A new reed for each rehearsal? Not.

April 28, 2006

I play a LeBlanc metal contrabass for my high school band, and I’ve been
having trouble with my reeds going soft after one or two rehersals. I use a Vandoren 4 on the contra, and also on the soprano.
I’m pretty sure it’s not my care of the reeds, as I typically will
purchase one immediately before rehersal, and it’ll be extremely soft by the end of the rehersal. (
1 1/2 hours, 5 days per week, plus 1/2 hour after on Thursday for private lessons)
Also, my directors have suggested that I play tenor sax instead of the soprano, during marching season, in order to help keep my embochure in good shape for concert season.
Do you have any suggestions?

Yes, I do have basic suggestion which you need to follow.
The reeds that you use are OK, most are OK, save the Rico or La Voz which get soft before anything else, however what you are doing most incorrectly is putting a new reed on for a rehearsal.All reeds must be “broken in”.
here is what you can try, although there are different methods, one of which is to NEVER play a new reed without some “breakingin” process.
1. start with more than one reed.
2. Wet them all thoroughly
3. Try each one for 5-10 minutes
4. Dry the reed in your fingertips and put it down on a piece of glass.
5. repeat for each reed.
6. mark the playable reeds on the butt of the reed with a pencil.
7. Put them all away for a day.
8. Repeat steps 1-7 for several days.
9. Try them for playability.
10 Use that reed for 10 or 15 minutes.
11. Put it away, and try another.
12 after about a week, you will have several reeds that last much longer than that one which got watersoaked after one rehearsal.
13. Always alternate reeds.
14 Good luck.
best of luck,
play well and stay well
sherman friedland


The perils of Bells Palsey

April 23, 2006

I am 60 years old and have played clarinet since
6th grade. I now play once in a while in church and
privately. I started on a Penzel-Mueller and in about
1969 traded it in on a new Leblanc Dynamic H. I have
contemplated on selling it but it is dear to me. I had
Bell’s Palsey 3 times and felt that the lip was
weakened somewhat giving me a squeek now and then that
completely destroyed my character, confidence, and
ego. I went to various stores to try and get an answer
as to why this was happening because I have always
prided myself in refraining from such disgusting
sounds. My vibrato, pitch, mellownes is, I feel
impeccable but the occasional squeek annoyed me so
much so that I would never play out. I believe that I
found the real culprit of my problem which was in no
way connected to my Bell’s Palsey. It seemed to be a
leak caused by an improper adjustment of the Ab Key on
top of the A with the screw. (it was tightened to much
causing it to not rest properly on top of the “A”) It
seemed to solve my dilemma and restored some of my
confidence. The tightness of my lip has suffered a
little bit but the tone has not been reduced to the
level of Mr. Acker Bilk (who,in my mind, the worst
professional clarinetist I have ever heard).
Thank you for this blog, many people have questions
and after I spent some time reading the various
questions & answers I realized what an invaluable site
this is. I have a couple of questions:
1. Have you ever of a Barkley clarinet? I have one
and surprisingly it has one of the best solid low note
sounds I have ever heard. Very, very solid.
2. How does the Leblanc Dynamic H stack up up with
other clarinets and how venerated and appraised by
professional clarinetists?
3. What is the difference between Grenadilla wood and
Ebony wood, or are they the same.
4. Have you ever heard of a “Vibrator” reed. It had lateral grooves under the ligature area giving
blasting volume and was a tremendous aid in playing
5. How would you rate a Leblanc Dynamic “H” with trhe
Selmers, Buffets etc. I am aware that most of the time
you will not see a classical clarinetist playing a
Leblanc I believe because of the booming bass notes,
the ease of “bending” the notes in jazz which are not
tolerated in classical. I also think that the Buffets
and the Selmers are more mellow in tone, but what do
you think about this?

