Searching for the magic Mouthpiece:Part II

February 26, 2009

Originally, this second part was to include a complte set of measurements for serveral different types of mouthpieces, but that would leave with many opinions of what to play,or what certain of you do or wish to play, but I cn do better, and really ,so can you.
I think a logical series of steps will be the very best advice I can give, mostly because logic is such an important part of learning, especially after you learn to play. How and sometimes if you proceed depends on logic to a large degree.

The first thing you may wish to ask yourself, is what do I wish to sound like, or perhaps whom do I wish to…….? Or you may wish to start with , What can a mouthpiece fix about my playing?

Many years ago Bonade put out a little pamphlet published I think by Leblanc in which he has a few simple things about mouthpieces. I believe them.
He suggested that all students play a medium mouthpieces in all respects. And he also suggested that a mouthpiece selected must immediately play better than that which one was using. I can agree to that largely, but not fully, because my best mouthpiece didn’t attract me in the least when first I tested it; it was my wife, from the next room who asked, “what’s that/” It was a GG-1 crystal mouthpiece, made by the Pomarico in Argentina and it cost me 6 bucks, and it was a mouthpiece that turned me into what I think was a much better clarinetist. After getting used to it, virtually nothing gave me problems and the sound was exactly as I conceived. Was that an exception?Not necessarily.Lots of times, an “extra set of ears”, especially of someone that you can trust completely will better than your own, and in this case it was true. Yes, it was broken during the intermission of a chamber music concert by a guy who played second fiddle in the Concordia Orchestra, but at that time I didn’t care, went home at intermission, got my spare crystal, (which also cost me 6 bucks, and finished the concert).(The second fiddler strangely disappeared and was never heard of or from) Then, I searched for another mouthpiece for the better part of 20 years, which I found in the Richard Hawkins “R”. Hawk is truly a wonderful mouthpiece craftsman.

Anyway, back to choosing a mouthpiece and logic.

One that you choose should immediately play better. Set it aside. Whenever you return to it,it should always be an improvement
Then, choose a mouthpiece which plays more reeds than its predecessor.
Plays better and plays more reeds.
Pitch is indeed quite important and one has to make sure that the thing plays well in tune for you, check with a meter.Octaves and twelfths are good to slowly try, because those intervals played slowly and legato will help with the other criteria already noted.

Somewhere at this point, after being sure that the new mouthpiece does those things in your list, think about also getting a spare which plays the same or almost the same.You will find thatall of the criteria change, and you will find that troubling.However , it is only because a natrually flexible player changes automatically when he changes mouthpieces. One of the hundreds of things a sensitive musicians just does.

That’s why it is good to get that first new mouthpiece and make sure it is the one. You ought to mark it on the cork; you’ll know which it is that way.

To conclude, here is a story shared with me by Tom Kenny, one of the worlds greatst horn players, first for Szell for many years. Tom loves cars, Yes, used cars.
He told me, “you cannot tell if a car burns oil until you’ve had it for 30 days”

Nothing can be closer to perfect truth. Used cars as well as their sellers are unscrupulous to the extrreme. Try the mouthpiece as you would one of Tms used cars.
If it doesn’t burn oil after thirty days, go  to the auditionand win first chair.

best always, Sherman

Selmer Clarinets: BT and CT are not a “matched set”

February 23, 2009

Dear Sir — at the bottom of this e-mail is a copy of your e-mail to L. I am the person wanting to buy the pair of Selmer clarinets he is selling for a friend. I am a 75-year-old and consider myself to know a little bit about Selmers. There is a lot of confusion going on regarding these instruments and it seems to be that the Bb Selmer N8409 was purchased probably in a single case and the key “A” P8301 a few years later so they possibly are not a matched pair. I like the feel of the silver-plated keywork and I would like it confirmed that these two clarinets are silver keyed. I would know in an instant if I saw them but the owner does not trust people enough to courier them to me 450kms away, even though I have assured him I am 100% trustworthy. What does the BT mean in your e-mail please? If these clarinets were silver-keyed then they would both look the same and I am asking that question at the moment. How many years older do you think the Bb clarinet is compared to the clarinet in “A”? I am also wondering if the keywork is standard or has extra keys? Would you be so kind as to help me with these questions please? I would be very grateful and look with anticipation to your reply. Kind regards from NT
Dear N T from New Zealand:
Thank you for your letter about the Selmer Clarinets.
I can tell you with assurance that they are definitely not a “Matched Set”, which is very difficult to define exactly, but one thing for sure is that the numbers are successive usually and these two of which you speak are not, not by by a long way.
The BT is or was called a Balanced Tone, alluding to its supposedly even scale regarding timbre, however this was just a name that was used for advertising as is the case with any designation given to a massed produced instrument. Selmer is a good name and has an excellent reputation, however the Centered Tone Clarinet comes from the 1950-60s and the Balanced Tone from the 30s, very clearly stated in any Selmer catalog and certainly in my many years playing Selmer, and also being a clinician for the company for a number of years. I played a set of “Centered Tone” Clarinets in the 60s and yes, the set was silver plated, but I never really looked at the numbers .
If you have the opportunity to see and play the clarinets you will be able to discern first, if they both play, if they are somewhat equal, and if either one or the other has more than a standard 17 key and 6 ring setup.
I suspect that no one will send you a set of clarinets “on spec” so to speak, so my best advice is to go and see the instruments and to try them.

