthpiece and is considerably less then your budget for mouthpieces. I find it correct and “dark” in quality as well. Mr Gregory Smith makes several different facings, based upon Kaspar. He is also available on the Web.To be honest, he is a bit more costly than is Hawkins.
And one other word: that does not mean that your mouthpiece, stock or what have you are bad, not at all. If I could take you through them all you would know that within reasonable narrow parameters a good mouthpiece may be found that will work for you, not however the mouthpiece that comes packed with a clarinet, and there are probably exceptions to that rule as well. I just do not know of any.

Concerning breathing and the Stravinsky Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo. I have performed this work many times and can tell you that it is a mature and difficult work , the problems on which are mostly those of breathing. If you could study it with me, I can show you how to perform them. In the meantime, please go my website ( ) and look in the archives under repertoire where you will find my analyses of this work, which will be of assistance.

Incidentally “custom made” is actually a term with no meaning. A mouthpiece maker is not a physician and cannot do a workup on your illness to make a special mouthpiece for you, at least not without medical school in his background.What these people do is to copy mouthpieces known to have been played by fine players, that is all. There is no such thing as custom made despite the fact that people love to talk about it all the time.

The Hawkins or a Greg Smith or while we are here, Clark Fobes makes an interesting mouthpiece, including one, the debut which plays like a million and costs only 30 dollars., and others as well will do you fine and will allow you to make your sound, the one which you have within you. Remember as long as the mouthpiece and you are correct, you are in fine shape.Also look in to Hite, and the less expensive Selmers, Van Dorens and I have played some of the newer Leblancs which really play well. Do not be trapped into a mouthpiece by a zealous “pitch”, or a strong sell, which can be made by a teacher or a director and /or a music store or almost anyone.
Now, one more thing, there are sales things now which are amusing : the so-called “step-up” mouthpiece for clarinet. The implication here is that you go from one, (usually less costly) to another always more costly, but made with a strange blank from, let us say Transyvania, having a mysteriously velvety quality.
Well if you believe this, then there is a parcel of land under the Brooklyn Bridge in which you may be interested in purchasing.
Just play the best that you can, practice well and work always on the beautiful quality of sound. You needn’t worry about the “brand’ people…..lest they brand you.The clarinet requires breath and support, and most really fine players play on reeds which are not terribly stiff, some on astoundingly “easy” reeds.

I have no problem with metal clarinets, in fact I would perform on one if I could have the old Selmer from the 1920s, one of the finest clarinets ever made, however they are impossible to come by. However metal will indeed become stuffy to play in cold weather. For outside performing you are better suited to use a clarinet made of hard rubber. These could, if made with professional care, be excellent, and they will not crack or be as prone to problems in performing in cold. Presently they are overpriced for the better and the less expensive are much less good.

As far as reed problems, that is everyones “achilles heel”, however there is indeed a solution for you to attempt. If you care little for sensitivity in playing use synthetic reeds.they are “Legere”, made in Canada, patented by two Phd’s who have done a complete research on the subject and have produced a product, one which requires no warmup and stays that way and that lasts a very long time comparatively. As you get acclimated to them(which takes some doing) they may probably solve your repetitive problems.

I love the Eb clarinet and have played many performances of chamber music on this wonderful little instrument. Do not be discouraged by directors who are simply using you for their own purposes: that of being a Bb player in an organization wherein you are needed.

Finally the schools to consider for the double major of which you speak are , The New England Conservatory, Boston University,University of Massachusetts,Hartt School of Music,McGill in Montreal, where the tuition is much, however it is Canadian and there is much music there. The Texas Music Schools are interesting, University of Texas at Austin is a wonderful town, nice climate.
Schools really depend upon what you find, the absence of cliques which can be ruinous, and with the presence of great role model teachers who are clean and above board with you, and who have “done it”.Stay away from “phonies which are a “dime a dozen” in music schools, and in some, you can get a better deal than that”(The Jazz Guitarist,Eddie Condon said that) Stay away from schools that are shoddy or clinging to a record which doesn’t exist. Jiulliard, Eastman, Oberlin,Indiana are all schools where one cannot afford to play too many games. That is what you want. I would not wish to stay in Florida either.(see my latest articles on reeds from Argentina, Australia and France, all better cane and players than VD.)

