A professional Clarinet, Part 2

Any universitys description of a professional clarinet in order to enter a department is the worst part of any music department. It is such a  travesty on an incoming clarinet student, one then turns to an honest drescription of what can be termed professional, when it comes to the clarinet.

I enter the criteria from the experience of study with the finest teachers,performing as principal in a major symphony orchestra, and a lifetime of performance, conducting and teaching in all types of institutions.

From observing a large number of music students who had entered a university for the purpose of receiving a Bachelor of Music Education, the “necessary” for a career as a music teacher in a secondary school, one of the first hard lessons one learns is the art of assembling and disassembling ones clarinet, no small feat of strength and resolve when playing in a concert or a marching band for up to 15 hours a week,or more.

There is no wooden instrument that can stand this amount of being blown for that length of time. The biggest problem is the frozen barrel, imossible to remove from the clarinet without superhuman strength, and finally a call to the technician who spends many hours prying these things apart. Some hard headed, and more harder of hearing band directors will instruct their students to always leave the barrel 1/4 of an inch out, or more.  Others advise it for all of the joints.

The wooden instrument is usually made from material which is aged improperly, if at all, freezes from the amount of moisture left in the barrel to swell and shrink as one walks their horn back to the dorm.

The simple answer to this vexing problem is the acquisition of a plastic instrument for band rehearsals. Some of the Yamahas are excellent for these purposes, but usually are possessed of a bright shrieky kind of reponse, not pleasant, and now , much too costly. When this company changed their number 20 to the number 250, the quality remained the same, the price trebled.

Another answer is PT Barnums clarinet response to “there’s one born every minute”,meaning sucker,(but in this case, blower), the famous saver of the forests, the Greenline, made from carbon fibres and a few shavings of grenadilla and costing the same as one of their highest-priced instruments. These things are more stable than wood, but if you brush up against a hard-bodied fellow clarinetist, they tend to shatter, to break, and while you can replace the joint , if the break occurs between two joints you are clearly in deep doo-doo, as the saying goes.

The only answer to this vexing question is the acquisition of the least expensive clarinet on the market, a clarinet made from ebonite, or hard rubber. This material has been around for many years, is the selected material for the clarinet mouthpiece, and, is one of the most stable materials on the market.

There are three or four of these ebonite clarinet being manufactured today, all in the orient, and they are excellent and easy to acquire. The material is not only stable, but much easier to machine accurately, and therefore much less expensive to manufacture.

It takes two things to make this ebonite clarinet: One, is an excellent ear, and two is the ability to put what your ear hears to the machining of the clarinet, with accuracy.

The best ear in this end of the clarinet manufacturing business is that of  Tom Ridenour, who has designed already the worlds best-in-tune clarinets, the Opus and the Concerto. He has designed a Bb, a C,and an A clarinet, all excellent and less expensive than other instrments. But, these clarinet designs are easily copied, and copied well by others in the orient.

I own several of Ridenours instruments, but one with an even better response is the Orpheo 450, packaged exactly in the same manner as the former, but at a third of its price. I purchased an excellenr Orpheo 450 for 133.00  including shipping.

Please consider these alternatives to the problems mentioned above. I have absolutley nothing to gain, save for  all that wasted money in a world where it is so hard to acquire, or borrow, as is frequently the case.

Have a happy , healthy and free-blowing new year.

Stay well, and keep practicing,

sherman friedland


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