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.
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