Best of all good fortune in all of your choices.

all the best,
sherman friedland

There is no corollary between reed strength and ability

October 25, 2005

Subject: Clarinet

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I found your response to “Sharp and Airy” very helpful for the 15 year old
to whom you stated is using to hard a reed for his level. My 13 year-old
son uses 2 1/2 Royal Rico reeds. I buy them for ease of use when taking them out of the package. My son broke the reeds everydaywhen he used
Vandoren reeds or regular Rico reeds with the flip open case. Last year the grammar school teacher told me that he’d have to move up to a #3 reed in order to play “The Star Spangled Banner”. With the Royal Rico #2 1/2 he was able to play it without going up to a #3. This summer the middle school & high school band had a band summer program. The teacher told me that Royal Ricos were a lot harder than regular Ricos. But he hedged when I asked if they were equal to the #3 Vandoren reed. He did say he requires the high school band students to use a #3 reed I have a big involvement because my son is a special education student. He has learning disabilities, motor and speech delay. With hard work he has been able to succeed. Thus far in 7th grade he got a 98 on a playing test. I will share your response with him of course.

thanks for your note. I think that there is no corollary between progress and reed strength. Some can play anything on a #2.
The Rico Royal is a much better reed than the ordinary Rico and they have others as well, as is the Grand Concert, or something like that.
Van Dorens now are better than they were back in the days of 3.75 a box of 25.
I myself prefer the “56 Rue Lepic”, which is the Paris address of the Van Doren factory.
More consistent, but if the Rico Royal is enabling, that is great.
I am well aware of learning disabled children.
Hope this information helps.
best regards, sherman

Fernand Gillet, Principal Oboe, Boston Symphony Orchestra

October 21, 2005

Dear Sherman,
I would love to know your thoughts and experiences in working with Fernand Gillet. He was a fine teacher and player who not many clarinetists – or oboists for that matter – have heard of today. He was legendary in his technique and methodical approach to wind playing. It would be great if you could detail some of his teaching methods and thoughts on practicing. We could all still learn from Maestro Gillet. Thanks for your great site and have a wonderful day! Best regards,

Thank you so much for your question concerning M. Gillet.
He was the most encouraging and impressive teacher anyone could have and many of his precepts of teaching were adopted by Mazzeo.
I can almost tell you about him in an anecdotal way for so many things happened while he was teaching us. I took both Solfeggio at which he was a master, and chamber music where he was the most observant teacher any of us had. He would but look at a player playing a passage and would say…”hold this finger longer”, or “accent this place in the run” and it simply always worked.
Once he told me in the Beethoven Quintet, “I like zat staccato”, and I have never forgotten that comment as well as many he made to me and others.
We had an occasion when the composer Carlos Chavez came to the NEC and four of us played his work, which Mr. Gillet had coached.
Chavez actually used a podium to stand on while he conducted this quartet. Gillet sat in the hall. At one point thay had a heated argument concerning the execution of a dotted eight and a sixteenth note. I thought it would turn into an international incident, for it was quite a heated dialog. M. Gillet was of course correct. There was nobody who had better time than he and he was absolutely adamant about rhythm and frankly everything upon which I insist, was gleaned directly from Fernand Gillet.
He told us about his career mentioning quite proudly that he was receiving two lifetime pensions, one eachfor playing solo oboe in the Lamoureux orchestra of Paris, and of course , the Boston Symphony.
Of course you know he never made a reed in his life. He told us this, mentioning that he would send a friend a suit or some clothing every now and again and would receive reeds in exchange.
Of course there were those who said in fact his sound suffered however I will always remember him as the definitive orchestral player.
When retiring and commenting upon the sound of Ralph Gomberg, his successor, he said, “well, he has the embouchure of a chickens ass, however he is not without talent.”
How can anyone forget that statement, that man, or that wonderful extraordinary musician
Sherman Friedland October 21, 2005

8 mouthpieces….hello

October 19, 2005

Dear Mr Friedland,

I only recently discovered your clarinet corner and am finding your advice very helpful – following your advice on reed selection has allowed me to gain back some of my sanity!! It is wonderful that someone in your position takes the time to help others. Thank you. I have a question on mouthpiece selection.

A couple of years ago I made a big mistake when I quickly replaced a broken mouthpiece with a mouthpiece of the same model. It initially felt ok because of familiarity but I soon realised after purchase that it was really not ideal and extremely different from the first one. It caused me a lot of problems. Thankfully I have now saved enough to buy another mouthpiece.

So… I have ordered 8 different mouthpieces to try. These should be arriving next week. I wondered how I should go about testing these mouthpieces. Is it ok to play on all of them in one session or will that confuse the matter? I’m assuming the different mouthpieces will take to different reed strengths but If I keep changing reeds I might not get a clear idea of what the mouthpiece is like. I’m a bit confused! What are the most important things to look for? I would be so pleased to hear your ideas on this matter as I don’t want to make the same (rushed) mistake again.

Thank you so much for your time!

———————————————————————Hi R:
Please ,spare yourself the stress of trying all of the eight at one sitting and/or with one reed. That is close to suicide, and would be your absolute worst choice.
I suggest trying the one that at least on paper is close to the one that you had success with it for a few minutes and then put it down. Wait a reasonable interval then try the next and use the same reed, especially if you liked it on the first mouthiece.. If it doesn’t play as well, stop and put that reed back on the first and see if it isbetter, better sounding or more responsive.
If so, put that first mouthpiece aside, skip the second and go to the third.
You are making a choice now, at least choosing one and making it your model. You may discard it, however you are judging and measuring things, not just running in to the forest. Depending upon yourself you should rest frequently and have a few good reeds or bad ones to try.
A mouthpiece that will be good for you will always be better immediately
Incidentally I suffered the same thing as did you. I replaced a broken mouthiece with my spare and finished the concert on it, then was never ever able to duplicate the original…..never.

