To acquire a clarinet effected by tropical ocean, fluctuating between the rainy season and the dry season.

January 22, 2010

Hola Mr Friedland

I live in Central America and play a Bundy Resonite by Selmer. A cheap student model to be sure. I would like to get a better clarinet. My question is, what is the best clarinet for a person living in a high humidity area. Here the humidity is high and is effected by the near by tropical ocean, and fluctuates dramatically between the rainy season and the dry season. I feel that wood would not be a good choice for here. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Mr W:
I agree with you totally, a clarinet made of wood is not your best choice in an area where the fluctuations vary between high humidity , dramatically changing from rainy season and dry season. There is simply too much change in the effects of the humidity upon the wood. The results would be far too much give and take on the tension of the keys , the springs and certainly each joint of the clarinet.
Actually resonite is a reasonably stable material. However there is a much better material which is readily accessible and is the most stable material when  your warm air hits the inner bore material. It is hard rubber, a material having been around for a number of years with excellemt success.
Because of the effort of a singe man, William Ridenour, we have now a clarinet made from hard rubber which is the best in tune instrument within the industry.including material of any other origin.
I would suggest you contact him for more complete information, as he is readily willing to talk to people about his clarinet. You will find an excellent model hard rubber clarinet to cost about one third as much as does a french wooden instrument

good luck, sherman

Problems with the C clarinet

January 20, 2010

Dear Professor Friedland:

First, a belated happy new year 2010.

I think I will begin by asking if whether or not the altissimo fingerings on a C clarinet can be different from that of the Bb, or this is merely a consequence of inadequate skills on my part. When I tried the Amati 351, I found that I have to change my fingering somewhat for above C6. As I’ve never had formal instruction, I don’t know if this is the norm for C, and whether or not if same can be expected for clarinets in different keys.
Another question I have would be on how that is it that the Grenadilla instrument seems to become more in-tune and giving me a notably better response after I’ve played on it for some minutes. Although I was never able to get the instrument exactly in-tune, I found that intonation improved after the instrument had warmed itself, which is something that I have not noticed with the composite clarinets that I have. How and why is this so?

Lastly, I would like to know if whether or not evaluating a Clarinet purely from its physical finishing, mechanical reliability, fluidity of keyworks and its durability could circumvent being blinded into finding that “magic bullet” of a clarinet, for that the subjective nature of one’s sound should only be treated as a mean for the buyer to build a bias as to choose the instruments the buyer desires most out of the potential lot.

Hello and thank you for the New Year wishes, which I reciprocate.
What mouthpiece are you using on the C clarinet? If you are using the Bb mouthpiece, you are correct, the only differentiation being the quality thereto. In general, and I do believe you are talking about high C, when you mention C6, that is two ledger lines above the treble clef. This requires no change in fingerings and the cause is an incorrectly formed embouchure,or a reed which is softer than should be played , or probably most importantly a lack of suppport..It doesn’t mean that you have to squeeze the note or blow harder or take more mouthpiece into you mouth.
There are occasions when I open up a resonance key in the actual altissimo, however you should be able to play everything on the C as you do your Bb, with only small modifications.

Wooden clarinets are really less stable than are ABS or hard rubber, which are the most stable. Wooden clarinet have to be warmed up carefully. The case must be opened , the clarinet allowed to breathe and adjust itself to the temperature of the room in which you are playing. Then, you may warm the instrument by passing air through it. Only then will it beging to assimilate the temperature and your hot breath and begin to play it in  tune, if in fact it can, but it will never play in tune if you and your embouchure are not also warmed up Grenadilla instruments are simply not terribly well in tune. They can be tuned, but usually only by experts, who can hear and act on what they hear, with precision.
You most probably will not find that “magic bullet” as you call it, without it having at least some of the excellent physical characteristic to which you allude. From your interesting letter,  I might suggest learning more about support, embouchure, and reed choosing; private instruction will benefit.

I hope I’ve answered your questions
best of luck with your C and happy New Year, sincerely

Considering an A clarinet? There’s one better!

