The Weather has nothing to do with it, that little leak

September 30, 2007

I played clarinet for over ten years consistently, it was actually huge part of my life. I was an excellent player, playing in many competitive bands, orchestras, and chamber ensembles across the state, and I absolutely loved it. However, I chose a different path in terms of school major and over the last two years have had little time for playing between studying abroad and moving for graduate school. I pulled out my clarinet the other day to reconnect as life has become more stable but Iwas shocked to find that any note that required any keys in the lower joint would not respond and I could only produce any sort of sound on the upper joint, basically middle C on a keyboard through B flat. I went to buy some new reeds at a store down the street and it helped slightly, but the lower joint refuses to respond in any way other than a loud squeak.
It might also be of importance to note that I also moved from a very humid part of the south to Boston, so possibly weather has altered my beautiful clarinet. But ultimately I’m wondering if my time off has resulted in such a dramatic loss of embouchure that i’m left a beginner in terms of tone or if it’s just a malfunctioning part of my clarinet. Strangely enough, it scares me to think that I simply have lost my ability the way one loses a second language if it goes unspoken, but I also don’t want traverse to a repair shop without the slightest hint of what’s wrong only to be told it’s me, not the clarinet. Any help you could give would be great, including any great places in the Boston area to get my clarinet looked at.
No, you have not lost any of your ability to play whatsoever. You simply
have a key which stays open or is leaking or needs a pad which prevents you It has nothing to do with the weather.
Over years and years of playing I can safely tell you that it probably can be fixed in less than five minutes or so, first locating the leak and then fixing it either by any means of freeing up whatever is in the way or replacing a pad or even bending a key back into its proper position.
The worst thing to think is that it is you. It isn’t.
There is a great place to go in Boston, (there are probably many), however
Rayburns Music, drectly across from Symphony Hall is the best place which will probably fix your problem quickly and inexpensively. Of course, I can be wrong, but hopefully it is one of the simple problems listed above.I was in Boston just last week performing and teaching at the Berklee College of Music.
Good luck and don’t worry. They are open tomorrow . Go in the morning to regain your clarinet peace and your chalumeau.
Sherman Friedland


Bass Clarinet Problems, and a solution

September 29, 2007

Mr. Friedland,

I am a clarinet player and band director. We are looking to purchase new
bass clarinets for the high school. There are several issues however, and I thought that I might be able to get some advice from you. We have had
Buffet bass clarinets but they are always in the shop, the kids don’t like
them, and there are tuning issues. I wanted to get some Selmer’s but we don’t have that kind of money. Then there is the problem with the Sel corporation. I have been told by our distributor that the company is
having issues getting out instruments. That slows down the thought of us getting any Leblanc’s, Vito’s, or as mentioned Selmer’s. We were thinking
about Jupiter but I’m very weary of doing this. Any suggestions for a quality, but affordable bass clarinet would be great, we are considering getting 2-4.
Thank you so much EB
Dear Sir:
Bass Clarinets.
Without a doubt, the best I have played is the best Selmer Paris Bass
Clarinet, which was perfect.
Having said that, I have also played with equal results , the one-piece Bundy Bass Clarinet also as you know, a Selmer product.
This instrument was purchased for me new when I was playing new music at the Center for The Creative and Performanig Arts in Buffalo.
We played the concerts there and then took them to Carnegie Recital Hall.We played Pierrot Lunaire there. The part as you know, doubles on Clarinet and Bass, for which I used the Bundy.
One thing important and that is the choice of a good bass mouthpiece, which should be a Selmer Paris “C”, which is what I used, however I think any of the bass mouthpieces made by Selmer are excellent.
There was an incident which absolutely terrified me. The pianist wanted the lid on the piano opened , which he did himsefl, neglecting to notice my bass on the piano. It went crashing to the floor. I picked it up to assess the damage, and there was no damage whatsoever.
I do not say they are all made like iron, however this one certainly stood the most rigorous of tests, the tuning being excellent, which I think is mostly the mouthpiece and the reed.
I am sure any larger music establishiment would have a few in stock, no need to go to the Selmer-Conn company, or whatever it is called.
The selmer clarinets are still there and the same quality as prior to the merger. The Bundys are made in the USA in any event.

Hope this is a help for you.

Best wishes,
Sherman Friedland

Boston in the 50s, and returning again this week

September 23, 2007

Dear Sherman

I also graduated from New England Conservatory, Class of 1956.I spent 5 years in Back Bay Living on Gainsborough , St. Stephens St or Hemmingway St Finally I got my Degree in Music Education, Studied String Bass with George Moleux of BSO fame. and took clarinet lessons from Robert Stuart also. I taught for 35 years in Trumbull, Ct at Trumbull High School.My wife also a NEC grad majored in voice. We moved to Florida about 4 years ago to enjoy the golden years and slow down. BUT events have become very busy musically. Now being 75 I no longer wish to carry the bass around. So I purchased a wooden Noblet Bb clarinet a set of Rubank Books and began to practice. Three years pass and now I have a Selmer Centered Tone made in the 1950’s with a Gennusa mouthpiece and use #3 Vandoren reeds. Next week I will be gettinhg a brand new Selmer Series 10 II S. Never owned a Brand new Wood Clarinet before. How is it broken in ? And where may I get good material and advice? I immediately thought of you. I have read many of your replies to the Clarinetist of the world on many topics Your works are read by the twelve clarinet player in my Clay County Community Band here in Florida.My concern with the new clarinet is not to allow it to crack . How do I break it in? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
I do so relate to some of your stories when you talk about running over to symphony Hall on Fri. afternoon to usher for Symphony. I’ve been there and done that. Also remembering my friends who studied with Gino Cioffi tell words of wisdom that came from him after their lesson. And I would never miss an NEC orchestra rehearsal with Dean Chester Williams conducting..Did you belong to Sinfonia or Kappa Fraternaty.? Well enough trivia. If you could point me in the right direction for information on breaking in a new clarinet It would be appreciated.

You know we knew the same people at different times, almost phenomenal coincidence. I played for Georges Moleux in the New England Conservatory Concert Band. There were 40 clariinets, 20 first and 20 seconds, it was like an orchestra but without strings.
Moleux,you might not have heard graduated from the Paris Conservatory with a First Prize in Clarinet as well as Bass.
(He used to solfege the Flight of ther Bumblebee all the time, or anything else) Of course, I studied with Gino Cioffi, but mostly with Rosario Mazzeo. I knew Bob Stuart well, having played with him in the Boston Arts Festival and other places.I play Gennusa Mouthpieces too, and played in the NEC Orchestra whenever we could fight our way in to get to the first chair first, which was how you got a seat back then. Once, Chester came and put me in first. He was a very nice fellow and I remember him well.

The Selmer 10S 2 is a great clarinet. I play the 10S, would you believe. I don’t know how the horn differs from the 10, but the deal with cracking is almostimpossible to predict.
Here are several things to think about.
1. Initially don’t play for more than 30′ at a time and swab out completely prior to putting it away.
2. Never take it from one temperature extreme to another without first opening the case and allowing it to get used to the different remperature.
3. Do not keep your clarinet in the car
4. Florida being humid and warm may be one of the best places for a new horn.
5. Still, it is usually literally impossible to predic ot forsee problems with cracking. Sometimes we think, they either will or won’t, and most actually don’t crack, unlike the much narrower bored oboe.

I really value hearing from an old colleague and wish you well with your new horn.
We are going to Boston tomorrow to play three new works written for me at the Berklee College of Music.

best of good cheer.

sincerely, sherman

Bores are boring, music is not.

September 20, 2007

Hello Sherman,
I play a LeBlanc clarinet but am thinking of getting a Selmer. I am
jazz musician. I heard that in Selmer clarinets one, 10G or 10S is
favoured by jazz players. I also heard that one is conical inside and the other one cylinder-shaped. Can you tell which is which?
Pekka Toivanen
This is not a question of bore dimensions, but which brand and model. You see, so much of this is based on folklore of one kind or another, but neither 10S nor 10G are noted fopr the playing of Jazz as far as Selmer is concerned.
The Selmer Centered Tone is generally well-accepted for the perormance of Jazz because the bore is a bit bigge? Or because Benny Goodman was purportd to have played one at one time or another. Certainly his name was used for advertising that instrument. In fact Jazz does not care which bore on which it is played.
The Centered Tone is bimilar to the Leblanc Dynamic, which has a similar bore size.
Either one will suffice and be pleasurable for Jazz, though as I always do, I must say, when I played Principal Clarinet in the Milwaukee Orchestra, I had a set of Centered Tone clarinet, so, whatever goes in comes out.
best sherman

now, as to your exact question, the difference between the two bores, here is some information:

“For a cylindrical bore, the amplitude of the pressure variations for resonant modes are well described by sine waves. At the ends of an open finite cylinder (neglecting end effects), the pressure variations should be zero (i.e. the ends are a pressure node). At a closed end, the pressure variations should be a maximum (i.e. an “anti-node”).

For a conical bore, the amplitude of the pressure variations are not simple sine waves, but are described by sin(x)/x, where x represents a distance (in appropriate units) along the cone, and x = 0 is the apex. As is the case for the closed cylinder, a pressure anti-node must be present at the closed end of the cone, which occurs automatically for the function sin(x)/x, and a pressure node should be present at the open end.”

There you are, but even I get confused with that bore effect information.


The Chin, The Mouthpiece, The Ligature

September 20, 2007

Dear Mr Friedland,
I discovered your site recently and have found it a great source of knowledge. I am a 50 yo beginner (returning after a 30 year break). I bought a used Buffet B12 and and eagerly working my way through my old ‘Learn as you play’ I’m using Van Doren reeds (2) and the mouthpiece that came with the Clarinet.
I have a couple of questions. Firstly, I’ve been having a lot of trouble with a drying mouth. I’ve been finding that after playing for about 15 mins my mouth becomes so dry that I can’t tongue or even blow. I have to keep taking sips of water in order to continue practice. Secondly, I have a full upper denture which sometimes ‘drops’ due to the pressure I am asserting on the mouthpiece. I can’t help but to think that I am just not holding the piece in my mouth correctly. Basically, I try to hold it in such a way that I get a clean as possible tone. This also brings me to my third question. When I purchased the clarinet I also bought a new mouthpiece. It is also a Buffet but it has different numbers on it. It indicates F3A 125 whilst the original indicates W.S -B 440 P.165 116 What do these
Perhaps the best idea is to keep your chin pointed down, which seems to give one a better picture.
The dry mouth may be due to medication, or it could be the denture and the stuff you use to keep it firm.
I must tell you a true story, used to bother me no end.
I was on a pill that took away water, part of another failed diet plan. It used to make me so dry as to be extremely troublesome during concerts when the adrenaline or whatever makes for dry mouth anyway. So, finally I stopped taking the pill prior to a concert and then for all tiem.
You are most probably playing on a terrible mouthpiece. Those Buffets are or can be treacherously bad.
You can get a reaonably priced mouthpiece that will give you good results, much better than the Buffet: a Van Doren, probably an M13 which is free blowing and intune.

Despite what you hear or may read,ligatures have very little if anything to do with the sound you make. What you hear and read is all advertising which will cost you a bundle for no good reason.
As far as playing is concerned a dental appliance of any kind necessitates some kind of embouchure adjustment, and adjustment you must make.
A teacher could help. but still it is a change because it is you who is doing the p[laying.
I could help, but not without hearing and seeing you play.

so good luck. I hope I have been of some help.

best, sherman

Moisture/condensation under the reed

September 10, 2007

Dea Mr. Friedland:

I wonder if you have any advice regarding excess saliva: Sometimes (not
always) my reeds get quite wet after about twenty minutes or more of
playing, and soft. (I use #3 Van Dorens). Anything that can help

I read “Clarinet Corner ” regularly with great interest and profit.
Hi carl:
Yes I have many instances of excess moisture, I don’t think it is actually saliva, more like condensation, though the former may be a content as well.
There is only one thing we may do and that is to draw up the moisture back into the mouth, usally from the side of the mouth, turning the mouthpiece slightly. It happens less in performance because of a certain amount of nervousness which keeps the mouth reasonably absent of this moisture. There is no other solution(pardon the pun)


