Dear Mr. Friedland,
I am a 25 year old clarinetist actively pursuing a masters in clarinet performance. Three years ago I spent an entire summer studying with a clarinetist named R.L. He was student of Bonade at the same time as Marcellus. The summer I spent with him had such a profound impact on me as a clarinetist. During the time I was studying with him he gave me one of his personal G. mouthpieces. After getting used to it, (I was playing a H. B before this), I became madly in love with this mouthpiece. For the next year and a half I played this mouthpiece with wonderful results. It even helped me get into a few of the nations top graduate schools for clarinet. Now after transitioning to graduate school I ended up abandoning the G. My professor and colleagues could not believe I played on such a cheap mouthpiece and insisted that I needed to find a “real” mouthpiece. So began my epic, and extremely expensive, quest for a mouthpiece. All in all I am well over a thousand dollars in the hole and I have no mouthpiece that makes me even close to happy. I have had the most success with Mr. H’s mouthpieces but for some reason the pitch is very high when compared to the G.. It is high enough to make me very uncomfortable and self conscious. I feel that I am far enough in my development that I can make my own decisions but after flip flopping mouthpieces for the past year or so I feel rather lost. The G. I loved feels strange but oddly comfortable and the pitch is right on. I would consider having it refaced but I am terrified of losing the only mouthpiece that I have truly loved! My question for you is multifaceted. Do you think the G. is a viable mouthpiece for today’s clarinetists? Again mine is older and likely made by Iggy himself. If so then should I seriously spend some time revisiting it again? If not can you recommend some mouthpieces for me to try? I have yet to try the Fobes. I play one on bass, and love it, but it, like my Gennusa, is not favored by my professors and colleagues. If you think it could benefit from a refacing is there anyone you particularly recommend? Again I am afraid of losing what I have! Well thank you so much for your time and I sincerely look forward to your objective opinion!
Thank you for your rather fascinating letter. It is fascinating because of your background in professors. You did have in R. L., one of the more noted names in the field of clarinet. I have heard his name frequently and I know that he retired from a respected school of the Arts about ten years past. He is always spoken of very complementarily.
You mentioned that he had a profound impact upon you as a clarinetist. Further, you say that he gave you one of his personal mouthpieces. This in itself, is meaningful.
Further, you say that you fell in love with this mouthpiece,”madly” in love.
Let me stop right here and tell you that I have had the very same experience with both a R. H. B mouthpiece and a G. mouthpiece, the only difference being that I came upon the G. in a situation wherein it came with a clarinet. I played it and found it good, however my thought was that it is kind of dull in comparison to my RH. But I kept on trying it, finding it more and more to my liking because it felt less edgy, fuller, and yes, articulation response. I started playing on the G. and really found it exactly to my liking. I had to have another. The fellow who bought G.mouthpiece is B. R.. I wrote to him and asked if he could make me a duplicate.
He agreed and made me quite a nice duplicate, just a bit brighter in responce. I was satisfied and played one or the other, and stopped playing my others.
Here comes the bend in the road. I played a concert at the Berklee School of Music in Boston., all contemporary music/ It went well enough, but I was not satisfied at all. I blamed my poor G.. Rule number 1: A mouthpiece is an inanimate object. It is just part of the whole, the rest being well known to all. I shouldn’t have blamed the poor G., and ,my friend, neither should you.The mouthpiece was given to you by a noted excellent clarinetist and teacher. You loved this mouthpiece. Why have you given it up?
Answer to question 1. Yes, I believe the G. is a viable mouthpiece for todays clarinetist, and especially because it feels comfortable and it is right in tune. Do not think of having it refaced. (please)
One is especially disappointed that you have heard disparaging remarks concerning your mouthpiece, which ever you play. No mouthpiece can be called “cheap or real”. These are words that are intended to coerce you. I have played and tried mouthpieces of every conceivable name and price, all of which being totally without credence or significance. A Kaspar , or a Chedville, or any kind of mouthpiece can be perfectly terrible , or can play quite well. Your ideal of a sound, your intellect, your ear, your embouchure, your love of the sound of the clarinet are all parts of the formula. There is no standard of excellence in mouthpieces. It is the sound and beauty of the player. That is the final definition.
I will not recommend any mouthpiece for you to try, regardless of what your professors and /or colleagues say or tell you. You are in a terrible situation because you are part of a cult of mouthpiece whackos who do not like your G,. It is that simple. I recommend you consider changing Graduate Schools,rather than changing your mouthpiece, because at the very least, you are being influenced by folk who probably are not at your level and/or have not studied with a teacher with the qualities of a Mr L. A thousand dollars in the hole. My gosh, that is awful. I play a Zinner blank and can honestly say that all Zinner mouthpieces play a few cents sharp.Fobes as well.
I have almost a complete recorded history of all of my performances, and there are some that I consider to be excellent, some less so. I cannot attach any mouthpiece to any of the performances.Mouthpieces are easily forgotten; music and the performance is what is remembered.
Again, stay with your Gennusa. Cover up the name with electric tape. Tell everybody you have a Gaddafy-Shapiro mouthpiece from some place in the Mediteranean.
And just play your brains out and get a good job. Keep your G. and flourish.
Best of good luck, sherman