January 11, 2010

Dear Mr Friedland:

Thank you for your web site, I enjoy reading it on a regular basis and learn quite a bit.

I wonder what advice you could give on clarinets in the key of A. Last fall I was playing in a band that at the last minute put together a piece to play with the choir, and it was in a wicked key signature (5 sharps) with really difficult fingerings even with the full Boehm options my particular instrument had I just never was able to master it in the time I had. I was thinking an instrument in a different key might have changed my ability to play the piece to my satisfaction.

I realize that odds are that this situation of just not being able to master something like this isn’t going to come up every day, but since my daughter is a fairly accomplished player and I have renewed some of my own playing we both thought it would be fun to own such an instrument to have available if we could find a nice one. I have looked on the internet auctions sites, since my current instrument….a LeBlanc LL with the extra keys (not completely full boehm but it has many of the extra keys on it) has been such a delightful instrument to play I had found this way and probably ended up paying less than it is really worth at that time. My daughter plays a LeBlanc L7 I purchased new 30 years ago, and we have a second L7 also secured via the internet that is also a very nice instrument.

That being said…when I look at A clarinets I saw a LeBlanc go around $800. Currently there is a Yamaha also that looks to be in good condition but it is going very high. Also I came across a Selmer that appears to be full boehm, but also looks like it may take some work to put it in good playing condition, but I am not against that if an instrument goes reasonable and can be a very good horn once overhauled. The serial number given on the Selmer was 9195 and they believed it to be from the 1930’s. Also there were some touted as “new” at a moderate price and when I inquired I was told they were made in China.

So…I’m really not sure what to look for. I am primarily comfortable when I look at LeBlanc instruments because I pretty much know what I’m looking at. I know Selmer makes some very nice instruments, but don’t know what I’m looking for at all when I look at a Selmer. I was not really wanting to go into a huge price to buy one, because I would prefer to try out an instrument that I am going to pay a large sum for before buying it. I actually got my LL for $500. which was in fact a steal but I also had to take it sight unseen, it could have just as easily turned out to be a poor instrument instead of the gem it is.

Any suggestions on what we might want to look at if we eventually buy one.

Thank you.

J T.

Dear JT:

As far as your current clarinets, you have several very desirable instruments. Both the Leblanc LL and the L7 are in my mind, superior. I have owned and played both, unfortunately having parted with them for one reason or another. The set of L7s that I owned were unusual in that they had been owned by a clarinetist who came from the Oehler or Albert system and he had made rollers on the little finger keys, and they were full boehm without the low Eb, about the best situation one can have.
My basic idea is that these keys which you call “options” are necessary. My own background is having played full boehm Mazzeo System clarinets as Principal in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and they fulfilled every need I had.
There is what I call ,a prejudice against the articulated G#, the fork Bb/Eb. Many call them extra keys; I do not. Mine never ever gave me a problem and I played them for any number of difficult works. (That is why you got your LL at such a good price. Believe it or not, I bought a set of LLs like yours for about 600.
“A “clarinets have an interesting history, because they tend to play a bit diffeently than do the Bb. As a youngster, I learned that the A in general was a bit stuffier than the Bb. Some are quite resistant by comparison. Indeed, I frequently would practice on the A because the Bb was so much more pleasurable by comparison. My full Boehm Mazzeos were about equal.
If one plays a simple Bb, there are many more choices and there is a simpler design and ultimately less adjusting, although one gets to learn to keep the G# smooth and effortless. Keeping that key down in both 3 flats or sharps becomes automatic and saves all kinds of mechanistic extra practice to make simple places totally smooth in execution.. The same go for the seventh ring.
Back to A clarinets, there are very very good ones being made now and in the Orient as well.
I own and play every day , a Ridenour A Clarinet. I think it’s called “Lyrique”.Although he produces both Bb and A clarinets, the A is better than the Bb. These clarinet are made frm hard rubber and that material is excellent for a clarinet, has been used for many years and produces n instrument that is much more stable as far as pitch is concerned. It also has a more even response , as well as a sound that is easier to produce and more dulcet in quality. But in the Ridenour clarinets, we are talking about the chief designer of Leblanc clarinets, having designed the Opus, the Sonata, Concerto and others as well. The intonation is the best in the industry at any price.
While he is no longer with Leblanc, his influence continues to be felt. The instruments he designs and produce are the best buy in the industry today, without exception. And his policy is extremely liberal as far as trying an instrument. I do not advertise for him in any way, but his horns are “in my case” for the above stated reasons. You will find his A prices at round one third of a new french or Japanese instrument
I would definitely recommend that you try a Lyrique A clarinet. You cannot buy one with either an articuated G# or the seventh ring, however they are highly regarded.
As far as shopping is concerned, you may find the occasional clarinet with the articulated G# etc a bit less expensive for the above stated reasons, but the Lyrique is better as far as response and intonation are concerned.
A clarinet in the key of A should be a consideration in your case and will afford you more ease and security with more accidentals in the key signature.
Best wishes, Sherman

