Legere Synthetics, my six month trial, with updates

December 31, 2005

Several months ago I received an unannounced telephone call from a complete stranger in Toronto. A heavily accented gentleman, he wanted to talk to me about a product he was representing, one that he wished me “to write about”.
It was a plastic reed, however he wished it to be called “synthetic” even though it is plastic.
I related to him my experiences playing such a reed as Principal Clarinetist of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra forty years ago. I told him that they vibrated, sounded something like cane but had a nagging ability to stay fresh while my embouchure got tired. Further, I related, I received and had received compliments on my playing until I told someone in the orchestra that I was playing plastic. From that moment on I became a pariah.
We continued talking and he, at the conclusion of our conversation said I was a gentleman and that he would send me a few samples, which he did. I received these reeds with interest and for the last several months I have been trying them(and more than 60 purchased from Music 123) and I feel prepared to give my readers my impression
Oh, yes, I almost forgot, they are called Legere and they are patented by two PHDs in Toronto(in chemistry) . It sems that they are amateur clarinetists and wished to designed something that would allow them to play without worrying about the vagaries of cane.
In essence they did well, for it does play and about as well as any other plastic reed. It plays for longer, costs 5 times as much and they claim that you can get get your money refunded if you are not satisfied, something which I have not found to be the case*.

The question is of course, how do they play?
They play as if designed by two Phds in Chemistry who want to have no further reed worries as amateur clarinetists.

They do play for hours and they play intune (if you do)
Curiously, I heard over and over again by people in authority that yes, you may have to get used to them**, and that you may have to change your mouthpiece for them***, both of these facts I found to be very true.
As to the quality, there are several qualities available: The ordinary Legere which is very bright, brittle is the word a former student of mine, now a respected professional said. I have heard them described as far as the quality is concerned as “bright enough to peel paint” I would have to agree.
There is also another cut available: “The Quebec Cut” which purports to be be less bright, but in my tests I found it to be a thunky quality but certainly less bright. When they get a bit older, they really get very tubby and you have to change them or alternate them.
They do play however, let me stress that.There is also a model with three dots on the butt which plays a bit more like cane,and is darker which of course is the whole problem: they are trying to emulate the sound of cane without the adjustment problems, and actually they wind up with a whole other set of problems. Read the articles, and you will find all of these new problems well described. I did test these reeds for a good six months of playing nothing else in order to attempt to be fair.
Now, there was one absolutely unequivocal compliment, this from a retired Music Educator who had developed mouth cancer. After treatment his mouth is constantly dry and he could not play ordinary cane reeds. I suggested Legere to him and he was very happy because the reed claims to be remain always like a reed that is wet, and for him, it certainly did, and he was very grateful****.
For everyone else I find the comments equivocal: that is to say, “you have to get used to them”. “You may have to change your mouthpiece”
“They are extremely bright”
For me, I find them unexpressive to a remarkable degree. The timbre remains very much like the color of the reed, kind of like skim milk.
A problem remains, that of being able to play or to practise on plastic when one does not wish to use his or her special cane reed.
How in the world does one do that, I would ask?
The subleties of a good cane reed are as full of life as the music of the composers, and subtle responsiveness is totally lacking in these plastic synthetics. If I am playing a sonata by Brahms or Hindemith, a chamber work like the Mozart Quintet or the Messiaen Quatour, how do I practise those works on plastic?
My conclusion? I don’t.
Best holiday wishes,
* I was offered absolutely no refund for any reed which I did not like. I was given an address where to send the reed, with a satement that I would be sent another. This is not the same as money refunded.,

** Just what does “getting used” to a reed mean? If one must get used to plastic, then why not play cane? Plastic is serious. Sorry, but it is dead, and cane is hopefully not, and we all know that it will change with us as we play. The question must be asked? Is that not an advantage?

*** I find this to be the most serious incongruence of all. We seem to spend so much time finding the right mouthpiece, the best response, the best timbre, intonation, etc, and then we are asked to blur all of those subtle things with changing a mouthpiece for a plastic reed?
**** this person has recently written stating that in the end the Legere were too brittle and he just prefers to keep a glass of water by his side while playing on cane”.
One person with whom I spoke told me that she cannot play on the reed for it is too brittle, however every once in a while she will take out her B45(dot) and just play away with no worries at all.

I find all of the above a strong warning to stay away. Or perhaps not.
Step right up! Here is a set of problems to replace the problems of cane?

Happy New Year.

Mouthpieces/ frenzy, or deliberation, Keep cool, Jack

December 30, 2005

Hi everyone:
Just a note which may get very long concerning mouthpieces, having to do with students and myself, a perennial student.
I never cease to learn about this instrument and the many new things one learns as one progress toward, god-only knows-what.

I have purchased several of the so-called hand made mouthpieces using Zinner blanks, and they are expensive and are signed by the makers with all kinds of arcane signatures and initials, numbered by hand, fashioned by hand and costing hundreds of dollars, and please excuse me and pardon my youth (I am 72), but I think they are all a bunch of ….well, opinions, and what you decide is your opinion.

