Don’t tune your own clarinet until….

November 13, 2014

when, as a young man, I used to visit as many repair shope for woodwinds as I could find, used to watch the techies working on clarinets, sometimes my teacher with me, and then, alone. Once I was able to purchase a Yamaha from a pawn shop, fairly new, and I was aware of the model and all its features. It was a model 62, and looked very good. Upon playing it when I got home, I found several bent keys and a few stuffy notes,but knew it was a fine instrument.

I brought it into Twigg Music in Montreal for a techie to obserVe. Withou even playing it, he took the instrument and pushed the entire right hand keys stRucture against the radiator next to him. Nothing else Then, gave it to me to try,,,and it played perfectly. He ws talking with the other techies as he did these simple procedure, and hardly stopped talking. I was there for maybe 10 minutes. In other words, he saw immediately the problem, and was correct in his repair.

This takes experience. Another time, I was in with my teacher concerning a tuning problem, the Technician played the horn listening, then took a small tool and rotated it into the tone hole next to the bad note, and it was fixed and in tune in a few minutes. This took the ability to hear extremely well, plus the experience necessary to adjust the opening of the correct tone hole.

Another time, I was about to play the Easley Blackwood Clarinet Concerto in Tanglewood , Gunther Schuller was the conductor. I remember it being a warm muggy night. I swabbed my clarinet prior to the performance.The swab stuck in the middle of the horn. It was immovable.(so was I) Finally, one of the members of the orchestra fixed it. He took a small wrench which he had, and unscrewed the hexagon shaped speaker key, which was on all Selmer clairnets at he time. It took three or four minutes, and I was able to get out of a real panic with the experience and his knowledge.

( speaking of swabs, I was once fired from a summer job playinh in small band n New Hampshire. Dyson Kring, the “conductor” and keeper of the meager funds we received, told me that I swabbed my clarinet too much. His name used to make me smile. I guess my attitude didn’t help things)

A clarinetist wrote me this letter “Hi Sherman I have a Selmer Series 10 II that plays well in tune and has good twelfths except for throat E –E is almost 20 cents flat, F about 10 while D is right on. I have tried many barrels and mouthpieces but with same results. I am contemplating undercutting the high end of the second finger tone hole hoping that I will not upset clarion B and C too much. Do you have think this is the right fix or is there another cure for this?

In the first instance, I think the writer meant  low e on the clarinet,but it is slightly confusing. If it is the low e, the 12th above would be the clarion b. The “throat e” would make the 12th abovehigh b and c. In either case, my advice would be, don’t touch it until you can bring it to a technician, one who is both experienced , can hear, and can work the gouger with enough of both, to help you. Thanks for your letter and question. My own experiences, reflecting upon my youth,tell me to keep away until this discipline and experience has been gained. Stay well, everyone. best regards. sherman


fed up, exhausted , In rural New Zealand, and, a response

March 15, 2014

stalled out. I play old time jazz (favorite Albert Nicholas) and hassidic/klezmer wedding music (fantasize Dave Tarras, “the Jewish Benny Goodman”) on an unique antique Buffer C 2-ring Albert system, with Boehm style long keys. I’ve had it for 35+ years and love it. I am using a 15 year old Ralph Morgan C Clarinet mouthpiece, a new Van Doren ligature (replacing Eddie Daniels) and Legere 2-3/4 Signature reeds that could be past their prime. Plays best at about A=441.(response;comment. Ralph Nicholas seems to play more like Benny Goodman, and plays well, especially in the low register, where he emulates Goodmans use of triplets outlining chords(1900-1973)/ Listening to Dave Tarras is much more fascinating, since Tarras seems to be a clarinetist who needed work and drifted into Klezmer without too many chops for Clarinet, period. The clarinet played by Mr Mermin is interesting, but only in the sense of his love for it. The C clarinet muthpiece is nothing he needs and not neceesary to duplicate. It is the length and pitch of the horn, which can be played by any Bb clarinet mouthpiece, without much sacrifice. Nobody who plays C, plays a C mouthpiece. As far as a new mouthpiece for your clarinet, I cannot suggest any better maker than Richard Hawkins, of Oberlin College. Astonishingly consistent mouthpieces, very well made.

… So maybe this is time to revisit all of the pieces.(comment: how interesting that most of us come to this conclusion, which is usually overlooked because of an impending job or , “on second thought“, maybe not. But, in your case, you can certainly use a new horn, more contemporary, which would mean “better tuned”, and perhaps those long keys you talk about, have already mention Hawkins mouthpieces, and I repeats, a c clarinet mouthpiece is simply not needed. I play c clainet withmy regular Bb mouthpece, without any problem. Most do. And , do not cut the barrel short, which would mean a trip to tiger country, a dangerous place, probably, even more so in New Zealand.

The Van Doren metal ligature with it many twists and turn and plates, is too heavy for any clarinet. A virtual shtick drek, even in France, and it is too expensive, and it is too heavy, though you may like its looks. The Eddie Daniels ligature is a fabric version of the Van Doren, expensive, and gaudy with its gilt colors. I is virtually a copy of the Rovner, which, in its simplest form, is the best ligature for your instrument and your mouthpiece.

