Vintage Clarinet, worth repairing, or New, or 30 yr. old Buffet?

July 31, 2010

Dear Mr Friedland
I have a Martin Clarinet that needs some repair work. Is it worth repairing? I have been reading your comments about the Lyrique Clarinet ( which I confess I have never heard of) and the older Buffet Clarinets ( of which I have a fifteen year old one !) Would appreciate your comments.
Many thanks

Hi Colleen:
First, it is quite difficult to respond to your general questions about clarinets without seeing them, playing them and listening.Sometimes, I can be helpful with seeing close-up photographs, however I cannot comment on the quality of the instrument with no information.
As far as the Martin clarinet, it may or may not be worth repairing. A lot of that decision remains with you, the owner/player. I remember the Martin Company very well, but I remember them as a company making brass instruments mainly, though they could have produced clarinets as well. They were finally bought out by Leblanc, much before the incorporation of Leblanc into the company now called Conn-Selmer.

Of the “15 year old Buffet” of which you speak, in order for a comment, I would need to know the model number, which will tell me country of origin and purported quality, but without anything else, establishing value is difficult. Buffets are very inconsistent as a clarinet.

The Lyrique clarinet was designed and is imported by Tom Ridenour, one of the foremost clarinet designers, having designed all of the french imported high end models of Leblanc, the Opus and the Concerto. He left Leblanc to return to his native Texas where he designed the hard rubber clarinet, made and imported from China, to his design. The clarinet is remarkably similar, one to the other, the tuning unusually good, better than any other clarinet being made today, regardless of price. I can recommend that instrument to you with no reservations,simply because it is better and, it is made from hard rubber which will remain stable and will not be compromised as mich as is wood by contrasts in temperature, and/or humidity .

Hope that I have answered your questions.


“This thumb rest really hurts”

July 23, 2010

Hello Sherman,
Please help me ! this thing really hurts !
my name is Sylvain and as you will understand I want to replace my Lyrique thumbrest. Also, permit me to ask you how did you do the change, doing another hole or maybe no ; and what is the new one type, please ?
Tanks for your valuous writings and your attention.
Would you excuse my poor english.

Dear Sylvain: (your english is better than my french)
I am well aware of your problem. However, I wish to preface my reply with the fact that the Lyrique is simply a beautifully in tune instrument at a very reasonable price, and it will not crack, will remain more stable in pitch and adjustment than virtually any other clarinet. It is made from hard rubber, as you know, and this material has certain features which make it very attractive: intervals generally are less problematic, especially on the A clarinet; The material has a different response than does grenadilla wood, generally considered to be darker, and one further quality. It is a more dulcet quality and in general, it is my feeling that the horn will not carry quite as well as does grenadilla.

I have owned the Ridenour instruments for several years and have had the time to try many. I own a set of them now and several other ebonite clarinets.

I no longer play the Bb, mostly because of the very narrow, though heavy, and poorly placed thumb rest. It is placed incorrectly, too far to the right and slightly too high. What I did to my thumbrest was to remove it, which is fairly easy to do and move it down and to the left, perhaps 2 or 3mm. I found that with the change my fingers did not bump into one another when playing the fork F#. I use general and approximate terminology because it may be slightly different for you, and for others, but only a bit. I can tell you that after playing professionally for more than a half century , the above it true. It is an ungainly placed and made thumb rest. Because I like the instrument, I worked to get comfortable with the thumb, but never really achieved the comfort that I have on every other clarinet I own, or have owned.

I have mentioned this many times to Mr Ridenour, and sent him the horn, but he always works his way around changing it, and he gives me the strong feeling that it is proper as it is. It is not.

Another solution would be simply to remove it and get an ordinary thumb rest and have it installed, or do it yourself. You will find it instantly corrected.I find it to be a big problem, and changing your hand position for a poorly designed and placed piece of equipment is simply incorrect, even if the basic horn plays very well indeed.

I hope this helps you, and I might add, I hope that this thumb rest will be changed on future models.It should be widened and made to the shape of the thumb, and its adjustment should be made to truly adjust, which it does not at present. It is too high, and therefore it needs to be adjustable, so that one can go in either direction. This thumbrest does not . The mid-point should be where the norm is for most players, and it should adjust from that midpoint, as should  every adjustable thumbrest.

