Very Hard to believe, even harder to accept

Having learned much  concerning clarinets made of other materials than wood, one has to consider the implications of such materials There is of course cost to consider, for this factor impacts on every student or professional player picking an instrument. Over the years I have learned much about clarinets made of thee other materials, the very first one I’ve heard about is the silver plated full-boehm Selmer clarinet which was played by Gaston Hamelin as Principal in the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1930, a perfectly beautiful instrument, which I speak about on this site, and for which there is a photo. Of course Maestro Serge Koussevitsky took offense to this metal instrument and did not renew Mr Hamelins contract in 1931. The story is well known. Mr Hamelin, one of the worlds virtuosi clarinetists went back to France. A young Ralph McClane went with him to study. He wound up as Prinicipal Clarinet of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Another of his students was Harold Wright. He won fame as Principal in the Boston Symphony Orchestra for more than 20 years. All of these students of Hamelin played on wooden instruments, Buffets to be specific.Ralph McCalne worked for4 years with Hans Moennig of Philadelphia tuning and tweaking his Buffets, until satisfied. It has become a very well-known fact that if you want a well in tune Buffet, you had better pick perhaps five and take the best one, or have one who has the acumen to tune or rather retune some of the qualities of the Buffet: specifically, the sharp notes of the throat register, the flat low register, the thin sharp throat Bb and other varia.This story is repeated over and over again. Buffet is a nice responding horn unquestionably, however it is not without problems, mentioned above.

When it comes to the Buffet Greenline clarinet, I have heard that it is quite bright in quality, strident if you will., and it is definitely an instrument that can fracture at the first joint. There have been many photos of this transpiring. Too much pressure, someone leaning on the instrument or what have you.

The Greenline also suffers from the worst problems experienced by woodwind playiers who play for several hours a day in bands. The tenons can stick terribly even worse than the wooden tenon. of the Buffet.

As a teacher who has taught in a large Music Education institution where they have dozens of clarintetists playing in the band, the biggest single problem was the binding of the first wooden joint.

So, this also happens on the artificial clarinet?! What are we talking about friends? This horn costs more than 3000 dollars and considering that you have the famous Buffet plastic little finger dowels, ostensibly for noise suppression but proven again and again to be a tragedy just waiting to happen, a potential purchaser should be appraised of these facts.

I have also read the astounding statement that the greenline is the first instrument to take into account the dwindling supplies of grenadilla or mpingo wood.


Ebonite has been around for almost as long as wood and this material absolutely doesn’t crack and is a much more flexible material and more natural as well. Anthony Baines in his “Woodwind Instuments and their History”(published years ago)comments that ebonite has a more dulcit sound than does wood, I believe he calls it “softer” in quality and not as strident.

Around for years, easy to machine, much more pliable, and much more impervious to atmospheric anomalies.

Big High School and University Bands were using ebonite (hard rubber) for their clarinet sections in the football bands for years starting in the 1920s Of course, the best ebonite clarinet available today is the Lyrique clarinet designed by William Ridenour. It is about a third as costly as the greenline, has a beautiful response and it dead-on as far as tuning in concerned.

This is an instrument which is manufactured in China and finished in Texas by the designer and tuning is exemplary. These also have not been known to crack. The dimensional stability is excellent.

These are just the facts about clarinets  made of materials other than wood.

Ths is meant not as adverstisement, but only as information which I know to be correct. This information  should be known prior to purchasing any clarinet. Choose wisely, and

Keep practicing.

Sherman Friedland

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