You ask if Legere reeds wear out. My problem is the opposite. They do neither. I have never found one that has been duplcated. Crazy for a synthetic reed, the best proberty of which should be its ability to play like the next. That, dear sir is what synthetic implies .hey cannot be duplicated,therefore they cannot be revived. Forestone comes much much closer.

The cost of any so-called synthetic reed is in itself punitive, therefore prohibitive the forestone reed plays for a long time, with no real change in the quality. It doesn’t matter what your age might be. 20 bucks or more for a synthetic reed is ridiculous. Of course, when you hear a fine players demonstrated on synthetic, it does sound well. But that player sound well all the time on cane or a bird or a plane.

The best new stick or clarinet for your is Ridenour, any of the variously available models./
. Very well made, inexpensive, and doesn’t break or crack, not even in NEW zealand.

beat of luck , always, sherman

Harold Wright in Constitution Hall , Wash. DC

January 18, 2014

Dear Mr. Friedland –

Having just discovered your site I must say how fantastic I find it. Especially the mentioning of Goodman and also Harold Wright whom I believe was at one time the principle clarinetist with the Washington DC Symphony Orchestra at a time when I lived close by in Alexandria, Virginia. Thanks for taking the time to benefit clarinet players like myself. My question has two parts. A. – why am I having some difficulty hitting middle B on my Bb Buffet clarinet which has just been overhauled … the overhaul didn’t solve the problem … I am starting to think its my reed selection and then – B. – why can I not find when my clarinet was made which model it is …. it has these numbers …. the barrel 1231 660 and the two lower barrels have 10712 on each on the back lower just above the cork. I hope to hear from you and again, thanks for the site. F S,Delray Beach, Fl

Dear FS:

Thank you for your kind letter.

My wife’s parents lived in Delray Beach,  lovely place, but I heard lately that it is completely flooded from the inclement weather

It seems that you and I were in Washington DC at the same . I was in the US Army at the time and was attending the Naval School of Music, located in Anacostia, just outside of DC
In uniform, we could attend just about any concert without admission charges. And ,it was at Constitution Hall where I first heard this incredible clarinetist, whose quality of sound I found enchanting. That Hall had very good acoustics and this fellows sound just happened to float above the orchestra, at whatever dynamic he was playing or in every piece that included  clarinet. Actually, it was somewhat of an epiphany; a surprise that made me shiver with pleasure. I was already a clarinet player, more than 60 years ago, but quite young and, at just the right age to hear this exquisite playing, seemingly effortless, yet permeating the entire Hall.

Many years later, there was an opening for 2nd clarinet in that orchestra. There were 200 contestants and I got to play for him. I did not get the job, but was told that I had come in 3rd out of the 200. Of course, a miss is as good as a mile. but it was wonderful to play for this wondrous clarinetist. Of course, years after that, Wright became the Principal in Boston and remained there until his untimely death. Symphony Hall in Boston is even acoustically superior to Constitution Hall, and the sound remained always with that special unique quality. Pertaining to the recent post on dynamics in orchestras being quite loud , for almost all playing, Harold Wright refused to go long with this practice , which developed because of subtle or not-so subtle competition existing between recording, and live performance. As a result, the woodwind dynamics in the BSO remained, “as written” rather than distorted. Of course, this is opinion, but I would hope, informed opinion.

Concerning your recently overhauled clarinet, I suggest you bring it back to the repairperson to check out the middle B. Obviously, they didn’t place the pad properly. It is an easy adjustment for a” techy” to fix. One or more of the pads are not seated properly. If it played well prior to bringing it for repair, it should be better , if not, bring it back for a check by the repairperson .

You barrel is difficult to place, as the only thing I can tell is that it is a 66mm, or seems to be. 10712 seems to be listed as having been manufactured in the mid 1920s, however, these lists of serial numbers can be found to be incorrect, and perhaps one should not take much stock in the year of manufacture. It depends on how the horn plays for you; on its response.

Hoping that this may assist you.

best wishes,


“A lovely sound, superior intonation”

August 8, 2013

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.


