Another returning to the fold, which reeds to use

January 31, 2007

Hi. I played clarinet throughout junior high and high school and then stopped playing for about 20 years. Picked it up about a year ago and have been taking lessons and enjoying it very much. My question is about reed strength comparisons. I am presently playing Mitchell Lurie strength 4 but am considering buying some Gonzalez FOF and/or Zonda which I have read good things about. What would be a comparable reed strength in those two brands to the reeds I am currently using. Thanks for your time. I enjoy reading your comments.
Lincoln, Nebraska
Thank you for your note and question about reeds. The answer to Mitchell Lurie is just about anything else, but especially the two brands you mentioned, Ganzalez FOF, and Zonda, (Classic).
It is not that Mitchell Lurie is bad, or so bad, it is just that I have found them to be astonishingly shortlived despite any alternation one may try. In my estimation, that means that the heart of the reed, the center, is too thin. In Zonda and in Ganzalez there is much more to the reed and they will last much longer, however you must get three or four and alternate them in order for them to do their best for you and your playing. Actually,I find the Zonda to be more expressive, more able to do my bidding which has a lot to do with flexibility of the quality, however the Gonzalez has better duration. The latter is supposed to be similar to the Morre reed of bygone days that has a thicker tip and more heart than others.
In either reed, you should be able to use number 3 with considerable comfort.
Learning about reeds is interesting and if you want the experience of a clarinetist who has worked out the problems and put their solution in a book, get Tom Ridenour’s book on reed preparation. It omes with things you need to adjust reeds, a DVD and it’s great. I mention it only because as I read it, I found that I had learned these things over a lifetime of playing, so to get it written down is a good deal, and well worth one’s whie.
Play well,


Color and Shades of cane, and some additional help

January 26, 2007

Dear Mr. Friedland:
I use a Mitchel Lurie reed, number four and I notice that the texture and the look of the reed seems to change a few days after starting to play the particular reed. It also seems to lose it’s resistance somewhat. I have a friend who uses the FOF Ganzalez reed and this phenonenon doesn’t occure with him. Any suggestions?

Hi, and thank yo for your note concerning the texture and look of aging reeds. The final analysis of any reed, no matter what the name is always the sound of the reed, never the texture , nor the evident color is a consideration. It really is only the sound, though there are other factors but no factor is close to the sound of your reed. Now, with cane reeds, you always soak the reed oprior to playing and you dry the reed following a playing session.
The Mithell Lurie reed is a reed which each of us experiences at some point and the experience is not all that great. Like the ordinary Rico, the Mitchell Lurie is short on duration for playing and also loses the ability to perform in the high register quite soon. I have found it to be quite lacking in dependability, the same for ordinary Rico reeds. They can be used for beginning lessons, but after , well it would be time to change to a more consistant piece of cane.
Here are the brands of reeds that I know and that seeem to diminish frustration rather then to exacerbate.
The FOF Ganzalez reed is one of the best avaialable commercially made reed. Packaging is excellent, cane looks very fine and the blank is made thicker than the normal blank, and there are thos who say that the Gonzalez reed and cut are quite similar to the legendary Morre.
Also the Australian XL vintage ,though made of quite hard cane is very well aged and plays quite well. Zonda, also Australian qualifies for inclusion in he list of reeds which are of a quality much higher than ML or Rico. Yes, and as far as I know they are all superior to any Van Doren product.
While you are the final judge of the reed, there help along the way, which gives you excellent advice and really is beautifully written, comes with examples and tools, and that is William Ridenour’s Book on reed fixing,(I can never recall the name, look on his website for all of his great products) While reading the book, a I repeatdely said to myself, “Oh I learned that here, or in that school or from that clarinetist or whatever”. So, instead of living a lifetime of picking up information, get Tom Ridenour’s superb book.
Remember the final judge of a reed is you, your ear and how long the reed will remain in a playable condition, and yes, be sure you dry your reed prior to replacing it, which helps to extend the life of the reed, and, also, alternate reeds, have at least 4-6 that you can play at any given time.

