Gaston Hamelin and his Selmer Metal Clarinet

November 27, 2006

(Gaston Hamelin is one of the most reknown clarinetists on the last century, for his beautiful playingand for his students, among whom were Ralph Maclane, and many others. He is one of the founders of the so-called American School of clarinet)

Yes, Hamelin did play metal clarinets as principal in Boston and they were the Selmer Clarinet, the one with the knurled barrel tuning device at the top of the horn. Those Selmers were widely esteemed by many and were finally taken out of the Selmer catalog, because, and I quote an old old, friend , a truly wonderful repairperson in Milwaukee, “They hurt the prestige of the Selmer Company”
Heresay? I think not, because there also exists a story that Hamelin was was given his notice in Boston. Because he played metal? I think not. But I am wrong. Read on.
Gaston Hamelin was a great player and the teacher of Ralph Maclane.
If anyone wishes to contradict or add, this is a fascinating subject, and add immeasuarably to the argument that there “are more overtones “exiting ” from Grenadilla, an unfortunate spelling error of the poster, however truer than one would think.
From biographical material on Joe Allard, who studied with Hamelin for four years:
“Allard studied with Gaston Hamelin for four years. Hamelin’s contract with the Boston Symphony was not renewed after the 1930 season, reportedly because conductor Serge Koussevitzky would not allow Hamelin to play his metal Selmer clarinet in the orchestra. Harmelin returned to his native Paris, leaving his students behind.”

I would conclude that we make the sound we like and build in our head and in our teeth and our ears. Blindfold tests be damned for they are mere flukes, smoke and mirrors, the whole magillah for no goood reason. Whether it be wood, or metal of hard rubber, we make the sound.

Rosario Mazzeo, as personell manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra instituted the screen behind which persons auditioning played.
Believe me, every single one was known to the committee, not by a piece of paper, but by their sound as they played, for the ear of a committee doesn’t need a screen.

Sherman Friedland


Playing Jazz on the Clarinet, a question from Japan

November 24, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I am writing to you to seek for help and advices again.

As a band student, we some time may encounter some jazz style music, mostly by the Japanese. So I think it would be nice if I could use some jazz techniques.

Firstly, I would like to know how to create that kind of humoring pitches that the music requires. Then, is how to do a proper glissando, do I need to move my jaw inward/outward to do a glissando?

Lastly, I am playing double-lip; do I have to switch to single-lip to play jazz style?

Thank you very much.

Regard, Wu

There was an additional comment asking if Arty Shaw used different fingerings. The viewer had seen him lift his first finger while playing, no not a different fingering.
Hi Wu:
Very important, you do not have to change your embouchure to single lip in order to play in the jazz style. And you simply just continue to do your regular so-called Classical training. Benny Goodman was a classically trained clarinetist. So too were most of the Jazz Artists.
Clarinet technic is very basic, and is the same for all styles of music.

And the best way to learn to play jazz is to listen to jazz recordings of all the jazz clarinetists you can find. Simply copy their playing and their particular stylistic ideas.
Do not change your enbouchure or anything. You must listen all of the time and at first emulate your jazz recordings, and soon you will arrive at your own style.

best wishes,
sherman friedland

Paul Hindemith, 6 works for clarinet, or more?

November 20, 2006

Dear Sherman,
A few words to present myself. I am Jean-Marie Paul, creator of the French “Clarinette Magazine” (1984-1998). I have been working for Vandoren since 1993 to create the “ Espace Partitions Vandoren”, at the demand of musicians. This Sheet Music Center has more than 10.000 scores with clarinet (check ) and more than 5000 scores with saxophone. I also advise the musicians for their concert programs and CDs. I am currently contributing to “The Clarinet” magazine in the USA.

