“A lovely sound, superior intonation”

The other day, I looked at a teachers website, which seemed interesting, or at least, busy and productive. But this teacher advocated only what she called the finest equipment,  Buffet-Crampon.

This is quite disturbing , simply because you may say what you want about Buffet-Crampon, but you cannot say it is finely finished or trouble-free. Usually, people who utilize this equipment readily admit to, much tweaking of the instrument for intonation and ,for adjustment.This can cost hundreds ,if not thousands of dollars.. In conclusion, they may have a fine instrument. But, they will have endless adjustments to make. I have taught at institutions where there were concert and marching bands which rehearse on a daily basis for hours. Actually much more than an Orchestra. And those horns were always in need of adjustments. The barrels become frozen to the first joint, the plastic dowels at the end of the bottom joint tend to snap. rendering one unable to play. It is not the finest equipment. In marching or concert bands in post-secondary institutions, Buffet-Crampon has only one thing going for it, and that is the price, which, for most parents, is totally prohibitive. So, for a teacher to advocate Buffet as the finest, is a lie. Young people and their sponsors are interested in playing and practicing for hours. The price of a French Clarinet is prohibitive for most parents. And they are the ones who get the loans of 4 or five thousand dollars to buy these horns. I knew many, people who had menial jobs, trying to take out loans for a clarinet costing thousands. By the time they complete the payments, the youngster has probably changed his major to something where employment is a possibility, which excludes the clarinet business. Unless, of course, you decide to open a clarinet school. Then you can perpetuate the whole thing.

Post-secondary education includes colleges of all kinds, and a college or university becomes the goal of a clarinet major. Unfortunately, they are urged on by their professors, who are refugees from orchestras that payed poorly ,or from Graduate Schools. Where are they, these professors, going to go? Only to another institution where they can teach orchestra studies to their students all day long, work with reed fixing, learn repertoire, buy more horns, look for a mouthpiece that will get them a job, change their embouchure, or change their major. Life is short, orchestras are diminishing, competition is increasing, and to start, there are no jobs. I have worked as a clarinetist , teacher and conductor all of my life, but that was then. This is now, and is pertinent for those living today. Take a look at the prospects for jobs in the music playing business, and please, get serious.

Prior to entering  High School in Brookline, Mass, I wanted to play the clarinet. I had been given lessons by whatever maid we had cleaning our house at the time. Both my parents worked and there was always a person to clean and watch over us, and frequently they played “enough piano” to teach a bit, the names of the notes and a basic finger position. Nothing much happened between me and the piano, but in high school I did find my way into the high school band and the the Jazz Club and a few other groups which attracted me to the clarinet. My parents were not insensitive to this, but they had a unique method. they put an ad in the paper, “wanted to buy, used clarinet” .I guess they got a few replies, but one was quite special and I was quite fortunate. Thjis fellow who came to the house with a metal clarinet , also gave lessons. So, a deal was made, something about renting the clarinet for three months , along with lessons, and for my parents, the deal had to be good, and it was. But, the person who got the very best deal was yours truly.This fellow turned out to be an excellent salesman, but best of all, he was a wonderful player. He was a clarinetist ,but was abe to make a very good sound on all of the woodwinds woodwinds, not terribly well, except for his sound. He sounded terrific on everything, all of the woodwinds. In retrospect, he gave me his sound and I was enthralled, and as I search for a word, enthralled is all I can think of. It was certainly the most beautiful clarinet sound I have or had ever heard. Of course, it is the sound I incorporated into my own sound, simply by listening, and trying to copy what I was hearing. I learned that the sound of the clarinet is the best reason for playing the clarinet.But, I also learned about incorporting that sound into a musical line. This phenomenon occurs whenever you put the instrument together with a person who has what is called an afinity for the instrument. My first lesson was completely filled with squeaks and horrible noises. The teacher told me to practice a half hour each day, and I vowed to myself, that I would not squeak for the next lesson. I would simply not allow any foreign noise. I have been that way al of my life, both as a student and a clarinetist. I made literally dozens of remote broadcast for Radio Canada, called the CBC. These were live concerts. There were no retakes. What that means is what you play is what you get. No splicing, no editing, nothing was changed. Just about every recording onthis site was made from recording copies of these concerts.It came from that very first vow: no squeaks, no mistakes. And, as well know, that means no excuses. It has been a wonderful standard.

For many years, I used to prowl the auction houses for used and new clarinets. It was great fun and , frequently very fine instruments were to be had, at very attractive prices. I was able to purchase some clarinets which were brand new looking and excellent players. Perhaps the most important aspect of a clarinet that has been pre-owned, or used is the actual written presentation of the instrument,plus the photographs,the condition and of course, the price, and the conditions of the sale. One hears again for all auctions online, CAVEAT EMPTOR, which means (in LAtin) Buyer beware. It is to be taken quite seriously, for there are many instruments for sale which turn out to be much less than the description, or just plain unplayable or clarinets one would reject immediately,upon first playing. For buyers , online auctions can be treacherous . Descriptions must be examined carefully, checking for accuracy, the exact conditions for shipping, and for any warranty offered. Shipping is to be examined carefully. But prices  of many countries have increased and the private shipping companies do not necessarily do a great job in shipping or packing or clarinet condition. I hve found that the US postal Service is the most reliable, and has been for me for at least a dozen years. I have never ever lost a shipped package . Not one.
One should attempt to be as clear as possible and use as little flowery descriptive terms as possible. You should edit your copy until it is perfect. As far as photos are concerned, furnish the best photos you can. If it means buying a digital camera, get a good one, and they are plentiful and very economical. Too many pictures are counter productive. In other words they do not necessarly prove a point or tend to impress the potential buyer.

For a careful shopper interested in learning to play the clarinet, without a big budget, the absolutely best recommendation I can give you for excellent workmanship, intonation and sound are instruments made from hard rubber, or ebonite. This material is natural, grows plentifully and easily and best of all, is much more stable than any wood. Finally, it is easier to machine as well, meaning that the cost is much less than any clarinet made in Europe, specifically, France. There has been a saying mouthed from people who really don’t know, or have not truly tried hard rubber, or ebonite. They  say, “if it aint wood, it aint good.” Usually, this is mouthed by folks who play wooden instruments, have forked over the big price, and have worked on their horn to an extent to where the horns are in tune. I have never heard this comment from one  who had played hard rubber for any length of time. The comment is understandable. If you pay 5 grand for a clarinet, you better like the horn, and had better look down your nose at a rubber clarinet, which costs thousands less, is better in tune, and will remain stable , even in winter.

Yes, you know I am speaking about the Lyrique clarinet designed and made by Tom Ridenour. It is my horn of choice, and my recommendation, which I make freely, having owned just about every wooden instrument made. I still have ten. Twelve…..

Stay well, and play well.



One Response to “A lovely sound, superior intonation”

  1. […] Friedland offers some comments about purchasing clarinets. He mentions a couple of specific makes and pulls no punches about his opinions, but regardless of […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: