Reginald Kell, an original

May 30, 2007

Reginald Kell was a hero to all young clarinetists, and while we did not necessarily end up with his conclusions in performance, Kell served an innovative and musical purpose.

The idea of taking Reginald Kell and decimating his clarinet playing and interpretive skill is oversimplified and in rather poor form.
Whatever Reginald Kell did was interesting and musical, and while it may not have been accurate he played with a certain sense of style which got your attention, especially mine and every clarinet student at the time.
Kells playing taught all of us much even if was only after discussion. The Stravinsky as played by Kell was wildly innovative, imaginative, though not accurate at all. Accurate to what? To exactly what actually was printed on the page of whatever edition you had.
So too, were all of his recordings, his wild liberties creating the stuff of what is real discernment on the part of the honest clarinetist.
It seemed to have been discussed only amongst students, not so much with teachers who dismissied him out of hand.

As far as the Stravinsky Three Pieces are concerned I studied them carefully with both Rosario Mazzeo and with someone even closer to Stravinsky, Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger. She was the teacher of Aaron Copland and many others and one of the great teachers of and in music . She was extremely close to Stravinsky.
There are no jokes about anyones playing in the composition of the first piece, in which every breath and pratically every eighth is meticulously given.
Mademoiselle Boulanger taught me to play it all in time and she characterized the first movement as almost “a series of variation on, “the Volga Boatman” With that in mind it simplified its meaning as being distinctly Russian, which it is, and to be played exactly in tine, save for the last statement, as I recall.
The second movement also in strict time as Stravinsky marked, but with that little dance in the middle section having its own forward rhythm, to be played in a quiet playful manner.
Finally, the last allegro is in the most strict time possible, breaths and all, except for the last measures, all leading to the Bb, tenuto, and then playfully to the grace at the octave, as has been stated here.

Reginald Kell was a great inspirational figure of his time and his contribution was that he showed us that total accuracy comes first.(It became preferable to his purple phrasing) and when that is achieved, perhaps then within those parameters. leeway is possible. But only then.

Sherman Friedland

Leblanc LL

May 28, 2007

Hi everyone:

I was looking at a horn , a Leblanc LL, full-boehm that was being advertised as a big-bored instrument, which I thought was incorrect.Since Mr Ridenour worked for Leblanc and designed many of their finest instruments, I asked him and this is his response,
——————————————————————Tucson Bob is only half-right. The LL was a large bore clarinet, as I recall, but it only weighed in at around 14.8mm �� that’s designer talk for medium-large. It was not designed to be their large bore instrument, which went up to 15.00 mm.
The LL, like all other larg(er) bored clarinets, it had sharpness problems in the right hand low register that were unsolvable. Of course, if you only play jazz that’s no biggie.
One caveat to this whole matter is the cognitive dissonance between what Mr. Leblanc designed and made the clarinet to be and what Vito sold here in America. Vito had the habit of reboring the clarinets here for various reasons �� none of which were good or valid. It was not uncommon for the boring to not go very well, since they used the wrong style reamer for wood. It was also not uncommon for the worker, whether by accident or design, to grab the wrong sized reamer. The result of this butchery was that the bores ended up with a poor finish, were often not concentric, and the wrong size. A bore that was intended as a 14.8mm bore commonly ended up as a 15mm bore, and on and on.
This made the clarinets tune terribly and Lee Gibson bitched about this incessantly in The Clarinet magazine in the 70s and 80s. I saw excellent clarinets, such as the LX, rebored from their original 14.6 to 15.00mm by the morons up there in the factory. It took me a while, but I finally got the reboring stopped in 1990 and it was then and only then that Americans actually got to play what Mr. Leblanc had truly designed and not something that had been mutilated at the US factory in Kenosha.
Of course, the clarinets I designed were not rebored….I saw to that.
I say all of this because the LL in question may or may not have been rebored. The odds are that it was, but there is the slim possibility it may have escaped the Kenosha Guillotine. If the bore is smooth and shiny it is probably what Mr. Leblanc actually designed. If it is rough and has boring ring marks (we are not talking subtle here) it has probably been gone over by some factory worker in Kenosha named Igor.

A student asks, what to buy, wood or plastic or ????