Given good intonation on your particular inmstrument with the three-hundred-bucker, where do you go? You go to reeds, and you find a reed which plays well. Then you cannot play the articulated simple passage in the Beethoven 5th because it won’t repeat perfectly, and you try another reed, which may or may not solve the problem.

Then after several hours doing all kinds of things, mostly reed trying, you go back to your old mouthpiece, and BINGO, it plays the Beethoven, it also plays the Mendelssohn and the Peter and The Wolf Cadenza and everything else that the new zinner-blank, baby, does not play.
Then, if you are really youthful, you send it back to the maker and he will fix it for you for nothing, and will send it back to you. And you go through the whole thing again.
You cannot play the old new mouthpiece because the maker, the “mouthpiece craftsman” if you will, has refaced it, so what do you compare it with?
A place on Long Island always comes to my mind at this point. It is called The Van Doren Nursing Home, and it is purple and yellow, the same color as the old box of VDs used to be.
This is where you go, friend, because no one else will take you.
I have abandoned the new ones and gone back to my lovley old and beautiful …..and I will not mention the name, to protect the innocent.
Keep cool, .

Questions from a young clarinetist. Mouthpiece

December 27, 2005

Subject: Clarinet Corner Query: which mouthpiece is best for me?

My name is CM, and I have been playing a Buffet B12 (with the cheap mouthpiece that came with it) for four years. I am now in the eighth grade, and before I started taking private lessons, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my Rico size 2 reeds and no-name brand mpc.I have since then switched to Van Doren 2 1/2 size reeds, my former instructor suggested that I get a VanDoren B45 mpc. When I went to my music store, and looked in the catalog, I noticed that there were three kinds: the B45, the B45 Profile88, and the B45 lyre. Please help me understand the difference beetween these mouthpieces, and which one is best for me.

Hi C: The profile 88 means that it is part of the series of narrower beaked mouthpieces made by Van Doren.
B45 is the standard clarinet mouthpiece, however it is an old facing and you may like an M13 better, the lyre after any of these mean that the mouthpiece is a little more open, meaning for you that you may be able to play a slightly softer reed, and you may find articulation less difficult. The opposite may be true for a “close” mouthpiece. Medium is the best, for any extreme will demand the same extremes of the player. Ultimately the choice will be yours, however “medium” is a good word to remember.
Hope this helps. You are on the right rack.
best for the new year.

Barrels and Bells

December 27, 2005

Dear Mr. Friedland–

I’m grateful, as always, for the effort and information you put into your web site. As an adult student who no longer has a teacher, it’s a truly invaluable resource. It seems like the more I learn, the more I don’t know!

My question for today: I’m reading a very interesting book on the clarinet. The author claims that new clarinets are shipped to wholesalers without the barrel and bell; these items are added by the wholesaler. This is a little shocking to me! It’s bad enough that my fine (and not inexpensive) instrument comes with a mouthpiece that might as well be a solid block of wood — now I find that a quarter of the instrument is supplied virtually at random.

The book was written in 1980 (seems like just last week to me, but I realize that it was 25 years ago now). Do you happen to know if this information was ever accurate, and if so, is it still common practice?
———————————————————————-Well bells are pretty standard, depending upon the instrument, however barrels especially these days are not. It is possible that the barrel can be chosen and matched to the particular instrument ,however I think from the publication of your book, they could come standard, expecially if the instrument is a student or perhaps intermediate level. The more expensive instruments sometimes have two barrels of different lengths and the industry is much more sensitive to the difference a barrel can make, especially let us say with the Moennig or Chadash barrel which temper the quality somewhat. I have students who have all kinds of different barrels and it is a whole little industry unto itself. I do not take it terribly seriously, perhaps to my detriment. I know the Moennig, an imnprovement because of the reverse taper and the rubber insert, and I have heard the Chadash is the same, however back to your question. It could be that the barrels came separately in 1980, maybe even now, but not I would think,on a finer instrument.
best, sherman friedland
———————————————————————- Many thanks for your quick and reassuring response! As I said, I know longer have a teacher, and all the arcane subtleties of clarinet playing can be very intimidating. So many clarinet players advise one to try 15 different barrels, 20 different mouthpieces, 10 different ligatures, then file down the reeds, etc. I don’t know when they find time to practi.
Hope your holidays are going well.

Humbly grateful as always

A Tale of Tarnish, a Sonata, and not of an R13

December 18, 2005

I appreciate your reply. I thought it odd that on a new instrument it would tarnish so easily. But I am very pleased with my Sonata all things considered. It is hard sometimes, because other players, and my teacher to a degree sort of looks down on my Sonata because it is not a Buffet R-13. I couldn’t afford the R-13, so I got the Sonata. But I kind of like being the only non-buffet in my honor orchestra section, why go the R-13 path like everyone else?
Again, I appreciate your colum, and keep up the good work.