Evenings for New Music, Ceative Associates, Carnegie Hall

January 4, 2010

During the period of the 1950s and 60s, performance of new music was very much in vogue in both Europe and the US. Such composers as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, both students of the great French composer, Olivier Messiaen established new music centers in Europe , both in Darmstadt and in Paris. The composers of the US at the time were Irving Fine, Milton Babbitt,Harold Shapero, Lukas Foss,  George Rochberg,John Cage and a host of others, like Morton Feldman and Phillip Glass, beginning to be heard.
In the mid 60’s Lukas Foss, the  pianist and composer,and conductor of the BuffaloPhilharmonic, and Allen Sapp, himself a composer and at that time the Chair of the Music Department at the University of Buffalo made a grant proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation  to gather together  performers and composers in order to form what they called the Center for the Creative and Performing Arts.
They received their grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and so I, and about 20 other performers and composers formed the first group of Creative Associates. By definition a Creative Associate was a post doctoral fellow whose membership within this first group allowed them to perform new music as well as anything else that helped them in their careers.It paid a very decent stipend and it was Tax Free. ( I don’t know how they managed it, but that was the 60s, and I was quite delighted to be a member. In fact, I had been assured that I would be able to comlete my Phd while on the grant, but that  changed soon after and I was disappointed, but only a little. The peforming group was called Evenngs for New Music. We were to play concerts of new music at the Allbright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and repeat tham in Carnegie Recital Hall.
As mentioned, we were free to do anything else we wished to and the first thing I did was organize a concert of music for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano.
I asked George Crumb, who was a composer/pianist to play the piano and Carol Plantamura to sing. (George Crumb as many will know became one of the most prominent contemporary composers and spent his later career as head of Composition at the University of Pennsylvania.
Carol Plantamura toured worldwide and later was a professor at UCLA, San Diego. That first concert consisted of works we all know: Schumannn Opus 92, ,“DirHirt Auf Dem Felsen” and a Romance from an opera of Schubert, and the Alban Berg Vier Stucke for Clarinet and Piano,composed in 1913, and still at that time, it was considered a relatively new piece. (The Center continued until the mid 80s or 90s, but we were the first).
Here is a partial list of the players as I recall them: Paul Zukovsky and Chales Joseph, Violins, Jean Dupouy, Viola, George Crumb and Fred Myrow and Michael Saul,pianists,Laurence Bogue and Carol Plantamura and Sylvia Brigham, Vocalists, and John Bergamo and Jan Williams, percussion. Richard Wernick,  later a winner of two Pulitzer prizes was the coordinator.  Trumpet was none other than Don Ellis, who later had his own rather experimental band, and wrote the music for The French Connection,perhaps the best Crime Drama of the 70s and The Seven-ups, (composed in 71 and 73). Unfortunately he passed away in 1978.
The grants were for a year, however mine was extended for another year, and then I went on finishing my MM, and all the rest.. I played in many concerts and of course,had many works written for me, met all of those composers and folks like Copland and Bernstein, Henry Cowell, (who was still alive then, Roger Sessions, and others almost too numerous to recall. Liasons of all kind were formed, grew to fruition and/or were broken.

