First off a little Background: I have been playing the clarinet for 16 years and have had the same LeBlanc Classic II the whole time. It was bought new for my mother in 1969 and then after college went into storage until I started playing in 1992. It came with a LeBlanc 2L mouthpiece that we both played on and such a wonderful action for the keys. Quite a large storage case lined with red rabbit fur and an absolutely dark, rich wonderful tone. I use Vandoren 3 reeds(blue and yellow box). Every on that ever tried it, literally tried to steal it. I kid you not. Benny Goodman was the main reason I chose the clarinet and He is still the man! I have definitely used his influence in my playing style. My first band director took one look at my clarinet and my claim to want to be like Benny and promptly gave me everything I needed, recordings, instruction, criticism, praise, and a healthy respect and love for my instrument and playing. I originally played with a double lip embouchure, but due to an incompetent band director(my second director), was told that I was playing completely wrong. He claimed “the only way to REALLY play the clarinet was to use Mitchell Lurie Mouthpieces(sorry forgot the model),a Rovner ligature and Vandoren 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 reeds on a yamaha clarinet. All others are just wasting their time and not really serious.” Needless t say we clashed a lot about my LeBlanc, my reed strength and my double lip embouchure. He started me at first chair because the way I sounded, but when I refused to swap to the bulky shrill sounding yamahas and up my reed strength to almost board like proportions he moved me back to last chair, and kept me there for my entire three years under him(regardless of my grades on playing tests, which should have sat me first chair second or maybe third.) I did switch from double to single lip unfortunately because he convinced me something was wrong and I had no private teacher available within 50 miles except him, his protégé’, and his son(a mirror image of
Ok venting done. My mouthpiece was broken during this time by me(slippery fingers) and I got an “identical one” except it was from Noblet. I know, same company, but the first mouthpiece was so much more than this one I play now.Thetotal lack of music shops for anything except guitar/drums has made it hard to find a good mouthpiece around here. I do have some coming from the internet soon to try though.) Then I went on to play first chair for the jazz and classical bands at Westminster College in SLC, UT. But due to freshman incompetence and the first time I was away from home, was unable to return to the school after my one year there. Basically girls, videogames, 19 year old hormones, and no parents to tell me to straighten up. I then stopped playing except every 2 or 3 months, then every 6 or so, and finally stopped for a couple of years. Then started playing about once a month and I recently decided it was time to play like I used to and not lose that wonderful talent.
I recently got the internet and have been reading your website and have almost gotten through the whole thing. You know your clarinets and Iwas hoping for some of your insights. My questions are as follows
1. Do you know anyone who can really repair my instrument? Someone who loves and respects instruments and who does a bang-up job on them. I don’t need it customized just repadded, recorked and adjusted. I have tried other instruments from Buffet(stuffy), Yamaha(shrill), Selmer and some other entry level plastic LeBlancs(not very accurate compared to mine), and other than the selmer(which I could not afford) did not like them as much as mine. I now have pads not sitting right, cork missing on keys, the cork on the joints has shrunk to the point that this wonderful instrument has gotten wobbly and other pads with holes worn through the skin bladders into the felt. I LOVE this instrument and really wish a wonderful job to be done on it. The only fellows who repair here in Utah have rarely worked on anything other than plastic and those boxy
yamahas(which do sound good if you get the right one, but I personally do not like the way they feel because of key work, resistance, etc.). the last guy who repadded it did not even seat some of the pads correctly but
I had no one else to turn to.
2.Which pads are the best? I know you use cork on the top and kid on the bottom, is that just personal taste or actually the best?
3.Have you heard of Larry Naylors oil soaking and repair methods? (NO)
Do you haveany information about my Clarinet? I got nothing except how much it cost new, when and how it was bought and the fact nobody knows much about it.
5.Those fluffy “pad savers” that go into your clarinet while being stored, good or bad? I have heard both sides of this but respect your council.
6.I love LeBlanc and my wife has thought about getting me either an Opus II or Concerto II would they be on the same level as this one? Also since I have never owned a new instrument how do I break it in(cringe at the word break).
7.Finally what is the best way to store my instrument in case something happens(crossed fingers) to me?
