Which to buy? R-13,Yamaha, Selmer, or Ridenour.

August 24, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland,
After a fifty year lapse, I am struggling to return to playing the clarinet. My old instrument is an old French knock off, and not very good, even after a refurbishing. I am thus in the market for a new horn. The number of choices is overwhelming. I have more or less narrowed the field to the R-13, Selmer St. Louis, Yamaha SEV or CSG, and the Ridenour rubber clarinet. Can you help me here, and in particular, what do you think if the Yamaha CSG and the Ridenour? It seems that there is not much said about either one by local musicians or on the Internet.
Price is not much of a concern for me. I am currently using a Fobes San Francisco model mouthpiece, and like it.
Thank you. P.F.

Dear PF:
Thank you for your question(s). I would agree with you that the choices are indeed overwhelming, and even with your narrowed field, there are numerous facets of which to be aware.
In the case of the R-13, those latest reputed have still faulty intonation: The low chalumeau is flat, the open g and notes around it are sharp; the throat Bb is thin and sharp, and really only accessible with another combination of laying down of fingers, which results in an overly bright and slight sharp rendition; and of course there are the infamous plastic “silencers “for the little finger keys, supposedly there to quiet the action, however if they break during session there will be only the sound of weeping, as many students have mentioned. Some teachers have their students play with the barrel pulled out all the time in order to keep the barrel from becoming frozen to the first joint. If you have a very good technical person, they can “tweak”these manifold problems, and if successful, you’ll have a horn with a pleasant response,which you’ll have even if you don’t, but the above factors are true. Plating has a terrible reputation of peeling lately. 4 grand?

With the Selmer Saint Louis, you will be getting a much better built instrument, one that will be basically very well in tune, the high register not flat, the throat not sharp and the lower register almost in tune. The response is excellent, and the workmanship is the best available in a Paris instrument. It is better than that, it is truly excellent, and has always been.

In every Yamaha high end instrument I have played I have been quite well impressed with the tuning, the finish and the response.Whether you prefer the SEV or the CSG. is a matter of preference and as a matter of fact, whomever you ask will give you a simlar response, many getting the letters incorrectly. I have found them to be an excellent company who have been making good to excellent high end clarinets ever since they changed their name from NIKKAN to Yamaha in 1970. Incidentally I have heard that the NIKKAN high end clarinet was a copy of the R-13, and I have one, and agree with that. If it was the R-13, it would have been among the best every made of that model.

The Ridenour Lyrique clarinet is the most stable instrument on the market, with the best intonation and most even sound because of the material, hard rubber, and also the expertise of the designer Tom Ridenour who was responsible for the best clarinets ever made by Leblanc, included the current “furniture” available. The response of hard rubber is sweeter and more dulcet than that of any wood, and while manufactured in China, they are totally supervised for every facet by the designer himself and guaranteed by him as well. With a Fobes mouthpiece of any kind or facing, you will have a very good experience with this instrument, and I would buy two, either an A or a C clarinet, both of which share the characteristices of the Lyrique.
I would suggest should you make the decision that you investigate the register key, which is slightly different than the ordinary register key. If you prefer, he will supply you with either upon request.

The thing about purchasing a new clarinet is similar to buying a new car. We are always disappointed with the change in personality of the salesman before and after the sale. We like being courted to buy, (seduced may be a better word), but are frequently wildly disappointed after the marriage . You will never experience that empty feeling if you buy a Lyrique. Tom is in Duncanville, Texas, has a telephone number and will always be happy to converse and advise you.

I hope that this reply has been helpful.
Good luck,

Sherman Friedland

A question about Leblanc from Sweden

August 20, 2009

Dear Mr Friedland

I am the swedish clarinetplayer looking for “the ultimate horn”.
I am now having sent to me a LeBlanc L 300. I had one in the mid 80´s. Unfornutately I traded it for a golden Pete Fountain Clarinet.I preferred my new Selmer 10 S.
Now many years later I am getting second thoughts about that.
I hope that you can tell me something about the L300.
To it seems that i did not stay for long on the market.