May 28, 2007

Hi Sherman,
I have looked over your website and I must say, it is pretty interesting and its a good read!!
Ive been playing the clarinet for about 2 years now, and I have recently gotten braces. Now that Ive somewhat adjusted to the disturbance the braces give me, the question is, after I get my braces removed, will I have to restart the emboursure part of the clarinet learning process again?
Next off, I am planning to join my high school senior band (they only offer junior and senior, and senior is offered for grade 11s and up) and I will have to purchase a clarinet.I would like to get a good quality clarinet, not a bad quality one. Now, what I’ve heard is that wood clarinets are supposed to be better than the plastic ones. On some websites, it tells me that plastic and wood clarinets are the same thing. Can you please explain this to me? If I end up buying a wood clarinet, I will have to risk that the clarinet will break right?….so how am I supposed to treat it and do clarinets usually crack?…the wood ones I’m talking about. Would I be better off with a plastic clarinet?
A store in my area has these clarinets in stock. Can you suggest or tell me which ones are good and bad ones? You may also add to this list and I will try and find some stores in my area that offer them.

——————————————————————— Hi Daniel:
Thank you for your request …which is interesting .

First, as to horn, a good plastic horn could be made I guess, but that is not currently the case. I own a Leblanc 20, same as the 250, which is OK but not a fine instrument, ….of plastic.

Any wooden is worse than any platic horn for one reason. Wood is many things, but more than anything it is what I call “seasonal” and temperature and humidity sensitive, making it kind of a night mare.
I have had and seen many students attending college to get Music Ed degrees for teaching who play maybe 5 or 6 hours a day playing expensive french wooden clarinets. They are stuck together as if taffee were in in the horn. The playing fills thm with condensation, much warmer than the ambient emperature, so they bind. While pastic doesn’t, at least not as much, there is a much better material which is the most resistant to cracking, binding and all temperature changes: Hard Rubber.
Go to Ridenour Clarinet Products and look into them, and get in touch with him, he will answer.
The clarinets are very inexpensive and they play better than any instrument I have played. I play on a set of them .

That is your best bet.

As far as playing with braces, your dentist will advise you not to as it works against the clarinet embouchure development, however you can play with braces, and/or many othet things sticking in your mouth.
If you want to play, you will play.

I know.

Look up braces on my site index. I already have one article or maybe more written about playing with braces.

best of good luck. Go for Hard Rubber. You will not be sorry.

sincerely, Sherman

Full Boehm 9* clarinets, a set

May 26, 2007

Dear Sir, I have access to a matched set of Selmer 9* clarinets, articluated G# full Boehm; and a silver lay Goldbeck clarinet mouthpiece. Any idea of their value and/or demand in market? Owner of mouthpiece studied in Chicago with Anton Quitsow, Chicago Symphony (2nd chair under Joseph Schreurs). Original German lay refaced with French lay by Selmer Co., Elkhart, Indiana c. 1918. Obtains classic resonant tone without employing operatic vocal placement technique. Woodwind store, South Bend, IN wouldn’t venture opinion without physical inspection. Clarinets in new shape. Mouthpiece has small chip in hard rubber coating on right tip that does not affect play or tone. Thank you for any comments. Sincerely, Albert
Dear A:
Regarding the Selmer 9* clarinet, this was not the best of the series including 9, 9*,10, 10S, etc, but certain of the clarinets play more intune than others. A physical and musical inspection would certainly be in order for a precise consideration of their worth.
In addition, the Full Boehm, which played by many including myself, is now not in fashion, only because the adjustment are more crucial, especially with instruments from this period. I can place no value on the mouthpiece though you may find some interest, but with a chip regardless of the consideration , doesn’t seem to be terribly attractive in establishing worth.
Coincerning the set of clarinets, their worth would be established by the physical condition of the instruments, including key finish and wear and the aforementioned adjustments.
The 9*was I believe, a smaller bore than the series 9.
It may have been the first selmer polycilyndrical bore.\

Gerry Mulligan, a short sweet encounter

May 21, 2007

I was just corresponding with a clarinetist who is looking for a baritone saxophone and remember a story which may be appreciated by some. Actually there are two stories.

About a year after starting the clarinet, I was in Rayburns Music in Boston, buying reeds as usual and trying to soak up some of that great atmosphere that hung about the place. Ray himself, played the trunpet and was the son of Simon Sternberg, who had played in the persussion section of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. They were both extremely friendly to me, as was the wife of Simon, who used to give me reeds and not charge me. ( a box of VDs were 3.75 for 25 reeds)
On this afternoon, Ray was talking with a young man, and handed him the neck of a baritone saxophone. The only thing I remember was Ray telling the fellow, “Its OK, just send me the bread from the road”.
I asked who the fellow was. Ray said, “Serge Chaloff”, along with Harry Crney and Gerry Mulligan, perhaps the best baritones saxophone players in history. It is something a kid never forgets. I probably listened to “Early Autumn” that afternoon. This was the baritone player with Woody Hermans Band, and the song was so beautiful for the saxophone section.

At the New England Conservatory was a very lovely young woman who studied the clarinet and with whom we were all friends. Donna came by my practice room one day and dragged in none other than Gerry Mulligan, who was just reaching the height of his fame. I was very proud to meet him. He immediately asked me if I wanted to pay some duets. I asked him, on saxophone? “No, I play clarinet”
So we made an appointment for the next morning and in he comes with a clarinet.
We played one of those Bach transcriptions that were published by Rubank back then.
It was an allegro in 2/4 time. He played the notes, kind of fuzzy, but what was strange was the totally Jazz conception he gave to every note he played. If there were 4 sixteenth notes, he would accent every other one. I mean heavily. I stopped
I said, “we don’t play this music like that” ( I was very young)
He replied, “Take off your glasses you fat bastard and we’ll settle this”.
That is all I remember. It was the end of that particular session.
I liked Serge Chaloff and Harry Carney better after that.

best always,

Mouthpiece Magic? Do not believe it

May 17, 2007


I have been reading all of these entries everywhere concerning the sound of a mouthpiece and I know you will understand that I do not mean to criticize, however it is my very strong feeling that these inanimate objects do not have sounds, per say. They do have response and resistance, and play certain reeds, but I do believe that we make all of the sound. If resistance is difficult or too little, or the thing will only accept a few kinds of reed, trouble is usually on the way, however I have found that I have learned from the following:
Over the years, I have always recording everything I performed, literally everything,and I have for several years been converting all of the tapes to CDs .
Yes, I do listen, and I wonder over and over again,how in the world did I make such a great sound on that B45, or whatever Van Doren I played for years, and , my gosh that was really horrible, or buzzy or yes, sharp, or whatever. Once, I couldn’t find a reed prior to a recital with both Brahms , and the only thing that played was a German mouthpiece that I happened to pick up. I played the concert , and it was OK, but those things play sharp and there is nothing you can do….but I thought the sound was nice, and it played that reed.
So now, I play a different more selective kind of mouthpiece which actually plays more reeds and seems consistant. This is for me what a mouthpiece can do. But it is we, who make the sound.

Sherman Friedland

The Gershwin Glissando

May 14, 2007

The ultimate agogic accent (accent by delay) is the opening of the Gershwi Rhapsody in Blue

Hi, I am 14 years old and just recently found your site. I’ve been looking
around for ways to learn how to do a better glissando. I need to be able
to do a gliss for the intro to Rhapsody in Blue. I can get a half decent
sound from G to high C, but F and below sounds like a drowning pig. How do
you sustain a glissando for however long people do in recordings? Thanks,
First thing. Get the pig out of the water.

Seriously, thank you for your note. Are you playing the Gershwin sometme soon? If not, let me tell you that the very best way is to start at the very beginning.
That is to say make sure you have a beautiful low g to begin and a nice intune high c to end.
Sounds too simple? It is not, believe me.
Then, what you do is to learn to play a chromatic scale totally evenly and cleanly between those two notes.
This is very important . Next, you will find that making a gliss from d to open g is rather simple, and you must practice those two notes and then making the gliss between. Then and finally, put it all together and depending upon where you are in your technical skill and your embouchure , you will get the correct result.
Listen carefully to good recordings of the piece. You will hear many
deviations from one to the other. Some principal clarinetists in orchestra prefer not to play the gliss and ask the second player to do it. Sometimes the Eb player will do it.But it can be done, with relative ease.
Please do not forget to get the pig out of the water prior to starting your
Good luck, glub glub.