Thanks for taking the time to read this long winded letter and for setting up the website, it really is a wonderful tool. I would love to take a lesson but I think you are a little far from here, Utah.
There is no clarinet that is Boxy, Stuffy, Shrill,good or bad. They all have the same possible characteristics
Thanks for your very comprehensive letter.
First thing is that I would recommend that you attempt to arrange lessons wth the Principal of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. who may have a good teacher. Or may not.
People play on all kinds of clarinets. Yamahas will always feel more bulky than Leblancs has been my experience, however this goes very quickly.
You should try to play for a while every single day for your self, nobody else.
Some Yamahas are simply terrific, should you consider buying one.
How far are you from Albuquerque or Denver? You may wish to look there for a teacher.
It has been my experience that repairing an instrument is very tricky
especially if you do it by sendingd receiving same in the mail.
The work is simply never correct. Why? Because it is necessary to have the repairperson almost at your side so that you can comment and try the work as it is being done. That does not really work by mail.
The Opus II or the Concerto are both better than your instrument, mostly because the Leblanc design was changed and improved by Tom Ridenour who developed these clarinets and the Sonata for Leblanc. I know Tom well through the internet. He is in Texas and probably knows more about the clarinet than anyone. Look up his website. Among other things he has developed perhaps the best sounding and playing clarinet to be found anywhere , and it is called the Lyrique, and it is for nothing comparatively speaking.
It is made of hard rubber and is indestructable, but the thing is that it plays and responds with the most beautiful sound you can imagine.
I play a set of his Arioso now, which are really great. But, get in touch with him about all of your particular needs, the overhaul, etc.
The fluffy things to which you refer are both good and bad, Initially, they keep moisture out, but sometimes they can lock it in.
Considering the lack of humidity it SLC, I would think thembeneficial.
The price of your current clarinet is between 350-and 500 dollars,
considering it is used.
The thing of it is that in your case, you should keep what you have and acquire another while you are having this one overhauled the way you want it.
Yes, you received bad advice from the teacher who told you to get off
double-lip, which is unquestionably the best, most natural way to play the clarinet and of course, your would have to play medium reeds for that embouchure.Go back to it. If you seldom play , as you explain, when you again regularize your habits, do it with double lip.
Mitchell Lurie was one of the best players, but his mouthpieces are terribly uneven, and mouthpiecesare another story altogether, and there is more hype on them lately than is possible to comprehend. You need a symetrically faced mouthpiece, one that responds well to you and plays more reeds than less.
The Gonzalez reed is the best one I have found lately, or the Zonda, both interestng non-neurotic producing reeds and readily available from 123 music.
I like cork and kidd leather because I happened to have purchased a terrific exceptional Selmer 10s clarinet from Sweden last year.(It was used as well, and you may consider purchasing “used” as well, as they are very inexpensive by comparison, however you do not know what you are buying.) It has a big nice sound and is intune and has this pad arrangement, done very well, so let us say that I advocate it. Cork in the upper register last longer, period.
In the upper register, they should be beveled and not emit noise. Kidd is also simply a longer-lasting material.Also it is very quiet. I have had no problem with the arrangement for a solid year.
Valentino synthetic pads may be better than that, I don’t know, but pads and their seating is crucial for any clarinet or clarinet-player. There are
many of these Valentino pads in my Arioso clarinets, not in the largest of
the pads, but in all of the others, something of which to take note.
But I think really that the Ridenour approach is very knowledgeable and the clarinets are really terrific. He is worth looking up .
The following mouthpieces are available on the internet, are rturnable and affordable, yes, and they play: Gennusa,Fobes, , and many more. I happen to play Gennusa, but mine is costom-made, copied from an old one I found and like, very much. I have also tried and played many Fobes which are OK. Hawkins makes a very good mouthpiece. I know all of these mouthpieces and recommend all of them.
In general, we do not usually play on mouthpieces that come with the clarinet. That has changed of late, especially with Leblanc. On the other hand, the Selmer Mouthpiece, which had been expemplary has deteriorated considerably.
I hope that this helps and thanks for looking at my site. It is for those like yourself.
best wishes, and play and stay well,