The Fobes “Debut” and other mouthpieces

December 30, 2007

Hi Sherman

Hope all is well and that you have a great New Year.
I have recently purchased a Clarke Forbes “Debut” mouthpiece and i really like it.It focuses the sound and plays with more ease and much better tuning.I was using a Vandoren “M13” mouthpiece and it is a very good mouthpice.However the Debut is much more conducive to my concept of playing.
My question is,”Is there a great difference between the Debut mouthpiece and his much higher,(so called professional) line of mouthpieces?
Will there be a glaring difference or will it be minimal?
Thank You
I think that the Debut is the best mouthpiece out there for the money, no question about it. I was very surprised at it when I first bought it and it does play better than the M13, which means all Van Dorens, which are, as you say quite good, but not as good as this Fobes, who is an expert on the subject, I think more than the others, except perhaps for Richard Hawkins, who makes Larry’s mouthpiece, which will cost you more than the Fobes, but is a completely different trip, it being made on a Zinner blank, one that is made in Germany and has a different quality all by itself.
Anyway, back to the Fobes, it is a great one, and plays as easily as anything. I have about four of them, and a couple of the Novas, which is the next one up, and the Debut plays better than those, or as good. I have also tried the top of his line, a Cicero or something like that, but found that I felt that it played so easily as to be not worth the price, but it was beautiful. Now, it didn’t play that much better, but when a person finally gets into the mouthpiece “game”, one finds that it is really that, a game in which it is very easy to drive yourself crazy. The whole “business” of mouthpieces, the so-called “stepup” mouthpiece is a ruse to sell mouthpieces because there are a lot of people who play Van Dorens who make a lot of money and many who buy these 500 dollars jobs or unearth a real Kaspar for as much or more and do nothing but count mouthpieces, and not even rests.
So that is the story. Hope this helps, Happy Near Year.
best, Sherman

Bass Clarinet Resistance and Reeds

December 27, 2007

To whom it may concern:

Hopefully, I have an easy problem to solve. I already know how to play a baritone saxaphone (or any sax for that matter) and I’ve been playing it intermittently since I was a child. However, I wanted to learn how to play a bass clarinet so I was going to teach myself. My problem is that I can’t hardly get a sound out of it! I tried playing one after following the directions in a lesson book and a lot of the time it squeeks. If I do get a good note (like a G) I have to blow very hard to get it. I just know I’m doing something wrong because I see liitle kids playing them with reasonable ease. I’m a healthy guy and can supply a lot of air but I just know that I’m doing something wrong if I have to blow as hard as I am just to get one whispery sounding note. I shouldn’t have to blow any harder than the bari sax to get good sound should I? I don’t know much about reeds and mouthpieces for clarinets. I have a selmar-bundy one piece clarinet that is in pretty good shape with new pads on it. Can you help me?

Thank You,
Hello: Thank you for your note. I know exactly what you are going through, and part of it has to do with the way, or perhaps the freedom with which you can play the Baritone Saxophone.

First, let me suggest that you read the several pieces I have written concerning the Bass Clarinet. They may be able to help in some ways. Just go to the search bar and enter Bass Clarinet and you will receive the clips.

Now, as to you your immediate problem, it has to be the fact that the Bass takes a different kind of support and certainly a different kind of reed resistance.
This instrument,taking for granted that the mouthpiece and instrument are properly adjusted , takes a very soft reed,one with little resistance, and you cannot bite on this instrument; it takes much less of a grasp of the lips and also a good amount of firm support of the air. As I recall the Baritone is much easier to make sound than is the Bass Clarinet, which is a trickier instrument from which to achieve a nice clear and clean sound.
Of course, I cannot see you play, or hear you, but I am quite familiar with this particular problem. In fact you will several pieces on the same problem on my site.
I hope that this helps. Gentle support might be the correct phrase. Good luck.
Best wishes,
Sherman Friedland

Legere Reeds, Zinners and Babbitts and the Arioso

December 22, 2007

Mt. Friedland,
Thank you for your wonderful “Clarinet Corner.” Though one may not agree with your opinions or advice 100% of the time, surely all agree with your forthrightness, professianlism, and generosity of help.

