Leblanc “Dynamic” is also “large bore”

December 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland:

Please answer a question for me. I play a Selmer Centered Tone and positively adore it. I was wondering if you feel that a Selmer Series 9 would be an adequate back up horn or indeed a suitable replacement. Accordingly, is there another clarinet that you would recommend? I really like what I get out a larger bore clarinet…especially the Centered Tone. There are some available on ebay…would you recommend purchasing one in that manner?

Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

No, not a Series 9, as the bore is smaller and most probably you would not like it as much as the CT.
There are presently available on the auction, several Leblanc Dynamic, which is the same bore more or less, than the CT and is an excellent clarinet. I would recommend that you consider one of the those, rather than a 9*.
Good luck, and happy holidays.


Trying every clarinet, mouthpiece, reed will get you diminished capacity in every way.

December 17, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland

The two questions are somewhat linked.

I’ve heard wonderful things about the Lyrique clarinets. I’m trying one out now. I find it sounds great and blows quite easily. I am 20-40 cents flat on every note except the A which is in tune. On other clarinets I am typically a bit sharp. I understand that perhaps this reflects some bad embouchure training on inferior clarinets but can I expect this to correct itself over time? I find it easy to flatten the pitch of a note but quite hard to sharpen it without stopping the reed. So in the meantime, I can’t play with other players, I am much too flat.You cannot expect this to correct itself with time, only with proper practice, guided practice.

I’ve noticed over the last few days that there are lots of no-name (names I don’t recognize like Orpheo, Vento) brand hard rubber clarinets. Some of the them, like the Vento C clarinet, look identical to the Lyrique C for half the price. I guess looks aren’t everything though. Do these clarinets sound the same as a lyrique? You mentioned in one of your previous emails that the Orpheo 450 sounded good, it sells for very cheap (I’ve seen them for $150), and has( merely ???)poorer intonation than the lyrique. Since my intonation is poor on the lyrique , i was thinking perhaps these no-name brands might be a good option for me.(The worst possible option).

I guess an easy feel to the clarinet is what I want the most, both finger wise and blow-wise.

I’ve been trying different clarinets and the best finger feel I’ve found was a brand new R13, followed by the Lyrique.

In terms of blowing ease, the Lyrique blows quite easily as does one of my friend’s student selmer 577. In fact, I bought a student selmer 577 because his was such a good instrument, but the one I purchased is not nearly as good.(Of course not, )  What determines the ease of blowing in a clarinet? I thought it might be the mouthpiece/reed combination or even mouthpiece/reed/barrel combination. Since now that I own a few clarinets, I can move mouthpiece/reed/barrel from one clarinet to another and some of them blow very easy (my friend’s selmer 577 and the lyriques) and others blow harder, requiring a much stronger embouchure and tiring more quickly. Can I do something to make a clarinet blow more easily? Might it be some subtle pad problems? The clarinets I’m comparing don’t have any obvious leaks1, and yet they blow very differently. Or is it that my combination of mouthpiece/reed/barrel is suitable for some clarinets and not for others….is experimentation the only way to find out? No, experimenting will only cause an explosion, terminally injuring any possibility you have of learning to play the clarinet.)

Thank you very much for all the questions you’ve answered in the past, your site is treasure trove of comparative clarinet information.

Dear MG:
Thank you for your letter of recent date.
It is of course, a simple matter to endlessly discuss the blowing Quality of many different clarinets. This is almost concerned mostly with the quality of the reed and the mouthpiece that the person who is dong the blowing (testing?, no, not really).

Let me concern myelf with the evident problems you have been experiencing with your Lyrique Clarinet. Without hearing or seeing you play, and knowing the Lyrique as I do, having owned and payed many,all models as they have developed, these problems have to do either with an embouchure which is very open-throated, more typical of a saxophone embouchure than that of a clarinet, and/or a mouthpiece probably not suited for any clarinet.
The Lyrique Clarinet as in tune as is any on the market, and this is considering the many many clarinets I have either payed or tested. It plays at 440-442 throughout is tessitura. I would have to know your experiences with playing the clarinet or other single reed instrumemts.
Let us simply leave these other instruments out of the discussion. They serve your discussion in no way. They only tend to make it more difficult to determine your own problems. Any instrument you play for a few minutes will give you a more pleasant response, which would soon change to a negative once you get used to the new equipment.
Concern yourself with your Lyrique clarinet and no other. It is for the record, better than any you have mentioned, no exceptions.
Accept that, and go from there. (Put all other horns away somewhere, or else sell them or bring them back.)
Any of the others have different fingering layouts which can cause difficulty in achieving notes, or not, so leave them alone. You can find out what is wrong by looking to yourself, as the quality control on the Lyrique is really much better than any other.
In order to make a clarinet play more easily, you must practice it! Get used to its finger board, the placement of the thumbs keys, both hands and the little fingers as well. Make sure all holes are fully covered each time you play, even if you have to slowly position your fingers properly. You speak as if you do not have a clue as to what to do, and that you need to spend some real time with a clarinetist, one who knows how to play, and I am not being cynical, not at all. Right now, you are not familiar with any clarinet you’ve tried.
This takes time.” Poorer intonation than the Lyrique” is very bad!

What mouthpiece are you playing, or are you playing on many? What reed(s)? Yo should avoid any plastic or synthetic reed until you have achieved an embouchure, hopefully a correct one, and I do not think you have arrived at that point.