Best regards,
Sherman Friedland

By and large there is no such thing as a silver-keyed clarinet, as mentioned above. They are always nickel silver keys, which are not silver at all, which are plated with silver, which will last for a long time, unless you have a particular kind of acid in your system, in which case you will wear the keys quite quickly and they need to be carefully wiped after every playing. For some, silver plated keys are a must for either cosmetic or physical reasons relating to so-called comfort. This is entirely a personal issue ,depending upon the owner of the clarinets.

As to “Matched Sets” of clarinets, that is simply more advertising.Defining a Matched set of instruments. considering that scarcity of enough grenadilla wood wood fashion a set of clarinet from the very same piece and then to match them for intonation and timbre, which certainly is the inference one draws from the description defies any kind of logic at all.

Jack Maheu, noted Dixieland musician, UP DATE

February 17, 2009

Hello everyone. I have received the following just this morning from the undersigned professor:

(June 12, 2010)Dear Mr. Friedland,
I spoke to Jack Maheu two days ago – he isn’t dead. He and I grew up together, so we have always been close. The ‘dynamic 2’ thing he told me about – had to hock it for money. I read the article sent to you, so the reason for this e-mail. I can fill any gaps about Jack, if you would like. He is in rehab in New Orleans, can’t play, but lives in the dream he might. I believe he is 80 years old now.
All the best,
Roger McKinney, Professor of Music

Old Posting:

I have a clarinet that used to belong to my father (who died in 2004), and he had strokes and did not play it for at least seven years before that. It is a LeBlanc clarinet that he bought used in 1981. It says “Dynamic 2” on it. It also has a name engraved on the side, “Jack Maheu,” who I believe used to be a great Dixieland player (as was my dad).

My kids don’t want to learn how to play it, and I play flute.

I have seen a clarinet turned into a lamp and I am considering it, as it will remind me of my Dad.

But is this clarinet worth something? Since it hasn’t been played in a while (but it has been in the case), is it probably not good anymore as a musical instrument? A friend of mine tried it out a few years ago and she said it sounded like a good instrument.

I would appreciate any information you might have, and if you have recommendations for me, I would appreciate that too.
Thank you,
You’re correct. He was a very well known clarinetist who played with many many great bands and players, notably Eddie Condon. He had a massive stroke in 2006, and I can not find anything further. (He would be 79 now.)
Concerning your Leblanc Dynamic 2, it could have been his instrument of choice as many players used the Leblanc Dynamic,. an excellent instrument with a big bore which has the reputation of being excellent for Jazz playing.
If, in fact,the horn belonged to Jack Maheu, you may rest assured that is is worth considerably more than an ordinary Leblanc Dynamic 2.
it would depend upon how the clarinet is marketed and where.
If the provenance of the instrument turns out to be authentically Jack Maheu, well, after that, it is your decision as to what to do with it. (There is some problem with your date of owning and Jack Maheu’s condition)
Best of luck.


Wants to change to German system

February 17, 2009

Dear Sir, I am writing to you to find out if you have any information concerning why all the Boehm clarinet makers keep placing a metal tube into the interior of the upper bore which is of course the extension of the speaker hole to prevent condensation running into this orifice. As you may very well know, the German type clarinet has no such obstruction and has instead an extended mechanism around to the front of the instrument thus doing away with the necessary of any internal obstruction, a much more practical solution. This bit of tubing extending into the bore is, I think a real pain in the arse as any standard pull-through will always get caught up with it. Also I am surprised that such an obstruction would not be detrimental to the overall tuning of the instrument. Have you ever heard of any Boehm clarinet owner getting this feature altered to the German system? Yours Truly B V, amateur clarinetist

Hi there:
Concerning your problem: there is no sense in attempting to get the Boehm clarinet makers to change to something else for the register key protrusion into the top end of the clarinet. Many other types f woodwinds have many more complicated obstructions in the bore.
First, always reverse swab, meaning you pass the swab through the bottom end of the clarinet. Then while turning the clarinet make sure that it is tilted in such a way to make the weight on the end of the swab pass away from the protruding register tube. This is very simple to achieve and only takes a couple of times before you’re ready for prime-swab. Or switch to German System, which you may not like all that much.