Hawkins Mouthpieces, and others

September 8, 2007

Mr. Friedland,
Thank you for posting all of this excellent information on your site! It is such a joy to read and I often find myself getting lost for an hour or more whenever I come to look for a quick answer. I have a question regarding the Richard Hawkins mouthpieces you recommend in numerous posts. Which model do you currently play or recommend? I have a Vandoren M15 I have been playing for several years and although it was quite wonderful in the beginning I find that it no longer produces the type of sound quality I am looking for and is troublesomely sluggish in terms of articulation. I remember trying a Hawkins MP maybe 8 or 9 years ago and though it was rather nice, but have no clue as to his current offerings. Thanks so much for your help in advance! Looking forward to hearing from you.


Hello Ian:
I think that he only makes two facings: the S, and the B.
I have played and/or tried both, and they are very beautiful. I really don’t know what else to say. Much of my thoughts on these mouthpieces which are both made on Zinner blanks, which have a nice quality, perhaps more acceptable than Van Doren, which I have also played with success. I played the M13 mostly for several years.

It is literally an impossibility for me to tell you which I would choose, though I think the standard would be the better to start with. You can try and see how it feels, and then buy if you wish. I do think that they are quite pricey, but that too is a personal statement. The worth of a mouthpiece is determined strictly by the performer based upon whatever standards for resistance, and response that he or she may have in their hearing and feeling, and of course experience.

They are all very different, I have found. I might also suggest that you write to Ben Redwine who is quite a knowledgable maker and uses a diffewrent blank than does Richard Hawkins, and they respond differently and feel differently as they vibrate in your head and ears.

Good luck with your search.

Different clarinets, tones, mouthpieces

September 8, 2007

Dear Sherman,
thank you for answering my question about the selmer series 9 which I am playing. The tuning on the Noblet I had previously (still have) is actually better, which is maybe why I have begun to query my tuning now, your setting me off. I heard a Welsh flautist say that when she got a job with the Royal Gevanthaus she had to get a flute with a slightly higher pitch, since the orchestra played with a higher pitch than the English. Also same I believe with Bavaria, maybe more places in Europe.. Do you think this might have something to do with the two barrels. The internal tuning on my selmer is best with the longer barrel, and with the shorter barrel internal tuning is best with a an A at 243 (herz is it) .How much improvement do you think emboucher retraining can effect? I am suddenly starting from scratch, and full of doubt about how sensitive my ear is , since I have discovered some fingerings and intervals hitherto habitual (carefully worked out) accepted , not right. However, the series 9 has a good tone and it articulates well, tonguing is easier, pianissimo too, more sensitive. I have been listening to your tone, with a basset horn mellowness, each tone a slightly different flavour from the next, more than usual. Are you aware of how you got there.? Do you think I could improve the Noblet by repadding? Why is one instrument better than another, tone wise, articulation? I have begun to feel very stupid, since I have played the clarinet (on and off) all my life. My reaction to playing Stravinsky’s 3 pieces on different instruments, quite upset, what about the different pitches, tone colours? Do you know Chagrin’s 2 pieces for solo clarinet? The high register of the Bflat slightly mad, not like the Eflat.

