That Clarinet Mystique is a mistake.

Dear Mr Friedland,

First I would like to congratulate you for sharing your knowledge with the whole world.I think that people like you, with your credibility and exemption, and  William Ridenour, with his technical ability and entrepreneurship, are revolutionizing the clarinet market – hard rubber seems to be the way to go.I have one question for you.Some time ago, the quality of the clarinets made in china was a joke, and now they have improved a lot, specially the hard rubber (ebonite) clarinets.We know too that any one can order one hundred or less clarinets from a Chinese maker and print a logo on it and create her/his own brand. This scenario makes things harder.Recently you post a good review about the Orpheo 450 Pro clarinet, a good instrument for its price. But how much can we trust a clarinet from an unknowing Chinese brand?Like this “JinYin” ebonite Eb clarinet for $ 179,00 “Lazarro” ebonite Bd clarinet from ebay for less then $100,00

I know that you can say specifically nothing about those instruments. But about the overall picture, do you have something to say?
Thank you.

Best regards,
RFS Ps.: Excuse me for my poor writing. English is not my first language.

Dear RFS:

Thank you for your note with its questions about ebonite clarinets from the Orient.
I have played many more than several as I bought and tried and returned perhaps 10 or 11 so-called Allora ebonite Bbs from 23 Music. These were actually Ridenour Arioso clarinets with a different name. They were advertised as such however with the name Allora, and they played just beautifully , by and large. The deviations between each clarinet were very small indeed.I think I probably returned the best one I had, a testament to the ability to machine hard rubber more easily than grenadilla wood.At the time the instruments from the Orient were called CSI, ir Clarinet Shaped Instruments, an obviously derisive term. These instruments shocked me with their really excellent tuning and basic response, and finally when I got the chance to try an Allora A clarinet, I bought it and still it is mine today.Ridenour has said on several occasions that he is not sure which one of his designs is the best, but feels it either his C or his A clarinet.
Then I tried another Bb Ebonite clarinet imported by some music store on the West Coast.  I sent it on to Tom.He wrote back saying it was like a big “Buffet clarinet”, which was taken as a compliment.I still have that one, though it is not being played at present.
Then, for a pittance, I bought yet another, the 450 Orpheo, same strong case, two barrels and a mouthpiece, ordinary register key.  Excellent. Curiously enough, I was able to switch register keys with the ergonomic register key on my Lyrique, and the scews and keys matched perfectly. This is a fine free blowing instrument, though I felt the second register started to be slightly sharp as it went up, but a horn with a nice feel, a good thumb rest and a good response. Cost 133.00, shipping included. I recommend it without reservation.

You see, there is a mystique associated with the French Grenadilla clarinet, and it actually refines into something like “each clarinet is carefully tested and tuned”. I say that statement or inference, is total hyperbole, overspeak or plain BS. I spent some time at the Selmer factory in Paris and visited the Buffet place as well, and to me it looked like an assembly line. I wondered if some of those workmen could even hear. The Selmers were the most consistent and dependable. The Buffets were the least. The years past have proven that to me over and over again.

I think finally, that the clarinets from the Orient made of ebonite are to be taken quite seriously. The Lyrique is clearly best because the designer actually works on each and offers an actual guarantee. The others need to be tried. In the final analyses, one doesn’t mind when the price for the whole deal is about $150. and sometimes that price includes shipping.

All of the advertising you see for all of the many clarinets being offered for sale costs money, big money. Guess who pays it? You, for it is in the price of the horn.

A final Caveat:yes, you can purchase a Buffet Clarinet, and it mahy be a good one, but it is useful to paraphrase Anthony Gigliottis statement” Every year I would try 55 Buffet Clarinets and I would select two and then bring them to Hans Moenig to arrange them sothat I could play them in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gigliotti was principalin that orchestra for many yhears and Hans Moenig was the techician who was responsiblefor tuning and arranging many top players clarinets.He also developed the “Moenig”reverse curve”barrel, emulated by many makers and played by many. When a director directs a first-year student to buy a Buffet to play in band, one should really think many times and perhaps reread the above. Of course the choice is yours, or your sponsors and/or parents.

Keep practicing.


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