More on the metal clarinet of Gaston Hamelin

June 17, 2017

Here is perhaps the finest metal clarinet ever made. (see below)

It was the model played by Gaston Hamelin in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Koussevitsky. In 1931, Hamelins contract was not renewed by Maestro Koussevitsky, specifically because Mr Hamelin played metal. Hamelin went back to France and Ralph McClane went to study with him. (We know that he returned to play Principal in Philly until he died from cancer. He produced some of the beautiful sounds ever made on our horn.)

The clarinet was later taken out of Selmers catalogue with the caveat that it “damaged our prestige.” The late Wm McGibbon of Milwaukee, (who was my techy while I played princoal in that orchestra)gave me part of that information and I trust it to be true.

In any event, that was one of the reasons that the metal horn became extinct.

My first clarinet was metal. It was all shine and spiny and I loved it and vowed that after my first disastrous lesson, I would never squeak again.

I didn’t. At least not for a while.

Sherman Friedland

Of course after this somewhat disastrous event both Selmer and metal becme somwhat of a pariah within the business of orchestral clarinet playing. It is my belief that this event started the move toward other clarinets, (specifically Buffet, by both players and orchestra players) Selmer continued to make fine instruments and still does excelling in workmanship and tuning and consistency but lacking until recently a polycylindrical bore.) The Selmer 10G was supposed to be an exact copy of Tony Gigliotti’s Buffet, but many say it was not and didn’t play half as well.

But McClane and Gigliotti spent hour with Hans Moennig tuning and voicing their instruments and getting them to the level that we still emulate. Of course Bonade, another wonderful player played Buffet. Did he play Buffet because of what had happened to Hamelin? We cannt ask him but we can surmise. Moe recently there have been actual cases where Selmer players wond auditions to major orchestras and then were hooted out with great anxiety when they played Selmer and not Buffet. This is true.

Interestingly, the mantle of the fine clarinet will fall on the heads of those who have designed superior instruments of hard rubber and even grnadilla-dust and carbon fibers, speaking of the Ridenour Lyrique and the Buffet Greenline.

model 55 selmer

August 22, 2016


I hope this note finds you well. My name is Ralph Scaffidi…by way of introduction, I am an active (and older) amateur clarinetist. And before I go any further, please let me apologize up front as this note may go on a bit long…I just felt so excited to pass a few comments to you (which if you might indulge me. my reasons should become clear below).

My background in-brief. I started studying clarinet when I was 25 years old (long story), with my initial year with Mr. Edward Golashesky at the Philadelphia College for the Performing Arts; and then after many years of minimal activity, for four years privately with Dr. Bruce Hardy (then a professor of jazz studies at Pepperdine University). For the past 24 seasons, I have been a clarinetist with the Ventura County Concert Band (VCCB), in Ventura, California…playing second clarinet as an avocation to my primary careers as a U.S. Navy civil service systems engineer, and as a U.S. Naval Reserve commissioned officer. I retired from both of these positions between 2008 and 2012, and now pursue my musical interests with a lot fewer distractions [although with no delusions regarding my overall possible future clarinet accomplishments…but I love the instrument and enjoy playing the ensemble wind designs (both classic transcriptions and original wind compositions)]…as well as some occasional jazz-type engagements.

As I have now had more time during the past few years to pursue more in-depth study of all things clarinet, I have had the pleasure of discovering your website. I have found it extremely interesting and informative…of note your experience with SELMER clarinets, and specifically your knowledge of and familiarity with the SELMER-55. In 1992 – 94 I came to posses two very wonderful instruments:

First, a 1947 B-Flat BUFFET Professional;

and Second, a 1945 B-Flat SELMER-55.

I have very much enjoyed the BUFFET (I completed my fourth year of study with Dr. Hardy using it…it really helped in accelerating my playing development). However, when I purchased the SELMER-55, I was just thrilled with it…the larger bore (almost 0.6) makes for much easier blowing with enhanced volume, which I greatly appreciate in a concert band format. I keep both instruments in excellent repair at all times, and they both play beautifully (that is keeping in mind that they are both 70 year old instruments, and that I am an intermediate amateur player…I would expect that a seasoned professional might find them somewhat lacking).

As I learned of the brief history of the SELMER-55 (1945 production only, and a transition between the Balanced Tone and the Centered Tone) I came to cherish it even more. As I continued my research, I found your web postings regarding the all-SELMER clarinet section of the BSO in the 1960s, all playing Centered Tones, but with the principal, Mr. Cioffi, playing 55s…I presume the only All-SELMER section in any major U.S. orchestra (?). From reading your posts, it sounds like Mr, Cioffi played Full Boehm 55s (both A and B-Flat).

I read the postings on your site by Mr. Cioffi’s grandson (from 2008), and appreciated his difficulty with deciding how to properly pass on his grandfather’s / father’s clarinets. I am curious if he ever came to a satisfactory resolution…perhaps these instruments were passed to you?