Stay well and play well.


Clarinets and Ornaments of all kinds

January 19, 2007

The following was posted in response to a question as the the ways of executing trills, shakes and ornament in historical times.

I have had a brief life as both a recorder player and a player of the Classical Clarinet. I had a lovely set of clarinets that started as the original three keyed model, then added a section which converted it to A, then kept adding keys until I had 13. And recorders were a part of every recital I played, a Sonata of Wanhal to begin, continuing with a Handel for Recorder, intermission, then either Brahms f minor or Hindemth.
Along the way one has to learn about the historical aspects of playing ornaments and trills and/ or shakes.
Learning this takes you to a place where the execution of the ornament
depends upon the time of the composition.
For instance and only as an example, for this is a long topic to start on, the execution of any ornament during the Baroque period was always done with an appogiature above the note in question on the beat, that iis to say, taking the melody note of G, one will play first the A above it for half of the time written, with an accent on the appogiatura.Playing it on the beat is difficult for many players and it is frequently played incorrectly, or before the beat.
If this precedes a note that is marked trill, the letters “tr”not coming into fashion for a while, it is played differently, and frequently, it is up to the performer to execute the ornament or the trill in the proper manner, and it is frequently argued as to which particular execution is correct.
What is terribly interesting about all this is that there are no recorded examples floating around.
There are treatises that go into the execution, however they are subject to opinion and discussion.
Actually, we are talking about a time when there was both much ornamentation and improvisation used in performance. More improvisation than there is in Jazz, using similar principles, and more different ways of executing the famous dotted eighth and sixteenth than hens teeth.
So, to conclude, yes I am or have been a performer of early repertoire and the above in general is part of the understanding I have come to know about it’s execution.
As early as the Mozart Concerto there is still much discussion concerning the execution of trills, whether on the note or prior as an appogiatura.
That does not even enter into a discussion as to what clarinet to use, and for what clarinet did Mozart write it.

Sherman Friedland

Trills, and shakes, can mean different degrees

January 17, 2007

Recently there had been a UTUBE recording of Karl Leister playing the Weber Quintet final movement, and a call for replies to the performance.
I found the performance quite wanting, for Mr Leister used a way of trilling which I have always called a shake which leaves this ornament rather screamingly executed, while a simple trill is actually much easier, even on the Oehler clarinet and especially with a performer of the quality of Karl Leister. I felt my attention was called to the shake itself, rather than it’s function, which is simply an accent.
During the Baroque period in Music History, “shake” was used to mean trill, but this was prior to the actual codification of what is meant by a trill played in time, for instance in the slow movwment of the Pastoral at the cadential point in the long clarinet solo.
Nowadays a trill is a trill, and I use the word “shake” meaning a very rapid movement of the appendage more than the fingers, for instance in Capriccio Espagnol, first movement during the opening clarinet solo. The clarinetist can execute the trills on G rapidly with either the correct fingering or the first trill key, and because it is so short, no problem is discerned, and in addition, the trill is notated with a stong rinforzando accent.
In the performance of new music, I have often been asked to play trill utilizing the shake,the result usually being a frenetic , rather hysterical quality, which is what I heard on the UTUBE Weber, and really couldn’t believe or accept it.

I performed La Quatour Pour La Fin du Temps, by Olivier Messiaen last summer at Festival Alexandria.
There is a 7 minute clarinet solo called Abbyss, really called the end of the birds. The movement is full of trills and one cannot play one of these shaken, simply not permitted.
Hence my point. All of this is dependant on the dictates of the music, the period in which it was composed and the intent of the composer.
I hope this provides a clarification.
Sherman Friedland

Returning to the clarinet after 50 years

January 15, 2007

Hi Sherman!

