Key layout problems and recommendations

Dear Mr. Friedland:

I’m an amateur clarinetist who has played on and off for the last 40 years, but have practiced fairly seriously for the last 5 years. I played a Yamaha 24 up until last year when I purchased a Ridenour 147. I love the sound of the 147 but have not been able to adjust to the left hand keys played with the pinky–the B,C# keys are too horizontal (the Yamaha’s were more angled) and the G# is too close to the C.  I’m ready to make a step up to a better clarinet. I’ve thought about the Lyrique but it has the same left-hand setup as the 147 but I’m attracted to it because I’ve heard there is hardly any embouchure adjustment when going from the lower to the upper register or to the altissimo. What other models (new or used) should I consider in the $1,000-$1,400 range?


Dear Sir:
Thank you for your note with its interesting question. It would seem that the Lyrique has the same problems the 147. The key layout is identical save for the register key which is the key which is shaved at the bottom so as to be almost flush with the thumb ring. I find this key to be a hindrance. Some 147s have this key. The question of embouchure change in the upper registers is completely individual.
My recommendation would be to go to the best Yamaha clarinet you can find within your price range, either the 450 or the 650, really quite a good instrument. You will be comfortable with either of those.
If you can find an Allegro, now discontinued, it may afford you as well as any of those. Its number is 550 and is of excellent quality. I have owned several. It comes with silver plated keys and gold plated posts, (needless, but cute) a nice case and a handy case cover. It is usually in the neighborhood of 600 dollars.

Now, if you are interested, I just received a “big-box” catalog and the prices for new clarinets are staggering, meaning very very high. I do have only one single recommendation  among them all and that is for the Yamaha custom, sometimes called SEV or SEY. I know they play as well or better than any other, the keylayout is nothing short of terrific , the tuning excellent. The price NEW for either the Bb or the A is 2169. Since I remember all too vividly bringing back beautiful clarinets for students from Paris costing new 3 or 4 hundred dollars, let that be a testament to my age and also to the savy of the retail business. Folks have  been paying thousands for Oboes , Flutes and Bassoons for ages, so the clarinet guys joined in. I know the dollar has diminished terribly, but the markup is really intense and makes me feel bad about the youngsters wanting a new beautifully made horn. Yamaha is the best deal. Take THAT to the bank, that, being the savings . We do have to include the key layout and quality control of the metal and plating, don’t we?

Good luck,

an answer for : Jetur

I still think the basic bore of especially the Lyrique is one of the best clarinets you can buy. It is unequivocally the best, especially considering the price.
However, it must be said, and I have, that the clarinet has certain faults which detract. The thumb rest and the ergomaniacal register key are terrible and do not work for me, nor for others as well. Please see above, and its additions.
Frankly, I don’t remember a bad or unusable thumb rest. Not in my life. And the register key is just stupid, unless you absolutely start with this system in place.
Some have issues with the key layout, which is different from standard, by far.
Am I saying that I don’t like these things.? Yes, but there are others who share my opinion as well. The thumb rest is unforgivable, just a Chinese copy of something that wasn’t a good original.
So my recommendation remains as above. Terrific, however with a couple of qualifications.
Best regards, always,


2 Responses to Key layout problems and recommendations

  1. bulldoggy2008 says:

    Mr. Friedland, in the past you extolled the qualities of the Lyriqe clarinet. I am sorry that you are now unable to do so because of the thumbrest and register key. If these items were improved to your satisfaction, would you still extoll the Lyrique? I have an Arioso Bb which has an djustable thumbrest and regular register key. I have the thumbrest at is lowest position, and I use the Ridenour thumbrest on both ny Arioso and Selmer CT. I agree that an adjustable thumbrest is more a gimick than anything else. I did have to slightly adjust the left hand C, C#, and B keys on the Arioso to better fit my fingers. Please keep up your marvelous website. It is always a treat to read your remarks and a privilege to be able to communicate with such a great musician.

  2. Thank you for the compliment. I enjoy the website a lot as it allows me to give you the readers, the benefit of a lifeime of experiences in the world of music, including performing, conducting ,teaching. It is in fact, a privilege for me to communicate with all of you.
    Best wishes always, Sherman

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