I have three unrelated questions. First, what is your current opinion of Legere reeds? I have come to play them solely, and I particularly like the “Quebec cut.” I listened in awe to Richard Hawkins playing with a Legere, though probably he could make a make a popsicle stick sound great.

Second, As I recall you have been in the process of obtaining a Lyriqe clarinet. I have an Arioso Bb which I like a great deal. I believe you also have an Arioso. If you now have a Lyrique, could you comment on the differences in it and the Arioso, and are the differences sufficent to warrant upgrading to the Lyrique?

Third, in commenting about mouthpieces, you have reffered to the Babbitt blank and Zinner blank. What are the differences in the various “blanks, and what may make one “blank” superior to another?

Hello James:
Thank you for your letter.
My opinion of Legere has changed over a couple of years, and I too am in awe of Richards playing/ He is very gifted.As a young person, I can strongly recommend that you go and play for him to get his reaction. He has to be a great teacher, further he assists Legere with their reeds and he helped design the Opus II of Leblanc, as I have been told.
There used to be so much prejudice against them, but that has softened considerably and so have my own feelings about them…. though in honesty I cannot play on them because I feel that for me at least, they are not as consistent as are cane, or more correctly, a good cane reed is more responsive to the kind of playing I do than is a Legere, though the Quebec cut comes close.
They sent me a few with three dots on the butt which also played well.
Anyone who plays them all the time is great and I hope feels more secure about them than did I . If you are using them and are successful, more power to you.
As far as he blanks are concerned, I only know how they sound which is different one from the other, but neither is better. Most of my judgements in fact, are based upon my impression of playing on them, not from taking measurements, which is not my forte.
Many prefer the Zinner because of its rich rather sensual quality, the Babbitt to me being less so, but more regular in achieving all results. Neither blank is superior. It couldn’t be, because what criteria would the player use to express his preference but useless personal adjectives which change for everyone?

I just received my Lyrique clarinet,for which actually I sold my Arioso in order to buy.
I bought the Arioso from a dealer who was dumping a few at low price.I really did think it great but had constant trouble with the bridge and two main joints binding.
I sent it to Tom a couple of times and he got it right for me, but the feeling I had about the fit still bothered me, hence my change to the Lyrique.
It is better in that it looks better and fits better than my Arioso and it is very well set up. The keys look better as well. I do not like the ergonomic register key and Tom is replacing it for me. (This purely my own background and not a reflection on the key.)
Actually it is just about the same as the Arioso. One thing is distinguishable between the two: the Lyrique is set up completely and personally by Tom Ridenour, and his set up, his very understanding of the clarinet in general is well worth the change. However,if you like your Arioso, you will be getting just about the same thing in the Lyrique.
One more thing, my A clarinet plays better than anything I have ever played in A. Years ago, when a student, we would always buy an A which played easier than the Bb because they were always so resistant and totally thick in the middle of the horn. One would have to practice on the A constantly and then the Bb was always easy to play.
The A that I have is also a Ridenour, but as I said, the best of any A I have played. This, I hardly practice the A because I will get spoiled.
Thanks for the comments about my site.
They are appreciated,
With best holiday wishes, I am , Sincerely,

