The Lyons C Clarinet/ a singular instrument

May 22, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland,
I have appreciated very much your replies so full of experience and goodsense, so I ask your advice for my problem.
I studied clarinet for 3 years about 50 year ago (I’m now 67) and have
decided to start again at my age: it seems it’s never too late and I justwant to see if that is really true…
My first idea was to buy a Eb clarinet, but it seems very difficult to playit and in any case not the best thing for a beginner, so I bought a YCL 250 but it’s too heavy for me now. I read about a Lyons C Clarinet, which should weigh less than one third of the weight of a standard instrument,but has no additiona keys. Is its tone good enough to have pleasure in playing it, or is it just a poor clarinet for beginner? And in the latter case, what do you advice me to buy?
Many thanks for your time. Paolo———————————————————————————————————
When I was laid up in a cast after having ruptured my quadriceps, I was asked a question from a clarinetist concerning the Lyons C clarinet. Since I knew nothing, I wrote to Mr Lyons about his instrument. He was kind enough to send me one, and I can only tell you that playing that instrument was absolutely inspirational. It uses the same fingerings as the regular boehm clarinet however everything else is completely different. The key system is one wherein virtually each piece is replacable by the owner, and very inexpensively. The price list for replacements is also remarkable.
All parts are of plastic and can be easily replaced on this clarinet which comes with a beautifullly playing mouthpiece and is delivered in an indestructable cylindrical case. There were several reeds and the mouthpiece is an Eb mouthpiece, or close to it. It played beautifully, with a rich sound and beautiful responce. I cannot say enough of how well it impressed me. Because it is built in the key of C makes it playable with almost any group and of playing any part written in the key of C. It think it was designed for students so that they could play in ensembles wherein they would not have to transpose.
Really, this clarinet played beautifully, and I would think that if you desire a light instrument there is nothing like it on the market today. I believe that it won “best design” prize recently . I cannot recommend this clarinet enough, costing well under 200 dollars, it is simply a singular instrument and an even better buy.
Good luck and best wishes,
sherman friedland


Ebony, Grenadilla, and Leblanc

May 14, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland,
My father was a professional musician, leading the woodwind section at the Victoria Palace theatre, London. Later he devoted his time teaching/tutoring the saxophone and clarinet privately. My interest, however, was in photography, not music. Consequently I have inherited some of his instruments without the background knowledge to know what I really have.
So to the questions.
I have been trying to identify the model of the French Leblanc clarinet that was the one he mainly used.
The clarinet in question has no markings on it to indicate (to me anyway) which model it is. I do not know when this instrument was bought except that my father stopped playing, due to ill health, in about 1979 so it must be at least 27 years old.What I can tell you is:
The serial number stamped round the bottom of the �upper joint� and the bottom of the �lower joint� is 34525.
The top end of the �upper joint� is stamped �Made in France�I always thought a clarinet was made of ebony but the Leblanc French web site only refers to �Aged Grenadilla Wood�.
Were clarinets once made of ebony and, if so, when did grenadilla start to be used?I think this is a Bb instrument � but how can you tell?The Leblanc French web site lists 33 models of clarinet, 8 of them being Bb models � but what models did they make 30 years ago?
Now for the main question � based on its possible age and the markings on it, is it possible to identify the model?
Many thanks for any help you can give me,


Concerning your question, I can be of some assistance, though not for everything. While making a very fine instrument, Leblanc was less than transparent concerning their serial numbers, which cannot be matched with date. Now Leblanc is really non-existant but has been swallowed by Selmer-Conn, a part of the Steinway mega-company.
Your Bb clarinet was the very best Leblanc made, really the top of their line, made for many years, perhaps starting in the 60s. The double L logo stands for Leon Leblanc, who was spokesperson of the company for a while.
The botanical name itself tells much � Grenadilla, the wood from which your instrument is built, belongs to the Dalbergia family, together with other famous woods such as Palisander or Kingwood, and �Melanoxylon� simply indicates �blackwood�.
Under this name the Portuguese discoverers, constantly searching for new ebony-like woods, brought the wood to the Royal court. In doing so they imported this wood, which stands next to Ebony as the darkest of woods, if not completely black. French titles such as Ebene de Mozambique, which are also applied to Ebony itself, sometimes indicate the source. Grenadilla grows in the dry forests of southeast Africa; above all in the east African savanna grasslands, where the most important sources are found.
Grenadilla is especially treasured for the making of woodwind instruments due to its hard, smooth surface, and its strong resistance to the absorption of moisture. Portuguese musicians were themselves the first to employ it for the making of instruments.As ebony become less plentiful,dye was used, and some grenadilla wood is treated with dye, though the two are very similar, ebony being the deeper natural black
Rest assured, your father was very selective and played a wonderful instrument..
I hope that this helps.
very cordially,
sherman friedland

