Hawkins update, and Fobes SF.

April 30, 2010

Hello everyone:
I was rereading my 2008 post on the Hawkins S and R mouthpieces, and recently I had the opportunity to play a Fobes San Farncisco mouthpiece. All three of these really excellent mouthpieces are stars, each one possessing strong facets of the sound and response of the clarinet.
The Fobes is made on a specially made Zinner blank, (according to specs), and the Hawkins are also Zinners. The fact remains that these three are simply superb.
Previously, I had played for years on a Van Doren M13 mouthpiece, which I also liked very much because it was so much more responsive and depndable than other Van Dorens, and the pitch was improved. Later, I discovered that this M13 was Van Dorens “take” on the Chedeville mouthpiece, and it is still a fine
addition to any clarinet, however the two Hawkins are each better than the VD , as is the Fobes, also Fobes version of the Chedeville.
It comes down to personal preference, doesn’t it? But there have to be reasons, and here are mine: I prefer the Hawkins “S” for absolutely the best articulation I can produce, the attack being so immediate and with the resistance to which my medium reed responds best. Now, the “R” is a bit less bright, or darker, and slightly less responsive than the “S”.although certainly in the “ballpark” for excellence. The Fobes is cut along the same lines as the Hawkins, however it is more free blowing than either, and I find articulation less immediate than with either Hawkins. One must remember that these are personal preferences based on lots of trials sessions. Let us put it this way: If I have to play the solo from the first movement conclusion of the Pastorale Symphony, I will play it on the Hawkins “S”, end of story.
After that, the differences are miniscule.
Best of practice, and stay well.

“Karl Meyer” Clarinet

April 29, 2010

I’m about to try to relearn the clarinet. A repair man and professional musician has a Karl Meyer.Les B flat wooden clarinet for sale that he says is in excellent condition. He is going to include a Selmer HS mouthpiece.
He is asking $300 for it.
This person comes highly recommended to me by another professional reed player.

I was wondering if you could offer an advice.

Thank you,


Hello Marco …

There are many things that I will venture to say when recommended by a person who is, him or herself, highly recommended. Not bad, is enough, or not enough? I think it will be helpful always, to send a photo or several close up so that I can see the keywork and its wear, which is very important, the general condition of the material from where the clarinet is made. Price is always a concern, and $300 for a wooden clarinet in good condition with a Selmer Paris mouthpiece makes the package more attractive. While the clarinet may cost much more these days, this is probably what the clarinet is worth.
The most interesting thing I can find out about Karl Meyer is that is was a trade name for H&A Selmer, which elevates the whole operation quite a little, as Selmer has a reputation of integrity for all of their time as musical instrument manufacturers.(apropos of nothng, during the second world war, they made bicycle pumps……for the 3rd Reich?, probably)
So, without seeing or playing the horn, I would say that based on what is written above and on your assessment of the seller, I would advise it may be a deal, worthy of your consideration.
I hope it turns out well for you.

Good luck and stay well.


High Gs many fingerings, and Beethoven 8th in Norway

April 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Friedland

When I bought the Lazarus Method for Clarinet (part one), the fingering chart (Boehm System) shows clearly to some extent. There is however one fingering I did not quite understand. It is the highest G. There are seven different ways to play this tone, but if you look at the fourth and fifth fingering, 7bis applies to both methods. So my question is quite simple : Should 7bis be pressed on the fourth only ? Or fifth? Or both? If you could answer these questions I would be most thankful

Yours sincerely Audun S (S in Norway)

Dear Mr. A,S,S in Norway

With regard to the correct fingering for the altissimo G on the clarinet, the response is much easier than is the question.
The best fingering for the high G on the clarinet can be achieved as you have read, with many different fingerings, each of which produce a somewhat different quality of pitch and/or of timbre, and what is perhaps most important, is where in the passage you are playing does the g exist.
For instance, let us take a classic high g, the one that appears twice in the minuet of the Beethoven eighth symphony. At he very end of this minuet the clarinet finishes on the high g pianissimo. I play it with just the first finger of the left hand and the first finger of the right and that is all.
The note can be a trifle sharp, but because it is at the very end of the trio, immediately prior to the Da Capo it is usually quite acceptable, as is the same fingering in the middle of the minuet. The fingering using two and two is usually a bit flat and sometimes can disappoint by not speaking at all. The “one and one” always comes out, and needn’t be a worry.

As I remember, I first worked out a series of fingering for that whole Beethoven 8th Minuet because it is not the high g itself, but how you approach it and how you leave it which is most important.A good performance means a fine and delicate legato for that solo and that takes a good bit of work in achieving as I recall. Once there, it remains, but of course as all, it must be maintained. Nobody plays that piece cold, as they say.
So in the final judgement, it is a matter of your judgement and of course, the conductor.
In chamber music matters, you use the one that speaks securely and that is in tune in the passage and can be played at the right dynamic.

So, there is no particular answer. Like many notes in the upper register of the clarinet the choice of fingering is contingent upon the surrounding circumstances, and of course, your reed.
One of the great teachers I was fortunate to have was Fernand Gillet, principal oboe of the Boston Symphony.
He would tell us, which I pass on to you and others, “Never sacrifice the note itself for the dynamic” In other words, it you have a pianissimo high g and you miss it because you tried to be so soft, you have missed it. Something about which to think

stay well, and play well.