Penzel Mueller, and George Lewis and Woody Herman

October 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Friedland:
My daughter has a pre-WW2 Penzel Muller DynaTone.
It is in great condition now, but I was told by our local music shop to start looking for replacement parts or a parts clarinet “just in case”.
He says it will be difficult to repair if something should ever go wrong with the instrument without the appropriate parts.

I have been unable to find another DynaTone or Dynatone parts online.
I was wondering if you know of a good resource for these things or if you are familiar with another manufacturer that may be comparible and could be used for parts if need be.
We think the clarinet is from the 30’s but cannot pinpoint a year. I have not found any serial numbers to verify an exact date of manufacture.

Any suggestions or advise you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
It has a fantastic tone and sound quality and she would hate to shelve the instrument out of fear of being unable to maintain it…
Thanks very much.


Dear SG:

Thank you for your note on your Penzel Mueller Clarinet. I have known of PM for as long as I’ve been a player, but never played one or investigated the name. So, for your interest, this instrument company was founded in New York City in 1899 by two German Immigrants with the same names and I believe was manufactured until 1950. It was not a German Company though the workers hired by Penzel Mueller were of German descent. While in Boston studying in the 50s and 60s, the clarinet was considered to be a medium priced instrument with the same playing characteristics. However, since I never played one, I can’t attest to those qualities. Here is a quotation from a fellow who had a music store in New Orleans in the 60s: George Lewis, mentioned , was a famous early Jazz Clarinetist who did play Penzel Mueller. The article seems to imply that many Jazz Clarinetists used them, including Woody Herman, who played a Boehm System Penzel Mueller.

“In the spring of 1961 when I had my record and music shop at 731 St. Peter St, New Orleans, I bought an Albert system (improved) Bflat L.P (Low Pitch) clarinet made by Penzel-Müller & Co. New York. I don’t remember exactly what I paid for it, or where I bought it, but it was probably some amount between $ 10 and $ 15, and it was possibly a store such as the used furniture stores on Magazine Street.
Not long after that George Lewis came in my store one night and I showed him the clarinet. He said he had wanted to own an improved Albert system Penzel-Müller for some time and asked to buy it.(Several New Orleans clarinettists in the past had used them, and I believe today Albert Burbank and Louis Cottrell have Penzel-Müllers)
So I sold him the clarinet for whatever price I had paid for it. He took it to Werleins music store to have new pads and adjustments made. I think he used it quite often during the following years and in fact used it on his last job, when he played with Kid Thomas’ Band at Preservation Hall on Fri. Dec. 13, 1968. The last numbers he played were “My Blue Heaven” and of course Thomas’ final “Theme” song – “I’ll See You In My Dreams”.
Shirley (Lewis) & Carolyn (Buck) said that George always called this Penzel-Müller his “Bill Russell Clarinet”, but I had almost forgotten about it.”
“Penzel-Müller clarinets had a world-wide reputation. Their preference by the most eminent soloists marked them as first class instruments of first class makers. “They combine in the highest degree the essential qualities of free and pure tone, perfection in scale and mechanism, ease of manipulation and execution”, as a Penzel-Müller ad of the 1920s put it.
The Penzel-Müller company was established in New York in 1899 as a partnership between the German immigrants Gustav Ludwig “Louis” Penzel (1855 – 1920) and Edward Georg Müller (1869 – 1956) and existed till 1950. The fact that Penzel & Müller were German-trained craftsmen and that they imported parts for their clarinets (finally marked with the American eagle) from their native place in Vogtland/Saxony a Penzel-Müller Albert clarinet looks slightly different to the common Albert clarinets made by most of other instrument makers: the design is more “German” than “French”.
Beside the classical trained soloists and above mentioned jazz clarinetists George Lewis, Albert Burbank and Louis Cottrell Penzel-Müller clarinets were played by other jazz greats like Sidney Arodin, Willie Humphrey and Woody Herman (the latter used a Penzel-Müller in the Boehm system which was common in big bands).

Finally, to answer your specific concerns, most clarinets can be repaired, including replacement of pads, springs ,cork and even keys by any competent repair person, so you should have no concerns about the longevity of your instrument.

Good luck and keep playing.

Sherman Friedland


A letter from Mr. Mueller II

March 2, 2010

Dear Mr. Friedland,
I was just forwarded your article concerning a Penzel Mueller clarinet (10/22/09) dealing with having it repaired.
My daughter’s boyfriend came across it somehow and forwarded to her and she in turn forwarded it to me. It was wonderful to read very nice comments concerning the Penzel Mueller clarinet. It was of course my grandfather’s and my father’s business up until the mid to late 1950s. I still remember spending time with both of them at the factory in Long Island City, NY as well as with the other craftsman that worked there. I unfortunately can’t take credit for any of the expert workmanship that helped to make the Penzel Mueller clarinet what it was. My only job (I was 6 or 7) was to use a gold crayon to fill in the Penzel Mueller name that was stamped into the BELL or Barrel Joint.
Thank you for the kind words, that business meant a great deal to both my grandfather and father. I’m sorry that it was not possible to continue the business and have it passed on to me.

