From Tom Ridenour (March 18, 2013)

You are absolutely right–every clarinet player dies a little in a cold performance hall. I remember well, I certainly did. I recall in a cool Sanders Theatre in Boston, Harold Wright came out on stage to play the Mozart Piano quintet with his clarinet tucked under his suit coat. He looked worried. As always, he played great!

Of course, hard rubber clarinets free the player from such worries—and it IS liberating. As you kindly and rightly note, hard rubber has many, many virtue and advantages, but the pragmatic concern of freedom from the fear of cracking during concerts or while on the road may be the greatest—-especially for the working clarinetist.

Second, I’d say I, personally, like the color of the tone of a hard rubber clarinet; it is softer, not in volume, but in shape, which is naturally less harsh and pleasing to the ear–more akin to Rosewood than Grenadilla wood is.

Running a close third, or maybe tied for second, I’d say the wind resistance is more even, and this makes phrasing more effortless and response at all dynamics more secure in all registers.

For those who think logically about the clarinet and musical performance it will be clear that these features make up a formidable set of advantages. And then, nowadays especially, there is the issue of price–which is no. 4 or, perhaps, no. 1—depending upon whether you can or can’t even conceived of being able to pay for an outrageously priced wood clarinet.

In my view: That’s four strikes–the wood clarinet is OUT!

The real outrage, in my view, with wood clarinets is very little of the high cost is related to making the clarinet actually play better. If I were to write a step by step approach to making a French wood clarinet in the 21st century, the first step would say something like this:

Step 1. Start with several million Euros a year of legacy, entitlement, upper management and retirement expenses and make sure the losses they impose are made up by French government subsidies, robbed from the French tax payer–whether he plays the clarinet or not– to support unprofitable companies because they are part of “the French heritage.”

Step 2. Buy a large amount of Grenadilla wood….etc.

All this the high price is meant to cover, at least in part–and, as I already stated, none of it has a thing to do with making the actual performance quality of the clarinet the least bit better.

That’s offensive to me.

Without the government subsidies that high price would double or even triple just to cover the inflated overhead of Buffet Crampon, and keep the company out of the red.

Thanks for having the courage boldly go where no other clarinetist has gone, and state the plain truth, with no concern about whose ox is gored in the process.

Tom Ridenour deserves an award because of his many musical discoveries,and his extraordinary ear. The story of ebonite is very old, but Ridenour has something which very few possess, a very sensitive ear, and the ability to use tools which are connected to his ability to hear. Over many years, he has developed his skills and can literally tune and or change any clarinet for the better. This led him to the first hard rubber clarinet which was something else: it was in tune, better than most clarinet made of any price, thus affording the young student the ability to start on a good instrument, proper tuning, long lasting and dimensionally stable, available at a fraction of the French made Grenadilla clarinets. He has made a very fine sounding clarinet available for young student,for about 1 thousand dollars,:better than any clarinet that can cost 4 or 5 thousand dollars, or more. This combines the gift of a good ear, and the experience developed to allow him to make excellent advances in the manufacture of clarinets. His many inventions include barrels, many books on fingering and an excellent book on advice on reed fixing and choosing, and a superb series of brief seminars offered to all available as close as your computer, and at no cost. He deserves the praise of the entire industry

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