I had a swab get stuck in my clarinet directly before performing the Easley Blackwood Clarinet Concerto with the Tanglewood Orchestra, conducted by Gunther Schuller. At the time, I was playing Full-boehm Mazzeo system clarinets. The bass clarinet player had a wrench and he loosened the hex screw-top of the register key, took it out and freed the swab. Took all of perhaps 90 seconds, and caused me to rethink the way I swabbed my clarinet, resulting in in my suggestion to you.
Best regards, and keep practicing.

“Immaculate Condition”

February 16, 2009

Yes; I know, it looks like Immaculate Conception. Which is a good way to describe an absolutelypristine clarinet, which are few and far between.Very frequently in lists and descriptions of clarinets that have been played by another or several others, the descriptive words can include “immaculate”.If attracted by the word, scrutinize the instrument very carefully

Immaculate means spotless, or undefiled, “spick and span”, having no discernible flaw at all.If these are the meanings of the word, then why do sellers of musical instruments, always “used”, use immaculate to describe them. I recently had a question from a person who was expressing interest in a clarinet from the 1970s that was described as immaculate.
My advice to readers who are also shoppers is to ignore the word unless it has a description of the spotlessness of the instrument.
First, an immaculate clarinet should be completely overhauled very recently.
This constitutes complete removal of all of the keys and the clarinet body soaked in organic oil in order to clean and redistribute the oil throughout the body of the clarinet. All of the keys, having been removed are also cleaned and polished. All of the needle springs replaced, and of course, all of the pads and all of the corks. This takes at least several days depending upon the particular technics employed by the technician. If done in a professional manner, it is usually quite costly, although prices vary.
Of course after all of this has been done, the clarinet must be completely refitted with the new pads and corks and in order to be able to do this requires considerable skill in seating and placing pads, springs and corks which serve to both aid in action of the instrument as well as making the instrument perform exactly as new.
So, if shopping for a clarinet which has been used , scrutinize the word “immaculate” carefully and take it in the literal sense, for very frequently it is used actually in a general way, and is more hyperbole than actually immaculate.

Best regards, Sherman

Used Boosey 1010 for 1400$. Surely, you jest!

February 16, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland:
I have found a vendor in England with a B&H Symphony 1010 from the 1970’s which he claims is “immaculate”. He is aking 950 GBP @ $1400 US. Does this sound like a good deal to you?


Dear BL:
$1400 for an immaculate Boosey 1010 is almost viciously overpriced.Not only that, it is also a poor choice fo someone living in your part of the world. Firstly , it has a larger bore than most clarinets made for this country, (the US), and second, it requires a special mouthpiece with a different bore than the usual mouthpiece. While I am sure that it is played well by some, it is also a discontinued clarinet, and frankly, I wouldn’t go near it.
Best wishes

Wants to start the clarinet , but not “on the cheap”

February 16, 2009

Dear Mr Friedland:

I am an adult who wants to learn how to play the Clarinet but don’t want to go cheap as I’m afraid I’ll give up because of sound quality. I’m considering the Leblanc Cadenza. Do you know anything about this one?
Dear Mr. S.
As far as the Leblanc Cadenza , nobody knows anything about it. Not in actuality. It is a clarinet made entirely in the US and Backun caims that he has redesigned every key. There are two parts of the clarinet that are made in Canada: the two barrels, made of different wood, which nobody has proven or even commented upon , though there are some who generalize with comments like, “I picked this one, which is perfect for me” The clarinet is about 1999.99 at most places and probably selling briskly due to the Conn-Selmer publicity. If you are afraid of the sound of any clarinet, the sound comes from you, and a cheaper instrument will not get you a better or a less good sound,just as a more expensive instrument doesn’t come with a better sound or even foster one. The clarinet selling business must be in dire straights these days, what with the downturn in the economy. Actually, if you want the best sounding instrument for the least amount of money, you are doing the smart thing for these days. Do not spend a lot of money. In my opinion, it is not necessary , nor will it give you the best quality.
Honestly, I do not know a clarinet that sounds better or is better in tune or more economical than the Lyrique Clarinet, designed and finished by Tom Ridenour. I have played all of the clarinets out there and his play better than any other,primarily because he has the best ear in the business and knows more about tuning clarinet than anyone. Don’t listen to hype. Listen to reasonable people on this crucial issue.
Good luck and keep practicing.

Sherman Friedland