Most importantly , I met my wife Linda in Buffalo, and we made four sons,all of whom are working in Montreal.(She is the most gifted of them all, but made me promise not to mention her.) We are retired now and are living and writing and yes, playing in Canada.
Here is a photo of  rehearsal for that first concert. George Crumb, pianist, Carol Plantamura, soprano and myself, on clarinet, as people are prone to saying, playing my Mazzeo full-boehm , (and with hair). (What a wonderful time we all had. (A pun which I believe began there, was the following: If you have a concert and play music by Irving Fine and Vincent D’indy, you have a concert of Fine and Dandy. (Cute, at the time.)

S. Friedland,G.Crumb, Carol Plantamura rehearsing, 1964 Stay well everyone, and have a Happy New Year, Sherman

” Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends” Were they merry? What about his father? and the publishers?

January 1, 2010

The above was my first book story about a famous composer. I must have been sometime prior to 10 years (my wife read it when she was 9). It talked about the joyous life of Schubert and his many merry friends. Of course, I remember not one word of it, the reason being that Schuberts life was only about 31 years, but during this short time, he was able to write 600 hundred songs (lieder) which have remained even more popular than do contemporary best-selling poptunes.

But as I and we grew(grow) older we learn many other things about the life of this one of our most gifted and prolific composers.

And as clarinetists, whether aspiring to , or employed as, we also learn that he must have adored the clairinet and saved his most memorable orchestration for the clarinet. In the second movement of the 8th symphony, the main theme is first played in its entirety by the clarinet, then echoed by other winds. Of course, the very famous Octet of Schubert, for String Quartet, clarinet, french horn, bassoon and double bass has the most extended solo of the second movement reserved for the clarinet.And, kn the last movement, there is the almost unplayable additional part for both clarinet and violin, frequently left out from performnces, very fast.Although there is no Clarinet Sonata, there is Der Hirt Auf dem Felsen, for soprano Clarinet and Piano, another long clarinet part with the special difficult ending concluding this greatest of all Schubert Lieder. There is also a shorter work for the same group a Romance from an Opera called the” Forlorn Ones,” no longer performed, however the short “Romance” is a terrific introduction to the Shepherd of the Rock.

Schubert first came to the notice of Antonio Salieri,most famous at that time, and later much later for his work with Mozart(Salieri became much more well known as the character in the Play “Amadeus”, (later a movie, and an academy award for his character. That was F Murray Abraham))stories abound about the short life of Ftanz Schubert and his death. Some write that he died of Typhoid fever, other write that he frequented brothels, contracted syphillus and succumbed to that dread illness, but still other report that while he died from the disease, he probably never had the experience of contracting it because it was passed on to him by his mother: congenital syphillus.  One accepted fact is that there was a large concentration of mercury in his blood, mecury being the treatment for the disease at the time. (Nowadays, we have to be careful of tuna or sworfish). Mercury is the culprit in Amadeus as well. The phraise, Mad as a hatter, comes from the fact that mercury was used in the making of felt for hats. Mercury was found in a lock of Mozarts hair.

We know that Schuberts father had a great deal to do with his sons early education and that he , his father and brother played together in a string quartet. And later , we know that Schuberts was employed teaching the youngest of the students in his fathers school. But we also know that he was unable to find steady work in music. (Hey what century are we in?) and relied on those who were better off for such things manuscript paper.

Just think, over six hundrd song and song cycles, 8 Symphonies, piano sonatas, that long set of Variations for Flute and Piano, the list is endless and the quality very high .

One of the statement from my “Franz Schubert and his Merry Friends” was that he frequently wrote on the back of napkins in restaurants, which has to have been true.

He lived a shorter time than did Mozart and wrote almost as much, the lieder alone being worth a great legacy for any composer.

Here is a list of his works: