The Nature of the Beast,(mouthpieces)

July 30, 2009

Mr. Friedland,

I recently ordered a Hite model J mouthpiece to back up the one I have been playing on for a number of years. I heard that Hite had passed away recently and thought I’d better get a “back up unit” before they would no longer be available. When it arrived I tried to play it and it was awful! By just eyeballing the rails I could tell the mouthpiece was no where near the dimensions of my old piece. I shudder to think what the differences would be if I would have put gauges on it. Is some new firm making Hite’s mouthpieces and putting his name on them? Would a Vandoren B40 lyre ‘piece be close to my original Hite J? Caveat emptor! I was lucky enough to be able to return the mouthpiece for a full refund. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.


Dear R:
Many thanks for your note concerning the mouthpieces of the late David Hite. \I would have to respectfully disagree with your Caveat Emptor .
In any event, you were able to get a full refund, so, there was nothing of which to be wary.

But mainly, I have to tell you and all others who try new mouthpieces or even used mouthpieces, even Kaspers or really any one at all: they all play differently, and some really completely differently. Since most are in some way, finished by hand, they simply have to be different,even though they may measure equally. And please consider the variables in going into trying a new or a different mouthpieces.

The most consistent mouthpiece I think I have ever played is the Clark Fobes “debut” made for fairly new players, but each one of those plays a tiny bit differently. A little bright, a better open G or a different high C. And change the reed and you are in a different place.

I’v tried may Van Dorens, and while a B40 may be favorable to you, another B40 may not. (They are very consistent as well.)

So keep in mind that any two mouthpieces regardless of make will play differently. As they say, it is “the nature of the beast.”

All the best to you.



Improved Albert System Selmers,in a triple case

July 24, 2009

Dear Sir;

My grandfather played with the “Big Bands”, and I have inherited his set of 3 Selmer Paris clarinets. They are “Fernand–Chamlain” and all have a serial of #2156. The old leather case is well worn. The instruments have not been played since the 30’s, and need a major overhaul.

I read your post to another individual, about depreciation of older instruments. I was wondering if this set of 3 was rare, and hence more valuable.

I am getting old myself, and no one in the family is interested in clarinet. In your opinion, what should be done with this set?
Hello D:

Thank you for the photos. Now I am in a much better position to give comments and perhaps some advice. These are Albert System Selmer Clarinets. They are probably the “improved Albert System, which was the choice of many players of Jazz during that time, though by hardly anyone currently. They look to be a set of Bb, A, and perhaps a C clarinet, all in that neat case.On second look, there are  both an LP on one barrel and an HP on the other. This signifies Low Pitch and High Pitch. Here is a link that gives more pertinent information:
You can see that they are seldom performed upon currently, however,there is a list of former renown players of the instrument as well as those who play them today. They hold only nostalgic value for those who do play them. They were played as well by players in all genres at the time. The LP or HP has apparently long been settled, save or the fact that  currently there are clarinets pitched at both 440 and 442 and there are mouthpieces as well which are matched to these instruments.
As far as value, that could be determined by making photos available to those who collect such instruments. Or perhaps the people who are in charge of the Selmer Clarinet within the US may be interested.
Selmer Paris has always been one of the premier clarinet makers.
Best regards,

Instruments,mouthpieces and reeds for young players.

July 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland:
I have a daughter entering 8th grade that plays primarily piano (private lessons-5th year) and clarinet as a second instrument in the school band.
I bought her a Yamaha 250 new about 3 years ago. Next year she will be going to High School, and I keep hearing from other parents that she will need a wood clarinet. Will the 250 do for High School if I buy her a new mouthpiece? (has a 4C). If so, which mouthpiece do you recommend? Also, what is your reed recommendation for 3rd year clarinet players?