I am a 68 year old that has returned to the clarinet after more than 50 years. I have been practicing for well over a year and am reasonably satisfied with my progress considering that I never had any particular talent for it. Your web site has also been a big help to me – many thanks.
My questions are age related. Have you noticed any abilities that are affected by age? Can older players expect to progress as fast as younger players?
Since we are in the same ballpark , as they say, I can tell you that first, it all depends on where you left off when you stopped playing the clarinet.You will know where that point was; actually it is still there, however the passage of time has left if frozen in your mind and body.So, most probably, you know where you are going and the only thing that may deter you from that place would be age-related physical problems, the biggest being arthritic in nature. Of course there may be others depending upon your general physical condition, diabetes being a possibility which can exact heavy penalties upon the body, the appendages, the eyes as well.
Especially, and perhaps lastly would be the condition of the teeth since they figure predominantly, or can.
As far as the problems, there may be others, however the capacity to think and coordinate are paramount and if all is well in that area,then I would say that those are the problems which may be age-related.
Of course if you are in a position to have a teacher who is a player, of the same vintage, could be of great benefit to you.

Goood luck ,
sincerely, Sherman

A garaged-clarinet with bug damage

January 11, 2007

Hi Sherman,
Iíve read through your questions and answers and really appreciate the informative stuff youíve put out there.
I have a question that I donít think I see specifically addressed and Iíd like to know your opinion. Iím returning to my clarinet after almost 25 years. My parents still had my Artley 18s in their garage and I was excited to get it back. But upon inspection there seems to be bug damage and a complete overhaul seems to be needed according to the local woodwind repairman. I was quoted $290 (and Iíd probably need to buy a new case to ensure the bugs donít return) and Iím wondering if my money would be better spent if I bought a new Yamaha student model for $760 (as quoted on the Web site Musicianís Friend) instead.
I guess thatís my main question. If you do recommend buying a new student model instead of the Artley overhaul, what should I do with my old Artley? It feels sad to consider just tossing it instead of ďrecyclingĒ it in some way.
Hi D:

I have difficulty with the emotional part of your question, simply because it is not my instrument, I guess. If it were, I would walk away or perhaps would give it to a charitable organization to sell for their benefit after they have it overhauled, because it is simply not worth what you would have to put into it.

The Yamaha of which you speak is never a bad choice and would serve you well, however that is a plastic instrument and you are much better served with an instrument designed by one of the best designers in the business made of a material much better suitd to music making, hard rubber.
But the best part of the instrument is the way it plays, extremely well intune and lovely sounding. Two barrels and a sturdy case as well.
It is made by William Ridenour. I play on one of these clarinets, costing perhaps one quarter of one of the top line French instruments. I play it because it is a better instrument.
Ridenour Clarinet Products into your browser and it will go there.
Good luck, and let me know what you get.
best of good luck and thank you for writing.

Sherman Friedland

Articulation in the Organ Symphony

January 11, 2007

Hello Mr. Friedland:
For a long time I’ve admired your witty, urbane, and to-the-point
responses and wonder how you’d respond to this:

In a few weeks I’ll be playing the St.-Saens Symphony #3(aka I believe the Organ Symphony)in concert. As you probably know, the 1st movement is mostly in 6/8, allegro moderato, taken in a moderate 2. The clarinets have staccato sixteenths through much of the movement, and the articulation isway out of my reach at this point. (the 2nd movement has similarly devilish rapid-tongued articulations too.)
I’m planning, via daily practice and attention on articulation and
coordinating with fingers, to get my articulation speed up hopefully to tempo in time for the concert. I plan to absolutely nail the articulation at a comfortable tempo, working with a metronome, and then inch my way up to speed over the intervening weeks.
Does this sound workable? Do you have anything to add? As long as I’m
investing this much time and attention, should I go whole-hog and learn double-tonguing as well? (If so, do you have a method you could point me to?)
Thanks for any light you can shed, and for your website in general. I come here often for information and really appreciate your insights.

best wishes
Hi D:

In performing the Organ Symphony, I would ask how long the woodwind section has been working together as a section. If this is a one-time shot at the piece with a one-time section, the answer is somewhat different than if working together for a while.
Let us assume you’ve been working together and, that you are at somewhat the same level of instrumental expertise. The first thing to do would be to find out the conductor’s decision on tempo and if it is a dependable decision, that is to say, will he be consistant, especially on the performance? Some ,as you probably know, work efficiently and slowly up until the performance and then their nerves let go and there is no telling where the tempo can end up .
Assuming that consistency is where you are with your conductor and that you have been working together as a section for a while, then you have to establish the section tonguing speed, usually a group decision.Incidentally if double-tonguing or triple-tonguing is easy for you, then go ahead, but the whole section has to execute in the same way because these multiple tonguing things can usually work well only at a few speeds, and if anyone misses , then you are all in “tiger country”, so I would say the decision must be made and with the music in mind, not the tongue, which has killed more musicality than anything. What is important in the entire work is the melody outlined by the eighth notes, the doubling of them is simply
an addition which adds excitement, or not. So, the first thing is to discern what is important and it is overwhelmingly the melody.
Then, you have to decide if you are going to tongue it as written or not, or if several are and several others are not, for it will make no difference s long as the melody comes out.
You must all tongue lightly, and certainly not emphatically, remember that your part is basically secondary, or not really a solo passage.
I find that the first movement is not a difficult one for the tonguing aspect of it, as you long as you do not attempt to blast. Always contain
yourself, support well, and play a bit softer, making sure you are aware of the others playing the same rhythm, even that you can hear them, for if you can, then you are in good shape, if you are too loud you can posibily mess up everything.
In general, this is not a work that a clarinetist looks forward to
apprehensivley.Getting in to the tempo,being with the others, is what you are looking for, and if you achieve that, then you are a part of something, and the parts become more than the whole. Cohesion of tuning and light tonguing will be your answer to a satisfying performance.I hope it goes well.
Sherman Friedland

Clarinet Fingering, articulated g#, mid-Bb, full-boehm

January 8, 2007

I’m an older (45) amateur clarinetist. I have several questions, and hopefully you have several answers. First, some info on me. I’m currently playing a Selmer Signature. Nice clarinet, darker and more resistant than my 1971 Buffet Evette Master Model that faithfully served through my Jr. & High school career. My oldest daughter started on this clarinet and I keep it as a back up. Too much history to part with. I also let my private students use it when they think they want to move on to wood.
My first question is your view on the Signature vs the Master Model. Even though I have a liking and use for both, I appreciate the opinions of other clarinetists. I’m currently principal clarinetist in a community band and Community Theater PIt Orchestra. I’m also seriously considering going back to school to obtain my degree in Instrumental Ed and Clarinet performance. A major undertaking for a women of my advanced age.
My second question has to do with a set of vintage 1920’s Selmer Full Boehm clarinets that I recieved as a Christmas gift from my husband. They are in need of a full repad and tenon corks to be completly playable, but otherwise are in excellent condition. NO cracks and the keys are tight and responsive. Pad and cork degradation is due to 30+ years of storage. Would you know of where I could obtain a fingering chart so that I can make full use of all of those wonderful keys and rings? Is the tone quality/intonation of these vintage clarinets relativly comparable to the clarinets of today? And after getting these old men refurbished would they suit my current situation?
I realize that some of these questions are hard to answer without having the clarinets and player present. But you have more experience in these areas. I’m always looking for ways to improve my playing. When I play better, I teach better.
Thank you for any insight and other wisdom you may have to share.

The Selmer Signature and the Evette Master cannot really be compared, however yu seem to like both for different reasons as you have said.

The full boehm clarinet has a number of facilitating features which make playing in certain keys much easier. It is really an advantage over the plain boehm. It has not gained as much popularity as it ought to have because the instruments can be both expensive to purchase and somes difficult to adjust.
With the new prices now being stratospheric, everything is going up.

