Hi Mr. Friedland
– I’ve recently bought a Selmer 9 from 1962 with a Leblanc 2L mouthpiece and am having problems with the short 12ths which seem rather extreme. As a bassoonist/saxophonist I am having to work hard on my embouchure but with the top in tune the bottom is too sharp to lip down. I’ve tried reeds as hard as Vandoren 3.5 which were a nightmare so am experimenting with Rico Royal 1.5/2/2.5. The 1.5 is lovely in the lower register – too thin on top and I’m sure you can guess the rest. Any advice re mouthpiece etc would be helpful. After reading your column and looking round other sites I am thankfully and successfully using a double-lip embouchure (also on soprano) – and I was always told that to use a double-lip embouchure on a single-reed instrument was pretty much the greatest crime against humanity possible….!! Thanks – Nick
First, get rid of the Leblanc 2L mouthpiece, which was never known for being special in any way but to provide a space to fill in the clarinet case. Nowadays, the Leblanc has gained all kinds of attention,mostly because it is really much better, but still fills the space in mostly Leblanc clarinet cases. I recall that 10M as being quite good, but I remember it coming with a Leblanc clarinet, which doesn’t make it hard to play on any other clarinet, but not specifically your Selmer Series 9 .
You are a bassoonist/saxophonist, and it seems to me that you hear quite well, so it is time to get a better mouthpiece for your series 9. You may like the Selmer C*, a personal favorite of many players, or a newer Selmer, a C85, with an opening of 120, which is not really that open, but I remember that it seemed to play quit well, though I played it on a Recital, for which I had learned it was originally made. Both would improve the intonation a bit. Write to Richard Hawkins who, while not a doubler knows as much about mouthpieces as anyone. His are the best I have ever played and they are meticulously finished, and, well, he knows.
He also has another thing going for him which is my next recommendation to you, as a doubler. He plays only on Legere synthetic reeds, in which he has assisted development, and he is a superb player. His website includes impressive examples and they are all made on a Legere synthetic, which incidentally are used by many many doublers. The Legere is the most consistent synthetic reed on the market. I would ask him for a recommendation as to strength, but I would say that you will be happy with a #2 in strength, perhaps 2.5
As far as lipping up or down, that is a very thankless practice and I feel really not necessary. The Series 9 did have some intonation problems, since it was the first in a series, but a better made mouthpiece and a good synthetic will help you , I think.
As to the double lip embouchure,as you have learned, it is simply the very best , most natural embouchure you can use, and my recommendation is but only one in a long line of players who prefer this natural way of playing. As Bogart said in”Casablanca” when asked why he was there , “I came to take the waters”, receives the answer, “there are no waters”, and replies, “I was misinformed”. Double lip rocks in todays parlance.
Good luck and play well.