Barrels, Mouthpieces, and clarinets

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,


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