My mother was a world renowned jazz guitarist (Mary Osborne), and since her passing in 1992, we as a family have maintained ownership of her three first-class guitars (one of which was custom made for her in 1964 by Stromberg-protege guitar maker Bill Barker). And while my brother has performed with two of the three guitars on a somewhat infrequent basis, the time is soon approaching that we will need to determine a new future for the instruments (like the Cioffi family, none of our offspring have neither the ability nor interest in either the music or the instruments…sadly, I do not see leaving any of these to them).

Similarly, I have the same problem facing me with my clarinets, as I begin to think about my own inevitability…not anytime soon, but I know that day will come. As I mentioned above, I have continued to maintain both clarinets in top working condition, and play them regularly (although the 55 gets most of my time…and of course, I am the only SELMER player in the entire section of 11 players).

– I have attached the following pictures:

* both clarinets together / the SELMER-55 is on the left…the BUFFET is on the right

* one of the SELMER alone, and one close-up of the SELMER mechanism

* one of the BUFFET alone, and one close-up of the BUFFET mechanism

– My SELMER-55 has the 4-ring upper joint of the Full Boehm, but no articulated G-Sharp…the lower joint is Standard Boehm.

– I obtained both clarinets from George Borodi Music in South Euclid (Cleveland), Ohio. I had them completely overhauled, with the mechanisms gold plated, at the time of purchase.

– The gold plating took much better to the BUFFET mechanism than the SELMER. Additionally, since the SELMER is my primary performing instrument, the gold plating has worn significantly more, but is still apparent.

If I may ask…only if you would have the time and that it would not be of any inconvenience…I would be most appreciative and grateful if you might please pass on any websites or book titles where I might find further information / history on the SELMER-55.

An additional note. For the first time since I moved to Ventura County 30 years ago, I have finally been able to attend clarinet master classes as an audience member, during the Spring Festival at The Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. Just being able to listen and observe has broadened my approach to playing…it has been a wonderful experience. Clarinet classes are mentored by Prof. Richie Hawley of Rice University…just a marvelous player and a wonderful teacher / mentor.

OK…I have taken up way too much of your time, and I suppose my story has become tiresome. But in any case I did want to tell you how much I appreciate your musical career accomplishments, as well as your willingness to share your experiences with us all via your website. And again, thanks so much for your time in reading my note.

With my most sincere best regards,
Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired) the model 55

eb clarinet

April 7, 2016

Hi Sherman I have a 60’s era B&H Imperial Eb clarinet which I use for doubling in concert band and orchestra. It is a little powerhouse of an instrument and I love playing it, with reservations. It has it’s original mouthpiece. The problem is I don’t like it. I use Eb reeds in preference to cutdown Bb. I play a pair of Leblanc LL’s with a Vandoren B40 mouthpiece usually. I have tried a couple of Vandoren mouthpieces with the Eb and while they feel great to play, they just don’t suit this instrument. Any suggestions on modern mouthpieces that may suit this lovely little clarinet as I don’t have access to be able to just try a wide range. Thanks Kelli


your lls are a great choice. If the mouthpieces for Eb, play well, getting used to them will or should not be difficult

Have a good time with your monster

stay well


he effect of the sound in you oral cavtii y

February 14, 2016

Professor Friedland, I would like to communicate with you regarding the subject of the effect of the oral cavity in clarinet tone production . Your opinions as a clarinetist would be very much appreciated I communicated with you (only) once when I learned you were a colleague of ALLEN SIGEL, my teacher when I was an undergraduate at the then University of Buffalo, I hope this reaches you and I look forward to your reply.As for me it would be an exceptional pleasure to communicate with you re the subject above. Michel G. Mulawka PS; I trust the following will bring back a memory. I came across a picture of you and others performing (?) the Gyorgy Ligeti Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes @ the Albright Knox Art Gallery in 1965. I attended a second ‘performance’ (?) of same @ Albright – to this day ‘no comment’! save for/


Professor Friedland,

I would like to communicate with you regarding the subject of the effect of the oral cavity in clarinet tone production
Your opinions as a clarinetist would be very much appreciated

I communicated with you (only) once when I learned you were a colleague of ALLEN SIGEL, my teacher when I was an undergraduate at the then University of Buffalo,

I hope this reaches you and I look forward to your reply.As for me it would be an exceptional pleasure to communicate with you re the subject above.

Michel G. Mulawka

PS; I trust the following will bring back a memory.

I came across a picture of you and others performing (?) the Gyorgy Ligeti Poeme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes @ the Albright Knox Art Gallery in 1965.
I attended a second ‘performance’ (?) of same @ Albright – to this day ‘no comment’! save for/


Hello mr mulawka,\

easy answer, the cavity you mention has virturtually no effect.
The response is diRECTLY THROUGH YOUR EARS ONLY. filtered through your perception of sound, directly connected to the functionality 0f your embouchure, you actually control the effect through all of your development.