I appreciate you taking the time to maintain this
site. It is so interesting reading.
Thanks, Terry
Hi T: Many thanks for your interesting and informative note, which I am sure will acquaint readers with that strange illness, Bells Palsey, and perhaps even Mr. Acker Bilk, who may not be considered an entity by some, but surely he does exist and must have a large following as well. I find his sound to be unforgettable, but I dare not qualify my comment any further.
Now, as to Bells Palsey, I myself have had that lovely lady twice, and was told the second time that I would not likely play again.
This condition can be brought about by just about anything, including plain old stress, or a cold breeze on a hot night, as my visitatons occurred.
The first time I was buying a 1948 English Ford while going to school in Texas. I didn’t have the 275 dollars, but when I went to sign something in that hot dusty office in Huntsville, something strange happened: the right side of my face became numb, the right side of my mouth fell and I hurried to the infirmary where I was kept under observation for three days, when suddenly I was released as my facilities had come back and the numbness had left.
The second time was 25 years later while getting a MM in Amherst, MA. This time my I had been sleeping next to an air conditioner, and enjoying the coolness. The next morning I awakened with the inability to smile or to hold air with my lips closed. In other words, I was unable to play. I had my Masters recital in three months and was given the prognosis that most probably I would never play again. Surprise, surprise, I played the concert and it went fine. So, I know of Bells Palsey.
Well I guess we both feel the same about squeaks. I have spent years in practising specifically to avoid these kinds of noises at almost any cost. Thankfully my lip and my ear have done the work, through a long time. They have learned to accept no reed or clarinet or setup that may trap me into an error, to some success, for which I am grateful.
But you must not let yourself be destroyed by these kinds of things for they are merely accidents, and one should not allow them to destroy the joy of playing music.
I have never heard of the Barkley clarinet, it is probably what is known as a stencil instrument, and one can find many of these kinds of inexpensive mass produced instruments which play well.
Your Leblanc Dynamic H is a wonderful clarinet and compares favorably with any French instrument, including all of them. Unfortunately Leblanc spent a fortune on publicity and always made an excellent instrument but has been reviled into non-existance and the company has been sold , though there is still production of these instruments.The two most well-known clarinetists in the US both play Leblanc: Larry Combs, and Eddie Daniels.
As far as ebony or grenadilla, there may be differences about which I know little, however they are used interchangably by sellers of clarinets.
Oh yes, I have heard and seen many Vibrator reeds, but not wishing to destroy an illusion, that was all in the mind of the beholder, and I found them to be nothing more than bad reeds with grooves. If you found them different, perhaps you had a secret. Perhaps not. All of the clarinets have the same abilities, which are always the abilities of the players of these instruments.One can bend or blast on any clarinet. Again, it depends upon the blaster. Mellowness too, can be achieved on any clarinet.
I want to thank you for reading the articles on this site and I wish you good luck in your clarinet playing.
Play well and satay well.
sherman friedland

The Ignatius Gennusa Mouthpiece

April 23, 2006

Ignatius Gennusa was the principal clarinetist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and certainly was one of the legendary generation of clarinetists who studied with Bonade or Mclane bringing that French-American tradition with him in all of his playing.
He speaks a bit differently than the others because he actually talks a lot about the composition and formulation of the hard rubber mouthpieces which most clarinetists play and of the particular sound that certain formulations cause. Fascinating because that seems to be a subject of conversation these days.

Several months ago, I ran into one of his mouthpieces while buying a clarinet. The Gennusa came with the clarinet, and with the usual short test seems to play well, though a bit on the dull side. Gradually I would keep coming back to the mouthpiece with increased interest because it seems to remove some of the higher frequencies which I associate with edge or brightness.

After a while I ran into the Forte clarinet, all of which come supplied with a Gennusa mouthpiece. I learned that after Gennusa had passed away, his mouthpiece business had been bought by one of his students, Benjamin Redwine. Benjamin Redwine is a clarinetist who studied with Gennusa and who has made several Compact discs.

By this time, I had switched to my old “found” Gennusa and liked it very much, and I contacted Mr. Redwine, found him to be extremely cordial and forthcoming about a world of information concerning the material and the making of mouthpieces. In fact he makes beautiful ones. I had not known that a mouthpiece could be duplicated and he volunteered the information that indeed it could be, and he offered to copy mine.