Dear Mr K:
The Leblanc L7 is a mid-1980’s high level professional grade clarinet. Alongwith the Leblanc LL, L200 and L300 of the same period they are highly regarded instruments , some saying that they’re perhaps the best clarinets ever produced by Leblanc. The L27 is also another excellent Leblanc from approximately the same time. Th L300 was in production 1982 until 1987. All of the above named Leblanc clarinets were excellent, I owned an L27 and a set of L7s which I felt were especially good clarinets. The LL is of course the most highly considered and the most produced of the Leblanc professional line. I have one LL now , perhaps the best Leblanc I’ve played. If you can purchase one of these Leblancs, you must make sure that they were not rebored by the Leblanc US company in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Many of these were rebored without real knowledge of what the results would be as the purpose was to bring forth a clarinet with a “big sound”. But the jobs of reboring was done using the wrong sized reamers and without real concern, resulting in a clarinet with intonation which had been scuttled by the process. Upon examination the bore must be shiny and unmarked. If there are rough edges to be seen it could very well be a reboring and one should overlook this instrument.
Sherman Friedland

The “Demise of Leblanc” ?

August 18, 2009

Hello Mr Friedland,
What do you think about the “demise” of Leblanc as a clarinet maker. It seems that on pro spec intruments they are producing multi wood clarinets for pros and I reckon that alot of people could not afford a nice traditional Leblanc clarinet at a reasonable price. The Backun models are very pretty but do not look that robust to me. The Opus again a nice clarinet but alot of money. If I wanted a quality instrument say priced around a Noblet Artist then I would have to go to Buffet or Yamaha or buy second hand because Leblanc do not cater for me and besides I do not want a USA made clarinet.
Best wishes

Hi IH:

Thank you for your interest and for your thoughts concerning the “demise” of Leblanc as a clarinet maker. Leblanc,and Selmer are now distributed in the US by Conn-Selmer,and of course, the most publicity is being poured into the Backun addition to Leblanc. However this addition of all the furniture of the barrels and bells, which add little or nothing to the sound of the instruments, is what seems to be grabbing all of the attention. The price adds to the farce that is being perpetrated on the buyers of these very pricey instruments.
One guesses that the theory is based upon the idea that more money means a better instrument. Leblanc actually is still being made in France, at least those that are made there. And, they are a very fine instrument. The Opus II and the Concerto, the Sonata, and the Rhapsody are all made in France, as they have been for years, however the changes that take place when they are sold in the US can be vast or purely cosmetic. Selmer is also still being made in France. The Leblancs and Selmers that are made in the US are of a lesser quality, and always have been. The prices have risen to the point of prohibition of purchase for many. The idea of any clarinet costing more than five or six thousand dollars is strange indeed, or at best highly inflated. Actually discounts range from 30% to sometimes 50% or more.
Leblanc has always been somewhat shady in the US, but the French instrument is a superior one and very much around, as they say.
I’m not sure where the Normandy or the Noblet clarinet are made, however there quality was never that of a professional instrument.
There are no instruments made in France these days that can be purchased for “a decent price”, however after all the cut throat discounts that can be found, it is the quality versus the price that must be considered. Some of the best instruments are coming from the Selmer Company.
And incidentally, the Yamaha is fully equal to any French instrument, the tuning generally better, the price a third less or more. Buffet costs as much if not more than all the others, their quality and finish having deteriorated steadily over the years., their quality control a thing of the distant past.So, there is not a demise but a redistribution of the instruments, as far as Conn-Selmer is concerned

Keep playing,
sincerely, Sherman

Buffet And Anthony Gigliotti

August 9, 2009

Hello. I just noticed your site today when I did a search on Hans Moenig, who is part of my question.

In the early 1960s I studied with Anthony Gigliotti.( Principal Clarinetist, Philadelphia Orchestra)  During my first lesson he played my Selmer clarinet and decided that it would not do. So he set out to make sure I had a better one.

Once every two years, Gigliotti would go to the Buffet factory in Paris to select a new clarinet, either A or B-flat. The way he described the process was this: The management of the factory would lay out several candidate instruments wrapped in newspaper, and he would take his time playing each one. From this lot he would select the two best ones to bring back to Philadelphia. The next step was to give the two clarinets to Hans Moenig, who gave each instrument a thorough going-over, adjusting pads, fine-tuning the finger holes, and doing whatever other magic he was famous for doing. These two perfect clarinets then went back to Gigliotti, who would take both on stage for six months, alternating between the two to determine which one was better. He then would sell the other clarinet to one of his students. That year he was unable to detect any difference between the two. I was the lucky student who was able to buy either one for $250.

I know that Gigliotti was disappointed that I did not go on to perform professionally. But I still have the clarinet, periodically have it serviced, and play occasionally. One of the fellows who serviced it sent the instrument back with a note saying, “Take good care of this instrument. It is a good one.”

Do you have any sense for the value of this instrument, with this history? None of my family has shown an interest in taking up the clarinet, so someday I may need to part with it.


Dear BN:
If I had a Buffet from 1960 which had been picked by Anthony Gigliotti at Buffet, and then worked over and tweaked by Hans Moenig, I would have in my hands the entire raison d’etre for the Buffet  mystique.
We are talking about Hans Moenig and what he did for Ralph Maclanes Buffets as well as Gigliottis. Moenig changed the barrel, the bore, the intonation and made the whole thing work. Hence the reputation. For many, it was always Moenig.
And after this period Selmer designed and produced the 10G, which Gigliotti played and was supposedly a perfect copy of his Buffet.
Currently Buffet  is an eroded reputation, an exploded price tag and total lack of quality control within the company which has been bought and sold into perpetuity.
My best advice is to keep the clarinet in pristine condition until you find someone who understands its provenance, and will very easily, give you a fair price. Provenance lasts and appreciates, clarinets as a rule, do not.
My sense of the value would be quite an amount, depending upon its current condition, or in any event.

Should you have to part with it, good luck.

best regards,
Sherman Friedland

Criteria for Appraisal

August 7, 2009


Our family has a Henri Leduc Bb hard rubber clarinet (serial # 2670B) that has been in our family since the 1930’s. What a great sound and complete joy to play. My question is…who made these clarinets and of course any other info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you !


Hello AK:
It’s absolutely wonderful how the criteria for the appraising process is frequently in the ear of the beholder.
Henri Leduc is obviously a gentleman from France, or the name would make one think so. Maybe Belgium, I guess, but definitley that part of the world . But, in researching the name Henri Leduc, one gets nowhere, because there are those responses that say he is German and others who say he is French. The road gets more and more circuitous until one is given the answer, which is, there is no answer. Your clarinet is what is generally called a “stencil” clarinet. These are instruments that are made by any number of makers who then put names on them and sell them so indeed they can be resold. The legend has begun.
And this rubber clarinet at that has been in the family since the 1930s. That’s almost a hundred years. We have then an ebonite clarinet that has been “in the family for almost one hundred years. But, it also has a great sound and it is a compete joy to play as well.”.
What can I possibly tell you about this lovely sounding clarinet that you don’t already know?
It is a joy to play. We know that it is made of rubber, or ebonite, which we know has a more dulcet kind of sound than does wood, and further we know that the material is the best there is as far as stability is concerned .
We also know that it will not crack.
It may play beautifully for the entire period of your ownership, and who knows, even after that when perhaps a grandchild might play it as well.
Will he find it as you have found it? Will he continue to love it? Or will she?
Or perhaps in the long history of a family, will the child pick up the instrument, blow into it, and out will come the most horrendous squeak ever heard! “What is this old piece of junk! I think we shall throw it away or give it to the Salvation Army”
Can’t tell.
But right now, the clarinet that you vaguely asked me about is something you’re absolutely in love with, and a complete joy to play”

If I were you, I would enjoy the clarinet and continue to play it beautifully.

best regards, Sherman