The sound as we say, is in your head.

cordially, ]
sherman friedland

The Leblanc Dynamic, Pete Fountain model

December 31, 2015

Dear Sir:

the clarinet of which you speak is simply the Pete Fountain model Leblanc, and it was and is an excellent instrument,Over a long time and trying many clarinets, all of the Leblancs I have ever played are really good insruments. The very best Leblanc was and is the Opus, designed by Tom Ridenour, when he was chief designer for Leblanc, and there were others. the Sonata, and the Conceto. Better in tune, excellent sounding and buit very correctly and well.
On 27-Dec-15, at 5:52 PM, Ríordan James Flynn wrote:

Hi there,


I have a Leblanc Dynamic H clarinet with the unusually articulated G# key and and a Pete Fountain signature on the bell. According to the internet, the serial numbers for this model start at 268xx, but mine is 23771. These models were made sometime in the 50s?

It was given to me with the idea that it once belonged to Pete Fountain, but I imagine this is apocryphal. The clarinet came to me by a man named John Hayslip, who it was given to by a man named Tater Danke. Hayslip swore that Danke had gotten the instrument from Fountain, but there’s no telling, as he passed away some years ago.

However, a quirk of this instrument is that its larger pads were signed by someone named Bob Mario. To my knowledge most people don’t sign clarinet pads!

I’m not interested in selling the instrument, but I’m very curious as to what you might know about it.

Thank you in advance for your time.

All the best,


November 16, 2015

G clarinet.

This is really a historic tale.  sixty to 80 years ago there was an almost fierce competition beween Selmer and Buffet

Most clarinetists playing in symphony orchestras in the US played the Buffet clarinet, almost specifically the R13 model.

Gigliotti, principal in Philadelphia played the Buffet as did all others playing in virtually all US orchestras. This was when I first began to learn to play, and of course, what I wound up with was the Selmer. Why?

Because , living in Boston, where all the setion played Selmer, this was my sspration, tp play Selmer, which I finally did, after much searching.

But, as a young man, I knew of the Buffet and its use in most other US orchestras.

Of course, this has all changed now, starting with the arrival of the Selmer 10G, refering to Gigliotti in Philadelphia. Selmer, it is said, actually produced a Buffet copy, or one that was fairly close in response, to his Buffet.

The production at first, quite successful, and some played and responded very well. Others did not. I had two sets of these and frankly, didnt play well well enough to discrn the difference. At that time, we all played in university=conservatory orchestras, and frankly, unless hearing the horn played in an orchestra, a professional ensemble, your guess was as good as mine.

What has transpired since the has or have been vast improvements in all instruments, prices rising accordingly until now and including all manufacturers all clarinets have improvd exponentially , and many different orchestral players perform on both or wither of the different bore, producing a more mellow sound with better resonance. Comparison, these days is simply a matter of ones opinion, and it is all of that, nothing more.

Of course, mouthpieces and reeds have also changed exponentially, and of course, reeds made of artifical material, not cane, but a mixture of cane and plastics of all kinds. Literally everything has changed, especially all materials, wooden instruments are still favored, but many are made fromhard rubber, whichis much easier to,machine nd finshe and stands the rigors of tempeature changes much better than wood. What mouthpiece doyou play? Instrument, and reeds ae the question. Everyone learns to play very well, but the diminished number of professional orchestras are all mitigating factors. that is the whole story of SELMER AND BUFFET


sherman friedland

RIDENOUR C clarinet and Esperanza

September 17, 2015

Hi Mr Friedland

I have just ordered a ridenour C clarinet and Bb Speranza (a discontinued model similiar to the 576bc at a very good price). My main music interests are klezmer, jazz, band and pop tunes. Would having a C and Bb clarinet cover all my bases, or would it be worthwhile to purchase an A clarinet sometime down the line even though (at least at the moment) have no interest in orchestral playing? In other words, should my next clarinet be another Bb with different characteristics, or an A clarinet. Can a C clarinet play the A clarinets parts? Also, are you familiar with the Speranza clarinet at all and if so what’s your opinion. Thanks in advance, Eli

It is very interesting, but it is a very simple recommendation to make. Tom has solved the problem, actually a long time past. I have played all of the many models he has produced and/or designed, including the Opus, my best clarinets. THE best clarinet.

William Ridenour is the best designer of clarinets in the surrent era.

The material he uses in all his intruments is more stable in all ways, than any other used to make clarinets. Of course, it is hard rubber, or ebonite, which is as stable, and will not crack, will not crack or shatter in any way, and is virtually impervious to temperature changes.

Take all of that to the bank, as they say. Enjoy them.

All good wishes.