A School to attend, choices , and mouthpieces as well

Mr. Sherman,

To save you time, I have condensed several questions (a few already posted on the woodwind.org 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.

-Jenna
————————————————————————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 (http://clarinet.cc ) 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

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