In short, he did a most wonderful job, so good that the mouthpiece he made me plays a bit better than the original and has a lovely sound and beautiful response. It is also much more symmetrical in that the facing and rails are very straight, which gives me a good feeling. We are always pushing our reeds a bit to the left or to the right for any number of reason and I do like a straight-looking table.
The quality of sound is certainly different from a stock Van Doren, not as bright or as sharp as any Zinner I have played, also darker in quality.
I always liked Iggys playing and a dear friend of mine Tom Kenny, former first horn of everywhere used to play with him and told many stories , like they used to tour in a woodwind quintet and they toured in a hearse. Tom also sent me a recording of Iggy playing the third symphony of Brahms, a real clarinet piece and it was beautiful.
So, the tradition is alive, and Benjamin Redwine is a reasonable craftsman of mouthpieces whom I recommend .

play well and stay well.


The sound wants to come out, but……………

April 23, 2006

Hello. I am a 15-year old sophomore and have been playing the clarinet for 6 years. I had been playing on a beginner plastic clarinet and just recently got a wooden one – a used Selmer Soloist. I have been having a lot of problems with getting the high notes in the upper register out – like the note wants to come out, but it doesn’t and all I get is a weird noise. Some days these notes come out fine and other days, they don’t. It seems to get better sometimes when the instrument warms up, but not always. I usually use size 3 Rico Royal reeds. I have Van Doren reeds, but they seem harder to play than the Rico Royal. I have a Van Doren 5RV 13 mouthpiece. My music teacher suggested a thicker reed – maybe 3 ½. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you so much for your help – I really appreciate it!!
Dear S:
I would certainly follow my teachers suggestions if I were you.
I would imagine that your reed is really not hard enough for that particular mouthpiece. The Rico reed is a reed that plays well only for a little while and then seems to collapse.
At that point you could start doing something unnatural to get the sound out and could be biting causing the reed not to vibrate at all. A stiffer reed may help. and the Van Dorens ,if they are harder to play may be the help you need.
All reeds have to be gotten used to, and after getting used to Van Dorens, may be much better for you.
best regards,
stay well and play well
sherman friedland

Slurring down, one of the more diffcult aspects of the clarinet

April 19, 2006

Dear Sherman,
I play a Buffet R 13 with a vandoren B 40 mouthpiece on Vandoren (3) reeds.I have some trouble sustaining a good legato when going down
from high D (above the staff) to a note lower than B or A
(also above the staff). I notice a bump in the sound and my legato
is totally off. Intonation of the latter note is worse somewhat, too.
also, the larger the gap is between the two notes, and the lower the second note is the more significant the gap is. Can this problem be solved with just trying tosustain a good air flow, or should I practise this some sort of other way?
many thanks, M A (Netherlands)
To answer your question: you have to practice in a different way.
Slurring in a downward direction from your High D to most notes is difficult , but so too is making an excellent and seamless legato across that upper “break” in the clarinet in either direction
There are many ways to go about correcting this frequently problematic execution.
I would suggest that you begin by putting a mirror on your music stand so that you can check all of your facial movements when you practice. This is important because as you mentioned you are having lumps in the sound, intonation difficulties and your legato suffers as well.
Putting a mirror on the stand or practicing in front of a mirror is an effective way of observing all of the varying facial movements you make when you move in either direction. Do not allow any discernible movement in your face, jaw, chin, and or embouchure.
Repeat nothing, not eyebrows, nothing should move when you play across this area of the clarinet.
That will rid of you of many problems, but may take some time for you to locate what you are doing and moving and it is easier to say, rather then to actually do, which implies the passage of time.
When you have eliminated extraneous movement then begin by playing the note B, the high one and slur from there to C#. Listen carefully. There must be no blip in the sound of any kind when you execute this slur and both notes must have the same timbre.
When you have achieved that interval to your satisfaction increase the note by one half step, that is to the high D. I would make a simple exercise slurring between B,C#, D, quietly and without movement of any kind, and then back down to the B. Again ,you may allow no facial movement in executing this slur.
When achieved to your satisfaction ,check your embouchure: have you been biting? Has the tone or the intonation suffered in any way?
It should not in order to be correct.
I would continue this practice until you can slur from the B to the D and then back down all the way .
Then following I would skip one not so that instead of stepwize your are moving by intervals, and again keep reminding yourself of what you are practicing: legato down, slurring down, one of the difficult things to achieve on the clarinet or most woodwinds for that matter.
As you go from stepwize to small intervals, gradually widening them, you will notice more difficulty, however you must make sure that you movee as little as possible and while you are doing it, do not bang your fingers as this helps nothing at all. Breathe evenly and keep the support equal and also practice at different dynamic levels.
This sounds like a lot but then again, you ar dealing with one of the more difficult aspects of clarinet playing.
I hope this helps you in some way.
Play well and stay well.