Many thanks for your note concerning basically as I see it
the basic timbre and pitch you are making.
I know that whatever my sound is , I derived it mostly from listening, a lot of listening. I started studying with a fellow who had one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard on the clarinet. It was not only lovely, it was effortless as well. I have always thought of that sound whenever I have played the instrument , probably subliminally now. But I have also learned through a certain amount of experimenting with mouthpieces, and they have a lot to do with the sound you make, certainly they do with me.
And with mouthpieces I also go by the feel of the sound as I am making it. It must be rather free blowing and relatively easy to make the sound as I see it, or rather hear it.
In the last couple of years or so, I have decided thatI would prefer less (what I call) high frequencies in the sound, or less brightness of quality, or more mellow if you will, or darker, whatever word that sensitizes you to my meaning.
I think I have achieved that through almost luck, because I chanced to pick up an old mouthpiece, called Gennusa. P played on it, just by chance and found the sound had less high frequncy, or was darker or less strident.Still it took me weeks before I started playing on this mouthpiece on a daily basis.
What I found was that the particular blank, the actual rubber has a different quality of sond, and of response, and here is the important thing, the response being one I began to prefer.
I then found the maker of this Gennusa mouthpiece, a fellow who is knowledgable and who studied with Mr. Gennusa, who was the principal clarinetist of the Baltmore Symphony.
His name is Ben Redwine. I wrote to him and asked him to copy this mouthpiece I had found. He did, on the same blank as the original, and that is what I play currently.
As far as the Stravinsky Pieces are concerned, the article I last wrote is one version (Bb, Bass and Eb) and I actually think that would be a circu act, but Stravincky himself might enjoy it.
The Pieces are to be played on A, Bb, and Bb clarinet. That is the way it is done, and it works.
But not if you think that repadding a clarinet will change the sound, it won’t, period.
Different horns have different qualities, qualities you hear in your head as well as in your mouth.
I happen to play Selmer 10S, a very well tuned instrument and the sound is acceptable to me, at least with the mouthpiece I play and the reeds that I use.
This has taken many many years, and I am reasonably happy.
I do hope that I have helped you in some way.


Frank Zappa and the clarinet (MoeN Herbs Vacation)

September 8, 2007

Frank Zappa was a very popular name back in the 60s and with some even now. He composed and compiled a large array of Music, which for a clarinetist is sometimes difficult to fathom. Here are mr Zappas comments on some of the music of his recording of the London Symphony Orchestra in 1983, conducted by none other than Kent Nagano, now the conductor of the Montreal Orchestra.

“Rock journalists(especially the Britich ones)who have complained about the “coldness”, “the attempts of perfection”, and missing “human elements” in JAZZ FROM HELL should find LSO volume II a real treat. It is infested with wrong notes and out-of-tune passages. I postponed its release for several years, hoping that a digital technologist somewhere might develop a piece of machinery powerful enough to conceal the evils lurking on the master tapes. Since 1983 there have been a few advances , but nothing sophisticated enough to remove the “human elements” like the out-of-tune trumpets in STRICTLY GENTEEL or the lack of rhythmic coordination elsewhere.” F.Z.

It is not very difficult to adjudicate the music to which you refer, at least for me. I have been playing the instrument for more than a half century, have had many works written for me, and spent many years studying prior to becoming a clarinetist. The music of Frank Zappa follows no particular form, nor style, nor does it exhibit any characteristic that might make it accessible for any clarinetist, or orchestra for that matter.
The recording in question by the London Symphony Orchestra is what Zappa himself calls it, but not for the reasons of the orchestra nor the conductor . It is not acceptable and really is not anything but the case of a person who got the resources together to get the record made, having absolutely nothing else to contribute.
So, I would not advise any student or clarinetist to get anywhere near it. I don’t count it as music. It is more of a cynical joke having no musical worth whatsoever.

sincerely, Sherman

Dear Mr. Friedland,

Thank you for replying to my question about Zappa’s work “Mo ‘n Herb’s Vacation” on your website. At the time I asked, though, I did not refer to what your thoughts might be about the clarinet playing on the LSO recording; I was actually referring to the music itself, which you didn’t comment. Since you despise Ocker’s sound, though, I suppose there is not much you could say without recurring to the original score (which is, as a matter of fact, quite un-accessible). I for one would like to hear performed by other clarinetists, but apparently most of them – the ones I talked to anyway – don’t even know it exists.

I understand you hated Ocker’s playing on that record (I am no big fan of it either) – but is that how you feel about the music as well? If so, maybe that would explain why the few clarinetists who do know the piece won’t even consider trying it.

Thanks again for your patience and insightful thoughts (by the way, I’m no clarinetist – just a composer who happens to love the instrument).

All the best,


Of the work for solo clarinet and orchestra, called “MOE n Herbs Vacation” and played by David Ocker, solo clarinet, I can only say that is is the worst sounding clarinet playing I have ever witnessed, not being able to say “heard”.

So, to the young person who wrote and asked me what I think, I can only reply “very sadly”.