Christmas wish for the industry

December 21, 2007

One has to think that the industry needs to question many aspects of the manufacturing of this noble clarinet of ours.
There needs to be a rational for the amazing proliferation of clarinet mouthpieces made for almost a century from hard rubber and lauded by players and teachers everywhere for being the finest material available for a mouthpiece, for sound, for stability, and for longevity of stability. The craftsman who speak of their products speak to the work of Lelandais and Chedeville as makers of great integrity who labored with this rather wonderful material to which we affix our cane or even our plastic on in order to make a beautiful sound on our clarinets. But the majority of our clarinets are made from another material: wood.
Some makers, designers and manufacturers have made clarinets of the same material as our mouthpieces: hard rubber, and some with excellent results such as better tuning, easier resistance factors, achievable beautiful legato much better dimentional stability,with little embouchure manipulation.
Is it not the time for the entire industry to begin to realize that this same material can itself help to create a sound that may be as beautiful as the sound of their mouthpieces? The sound from hard rubber may indeed be a bit different than of wood, then again it may not, but to accept that it may be different is not to therefore ostracize the material from the ability of a clarinetist to choose it.
Hard rubber grows on trees, gentleman and it is lying around awaiting manufacture into clarinets. Some of these are really beautiful sounding, a consistant stream of intent from mouthpiece to instrument to the audience.Is it not the time?

Happy Holidays,
Sherman Friedland

Bass Clarinet Questions/Mouthpieces

December 19, 2007

Subject: Here’s a new question for you regarding Bass Clarinet Mouthpieces

I have begun a new tangential endeavor in my clarinet
sound to our woodwind ensemble (the other ensemble
members play flute and oboe) I have purchased a
Ridenour Bass Clarinet. Overall it looks fabulous and
I suspect it should sound pretty good too, but I sense
the mouthpiece I have been using is not doing it
justice in realizing the full capabilities and
potential of the instrument.

Here is what I am experiencing:

In the Clarion register I am experiencing occasional
squawks in and around the F, F# and G notes. I
haven’t experienced this predicament with any of the
Soprano clarinets I have played since I don’t know
when! I don’t believe there is pad leakage since the
person I bought it from is a NAPBIRT technician. So
far I have only tried one mouthpiece and one reed
type, a Vandoren 2 ― . (I recall being advised to use
a slightly lower reed stiffness when playing the Bass
Clarinet.) Also, in the Chalumeau register the lower
notes from low B flat to F sound kind of stuffy and
airy. (Surprisingly, the mid throat tones of G, A,
and B flat sound just fine with my current setup!)

This has started me off on a search for a better Bass
Clarinet mouthpiece. I have several that I own and
will begin trials of different mouthpiece and reed
combinations. But this has also got me thinking
maybe, just like with my B flat Soprano experience, there should be much better custom-type Bass Clarinet
mouthpieces out there which could take the sound to
another level beyond what can be achieved with the
stock mouthpieces (i.e. Yamaha 4A, Bundy 3, Selmer C,
etc.) I currently own.

My round-about question is what are the best Bass
Clarinet mouthpieces that you have heard of out there?
(I searched your web site for this information and
found a recent post referencing the Selmer Bass
Clarinet mouthpieces, which is what I will try out
next.) Are the desired characteristics the same as
those found in the Soprano Clarinets? Who makes a
reasonably priced (around $100) hand-finished Bass
Clarinet mouthpiece which will do the following: give
the desired stability to avoid squawks in the Clarion
register, provide a full deep dark desired tone, get
the best overall performance out of a bass clarinet.
(I have found a few already, Fobes, Grabner, Morgan
and Hawkins but they are all over $200!) I am also
thinking about trying out TR and Ben Redwine’s
offerings as well.