Correcting playing flat: Then, r e l a x .

April 14, 2006


I am back again for your advice. I am currently playing an overhauled LeBlanc L7 (which plays great!). I am using a Vandoren V12 #3 reed ( I love the sound! I can’t believe what I am hearing). When I was younger and played on Mitchell Lurie reeds, I tended to go flat. Now I am having the opposite problem. I am going sharp. What can I do to stop going sharp? I played in an ensemble tonight (surrounded by professional musicians), and I was not happy with my sound. I was using my Vandoren, but I will admit that it was the reed in my rotation with the most wear. Unfortunately, I was the only clarinet, and there were not enough rests in the music to change reeds.
When I was learning to play (30 years ago), my instructors would say push in the barrel to bring up the pitch or pull out to take away the sharp edge. It has been so long, I honestly do not remember if adjusting the reed on the mouthpiece (Vandoren B45) will help alleviate pitch problems. I also changed the position of the instrument and that did not help. I have gotten rid of the offending reed and will not have it in my rotation
any longer. Also, in my depression, I ordered a box of Gonzalez FOF
reeds to comfort myself.Any advice you can give will be most

Hi again:
First, you will find the Gonzalez reeds to be much better than Van Doren.
These reeds have a thicker blank and will last longer and the cane is
better. I would say that your problem may be alleviated with only the change in reeds. Good luck with them.
Playing flat for a log period of time is most probably why you are sharp now. It happens this way: you learn to play in a certain way, your throat always in the position of attempting to raise the pitch, and you are always in this mode. The throat, the way you hold your horn in your mouth, the embouchure are always cognizant of the fact that you are playing flat, and more than any of them, your ears are telling all functions that you have to play sharper, and you do to a certain extent.
Then suddenly you change to a mouthpiece or reed that doesn’t collapse on you pitchwize.Results? You are hearing them now.
So your functionality must change starting with your ears and your mouth and all the rest of it.
The reeds, because Gonzalez are much better than VD (I have been calling them that for years) will start and your ears will soon lead you to a more correct pitch not governed by a reed that doesn’t play all that well. Then again, I have always found that VD mouthpieces play sharper than others, so do Selmer mouthpieces.You may be happier playing another mouthpiece or changing to a Van Doren M13 which is better in pitch than is the B45. You will like your sound more with an M13. It is made for playing at 440, and I think other VDs and Selmers play sharper than that, at least in my experience that has been the case. But actually you may be better just by changing to Gonzalez. It will take a little time, nothing is instant, which you’ll hear.
Hope this helps, L.
Play well and stay well.
Have a nice weekend.

Benny Lives, a Thank You note

April 14, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland,

A month or so ago I wrote to you asking advice on performing “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” I just wanted to let you know that your kind and thorough comments were enormously helpful to me. With a little practice, using your breathing guidelines and an accompanist who was most willing to work things out, I managed not to ruin a friend’s wedding and actually got very good reviews. You have my eternal gratitude.

I also got raves for my rendition of “Memories of You,” again thanks to you. Practicing in front of a mirror per your suggestion has helped with that and many other little issues I’ve been having. (However, I must say that when I play that particular tune I can only hear Benny Goodman’s rendition, and the comparison makes me want to throw my horn across the room in frustration. So far I’ve resisted the temptation.)
This kind of note is very touching indeed and especially because of Benny. Recently I have read a few comments concerning Artie Shaw and Benny, and they were disparaging, calling them unbecoming names having to do with personality and commercialism.
I find comments like these to be unfortunate and am still happy over the success of these two great genius people. They did more for our instrument than all of the “Classical” players combined, and there will never be a question about that.Contrary to what you may hear, I knew Benny and found him to be a very gracious and caring fellow, and of course my raison d’etre for playing this horn.
Play well and stay well and Happy Holiday Weekend.

Schools of Clarinet: French,German,English, Italian

April 12, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland,
I’m a college freshman clarinet major and have really enjoyed
visiting your website over the years. Your advice is very helpful,
interesting and entertaining. My question has to do with the different
schools of clarinet playing. I’ve heard that there’s the German school, the
French school, the British school and the American school. Can you explain
the characteristics of each school? I own recordings of Daniel Bonade, Ralph
McLane, Robert Marcellus, Harold Wright, Tom Martin, Ricardo Morales, and
David Shifrin and do my best to emulate their sound. Are all these
clarinetists considered to be in the American school? I’m very concerned
with developing the right sound to (hopefully) get into an American
orchestra/military band some day. (I’m playing on buffet R13s with a Hawkins
mouthpiece). What sound are orchestras looking for nowadays? Hope my
question makes sense, and thanks again for your website!
Hi Miss KK:
Thank you for your letter and for looking at this site all these years.
This particular question is of great interest to many clarinetists and has been a particular interst of mine for many years. I gues it is like trying to find out where one comes from in the sense of style, but more from the standpoint of timbre, quality of sound.
The American School as it may be called grew out of the French school because many French players were imported to the US to play in orchestras, among the first being Daniel Bonade and Gaston Hamelin, Bonade being really the “source” as many are fond of saying. This means nothing until you hear him play, and you can do so on an entire CD of his work culled from recording of the various orchestras in which he played. There is on that recording one “cut” which stands out above all of the other because of its quality of sound, the tuning and the musicality. It is the short segment for three clarinets playing the Bach Chorale “It is Enough” durng the Berg Violin Concerto,(the only tonal section of this dodecaphonic work) recorded years ago yet some of the most perfect clarinet playing one will hear. And of course, the wonderful Harold Wright studied with Hamelin, another great frech player. Just about all of the American players studied with one or the other of these or students of them, such as Ignatius Gennusa, Principal of the Baltimore Orchestra. Characteristics are clarity, accuracy,reserved correctness
There is of course Gino Cioffi, principal of Boston for his last performing years, of Italian origin and one of the most talented clarinetists I have ever heard or studied with.I still remember his sound and it was really better than anyones. He told me (and dozens of others) many times that “When ama play good, its a justa like Jesus Christ. When ama play bad , its still better than anybody else!” Cioffo would have to be called a school unto his own, although he was Italian and actually played with the mouthpiece upside down with the reed on the top when he first came to the US. Characterisics of Ginos Sound: sheer ethereal beauty
The German School was owned for many years by Karl Leister, principal of the Berlin Phuilharmonic, and his chair and place (perhaps) was inherited by Sabine Mayer. The dimensions and characteristics of the German sound is a very carefully concentrated sound, superbly nuanced and very precise, capable of great dynamic range.
The British School as you have called it is perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most effusively musical school of all. I think that Reginald Kell was the driving force there with people like Jack Brymer, Gervaise de Payer and Anthony Pay also being in the group.They play beautifully, and many play on a clarinet with a larger bore than the Americans do, who play mostly French style clarinets. Reginald Kell was invited by Arturo Toscanini to play principal clarinet with the NBC symphony, but he turned the offer down. It would be interesting to contemplate the american school in the context of Reginald Kell, another wonderfully original player.
But now with todays communication and recodings the sounds of the various “schools” as you call them is beginning to meld all into one. The important thing is musicality, sensitivity to the phrase , extreme accuracy with rhythm and intonation and a rich historical sense when you play.
These attributes will certainly earn you a place within an American Orchestra/Band, and of course, you must play better than the others who come to the audition. Competition, the ability to rise above same is perhaps the most crucial characteristic
Stay well,and play well.

Basset Horn, Mozart and the Requiem. Part I

April 7, 2006

Hi: As to your question concerning works with “low clarinets”.

