V12 and 56 Rue Lepic, vs Zonda Classic reed

July 28, 2007

Hi Mr. Friedland,
May I please have your thoughts on the vandoren V12 and 56 rue lepic reeds? Are they better compared to Zonda?
Thank you very much!
Warmest regards,
Van Doren reeds are improved a bit as 56 rue Lepic and are better packed. I have found them to be more consistant than ordinary V12. They are neither as good or consistant as are Zonda Classic reeds, which I use, and VD do not last as long as Zonda, or Gonzalez FOF or Vintage XL, which are made from a harder cane. There of course, many other reeds under a number of names. I still do not like any of the Rico, and at this point, I do not use the Legere, which many people are discovering, and which I find are not as flexible as are reeds made from cane.
sincerely, Sherman

Selmer N series, with articulated G# and 7th ring

July 28, 2007

Mr. Friedland,

I have a Selmer Paris wooden B-flat clarinet s/n N4899 in very good condition. Can you tell me when it was made and what kind of wood they probably used? I have been told this is ebony The keys appear to be nickel plated and are not tarnished. I am not sure if the terms “centered tone” or “articulated G# key” apply to ths model? I would also like to estimate the current value of this instrument which I believe to be around $800. Any information you can provide would be appreciated.

Mr. Feath:
The clarinet was made between 1948 and 49. It is made from Grenadilla wood which is sometimes called ebony. It does not appear to be a Centered Tone instrument . This instrument has an articulated G# key and an additional ring facilitating some passages. It is nickel plated and the worth would be about half as much as you estimate, perhaps a bit more, or less,depending upon condition.
Sherman Friedland

The Artie Shaw Clarinet Concerto

July 23, 2007

Mr. Friedland:
first, your postings are invaluable and a treasure. Second, I love my Arioso Bb clarinet. Third, I now play only Legere reeds. I have had several for well over a year which I alternate. Fourth, you have posted several very positive comments about Richard Hawkins. I most enthusiastically second your comments about this fine clarinetist. You have referred to his website and the sound bites of his performances. If you go to the NPR Performance Today website, and do a search for Richard Hawkins, you can hear his full performance (approximately eight and a half minutes) of the Artie Shaw “Concerto for Clarinet,” at the Hot Springs Music Festival. It is an electrifying performance, especially the last thirty seconds. I understand he advocates Legere reeds. Assuming he used a Legere during the above performance, all doubts about Legere reeds will probably be quickly erased.


Mr T:
Many thanks for your note, with its information. I consider Hawkins to be one of the most important clarinetists, and his playing to be superb. Not only that, but that he plays the Shaw with what I remember to be the exact sound and relaxtion as Shaw himself. And he plays ordinary classical repertoire with more sensitivity than most players I have heard. The place to go for the Concerto is National Public Radio Website, and for the other examples of this fine playing go to his personal website. For those of you considering university, think of Oberlin and Richard Hawkins. I would imagine he is very much in demand, but you never know until you try, and Oberlin is about the best University for Music in this hemisphere, including the others.

best wishes,

A set of Centered Tone Clarinets

July 22, 2007

Hello Mr. Friedland,

I have a pair of Selmer Centered Tone Clarinets that I inherited from my former clarinet teacher who played professionally in California many, many years ago. The b-flat serial number is R1257. The A clarinet serial number is P5832. Can you tell me how old these clarinets are? How would I go about selling them and what is a fair price? Thank you for your time and help.


The best place to sell the clarinets is Ebay. That may be the only avenue in which you may be able to get a fair price for the instruments. I would suggest that you first go to ebay and look up Selmer Clarinets, or clarinet in general. There you will find many instruments and prices listed for sale. That will give you an area to look at in order to assist you in answering some of the questions you have asked.
As far as the Centered Tone clarinet, it is currently in great favor especially among players of Jazz or enthusiasts, the reason being that it is supposedly a large bore instrument, favored by oplayers of Jazz. It is not that large, only .590, as opposed to .575 for a smaller-bored instrument, and any kind of music can be played on any clarinet regardless of bore, despite what the mythology may be, and mythology is important because you will have more buyers who will be interested in the CT (as it is called) clarinet. Also Benny Goodman is purported to have played one for a while. In any event, he made an ad for the Selmer Company advertising that instrument.
The largest determinant for price will be the condition. Cracks or splits, pads, corks and springs and general appearance is important. Also as important is the particular layout of the keys, if it is an ordinary clarinet with 17 keys and 6 rings, (which is ordinary) or if it has more keys, such as full-boehm which has 19 or 20 keys and 7 rings, the more the keys, the higher the price depending upon condition the all-important factor. Also case will figure in as well. The clarinets were made in the 50s or so, but the condition is the most important aspect as I have already mentioned. A set of used CT clarinets in excellent condition may bring as much as 800-2000 dollars, or as little as 500-1000 dollars.
I hope that I have been of some help.

Actually, I played a set of Centered Tone Selmer Clarinets when first I started playng in the Milwaukee Symmphony Orchestra, many years ago.
I remember them with great fondness. They were full-boehm Mazzeo System instruments and I wish I could come upon them again.

Sherman Friedland

Barrels, Mouthpieces, and clarinets

July 22, 2007

Dear Mr. Friedland:
I am just starting to play clarinet again after about a 40-year break. Started on clarinet, switched to sax and finished up in HS and college on Oboe. I no longer want to deal with making/scraping/messing with oboe reeds, so I’m delighted to get back to the clarinet. Have picked up a few good used horns (Leblanc LL, Selmer Signet Soloist, & Ridenour Arioso) to add to my family of instruments and am working hard to get my embouchure and lip back. Can you please clarify something for me? It’s about barrels. I’m not sure what barrels I have with these clarinets and what others I need for intonation purposes. Is there a standard size barrel that comes with most clarinets? What other size/s should I be on the lookout for? (That part was easier on Oboe – just had to adjust the reed placement.)

Just when I thought I was getting away from the hassle of Oboe reeds, I find myself entering the great maze of mouthpieces, ligatures and reeds. It’s all pretty overwhelming to someone like me who’s learning again. Luckily Ben Redwine helped me with a Gennusa MP, Bois Ligature and Cannes Xilema reeds so I’m sticking with those for a while. And hope to be taking lessons before long.

Thanks in advance for your advice on the barrel situation (and all the other great info you share).

I do not think that barrels consitute any particular problem with the clarinets that you have acquired. The Arioso comes with two different sizes and they both suffice quite well. Barrels are usually between 64 and 66 mm long for most clarinets. I have used the kind of barrel that can be lengthened or shortened by 10mm, but in retrospect, it was not needed. I used to peform in wildly fluctuating temperatures in Montreal, especially in the winters and it drove me crazy, I think really to my detriment. Then again, if it is 60 degrees in the hall you have a problem, or if the piano is tuned to about 430 or so. These are however unusual situations.
The last barrel I got recently was a 67mm barrel from Tom Ridenour, which really plays nicely. It simply makes the sound better in my opinion. It is made of hard rubber, and while I may not agree that this matrerial is terrific for a clarinet, (it is in some ways), for a barrel, it is lovely.
Reeds and mouthpieces are another more tender situation, and I have learned to disregard ligatures in general. Just don’t strangle a reed to death, or ruin a mouthpiece.
Hard rubber is fine for a mouthpiece because it is so stable, but crystal for me is better, but in those terms you are talking about fragility…but the quality is really lovely, if you have the right mouthpiece, and insure it, but how do you do that? Get a duplicate. I did, but it was not as good.
I had one for a time and it was the best thing I every played. It was broken accidentally by a student at an intermission of a chamber music concert and I have never found another, although I have to confess I am still looking.
I found an old Gennusa that someone traded in when selling a horn. I played it, found it to be different, than began playing it, liked it, and finally had it copied by Ben Redwine, who made another fine mouthpiece for me, different from the opriginal I had sent him ,but still good.
But I have since discovered the maker who I think is the most sensitive mouthpiece person I know: Richard Hawkins. He teaches at Oberlin and is a great player. Interestingly , he plays always on Legere reeds, the synthetics. Listen to some of his performances on his website , and tell me what you think.
I have given these synthetics extensive tryouts, but still cannot accept them totally. For me, every now and again, they really become somewhat hollow and empty, but for some, that is not the case. Richard plays them beautifully, but then again, he has helped Legere with the design. I suppose I would like to say that really sensitive players will be disappointed, however Hawkins himself plays them and he is one of the most sensitive clarinetists out there.
So, I stick to reed reeds, no need to mention names in order to protect the innocent.
The Leblanc LL and the Selmer Signet and the Arioso are fine horns that present for me no particular tuning problem, although I did buy the 67mm barrel for an LL.
If you’ve dabbled in oboe , I would stick with the setup that you find comfortable until you’ve established the embouchure and sound with which you are comfortable. Do not mess around. Only the young dabble,and the old, like myself.
I hope that this has been of help.
Good luck,

