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,