The most beautiful passages in any work with choir and orchestra, and soloists from the 18th century is the Mozart Requiem. This is a work written in the last days of his life and in fact finished by a student of his, but it remains in a very important way the finest work especially when you consider the fact that this is the only large , and celebrated work which features two basset horns and two clarinets as well.
In fact the entire piece begins with a solo for two basset horns right in the middle register of the instrument and if you have not approached this work before, please do check it out, yes, just for the clarinet music alone. After that you can simply get to know it at your own leisure and hear how a composer in his last weeks, can write arguably the most lovely work of the era but perhaps the greatest choral work of all time.
The opening of the work is utterly simple with the two bassets going in somewhat contrary motion, and the other voices forming a canon as they are added. It will stay within your mind for a very long time.
Because it is contrapuntal I always somehow think of it as the signature of Mozart, but that could be my own romantic feeling about this piece.
As far as the deeper sounding clarinets this is the best piece written. At about 53 minutes it is a bit longer than the Requiem of Faure but still shorter than many Masses written at this period of time.
Mozarts relationship to the clarinet is rich historically. He wrote many works for it , many works of chamber music, and of course, the Trio and the Quintet, and the Clarinet Concerto (which of course was written for clarinet bassett, which is not the basset horn) but an instrument invented by Anton Stadler purportedly a friend and debtor of Mozart who played the Concerto on the instrument. The clarinet bassett fell out of use after that and the concerto is now played in a somewhat edited version because the original went down to low c on the clarinet bassett.
And recently performances have been made on special clarinets with a low c attachment making the part playable without the octave transpositions.
But of course, all considerations are out on this piece for it is perhaps the most beautifully made Concerto fo the entire period, that is to say, the form is perfect, the harmony and conterpoint varied and enjoyable beyond most, yet simple and transparent.
It is for your information the work which is asked initially for any clarinet position in any orchestra. It is that revealing as are many of Mozarts works, butnone like the Concerto
It is even more amazing that unlike Beethoven, Mozart made no sketches or revisions, he just seems to have been a vessel placed by a supreme being, a vessel filled with a beautiful bounty, and when it was finished,when he had completed this huge output, Mozart died. —–

Trio of Excellence! A Set of Lyriques, Bb and A and a C.

April 5, 2006

Hard rubber  is much more stable , reliable as well, very important in this day of depleted supplies of rare and easily workable and fairly stable woods.
I received my Arioso a week or so ago and have been testing it daily for the past week using a variety of mouthpieces, including two Zinner blanks, Van Dorens, and Selmers.Subsequently I received my Lyrique. All testing was done using Gonzalez reeds, they being the most stable and consistant reed available. Of course now, there are Forestone reeds which are better than cane, any cane, and certainly any other synthetic.
Briefly, the Arioso clarinet is a revelation and is better than any wooden clarinet I have played. So too, is the Lyrique. The material itself is about the same weight perhaps a trifle lighter than any of my grenadilla instruments but the response is superior and the registers are more consistant one to the next, and the tuning was very surprising indeed. On my instrument there was little variation from 440 for the A, and then throughout the clarinet, the low E being intune, the throat as well and the high register, all of the notes that I have come to take specialy care with, the high C, F, G are intune. This makes the horn really a revelation at least in my experience.
The sound of the Arioso is also darker in comparison with any clarinet I have played and the sound is more sustainable.  The Lyrique is better than the Arioso in all aspects, if that is possible.It is a joy to play this horn, and it is a tribute to its developer, Tom Ridenour.
You must read “The Myth of Grenadilla” an essay he wrote,readily available on the net.
Mr. Ridenour has been active in clarinet design and in products for the clarinet. My last set of Opus Clarinets were sold to me by the principal of a major orchestra and those clarinets had been chosen for him by Tom Ridenour, and they were great. Ridenour was chief designer at Leblanc.
I felt that the Arioso is his finest achievement.That has changed now to the Lyrique. But the best clarinet he makes in my opinion, is his A clarinet This A exemplifies all that serious clarinetist needs in order to play anything.Further, it will not be long before the large companies will start to produce clarinets of this marvelously stable material, hard rubber. One must realize of course, that most of us already play on hard rubber mouthpieces. These clarinets have been thusfar a wonderful experience and I recommend that they be investigated by all. At the price, you should buy a set and a C clarinet, still underpriced (for all three )than one french instrument.Actually he should provide a triple case for the trio of excellence.

play well and stay well.