Hello G:
These questions you ask pose for me the opportunity of perhaps trying to attempt to help you and your daughter, but hopefully, many others who find themselves in the same position, though perhaps fewer of them have children who play two instruments, with a kind of major and a secondary instrument.
The parents who recommend that she move up to a wooden clarinet. They say “need”. but they imply that wood is a step up situation, which it is not. All of those who move to wood from a more stable material such as ABS or ebonite, (hard rubber) will have more problems than those with which they started. The Yamaha 250 is a perfectly good instrument, though I feel it is overpriced, since it is only a rehash of the model 20, which is virtually the same and much less to buy. But ABS is more stable than is wood. Ebonite is even more stable and has the advantage of being totally impervious to cracking and possessed of a very pleasant response, comparatively speaking, to ABS or to wood.
Not only that but it is much less difficult to acquire from a cost standpoint. I know this because after playing on costly wooden clarinets for years, I play ebonite, in fact the Lyrique clarinet which is distributed by William Ridenour. He is definitely worth a telephone call. He is yes, in business, but he has great integrity and has designed, while chief designer for Leblanc, the best clarinets being produced in France today. But the ebonite he designed is better in tune and much more of a horn for anyone, especially whose who may play long band rehearsals or even march, as well as playing in concert band.
I have no connection to Mr. Ridenour, except that of an admiring colleague.
The more money you pay for a clarinet does not get you long-lasting quality or response. It’s almost the opposite.
While her 250 will suffice, I think that you should consider a mouthpiece as well, that has a better design. The Yamaha 4c is not a bad mouthpiece, but the Fobes “Debut” is much much better and is very economical, and easier to play.

The recommendation for a reed for a third year player is any that will play, because all third years players play differently and so too, do all reeds. Cane reeds are the most variably responding things in the industry. They are getting more costly,while the quality of the cane and the cutting tools are not . Synthetic reeds are on the way and will soon be played by all clarinet players. While they have been around for years, they are just now getting to the point of perfection. I play on a reed called “forestone”, just beginning to appear on the market.I have also been testing some different models for younger players. They shall be appearing soon. They are superb.
I hope I have answered your questions.

Good luck, and with regards to your daughter.

best, sherman

An unusual Leblanc on auction. And no real provenance.

July 15, 2009

Mr. Friedland:

Thanks for your quick response. The horn in question is being auctioned on eBay. If I’m not mistaken, I may remember you mentioning in one of your columns, on some past occasion, that you prefer not to have email attachments sent with communications to you. I did not send an attachment, out of courtesy.

It’s a french-made Leblanc. It’s the older logo, with the “G.” immediately preceeding “LeBlanc” on the same line in the logo. The model name (or number, if you will), “578”, is just above the logo on the upper joint. And that’s all is says: “578”. The keys look like neither nickel-silver nor silver-plate. I believe they are raw, and unplated (for lack of a better phrase). I actually like this look.

I’ve used LeBlancs all of my professional life, and I’m partial to them. You mentioned it may be helpful if I could provide a picture. I don’t know if I can attach the link to the eBay site, as I’m not terribly adept at such things. It’s simply under “leblanc clarinets” on eBay. The initial picture (of several) shows the horn disassembled, in a well-worn case with blue lining. The listing is among the first two or three that first appear, and thus far has received no bids. The asking price is $375.00 US. The auction ends tomorrow at 10:00 am, Pacific time.

Regardless of whether I hear from you tomorrow in time to bid, I want to thank you for taking the time to respond. I do enjoy reading the articles in your website.

Best regards,

I have looked at the enlarged photo of the first joint and am convinced that this is a bonafide Leblanc. Having said that, like all instruments, one has to ask the question, “How does it play?” This is the final judgement, and of course, it is yours to make. I do not think the price unreasonable, but about average. The call is yours to make. If they offer a return possibilty, that would be a benefit. Or, frankly I have found no bad Leblancs. Since you’ve only about 50 minutes and there are no bids, I would try for it, however one always has to be wary of those who wait for the last second to buy a horn. It’s called sniping and they charge you for placing a bid in the last few seconds. It’s not illegal, but I feel it ought to be.
good luck.

Hello everyone.
I looked into this instrument because it seemed a different kind of Leblanc, not having a name like LL, or 1176, or any of the newer Opus-type names. It aroused my curiosity. but finally, I could fing nothing about this 578 business and so reverted back to the usual advice of a return possibility, (there was not) or the basic value of a French Leblanc. I believe they bought the clarinet sincer there was only one bid.
Leblancs are terrific instruments to buy as used because they are really so much better than used Buffets and less expensive than Selmers and sound as well.
The only problem with a Leblanc is that Vito Pascucci, head of Leblanc USA and not a clarinetist was into having Leblancs rebored in order to have a bigger sound, but did it indiscriminantly and by workers who frequently used the wrong sized reamers, rendering the clarinet not well in tune, or out of tune, which Leblancs are generally not.

So be careful out in that market place. It can be fun, but also it can be treacherous.
best regards, Sherman