We are talking about inanimate objects: mouthpieces, and then there is the ear and unfortunately the brain. It is a romp in tiger country. Good luck, stay calm.
best wishes always, sherman friedland—–

Leblanc Symphony,Sonata, and HS* and HS mouthpieces

October 18, 2005

Mr Friedland,
I wanted to thank you for your advice regarding my old Leblanc symphony full boehm clarinet. I managed to get it more or less in adjustment, but it is still temperamental. I recently purchased a Leblanc Sonata on the Internet, which, after repairs, seems very nice. It speaks easily with a pleasant full tone, so I think I will use it as my principle instrument and save the old symphony for pleasant experimentation.I also have a new question. I have been using a Selmer HS* mouthpiece. It is the same one I used in my youth and I am quite use to it. I recently bought another Selmer HS mouthpiece on the Internet thinking I was getting a backup HS*. However, this mouthpiece seem to be different My original mouth piece is marked HS* in a circle on the table. The one I bought is
marked HS with no * on the back near the tenon. I looked it up on the Selmer site but could not find any information. Do you know anything about this model. I have not played it much as I did not want to get into the confusion that can happen to me if I jump from one mouthpiece to another.
Thank you again for sharing you wealth of knowledge.
> Hi John: How are you? The two are different mouthpieces though related. I
believe that the HS* is the prime mouthpiece and the HS is either more open
or more closed. I would imagine that the best for you would be to play the
one you like and not use the other. That is the rule of thumb. Constantly
trying slightly different mouthpieces can cause slight dizziness, if not
actually then certainly through inference.
Glad things are well. Good luck with the Sonata. They are nice. I had one,
then sold it.
sincerely, sherman

Is aged wood better than newer plastic or rubber?

October 18, 2005

Dear Sir,
I am a dad with two girls teenage, both play and the younger 15 yo is keen to move up from a rental YCL 20, but still thinks Yamaha is the best. I have looked on eBay and lots of old wooden clarinets come up for auction and I’d spend less for an ebony 1950’s job, by miles, than the cost of a recent wooden Yamaha. Is there anything good about a new one or an old one that says its better? The trees were bigger back in time and the woods were better, so as the delicate horn is likely to break on a new horn easier than an old one, it mitigates toward preferring old horns; just from the timber used but is the mechanism better on a newer one? Also is there a site which has all these old makers listed with serial no.s and describes if they are wooden or not? The has a list but with no details. One advert, for instance for an Artley18s on eBay says it is wooden, the next ad for an 18s says it is bakelite. (The Artley site says its only selling 17’s). So sellers often have no idea themselves if it is wooden or not due to the laquer perhaps.
One other thing, I see the silver throat is meant to be louder, so can one get any clarinet silver lined in the same fashion, is it a feasible modification for a qualified repairer to carry out? Can one improve it in other ways, what is jewelled trills? Can clarinets be hotted-up with better springs or custom adjustments? Guitars can, you can lower the action and so forth. Thanks again.
Thanks for your interest in my question and your many answers on the web. ——————————————————–

Hi and thank you for writing:
Basically your problem and anyone who buys a vintage clarinet is that of condition, true condition, not stated, and the costs to repair and/or prepare the instrument for your children. This can be and frequently is prohibitive to a large extent, and you do not know how the tuning will be, a crucial issue. That leaves you blind with a cheap purchase that may be worth nothing, truthfully is likely worth nothing.
Clarinets do not appreciate with age and only experts know what to look for and how much to spend, excluding repair costs, which are always more than one bargains for and never ever done right.
Wood is not better than ABS or hard rubber, it is only traditional.
But frankly,I have never played on an instrument made of anything save wood that played like a fine clarinet, never. If perhaps an instrument of an aritifial material were made with the same care and cutting of the tone holes as is with a fine wooden instrument , then that would be the only test. Artifically made instruments are not made well, period. Back to wood,there is just more of it lying around and it dries out distorting terribly with age. Most serial numbers are a jumble of useless facts, along with the silver throat which will cost more than the horn itself, and sellers do indeed know what they are selling. Clerks frequently do not.
My opinion is that your two children are correct: Yamaha is the best deal, and you can deal with them depending upon the stock and the season, and they are guaranteed, are more correctly built from the standpoint of acoustics and mechanical vulnerability. I just had a student purchase a new 450 Yamaha, and yes, it cracked, but they are replacing the piece, not the best idea, but at least it shows the integrity of the company.
good luck.