I have been working to a World Repertory of the Clarinet in the last 30 years, which includes out of print scores and scores that are still at the composer’s home. I have collected more than 50.000 works with clarinet (including transcriptions of course). I will publish it ; I still have some in manuscript files when I began, the time to do it….
Meanwhile, I am at the service of musicians, so if your contacts have questions, they can send me a mail:
The reason I write you is that I just read your topic about Hindemith. For fun, I am also listing scores that are lost (because in some cases, we still may hope to recover some…). Concerning Hindemith, you may not know that are at least 6 works with clarinet, from 1913 to 1936, and covering all aspects of chamber music (clarinet ensemble, with piano, with several instruments) ; also arrangements for clarinet and string quintet (marches from different countries, as “Salonmusik”)
And congratulations for your nice website ! Best regards,
Mr. Paul:
Thank you for your letter.
Here are those of Paul Hindemith I have performed , some many times:
1.Sonata for Clarinet and Piano
2.Abendconzert for Violin and Clarinet
3.Quartet, Clarinet, Vln, Cello and Piano
4.Three Pieces for 5 Players, violin, clarinet,Trumpet, double Bass, and Piano
5. Quintet for String Quartet, Bb Clarinet and Eb Clarinet
6. Sextet for Woodwind Quintet and Bass Clarinet
7. Woodwind Quintet
I have performed as I said, all of these many times and have recording of them all, in concert.

Are there others as well?
best regards,
Sherman Friedland

One-Piece Buffet, full-boehm…..1890?

November 19, 2006

An old Buffet clarinet has recently been under my fingers and I was
wondering if you or any or your readers can help. It is a one piece Buffet Bb, with an extra low right Eb key as well as an extra trill key for the left hand, upper finger joint. I am not sure of the serial number, it looks like it is either 430E or perhaps 430L. It might even be 430 with a number but I don’t think it is.
I have found the serial numbers on the Internet and, if I am reading the numbers correctly, this clarinet was manufactured in 1890s! It is in amazing
shape, and plays quite well. It was obviously lovingly tended over the many years though it
has been sitting in a musty basement recently. Rumour has it that it
belonged to a principal clarinet player with the Boston Pops during the 1920s. My source seems to think it was an Italian gentleman, last name Vin-something or other. I have been able to find info. on Manuel Valerio, a Portuguese clarinetist who playdwith them at that time but I was wondering if you could tell me anymore.I would love to be able to purchase this clarinet and have it restored. It’s qite exciting to think of the music this instrument has played and even
premiered! How it ended up here in Nova Scotia is anyone’s guess.


Nova Scotia

The interesting thing about your question about one-piece clarinets is that this was the way in which there were made back in the days of plentiful grenadilla or African Black wood. It is my information that the reason there are now four pieces is the shortage of this wood, getting rarer…and there are other reasons of course,
But, if it is a Buffet, it may be a very fine instrument though it is not necessarily the case, for they were as uneven in quality then as they are now.
As far as the clarinetist with the Boston Pops Orchestra, it could have been Manny Valerio, who was one of the best clarinetists I have ever heard. Had the most perfect of sounds, really, great.
If he did play it, he played it in his youth, for at the end of hiscareer, he played Selmer, as did all the clarinetists of the BSO in the 60-70’s.
Of course, now it depends upon to whom you send it for restoration.
Let me see if I can get a couple of names for you.
best, sherman friedland

How one chooses a Professional Clarinet

November 18, 2006

Perhaps the best person to judge the instrument is the player, at least this is my opinion. My feeling is that when you have something that you know:
1. is intune
2. is responsive
3. allows one to play at all dynamics
4. allows the playing of desired intervals with apparent ease,

then what happens is a kind of comfort, or stability, or self-assurance allowing you to make the clarinet do your own personal bidding. You are not bothered by any part, or series of notes that you see, or better said, your are sure of what the horn will do, and …….

you play the horn where it is, so-to-speak. Of course the setup and the reed in the setup are important, but one knows with experience what a horn will do for you, all things considered.

The Ridenour instruments I have tried and played for the past several months apparently give me this assurance and confidence, therefore I am an advocate..