One other point. I have been using the stock Ridenour
Bass Clarinet mouthpiece which came with the
instrument and up until now, I have been rather
disappointed in this offering from TR. I suspect he
just put his name on it and this is not the same
quality mouthpiece he sells from his web site. I am
going to make an inquiry to him in due time.
If you have any problems with the Bass or the Bass mouthpiece, get in touch
directly with TR.He designed them both, you know him. He will give you
straight answers.
As far as playing the Bass Clarinet is concerned, this is an instrument that I have performed on extensively and for professional engagements, including such works as Pierrot Lunaire, and the Hindemith 6-tet, as well as a Concerto for Clarinet and Bass Clarinet and Orchestra.
The Selmer C mouthpiece is just fine for the Bass clarinet> I own one
somewhere and used it for every Bass clarinet performance, regardless of the instrument.(the Bundy Bass Clarinet made of plastic and in one piece was my favorite because I felt it was indestructable)
There is no mouthpiece answer for playing this instrument or any other
This is just misinformation no matter who is selling what.
I have written more than several articles concerned with Bass Clarinet, (just put those words in the “search” bar).
One does not use a slightly softer reed with the bass, one uses a much softer reed.
For instance in my own case, I found it was usually a number 2 or even 1 1/2. Actually, I used to use Tenor Saxophone reeds, virtually the same as Bass clarinet reeds, despite what you may hear.
The reed must play easily with almost a whisper. The throat notes are the easiest to produce, so should the low register.Staccato may be more difficult, but is a soluble problem.
Crossing the break easily is difficult, and must be done easily and
continuing up there are various problems which you will run into, however with time and using a reed with not too much resistance, you should have good results. In the altissimo one uses all harmonic fingerings on the bass, which behaves completely differently than does the ordinary Bb.
But, by all means, contact the man himself who designed the clarinet.
If the mouthpiece included doesn’t play for you, I would say that it may be you, and not the mouthpiece.
While I play different mouthpieces on occasion, there is no solution to the problem of technique on any clarinet with some kind of special mouthpiece.
Whatever you feel with a change is mostly the change. In a bit, the change will distract and then disturb.
Good luck.

An impossible dream?

December 18, 2007

Dear Mr. Friedland,

My name is Stefan and I am writing to you from Sweden. I must first thank you for your wonderful website, I think it is very kind of you to offer your help to less experienced players and the more experienced ones too I suppose. I havenīt been playing the clarinet for very long, only about just over a year, and your site is very helpful in my development. I discovered this incredible instrument not long ago, but I feel it has opened a whole new world for me. I try to practice whenever I have time and the best part is that Iīm doing it solely because I enjoy it, it feels great! A while ago I also joined an orchestra as a second chair clarinet. I am not really that good of a player to be able to play along with them all the time but I am improving. There isnīt anything in the world that gives me more pleasure than playing together with them and it has gotten me very interested in all kinds of music fairly new to me. My interest grows everyday and my life gets more and more focused on my clarinet, the orchestra and music of all kinds. And here lies my problem: I am now nineteen years old and Iīm about to finish high school and not sure about what to do with my future. But for every day that passes my interest in music grows stronger and I feel that it would be perfect to be able to spend my future as maybe a musical teacher or playing for an orchestra. Perhaps I will sign up for a musical college or take just a year and study music and try it out. But sometimes I feel that Iīm too late for all of this; I grew up in a totally non-musical family and the clarinet is the first instrument I really put my mind to. Everywhere around me there are people of my age that are musical geniuses compared to me. I really try to catch up as fast as I possibly can, itīs hard work and I try my best, but sometimes it just feels impossible. So, Mr. Friedland, what do you think, is my dream impossible? What do you think I should do to improve my general musical knowledge?
Hello Stefan:
Thank you for your letter with its question about a life in music. I am pleased to know that news has traveled all the way to Sweden.
It is also gratifying to know that you really have been energized by music ,even just the thought of music.
There is every reason to continue with your examination of music.
At age 19, perhaps you are too old to become a professional clarinetist, however you asked simply if music is a possibility for you.
I would strongly suggest that the dream needn’t be an impossible dream at all.
At your age I would immediately investigate the possibilities for continuing your musical education . And I would immediately seek out studying the clarinet with a professional player who both enjoys and is capable of teaching. Depending upon your ear, talent and affinity for the instrument, you can proceed very quickly with the proper instruction, even while you are studying basic music.If the system of musical education is similar to that of North America you will find that getting into the many ensembles available is competitive, however do not be taken aback; you can proceed quite quickly with correct and inspired teaching.
This is very definitely a dream which is there for you. From your letter one understands that you are deeply interested in and immersed in music. The continuation of this interest and immersion will result in the realization of your desire.Indeed it is about to become a reality, driven by your desire and interest. Learn everything there is to know about music. Don’t ever stop.
Good luck, and stay in touch.
Best wishes for the holidays,
sincerely, Sherman Friedland


