Buying Buffet, a walk in the forest.

Dear Mr Friedland:

Hi. I’m nineteen years old, and have been playing clarinet for several months. I cannot afford a teacher, but am making considerable progress on my own, with the help of books and my ears. One issue I have is that when I tongue notes in the upper clarion register, I often find that all I get is the note as it should sound without the register key. Also, I need to tighten my embouchure for the higher notes. It that supposed to happen? Any response would be a big help, Thank You. (I’m playing a Selmer 1400, Fobes Debut, Luyben Ligature, Legere 2.5 student reed)

My second question relates to a clarinet I bought last week in a local store. I was told it’s a Buffet R13. The serial # is 38,251. Is this really an R13, or is it too early to be an R13. Also, I got it for around $600. Is that more, or less than it’s true value? It’s in playable condition, but could use some work here and there. Also, the barrel is newer- it says “R13 B 660” on it. Anything you can tell me about this clarinet would be helpful- I can still return it if it was a ripoff. Thank You Very Much.


“Told it was an R-13”
Well, Aaron, perhaps we have a lot of talking to do.
It could have been an R-13, or perhaps an E-11, in any event, the barrel is a 66mm and is probably not original, as you have said. Suffice it to say that you could have an R-13, but most probably not. In any event this particular clarinet is quite famous for being infamous, meaning uneven, complete with many tuning problems, and in general, not a great instrument, and I’m sure you paid quite well for it, at $600.00. The going price for either a new actual R-13 or anything like it is usually much more. So let us say, you got a good deal.

But, if I could not afford a teacher and had 600 dollars, I would have put the money into perhaps a dozen lessons, a much better deal than some leaky clarinet purported to be something it is not, which in general , is the Buffet story,regardless of price, or deal. If you have a perfectly good student instrument, why would you buy something not as good, and with money you can’t afford?

How does one know that one is making “considerable progress” without a teacher? One does not.
It is not a matter of your ears, or anything having to do with what you play on or how you clamp it to the mouthpiece. All this equipment plays , but you are either taking in too much mouthpiece, or the clarinet is leaking , or you are not covering the keys properly. In short, you donot have a clue.

But, I have a solution: Take the “Buffet” back today to the place you bought it and get your money back. Then, find out about getting a teacher, who is a clarinetist, or a graduate student in Clarinet at a school nearby. Call her (or him) and arrange for at least one lesson. Maybe, it might cost you 50 bucks. You’ll find out more in that one lesson about why the clarinet sounds the way it does than all the crap you can buy at a local music store, and what is more, you’ll be getting what is most valuable for a new clarinet player: that extra set of educated ears. If you get lucky, you’ll learn more in that one lesson than all the Buffet has taught you.

Good luck to you.
Best regards,


2 Responses to Buying Buffet, a walk in the forest.

  1. dhinton says:

    I quite agree with you, Sherman — your comments are right on the money. It’s been my experience after teaching for 35 years that 2.5 is way too hard for most beginners with only a few months experience!
    I must add that a) the older Buffet’s are quite good (my full boehm from 1975 has some problems in the extreme clarion, and my R-13 from 1962 is just fine) and b) the serial number give comes up as:
    Brand : Buffet Crampon
    Instrument : BC 2157.CU
    Serial number : 38251
    Year of manufacturing : 28/02/1990

    I can’t tell if it’s an R-13 or E-11 — but it’s new enough to have most of the Buffet tuning problems!

    Cheers, Dallas

  2. itsjustme7 says:

    Perhaps a better title would be: A walk through the fire…

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