Best wishes,


Old Buffet, or New Lyrique?

July 12, 2010

Dear Mr.Friedland:

I am an amateur musician and currently play viola in the string section of our community orchestra (I learned to play violin and viola when my daughter was taking Suzuki lessons.) My musical background was playing woodwinds. I played clarinet with particular interest in Dixieland jazz many years past and in the past 2 years have been increasingly interested in resuming that pursuit. I would like to purchase a better quality B flat soprano clarinet for my own enjoyment and to play jazz arrangements in our orchestra. I was looking at a Buffet 1947 (professional according to serial number or pre R13 model) that I was offered for purchase at $700 and was quoted a $350 custom refurbishment. The instrument is disassembled but appears to be in excellent condition, no cracks, etc. but certainly not playable as is. I have read many comments in your forum and question whether I should go for aesthetics, i.e. beautiful wood, classic appearance, or purchase a Ridenour Lyrique which you have reviewed more than favorably?! My current instrument is a fair quality R Malerne. My old Dixieland Mardi Gras parade marching instrument was a one piece bomb proof silver Pedler, but suffered what seemed like at least a quarter tone tuning difference between the low, middle and high B flats!! If you recommend the Lyrique, should I consider the basic 146 model or the pro 576BC model which is more expensive?



Dear RO:

I would certainly recommend the Ridenour Lyrique Clarinet, specifically the 576BC model. It is as you say, more expensive than the 146 model, but plays considerably better, and even considering its cost at just around a thousand dollars, you are getting a very well in tune instrument, brand new, with a mouthpiece and two barrels, in a very strong case, all brand new.

You have no idea of what your pre-R13 Buffet may play like after the overhaul, but it will not play as well as the Lyrique. Because they are made on Ridenours specifications, on a material totally resistant to cracking, much easier to machine( as far as tone hole placement), sounding traditionally darker than wood because hard rubber has a more pleasant sound and response, and is easier in response than wood.That means slurring intervals in either directions requires very little if any, embouchure adjustment

I do not think there is another clarinet manufactured today that has all of those really excellent characteristics, especially the tuning,( where Ridenour has no peers). Ceratinly, not at the price, nor near it.

As far as criticisms are concerned, the register key is ungainly, as is the thumb rest, which is too narrow, badly placed and doesn’t adjust correctly  That’s all. Good luck. You cannot go wrong.

Here are a couple of messages received from Tom Ridenour concerning both his Lyrique and older Buffet clarinets, with some identifying characteristics and serial numbers. As we are aware, this designer of both the Opus, Concerto, Sonata and other Leblanc models which are still at the top of the industry has earned all the praise  receives.
“There are serial numbers that are borderline. The only way to tell in those cases is to measure the bore of the central cylinder. You can find that by measuring the bottom of the bore of the left hand. It should be 14.6 to 14.65. If it is 14.8 to 15 mm it is pre R-13.
Otherwise, if you can’t do that don’t buy anything lower than 75,000 in its serial number. Best advise: don’t buy anything from the old Buffet’s at all. They’re not going to tune up to the needed standard and they’re most likely blown out”.

From the RO who asked the question concerning usd Bufet clarinets.
“Thanks for the advice which I will follow wholeheartedly. I was particularly disconcerted by false advertisements on ebay for Buffet clarinets that were offered as R13’s but were quite likely student or lesser quality. There are quite a number of confusing serial numbers that are misleading. That might be a topic to more fully address in your forum, if it has not been already in the archives.
Thanks again. I will let you know when I am ready to record Artie Shaw’s clarinet concerto!!” RO

On 13-Jul-10, at 1:30 AM, william ridenour wrote:

Thanks for the recommendation. I keep trying hard to reach the standard you speak of.
Other issues about the used Buffet: it’s likely to be blown out and it will tune very badly. It is a large bore, pre-R-13 and there will be considerable sharpness in the low register. It is, in my opinion, a myth that these old R-13s were somehow extraordinary or had some special mystical properties newer ones did not. Just nonsense.
They often tune very badly and the mechanisms are often soft and a nightmare to get to fit well and be durable. They usually wear and get out of adjustment quickly.There are serial numbers that are borderline.  The only way to tell in those cases is to measure the bore of the central cylinder.  You can find that by measuring the bottom of the bore of the left hand.  It should be 14.6 to 14.65. If it is 14.8 to 15 mm it is pre R-13.
Hope you are well.

Set of Buffets (R13s?) . What price?

July 9, 2010

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I am looking for clarinets for a student and have found two beautiful clarinets, which I believe to be R13s purchased at the factory. The Bb is in the 244,000 serial number range, and A in the 273,000 serial number range. They have been very well cared for, no cracks, and kept in excellent playing condition. These instruments were used for symphony work and solo performances. The owner is asking about $5000 for them, and included are two mouthpieces, a humidifier, and an excellent case. The individual who played these was a friend of mine, so I know how they were handled.

Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Gonzaga University (saxophone professor)

Dear SB: Thank you for your note concerning the set of Buffet clarinets that you found for a student. The clarinet serial numbers which you sent can not be calledthe famous  R13s because both clarinets were made between 1983-1985. Buffets from after the number 200,000 were made in the 1980s, while the actual reknown R13 exists circa the numbers around 50,000.

The lowest serial number for R-13 is 45451 (1953). This clarinet belonged to Robert Marcellus.
Robert Carree designed polycylindrical bore in 1950. Buffet did not adopt the R-13 designation until 1955. In 1955 the “R-13” was introduced as a model name.
With this introduction of the R-13 the throat “A” and “G#” keys got separate posts. THIS NEW KEY DESIGN SIGNIFIES the SWITCH and that’s what identifies newly introduced R-13 from the rest of so called R-13s that were made before the introduction. The lowest serial number seen with the separate post design is 49950.
Here are the dates of the manufacture of your two Buffets:
Brand : Buffet Crampon
Instrument : BC 1512.AG
Serial number : 273000
Year of manufacturing : 15/11/1985

Brand : Buffet Crampon,243000 1983

Whatever the qualities of the set you have found are, and they may be really excellent clarinets, they do not conform to the years of manufacture of the most noted R13 clarinet. Here is what Mr Anthony Gigliotti, the late Principal Clarinet of the Philadelphia Orchestra had to say about his experience with Buffet: Gigliotti wrote: “The first time I went to the Buffet factory in France was in 1953 and I remember trying 55 Bb clarinets. After selecting the two best ones I then spent countless hours with Hans Moennig tuning and voicing them until I could finally try them in the orchestra. My reason for becoming involved with the Selmer Company was to make it possible for a student or professional to buy an instrument that didn’t need all that work and it has resulted in the series 10G which was based on my Moennigized Buffet which I played for 27 years.”

Now, of course this was written as a preface fpr the announcement of the release of the Selmer Company of their 10G clarinet, probably an excellent instrument. However the ordinary run of Selmer 10G clarinets were no where near as consistent as were the clarinets described my Mr Gigliotti after  having been “Moennigized” .

This contributes to the somewhat uneven history of the Buffet clarinet. Trying 55 Buffets in 1953, picking two and having Moennig customize them is not easy task.

In conclusion, I would suggest to you that, while this set of buffets can be a very good set, it does not appear that they are worth some $5,000. I think three thousand would be fair, but finally, not having played the clarinets of which you speak, I can only suggest.

Best of luck ,

sherman friedland

Many job openings in major orchstras

July 6, 2010

This article is from The New York Times, July 6.

“The nation is bleeding jobs, unemployment stands at almost 10 percent, and lines run long at job fairs. But in one microscopic sliver of the economy, the pickings are rich: major orchestras.
Next season the New York Philharmonic will have a rare 12 openings, or roughly 12 percent of its instrumental work force, thanks to a confluence of retirements, departures for better jobs and long-unfilled positions. The Boston Symphony Orchestra has 10 vacancies, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra 9, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic 7.