Thanks again

Walter W. Mueller

The perils of Bells Palsey

April 23, 2006

I am 60 years old and have played clarinet since
6th grade. I now play once in a while in church and
privately. I started on a Penzel-Mueller and in about
1969 traded it in on a new Leblanc Dynamic H. I have
contemplated on selling it but it is dear to me. I had
Bell’s Palsey 3 times and felt that the lip was
weakened somewhat giving me a squeek now and then that
completely destroyed my character, confidence, and
ego. I went to various stores to try and get an answer
as to why this was happening because I have always
prided myself in refraining from such disgusting
sounds. My vibrato, pitch, mellownes is, I feel
impeccable but the occasional squeek annoyed me so
much so that I would never play out. I believe that I
found the real culprit of my problem which was in no
way connected to my Bell’s Palsey. It seemed to be a
leak caused by an improper adjustment of the Ab Key on
top of the A with the screw. (it was tightened to much
causing it to not rest properly on top of the “A”) It
seemed to solve my dilemma and restored some of my
confidence. The tightness of my lip has suffered a
little bit but the tone has not been reduced to the
level of Mr. Acker Bilk (who,in my mind, the worst
professional clarinetist I have ever heard).
Thank you for this blog, many people have questions
and after I spent some time reading the various
questions & answers I realized what an invaluable site
this is. I have a couple of questions:
1. Have you ever of a Barkley clarinet? I have one
and surprisingly it has one of the best solid low note
sounds I have ever heard. Very, very solid.
2. How does the Leblanc Dynamic H stack up up with
other clarinets and how venerated and appraised by
professional clarinetists?
3. What is the difference between Grenadilla wood and
Ebony wood, or are they the same.
4. Have you ever heard of a “Vibrator” reed. It had lateral grooves under the ligature area giving
blasting volume and was a tremendous aid in playing
5. How would you rate a Leblanc Dynamic “H” with trhe
Selmers, Buffets etc. I am aware that most of the time
you will not see a classical clarinetist playing a
Leblanc I believe because of the booming bass notes,
the ease of “bending” the notes in jazz which are not
tolerated in classical. I also think that the Buffets
and the Selmers are more mellow in tone, but what do
you think about this?

I appreciate you taking the time to maintain this
site. It is so interesting reading.
Thanks, Terry
Hi T: Many thanks for your interesting and informative note, which I am sure will acquaint readers with that strange illness, Bells Palsey, and perhaps even Mr. Acker Bilk, who may not be considered an entity by some, but surely he does exist and must have a large following as well. I find his sound to be unforgettable, but I dare not qualify my comment any further.
Now, as to Bells Palsey, I myself have had that lovely lady twice, and was told the second time that I would not likely play again.
This condition can be brought about by just about anything, including plain old stress, or a cold breeze on a hot night, as my visitatons occurred.
The first time I was buying a 1948 English Ford while going to school in Texas. I didn’t have the 275 dollars, but when I went to sign something in that hot dusty office in Huntsville, something strange happened: the right side of my face became numb, the right side of my mouth fell and I hurried to the infirmary where I was kept under observation for three days, when suddenly I was released as my facilities had come back and the numbness had left.
The second time was 25 years later while getting a MM in Amherst, MA. This time my I had been sleeping next to an air conditioner, and enjoying the coolness. The next morning I awakened with the inability to smile or to hold air with my lips closed. In other words, I was unable to play. I had my Masters recital in three months and was given the prognosis that most probably I would never play again. Surprise, surprise, I played the concert and it went fine. So, I know of Bells Palsey.
Well I guess we both feel the same about squeaks. I have spent years in practising specifically to avoid these kinds of noises at almost any cost. Thankfully my lip and my ear have done the work, through a long time. They have learned to accept no reed or clarinet or setup that may trap me into an error, to some success, for which I am grateful.
But you must not let yourself be destroyed by these kinds of things for they are merely accidents, and one should not allow them to destroy the joy of playing music.
I have never heard of the Barkley clarinet, it is probably what is known as a stencil instrument, and one can find many of these kinds of inexpensive mass produced instruments which play well.
Your Leblanc Dynamic H is a wonderful clarinet and compares favorably with any French instrument, including all of them. Unfortunately Leblanc spent a fortune on publicity and always made an excellent instrument but has been reviled into non-existance and the company has been sold , though there is still production of these instruments.The two most well-known clarinetists in the US both play Leblanc: Larry Combs, and Eddie Daniels.
As far as ebony or grenadilla, there may be differences about which I know little, however they are used interchangably by sellers of clarinets.
Oh yes, I have heard and seen many Vibrator reeds, but not wishing to destroy an illusion, that was all in the mind of the beholder, and I found them to be nothing more than bad reeds with grooves. If you found them different, perhaps you had a secret. Perhaps not. All of the clarinets have the same abilities, which are always the abilities of the players of these instruments.One can bend or blast on any clarinet. Again, it depends upon the blaster. Mellowness too, can be achieved on any clarinet.
I want to thank you for reading the articles on this site and I wish you good luck in your clarinet playing.
Play well and satay well.
sherman friedland