If the clarinet has a low Eb, this can also be used for the throat Bb and is sometimes quite good sounding or very convenient for a trill.
The articulated G#,C# is perhaps the most helpful. When you play in keys with either four flats or sharps you always keep the g# key down. When you precede it with F#, the G# comes out very easily without the blip that everyone else esperiences or can experience.
The next is the fork d#,Eb, fingered with the first and third fingers of the left hand rendering the fingering of either of these notes totally a simple matter by simply lifting the middle left hand finger.
Any standard full-boehm fingering chart will give you these in picture form. Or get Tom Ridenour’s quite excellent book on clarint fingerings, a good thing to have. He has a large clarinet website.

Best of luck, sherman friedland

New Clarinetist, No sound, Why?

January 8, 2007

Hello, how are you doing…
I am piano teacher who started a couple of weeks ago to learn clarinet. The sound is not too bad, but sometimes (i dont know why) I CAN’T start playing because I cant produce a note!!!! some books say “play long notes at the beginning” but sometimes I can’t even play a note and I don’t know why, sometimes it’s perfect and I can play for hours… it’s just I blow and nothing happen… Could be the clarinet? it’s new but it’s chinesse, make: “stagg”…
thank you very much,M

Hi M:
For a new player of the clarinet, it is important to picture the way that the mouthpiece and reed goes into your mouth. The mouthpiece is covered by your top teeth , the lips usually forming somewhat of a cushion around the rest, the reed sits on your lower lip. The jaw must be pointed down inorder to allow the reed to vibrate when air is pased through the mouthpiece. Should the jaw not be pointed down the reed will be grasped by the lower lip and not allowed to vibrate. Hence, no sound at all.
It is not the clarinet but the way that you hold the mouthpiece and reed in your mouth, in other words, your embouchure. Top teeth on mouthpiece, lip cushion, reed on lower lip, jaw pointed down, slight smile formation allowing the reed to vibrate, which causes the sound. Use perhaps a slightly more resistant reed until the sound comes more easily. If you are playing correctly you will feel fatigue at the sides of your mouth. If your lower lip hurts, you are biting, not keeping the jaw down.
You must be conscious of all of these motions in order to solidify your embouchure, which takes a bit of time. Do not practice no sound, which must be very frustrating . Just make one good sound and memorize what you are doing.
Good luck, and practice long tones after.

sherman friedland

Tonguing rapidly, and slowly as well

January 7, 2007

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I am a high school band student. And recently, I have come to this big trouble; it is a very fast passage, chromatic from lower register right up to the thumb C, tongued. I have trouble coordinating my fingers and tongue, especially when the register key is added. When I try to tongue the notes slowly, it seems to be ok, and I have no trouble playing the upper register. Can you suggest any exercise to train this? And how long is this going to take?

And another thing I noticed is that when I tongue the notes above the clarion G, a very short (may be lest than 0.5 sec) and soft sub-tone can be heard, does this have anything to do with my inability to tongue well?
Thank a very much and a late happy new year!!!
Yours sincerely,

Hi W:
A belated Happy New Year to you also.

Concerning the problem of difficulty in tonguing rapidly in the upper register, especially a chromatic scale or similar, the first thing to do is to play it perfectly evenly legato, as smoothly as you can, several times.
Then next, you play it very slowly tongued, slower than you think, perhaps a half beat for each eighth note, played short, and between each note move the fingers to the fingering of the next note so that you are already prepared for the note as you tongue the note. Coordinating the fingers ahead of the note usually fixes this kind of problem, especially with a few repititions.

As far as the sub-tone or under-tone you are getting in the upper register,it has to do with usually the reed, and the fact that you may not be supporting the air enough. A slightly, only slightly stronger reed and making sure that you remember to always support the sound well with the breath will also help alleviate this problem.
Learning to cope with both of these problems will certainly come with work.
Playing staccato can and will become your strongest feature if worked upon in this way. It is one of the things that comes after the first principles are learned and absorbed.

best wishes, and keep up the good work.

Sherman Friedland