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.
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.