The fact the the material is so much more stable than any wood certainly is part of the equation. One cannot say that they do not like the sound of rubber or the sound of wood or vice-versa; it is the ease with thich the sound is produced.

As one plays a rehearsal or concert one experiences so many reactions, so many emotions, makes so many notations to remember, it can become incomprehensible. That is why players improve with experience.

How many times did I play the Brahms Sonatas before they became as perfect as I, a mere mortal, can make them? Many, many. And still when they come my way, it is never a thoughtless endeavor. Ridenour’s instruments free my mind and ear as much as any.

stay well, Sherman Friedland

Barrel’s effect on the altissimo register

November 16, 2006

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I have to begin, as always, by thanking you for maintaining your terrific web site. I’ve gone to it many, many times for advice, and sometimes I just wander through it for the interesting information it contains. I’ve learned quite a few things “by accident” that way, and I’ve passed the URL on to countless other enthusiasts, who all thank me profusely.

Here’s my question: I recently read on a message board that the barrel can substantially help or hinder production of notes in the altissimo register. Can that be true? I think I sound pretty good these days on my old Buffet E-11 until I get to the altissimo, at which point my notes are reduced to controlled squeaks. I’ve been working on this for quite a while now, trying changes in air flow, embouchure, reeds, even the ligature. All these things helped somewhat, particularly a slightly heavier reed — Gonzalez 3.75 — but I still feel like I’m “squeezing out” the notes.

I’m considering trying different mouthpieces (I’m currently using a VD M-13, which I like very much), but before I go down that rabbit hole, I want to make sure I’m not missing a more obvious fix.
Thank you, again, for sharing your knowledge and experience with all of us! Mike P.
The expert on clarinet designs and barrels Tom Ridenour wrote the following concerning the barrel and it’s effect on the high register:
Barrels can affect the altissimo register four ways: generally, it can be given more stability, tuning can be slightly altered in regard to the third register’s relation to the rest of the clarinet, timbre, along with the rest of the clarinet’s range, and, dimensions aside, I find hard rubber barrels, regardless of the brand of clarinet or dimensional properties of either barrel or clarinet, darken the tone and make high notes rounder and softer in texture, less strident.
That’s what I come up with.

I suggest you get in touch with Tom who has an extensive website and makes the best clarinet available at a wonderfully affordable cost. I play one, really, he is a wonderful source.
stay and play well.

Returning to the clarinet after 47 years

November 14, 2006

Hello, After an absence of 47 years, I have decided to play my b flat clarinet again. I will be playing Christmas carols with a small ensemble of other senior musicians. I have a LeBlanc Sonata which is 3 years old. What brand or kind of mouthpiece would you recommend? I usually use Vandoren reeds 2 1/2. I now have asthma and, of course, my embrochure is weak. I have been practicing daily for 2 months.
P. F.
Congratulations on resuming playing the clarinet after a number of years.
You are playing a good clarinet and I would suggest you investigate the Clark Fobes mouthpieces, which come in all types, however the Debut is very reasonable and an excellent mouthpiece for a person such as your self. It plays easily and makes a good sound. The reeds you are using now would work well, though you may be more satisfied with a Gonzelez reed or Zonda, both of which I find are better than Van Doren in general.

5RV is too bright, what to try?