Selmer,Leblanc,Yamaha,and Lyrique Clarinets

December 16, 2007


I have always played Selmer clarinets; I have both a Series 10 and a 10G (both pitched in Bb). However, I have been growing very dissatisfied with the tone quality and am looking for a good professional clarinet with a very dark sound. I’m wondering if other brands may have a model that may fit the bill. Do you have any recommendations? With the exceptions of the Buffet R-13 and the Buffet C-12/13, I am unfamiliar with anything other than Selmer. Your input would be most appreciated. Thank you!
In general Selmer is considered to have a brighter sound than does Leblanc, or Buffet,Yamaha, but of course, there is the definition of bright and/or dark.(the Selmer 10G is supposed to be a direct copy of Gigliotti’s Buffet clarinet, hence the G, however this has been proven over and over again, not to to be the case, by people who had played Mr. Gigliotti’s instrument. The 10G is a Selmer with a narrower bore, closer to a Buffet bore, but the comparison stops at that point)

Some people who use the word seem to want to sell something , but still there is no real definition.
For myself, bright seems to have more high frequencies in the sound and it tends to get brighter as one ascends. Dark seems to be both more diffuse and has more low frequencies. But that is really not enough of a definition either.
When we speak of clarinet sounds I think that this is a day which is dark, there being not much light and more there is a blizzard and we are slowly getting more than 40 centimeters of snow.
As we pass three in the afternoon and the snow does not stop, it begins to get darker, there being even less light.
For such an afternoon, one can easily think of a bright sunny day, full of bright sun, warmth and reflection.
Can that description be transposed to light and dark in clarinet sounds? Perhaps it can be a help. I feel a bit better using that comparison.

I think that with Selmer clarinets, which I’ve always played, or at least for more than 40 years, the sound tends to be brighter, but, that also has to do with the mouthpiece and reeds that one uses.
I have found that just about all Selmer Clarinet mouthpieces tend to be bright, with possibly the brightest being the HS*, perhaps their most popular mouthpiece. The C* will be darker, tending to be less strident, yet having no particular delight in its character.
The C85 mouthpiece has been an improvement for Selmer and I played those for a while.
However the biggest tonal improvement I think has been the Recital Clarinet. This clarinet with its thicker wall and narrower bore tended to make the sound much more into the chamber sound and I experienced very good success in performance, however like all of these companies, the Recital is no longer made, though there are many available.
I am including all of the above because I have been a Selmer player for so very long.
My current Selmer is a 10S which is a far cry from the series 10, which had a good scale yet was quite a brittle-sounding instrument by comparison to the 10S which I now own and play.
If you are experiencing discomfort with the sound of your Selmers, why not first try several different mouthpieces, and with some of these you can experience a whole different response. I think that you will find the Babbitt blank, used by many makers to be more along the lines of what may please you. It certainly did for me.
I have a couple of Babbitt blanks, made by B. Redwine on what is called a Gennusa mouthpiece, which play well for me. (Welcome to the world of mouthpiece nomenclature.) Now there is another very popular blank, made by a fellow in Germany by the name of Zinner which has a really lovely response. The best maker of these mouthpieces is Richard Hawkins, who may be the best mouthpiece maker, along with Tom Ridenour, the famous Clarinet designer who developed Leblanc’s Opus, Concerto, and Sonata clarinets.
All of these names can be found in your internet browser.
As to another clarinet that will give a more “dark” quality than either of your Selmers, I would think you may be satisfied with a Leblanc, one of the models mentioned above.
The Yamaha topline instruments are also superb and enjoy a finishing which in my view is achieved by no other maker.
Finally, for the quality you may really enjoy, you should check into the Ridenour Lyrique clarinet, which is made from hard rubber, a virtually indestructable material, which had the best tuning of any of the above and has a sound which blends as well as any clarinet I have owned.Ever. I do not make these remarks lightly, and do hope that time permitting, you may wish to investigate the above information.
Thank you for your letter and wishing you best wishes for the holidays, I am sincerely,
Sherman Friedland