A student needs to buy an A clarinet

May 9, 2006

“A” Clarinet.
I would like to purchase an “A” Clarinet for the occasional “A” parts that show up on my stand.
I play in a small church orchestra.
I currently have an R-13 Bb and don’t have $2500+ for a matching “A”.
I don’t plan to play the Mozart Clarinet Concerto on it, so it doesn’t have to be a professional one.
What brands / models would you recommend?
I would even consider a well-made plastic one, it if played in tune.
——————————————————————-The best A clarinet you can get for your money is the Allora A clarinet, the same as the Arioso, hard rubber, designed by the premier clarinet designer in the business Tom Ridenour.
Really this horn made of hard rubber is beautifully intune and plays as good as any R13 I have ever heard. This is a tip, and you should take it. it is 599, new at either 123 or WWBW, including shipping I believe. 45 day return, full refund.
Really, this is the horn/ I would grab it! I have!
best wishes,
sherman friedland

Leblanc Rapsodie/Yamaha 450N/ Which do you prefer?

May 9, 2006

Hello, I am an adult beginner playing a YCL-450N for about a month now. I have a question about the Yamaha C4 mouthpiece. This is the mouthpiece that came with the clarinet and I would like to know if this mouthpiece is suitable for learning or should I get a better one? I’m using Rico #2 reeds.
Hello and thank you for writing in. The mouthpiece you received with your
450 clarinet, the 4C is a very good mouthpiece for learning, however they
vary enormously, mouthpiece to mouthpiece, so it is diffciult to be
specific.I recommend using a different reed than Rico because they are simply too thin and do not last.Buy French cut reeds, harder
to select and less consistent but better sounding and longer lasting, and eally better for embouchure developement.
best regards,
Speaking of the excellent Yamaha 450 clarinet, beautifully finished and with a very strong and neat looking case, I can only compare it with a Leblanc Rapsodie recently part of my horde. This Leblanc was one of the more carefully and beautifully finished instruments I have purchased, with a great stout case, the reason for mention is that the two instruments play quite similarly. I suggested recently to a young student that he buy a 450 instead of negotiating a 3000 dollar loan for the purchase of an R13. He did, and his father was quite pleased, even thanked me. The student likes the clarinet .
Now the resistance and general characteristics of each of the instruments are quite similar. Both were initially more resistant which opened up as they got played and I think they are similarly priced. Both good loooking grenadilla wood,small bore and highly recommended by me at the very least.

Play well and stay well.


Benjamin Guttierrez,composer, Costa Rica

May 9, 2006

Dear Professor Friedland,
I am a swiss-costarrican clarinetist, studdied at the Orquesta Sinfonica Juvenil de Costa Rica, at the University of Costa Rica and at the Hochschule f�r Musik in Munich. Now I live in Brasil where I am principal clarinetist at the Orchestra Sinfonica de Ribeir�o Preto (SP) since 1994.
I am doing a study work for the University of Costa Rica about the clarinet compositions of costarrican composer Benjamin Gutierrez who dedicated his clarinet sonata to you in 1959.
May I ask you some questions about this subject?
Thanks in advanced and best regards,
Thanks for your answer! Benjamin is doing well and he will be happy to know I contacted you. I will write him in the next days.
I would like to know about when and how did you met Benjamin. What do you remember about the motivations and process of writing the piece? Do you remember some anecdote about your student time with Benjamin?Do you also the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra composed by Mr. Guttierez? KH

Krista: I knew Benjamin very well at the New England Conservatory of Music, well enough to share many good experiences of all kinds, many coffees and many friends; it was a happy time.
He did not speak English very well, and used to tell a joke concerning his knowing only one thing to order for any meal. Speghetti. Finally he learned how to say “Ham and Eggs”. When he asked for them , they asked how we wanted the eggs cooked? Not knowing, he simply gave his stock answer, “Spaghetti”.
He was an ebullient and happy personality, enormously gifted.
I played the first performance of his concerto for clarinet and orchestra at the Manhattan School of Music , with their orchestra soon after the Friedland Sonata, or perhaps it was before, but I remember the performance. As I remember it was not as good a piece as was the Sonata.
His motivation for composition seemed always to be his deep talent, and his gregarious nature. He loved women to be sure, and I remember specific things as well, all with joy.
I tried to get in touch with him several years ago, to no avail. If you do see him, tell him that I remember him quite fondly and I am playing and will be playing La Quatour de La Fine du Temps, by Olivier Messiaen on July 2.
Have you played that work?