Hi J:
I have owned a new Sonata and it was a very good instrument with good silver plating. If you continuously find the keys discolored, or tranished it is most probably the acid in your system that is doing it. While I do not have this, I have known many players who have.
My only suggestion is to keep a polishing or rouge cloth with you in your case in rehearsal and continuously wipe the keys even while you are awaiting an entrance. And carefully wipe the keys after playing, this is especially important. Good luck.
And do not worry about not having an R13
Buffet is an accident waiting to happen. Look at any one of those things and you will see the little left hand keys connected to the others with plastic dowels, and I have had a student whose plastic dowels broke! That is true.
Your Sonata is better intune than any Buffet.
The two best known clarinetists in the US and the world do not play Buffet. They play Leblanc. I do not play Buffet either and there are many many who do not. (Buffet is a myth created by several players of the past with a certain charisma, and of course they happened to be marvelous players, but not because they played a particular brand.) The Buffet instrument has a pleasant sound,(and if you can pick from 20 or so, then have it tuned,they are fine) however the tuning of the throat is sharp and it is flat always in the altissima, and the bottom of the horn always flat.
Just keep on playing your Sonata, because you have the best clarinet in your orchestra.
best regards for the holidays
sherman friedland—————————————————————-

I lost part of my lip. Can you help?

December 12, 2005

Hello Sherman,

I am an amatuer, but reaonably advanced player, having been at it for nearly 20 years. I play a Buffet full Boehm in their top grade – although the instrument is probably about 40 years old. I use a Van Doren crystal mouthpiece, Number A1, with Van Doren 1 1/2 reeds.

I have recently had a large chunk removed from my lower lip – initially a suspected keratosis ( a skin cancer), but subsequntly found to be diagnosed as non-malignant, and ‘scar tissue’. I wonder if lip injuries such as this are common amongst single reed players. The dermatologist who did the job was either unsympathetic or lacking in understanding, or both, as he did not appear to take my concenrs about lip-damage seriously, and despite initiailly assuring me it would not leave any trauma, subsequently admitted that my lip would never be the same, but why didn’t I just put the mouthpiece in the side of my mouth and play that way. (Grrrrr!)

Is this the right website? Can you offer any insigiht into the condition as well as how to recover. Can send hoeerndous lip-pics if needs be,If this is the wrong site, sorry to have bothered you.
There may be sites which will circumvent the issue in many ways, but there is not one of which I have cognizance specifically designed to answer such questions. (Dermatologist? I wonder if a plastic reconstructive surgeon may have been advisable.)

I have had questions pertaining to mouth cancer with its attendant difficulties and impossibilities and other problems which can be called physical .

Well, I must tell you that I have not seen exactly that problem with the embouchure, however I can tell you that like you, I have had many problems which would apparently keep me from playing including dental surgery of all kinds, and I have had many requests for assistance from everything from mouth cancer to just plain air leakage of an impossible sort and I do have an answer. In fact all of the problems are unique, yours, mine, and that fellow who couldn’t play because of mouth cancer.
The first trumpeter of a famous Symphony had an auto accident and lost all of his teeth, and after a time he continued to play, better than ever.
We all have various problems and there is no answer , not an individual one anyway.
I remember having Bells Palsy and being told that I would never be able to play again. It had an effect similar to yours but without the hole; I just could not hold in air on the right side of my mouth.
The prognosis was grim for me playing, and yet after several months I began to play and I do not leak air now.
I know you will be able to play again through whatever it is you have to do and I do not think it will be that difficult.
I have known many players who play their instrument without holding it in the center of their lips, not at all, and some on the extreme side.
What do they do?

One thing is for certain: the doctor is only interested in the healing process that takes place in your mouth. He has no cognizance of embouchure or any other kind of clarinet holding position, nor does he have any interest in anything but your healing.
You are going to have to deal with the problem solo as they say because it is just that.
You may, after the healing is somewhat complete attempt to use double lip embouchure which may help your ability to play, at the least it will give you something else to think about , or perhaps you may not be able to play, at least for a while.
Perhaps this will make you say “grrrrrr” yet another time, but if you are reasnoably painfree you will find a way to play your beloved clarinet; you have to and it is incumbent upon you that you do, and you will.
best of all good luck and spirits.
sherman friedland


the little clip that holds the long b down?

December 12, 2005

Mr. Friedland:

I am looking for the little spring-loaded clip which is inserted in the upper end of the lower section of the Bb clarinet to hold down the B key when putting the horn in the case. I believe it is manufactured by Buffet.

Are there any suppliers in the states which sell them?
———————————————————————-Yes, I know of what you speak and it comes with all Buffet instruments. Many of my students have them, however I do not know where to buy one but I can tell you that a rubber band will do as much or better depending upon the tension you exert.
Mr. Friedland:
Thanks for your response. A simple suggestion, but a good one. I once had two of those clips, one for each of my horns. Now my other horn won’t feel neglected.
I enjoy your web site. Keep up the good work!