I wish you the best of good,. non-hysterical practice habits and a good holiday season.
Best regards, Sherman

‘Tis the Season to be….wary

December 15, 2009

Ah, the Christmas season, and buying is “in” so-to-speak, even when not affordable. That’s OK, for in these times the definition of “affordable” is very wide indeed, and we all acquire goods not needed immediately, but my concern is that what we do buy is at least….what we buy.
Like many of you, I look at the auctions on the internet with great frequency and I am rather dismayed to see for instance, many Yamaha,(in quotation marks) 250 clarinets for sale , bids starting at 99 cents.
As to the Yamaha 250, the actual one, it is nothing more than the model 20 with an added zero and several hundred dollars added to the price. In itself, that is a high price for a plastic clarinet, Yamaha or not. I bought a brand new model 20, in a sealed box for 260 dollars before they switched the number to 250.
In thinking about that inflated number, it can easily be justified by the comparably low cost of their best instruments, the CSG or whatever, which is way under the french ripoff and is much better in tune, and also better finished. So, they may make their money by boosting the low end price, of which they sell many more , in order to compete with the French clarinets, which they undercut totally.
That may be, therefore, a reason.
Bt these 250s advertised today, all at a staring price of less than a dollar, are slightly suspicious to me, and I would suggest staying away, if you’re interested. There are many many Yamaha dealers in this hemisphere a place to try first, whether or not the are shipping charges. Stay away also from the Yamaha clarinets which have another name; frequently they are nothng more than an ordinary 250 with a bag of tricks, adding up to more money.
I purchased an Orpheo 450 hard rubber clarinet for 135.00 US dollars, no shipping and a two year warranty.I did not think I could go wrong and I didn’t . The clarinet came with a couple of barrels, a nice case, a mouthpiece, cap and ligature.
And it had a good adjustable thumb rest , but most of all,responded very well.
Only the tuning was off in the second register, it all being sharp and getting sharper as it proceded. But, I repeat, a very nice response, well fitting parts and for the price, with no shipping, it was terrific.
Somehwere in Taiwan or China, they are making a very good sounding ebonite instrument.
With the Ridenour treatment, you could have a great horn.
I would also be quite wary of the “Buffeee “clarinet being touted as well, for this is more of the same kind of thing  from which we stay away.
There are many bona-fide used clarinets out there and a  bunch of new ones as well, but please be wary of the horn that is simply “too good to be true”, for it is frequently in that place.

best regards for the holidays,and let your practice be true.

The mouthpiece is as close as it gets

December 13, 2009

Dear Sherman,

I have an old Leblanc L7, which I had refurbished several years ago, and am thoroughly pleased with it. I am playing with a Vandoren M13 mouthpiece and using Gonzales FOF 3 and Vandoren V-12 strength 3 reeds. I have had consistently good luck with them on the M13. Lately I have been playing a little sharp which concerned me. I tried my B45 mouthpiece and was horrified that I could barely get a sound out with either reed. My question for you, is the B45 shot (it’s probably more than 20 years old!) and is the problem with the sound production me or the mouthpiece? I am using the same embouchure that I’ve had since college (nearly 30 years ago!) I love the M13. I was slightly alarmed that I could produce no sound with the B45. Any thoughts as to what is happening?

You’ve been a great help to me in the past! Thanks for your help!

Sincerely , LT

Dear Leisa :
Thank you for your letter of December 9. First, I am happy that you are completely satisfied with you Leblanc L7, which I consider one of their best instruments. I probably mention frequently that I owned a set of L7s, that had been played by a professional who cam from an Albert system background, and he had the little finger keys installed with rollers, which pleased him and me too for that matter, once I became used to them.
I have also owned and been quite favorably impressed with the Van Doren M13 mouthpiece, which is as I’ve said, Van Dorens answer to the Chedeville mouthpiece of yesteryear. Mine served me quite well, and every now and again I give it a few honks just to see if it is still “my baby”, so-to-speak. It is the same, but I have become much more mature in my desires for mouthpieces and those that I play now, Hawkins and Fobes San Francisco are simply much better than the Van Doren. In its time for me, it was really a fine mouthpiece, making many intervals less difficult and it was more in tune than had been my B45, which I remember ruefully, as it had been a replacement for a magic crystal that I had , a perfect gem of a mouthpiece for me, broken by an idiot second violinist of my orchestra who came by at intermission at a chamber music concert and knocked my horn to the ground, shattering the mouthpiece. In retrospect, I should have kept it and tried to have it repaired, but I didn’t have the good sense to do that and started a long string of Van Dorens with the B45, their most popular, ordinary dull mouthpiece in their lineup as far as I remember.
The M13 was a huge step forward for me and for Van Doren as well.
However to concern myself with your particular problem, the mouthpiece , as a line, plays a bit sharp, which goes along with your letter. I have found that the Hawkins and the Clark Fobes, made on Zinner blanks, ( a whole new response experience, a very sensual feeling and sounding mouthpiece.) These Zinner blanks are made in Germany and are highly thought of in the industry, at least in the US, though there is the possibility that they too may be a bit high. The fellow who makes the Gennusa doesn’t have good things to say about Zinner concerning pitch, however one must always consider the source of all such commentary.

As far as you using the same embouchure you used 30 years ago, I would have to say that the movement of your teeth in 30 years time make that a difficult embouchure to swallow. You certainly go about it in the same manner, but these things are in a constant state of flux.
Now, please do not go back to the B45 and expect something which has disappeared years ago. Kind of going back to an old cast-off lover for no reason , and I’m told there never is. You can’t get a sound out of it, is the reason you dumped it. Don’t even think about it, but revel in your lovely M13, and look into what unearthly pleasures the Zinner blank may have to offer. Tell me how it goes and…..enjoy.
best, as ever, Sherman