Elsewhere the Cleveland Orchestra has four full-time job openings and one part-time. The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and Dallas Symphony each have three openings.

“We haven’t had this many for quite a while, not for 20 years,” said Carl R. Schiebler, the New York Philharmonic’s personnel director and its maestro of musician management. “A lot is six or seven.”

In New York, Chicago and Los Angeles the many openings create unusual opportunities for new music directors to deepen their imprints on their orchestras. They also present, at least in the short term, the risk of subtly eroding the highly cultivated sense of ensemble and tradition of sound and style that exist in orchestras at their level.

The New York Philharmonic, the leader in Help Wanted signs, has openings for principal clarinetist, bass clarinetist and second flutist in the woodwinds; two section violinists, two section cellists and three double bassists, including assistant principal; and associate principal horn player. In addition, the third horn player, Erik Ralske, who has been filling in as associate principal, has confirmed that he is fielding offers from elsewhere.

Not that audiences will be seeing empty chairs. Orchestras hire substitutes for section jobs. Assistant principals move up temporarily into the top positions.

These posts, naturally, are rarefied and have little to do with the normal job picture nationwide. But the number of openings prompts the question of why so many spots stand vacant in a market glutted with talented musicians looking to move up to better orchestras or just to find jobs.

The economy has had an effect. It is cheaper to leave jobs unfilled and to pay substitutes, who usually receive close to the minimum base pay and fewer benefits. Starting salaries at the 10 top-paying orchestras next season range from $101,600 (Minnesota) to $136,500 (Los Angeles), but principal players can earn two or three times that.

Sometimes orchestras negotiate with their unions to keep jobs open for financial reasons. In Chicago the players agreed to let four vacancies stand last season and next for budgetary reasons. At other times management does it informally, said Bruce Ridge, chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. He criticized the practice. “No business ever solved a financial problem by offering an inferior product to the public,” he said.

Music director transitions have also delayed hiring. Conductors on their way out often defer to their successors, who will, after all, have to live with the new musicians, and vice versa. Lorin Maazel, whose tenure in New York ended last year, left several openings to his successor, Alan Gilbert, who in his first season has already filled positions for two violinists, a trombonist, French horn player and, on June 25, a percussionist. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, where Gustavo Dudamel took over last season, provided the same explanation. Riccardo Muti begins his tenure in Chicago in September.

The elaborate logistical demands of orchestral auditions cause delays. First auditions are advertised. Then time must pass for applicants to send in résumés and tapes and practice the assigned excerpts from the orchestral literature. A committee of players, usually in the section, has to be formed, and preliminary rounds of auditions have to be scheduled. After the finalists are chosen, a time must be found when the busy music director and committee members can hear them. The process can easily stretch out for many months.

Often no winner is chosen. That happened last year with the Philharmonic’s principal clarinet job. Two rounds of auditions for associate principal horn player and a double bassist also produced no result. The music director in New York has final say but makes the decision in consultation with the committee.

The Boston Symphony usually has a high number of openings, because the demands on the players — the Tanglewood festival, the Boston Pops and regular concerts — make scheduling auditions especially difficult, as does the orchestra’s system of hiring based on a two-thirds majority in committee.

The finest musician can have a bad day: it’s a paradox of the process, in which less than an hour of playing is supposed to determine whether a musician is suitable for the continual day in, day out life of an orchestra member. And in another contradiction, the aspirants play alone for a job that depends on group effort. (Winners are usually on probation for a year or two, effectively a tryout with the ensemble.) On occasion, when no winner is chosen, established orchestral players from elsewhere will be invited to play as guests in a kind of informal tryout. It’s an imperfect system, but no one has figured out a better one.

Technical proficiency is only part of the test. Members of the orchestra weigh whether a candidate plays with strong character yet can blend, match the ensemble’s style and be a colleague they are willing to work with possibly for decades to come.

Orchestra officials and musicians are loath to discuss the auditioning process in detail, and screens are used to hide the auditioner’s identity from his judges, in the interest of fairness. In a statement, Mr. Gilbert said, “We’re looking for the best musicians, people with a human quality that makes them uniquely right for the New York Philharmonic.”