The Gift of Music

July 22, 2007

I’ve heard it quite simply termed as an analogy. You go to a Baseball game.You can enjoy it on its own terms, knowing nothing ,simply watching the action and the crowd and listening as well. Then after you have learned the many moves, the movement of the ball as controlled by the amazing pitching ability, the kind of pressure under which the players perform, the umpires, the methods of each memebr of the team as they go through their amazingly practiced and perfected movements, you then begin to enjoy it much more, even becoming obsessive about the game. (You may even compare it to playing Chamber Music, or Orchestral Music.)
It is the same with almost any music. It can be enjoyed in a sensual manner, anything at all. The dangerous thing about music is hating it without knowing what is going on, insisting on your sensual pleasure above all. If it doesn’t please, then , “I hate this, or that”!. Then, you’ve closed off all possibilities of real enjoyment, on an intellectual basis, dare I mention the word.
Knowing the works, the style of early composers, even composers who wrote simple chants is a trip and gives you the understanding needed to really love the music that follows, all of it. Then, Gesualdo appears for what he really is in history.
As a clarinetist, I had nothing for History of Music, I just hated it. But, after a time, a long time of listening and learning about our great heritage, this wonderful gift, I have finally become elevated to be able to understand what it is that I am hearing . The more contemporary music I listen to, it becomes more comprehensible.
The richness that awaits the patient and dilligent listener is really a great gift, giving constantly for all of our lives.
Sherman Friedland

Does Harry really want to play the clarinet?

July 21, 2007

At the age of most students entering music school or colleges what really matters is knowing what you want.
If you have no real clue, not even about music, take a straight Liberal Arts
course of study. There are more than enough electives within the courses to satisfy dormant desires or whims. Usually after four years you will have a much stronger idea of what it is you may want, and even an idea of a way to pursue your desire.
If you are talking or thinking about playing the clarinet, the first thing you must do is to have assured yourself that you are deeply gifted, more than others around you. You must know where you stand among the others who play your instrument.
Then, you must and will know the route, whether it be the search for a mentor and/or teacher or a good institution with a strong curriculum and a strong record of outstanding ensembles within the University. A teacher or an institution who has to boast of placements are usually not worth your effort. They have egos (and quotas too), as you well know. There are many who force you through a process wherein you actually suffer until you are deemed worthy, a truly unfortunate circumstance occurring too frequently.
As a young person, I experienced much of the above to a an exhaustive degree, learning much, and suffering not a little.
So all in all, and I do not say this lightly or in any jest, the best route is to go to New York, or a similar city. There you will learn to hear, to choose , to learn and to compete.
Music is truly a wondrous art and life. Unfortunately the business of music has not much to do with the art.

Good luck,