November 14, 2006

Dear Sherman,
I play on a 5RV Van Doren mouthpiece yet I cannot seem to get a sweet sound on it – the sound seems a little bright. I have tried other mouthpieces of vandoren and I also tried a crystal mouthpiece but I always end up with the 5rv as being the easiest and most successful for me to play on. (The crystal mouthpiece was an extremely classical sound which I didn’t like). What do you recommend. Is there another company that has a mouthpiece similar to the 5RV in facing and length yet different enough to produce a darker sound or is it my playing.
Hi A:
Thank you for your inquiry. Defining words like bright and dark when it comes to mouthpieces is not easy because the words seem to mean different qualities to different people.
For me, bright seems to imply an edgy light sound that may also be thin in quality. Strident also comes close to a single word, or sometimes even shrill seems correct.
Dark seems to be described by words such as full, substantial, penetrating.
Sweet is something else again and may be considerably assisted by a less bright mouthpiece, though the word seems to denote a musical quality, not necessarily that of timbre.
So, I would think that your 5RV is a light sounding mouthpiece that tends to be edgy in quality and perhaps strident in the high register.
The mouthpiece that I now play satisfied a number of problems of brightness, replacing them with a sound that has more substance. It is the Gennusa mouthpiece, made originally by Ignatius Gennusa, former principal clarinetist with the Baltimore Symphony. It is now made by a student of his who purchased the company, Benjamin Redwine. You can find his name in your browser I am sure. He is a fine mouthpiece maker and clarinetist as well.

Good luck,
sincerely, Sherman Friedland

Buyiing and trying a Buffet r13 Clarinet

November 14, 2006

Dear Mr.Friedland

I am considering buying a new Buffet R13 clarinet. My instructor has tried out 5 for me at the store. On all of them he says he has to lip down considerably on the upper D (or maybe D flat) to make it play in tune. Hence he feels the instruments would not be a good buy for me. Is this a general problem with this instrument or have we been unlucky enough to look at 5 bad ones?

Dear D:
Thank you for your inquiry concerning trying many clarinets, I would tend to agree with your teacher. In general, these are very expensive instruments and at the price, or even if it were half the price, I would still concur with your teacher. The instruments would not be a good buy for you. Your experiences in trying Buffet Clarinets is about “par for the course.”

Any high end Leblanc, Yamaha or Selmer will be both less money and much better intune, and I would suggest you try those instruments as they are both satisfactory, or even exemplary. The quality control on these instruments concerning tuning is very high.
I myself, am currently playing a clarinet made and designed by Tom Ridenour who was the designer of the Opus and the Concerto Clarinet of Leblanc, widely acknowledged to be the best clarinets made and marketed in the US.
The instrument that I’m playing is completely different than any of those listed above. It is an instrument made of hard rubber, an instrument that I have found has a superior sound and more than that, is the most intune clarinet available and at the most reasonable price.
Here is the address of his website. You will find all of the particulars there.

Good luck, play and stay well,
Sherman Friedland

Double Lip Embouchure

November 10, 2006

Dear Sir:
I have trouble with pain in my lower lip and teeth biting . What do you suggest?
Thank you.

I suggest using double lip embouchure, in my opinion,the most beneficial embouchure, especially for solving problems of biting.

Harold Wright, Gino Cioffi, are names of truly gifted musicians of whom I can think quite quickly. Both played principal with the Boston Symphony at different times, of course. They both played double lip.
I first heard Wright with the National Symphony Orchestra and was simply hypnotized by the beauty of his playing. Gino was a teacher of mine and to sit next to him and listen to him play , say Daphnes and Chloe on the A and then the same music on the Bb was thrilling. He took in perhaps the smallest amount of mouthpiece I have ever seen, and when he came over to the US, he came playing with the reed on top….try it on single lip.
Now, these are not proofs of the double lip embouchure and it being the best one, but I feel that after starting many clarinetkids, who naturally cover both lips, and then feeling the difference in their playing, it is my clear opinion.
What the embouchure can do for you is the following:
1,You will cease banging your fingers, because it will hurt your mouth .
2.Your legato will improve immensely from not banging your fiingers.
3.If you bite, you will ache miserably and therefore you will not bite.
4. If you tend to leak air at the sides, you will probably cease this annoying habit. Annoying for you, and for the audience as well.
Depending on your desire to play with this embouchure, you will experience difficulty in playing throat F, and high C. Once you have gotten over these problems, you can decide to continue or go back, easily possible. It is an option, the practice of which has always seemed endlessly beneficial.
Stay well and play well.

Sherman Friedland