Best regards, sherman friedland

Tongues, Lungs, and Ears.

May 3, 2006


I’m a freshman, soon to be sophmore in highschool and have played clarinet for 4 years (since 6th grade) I’m currently 2nd chair clarinet, my only competition being a senior.
I’ve played in District Band and received a 2 at State on my solo.
Through my sucesses, I’ve found my biggest blockade is my tonguing. My staccatos have a dull squaking sound or are rarely clean in tone, even often overly accented. (This observation mainly from performing Divertimento in Bb (Mozart) as a solo) At district band with the more challenging music, I noticed my difficulties were mainly the rapid tonguing of consecutive 16th notes, etc..
My judges comments at state simply said “work on lighter tonguing” which is really what killed me, because otherwise, my accuracy, tone, etcetera, were near a 1 rating.
I’ve been told “tip of the tongue to the tip of the reed” but this never really works once I’m trying it on the mouth piece.
Are there any exercises I can do to improve my tonguing?
Any ideas would be greatly appriciated!
Tonguing in not a speed contest</strong
Dear Professor Friedland,

I have recently switched instruments from the Bass Clarinet to the Clarinet and I found that I had to break a few bad habits. The one I am most concerned about is my tonguing, when I first started out on Clarinet a year ago I found that I wasn’t hitting the tip of the reed with the tip of the tongue and I just recently broke the habit and I am still improving on this. Is the”tip of the tongue on tip reed” concept same for the Bass Clarinet? I can tongue faster on the Clarinet while hitting the tip of the reed with my tongue, but on the Bass Clarinet it feels like I am not tonguing faster, and sounds and feels like I am tonguing slower. Is there a different embouchure and style of tonguing I should have for the Bass Clarinet and the Clarinet? Can you tell me some of the common bad habits that bass clarinet and clarinet players have in general so I can watch out for these things and start to fix them immediatly? Thanks for taking the time to read my letter.


Hi or G’day!
From your greeting I assume that you are writing from Australia.
I received another tonguing question from a clarinetist today and if you will allow me, let me respond to both questions in one response.
If you are interested in the technical steps to correct approaches to starting the sound on the clarinet and/or the Bass clarinet, certainly I would suggest that you read all 6 or 7 odf the articles I have written on the subject of tonguing.
But really, without meaning any kind of sarcasm at all, I am concerned about your ear.
I am concerned that you do not hear what you are playing and how you are distorting the sound, (if you are) when you tongue in a musically ugly manner.
You have to go back and determine what it is we are doing when we play the clarinet or in fact, any musical instrument excepting the voice, the most perfect musical instrument, the one most capable of emotion of the most expressive renderings that exist in music.

When we play our clarinet or any single line line instrument we are or we should be emulating the voice, yes the human voice, that most exquisite of musical instruments.
Certainly singer sings long sustained notes and short ones almost at will, and it is never ugly, the beginning or the end of the sound, never ,never, and it is usually beautuful.
How do they do it? That really doesn’t matter either, What matters is that you emulate the sound, you copy the way a singer attacks and releases a note and you make the approximation on your clarinet, using of course, the ways of starting the notes that you have read about, the fact that the reed is a valve and you have to have pressure behind the air before you open the valve by taking your tongue off the reed and allow the air to enter the mouthpiece, and start the reed vibrating.With our instrument, you do it first with extreme care and deliberately and slowly and you do not go forward until it has improved, and you make sure that you are following the simple technical steps you have read about, on this very site.
Slow, deliberate practice is most important and always begin in the easiest register on wjhatever instrument you are playing.
With the Bass clarinet, I have found that I used reeds that are quite soft comparatively speaking, and also you cannot bite or the sound will simply close off. Air is more important, not reed strength. Actually that is true for any clarinet.
I would also practice legato passages, playing with consumate smoothness making beautiful legato connections.
When you articulate this same passage it should sound exactly the same, but articulated or tongued. It should not take on some grotesque.Listen It is still music, therefore musical and should be executed that way.
Finally staccato means separated, not short.
Short or shortened note values have to do with the style not the mechanical act of articulation.
Use your ear to discern what is beautiful and do not accept anything less than beauty in whatever clarinet mode in which you find yourself.

Good luck, mates

Play well and stay well.