Things to Try, and things Tried

March 5, 2013

Had an evocative note from a young clarinetist who had recently graduated with an advanced degree, and was very happy with his new acquisitions, some addition to his clarinet which he felt enhanced his sound in some way and made him feel encouraged about his sound. I had recently written an article which was concerned with the sound of a new acquisition. In my article, I had mentioned the Hans Christian Anderson story called “The Emporers new clothes”, a story which has been widely translated and is simply the story of tailor who brags that he can make clothing that will show imposters for what they are, and would be very beautiful.The emporer wears his new clothes and a young child says. “But he has no clothing on, and is naked”.
The young man with the new degree took my article to be a criticism of this new equipment. He suggested that I had criticized the equipment because I had never tried it myself. This is something I would never do, and in a long life as a successful Clarinetist Professor and Conductor, I have tried literally everything that I ever saw , including reeds, ligatures,ligatures with dinner plates, bells and barrels of every description, thousands of mouthpieces, and virtually every clarinet ever manufactured from every known material.Incidentally, the Ridenour barrel is a big help with the throat, at least it was with my Selmer 10s, (and it is readily available) I was a student of Rosario Mazzeo. He gave me a set of full boehm Mazzzeo System Clarinets which I played for longer than any other professional player, and also used exclusively while Principal in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. I accompanied Mazzeo to Great Britain and demonstrated the Mazzeo System Clarinets for the CASS, the Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain. And, I have tried every supposedly new addition having to do with the clarinet.I have been playing hard rubber instruments designed by Tom Ridenour for many years. And I have tried and tested his new Lyrique made from Grenadilla. The difference between wood and hard rubber are readily apparent. Grenadilla wood is more substantial from the standpoint of carrying power, but hard rubber is better in tune, stays in tune and stays stable.It is also the most easily accessible from the standpoint of cost and tunes better than any clarinet. It is easier to machine and it is more stable.
I am not unlike many of you readers who literally has spent several fortunes on equipment, always searching for something better, different, anything at all to change the quality of sound emitted from my clarinet. In the last few years, I have come to understand that the instrument is still lovely and beautiful , though, regardless of what new equipment I try, whether it be reeds, mouthpieces, accesories of all kinds, additions, and clarinets made entirely of different materials, or combinations thereof, and I have found that I still search for the beauty of the music, the beauty of the sound, the quality of the phrase, its length and beauty to be the one goal for which I will always search. I wish the young man with his new addition, and all those who try new or sifferent materials, that it is always finally the music itself, which is the ultimate goal of any clarinetist. I further advise all to audition whenever there may be a job out there and to get that job and be happy and fulfilled.

stay well,


Leblanc Dynamic Clarinet

June 5, 2011

Dear Mr. Friedland:

My clarinet is a Leblanc Dynamic 2, and I believe the serial number is 598B. Can you give me any information on it, in regard to its age or worth? Not that I’m planning on selling it, of course, but after not being able to find anything out myself, my curiosity is piqued.

Thanks so much!

Hi Kelly:
thank you for your note about the Leblanc Dynamic 2 clarinet. After virtually a lifetime of playing and trying all manner and make of clarinets,one wonders just what is the difference between this Leblanc Dynamic Clarinet, than other Leblanc Dynamic 1 clarinet and then , well, just the whole rubric of clarinets, mostly those which have mainly interested players in the United State, and Canada and of course, Europe.

But here, we come upon the key word in an assessment of either a particular clarinet with its name and other characteristics. This word is rubric which is of course, used by the academy for instance, to discern between differences. If we distinguish between those clarinets with a common name like Leblanc, or Buffet, Selmer, and Yamaha, we are then asked to discern between each of them, and then we further separate them by what particular year in which they were made. And then, by any number of criteria concerning each manufacturer. As we begin to analyze, we realize that there are endless possibilities.

These are generally the considerations by many clarinetists. (Do they make any difference? No.) Leblanc is one of the best made highly regarded clarinets, specifically, all models made in France. The dynamic, both models or all models, including the so-called Pete Fountain model, which I consider the best has a slightly wider bore than other clarinets and is most similar to the Selmer Centered Tone clarinet, both of which are frequently called big bore,or clarinets made for jazz playing. No, not true. They were made for sale, made very well, made for a highly competitive market with a limited clientele. I played a set of Centered Tone clarinets when I played principal in the Milwaukee Symphony, and since then have played many if not most Leblanc clarinets which in my opinion, have a more compact scale and are in better tuning. These have included Opus, Sonata, Leblanc LL, L7, several other L models with numbers (which escape memory) It is a great instrument, a great deal of pleasure to play and as well made as any other fine French clarinet. Although I was a clinician for Selmer for many years, I still felt the Leblanc is better for reasons outlined above.

The major clarinet names are generally very consistent from one to another. Differences can be discerned of course, upon closer inspection, different playing styles, mouthpieces,and on and on. The Leblanc brand as such in the US ,suffered during the years because of very poor direction, a resulting in a terrible and undeserved reputation.
Because there were always Leblancs unsold in music stores, I was able to pick and choose from all available models and try them for as long as I desired. I played many concerts of chamber music with them, resulting in my opinion, probably as good as anyone elses.

We could go into the latest craze, the added bell and/or barrel made from hard rubber or another more beautiful looking wood. Weird. How does one discern between the result of one wood from another unless one can try all simultaneously? Like comparing orchestras, it cannot be done. Here comes the conclusion to this posting : it comes down to a matter of opinion, and then the advertising, the paid-off players who have been given free samples to try.
Kelly,I hope you like your Dynamic Leblanc,I think it is a fine instrument. Enjoy it always,
best ,

” Cheap mouthpiece….a real mouthpiece???”

February 22, 2011

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!



Dear G:
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

Qustion from Dutch Clarinet Magazine (C Clarinet)

February 5, 2011

Dear mr. Friedland,

While searching the internet, I found your site. What a lot of interesting information is there to find!

I’m the editor of the Dutch Clarinet Magazine (from The Netherlands and Belgium) and in our two-monthly magazine we always have a small section in which one of our readers can ask a (clarinet) question. For the answer to the question we ask a professional teacher or clarinet specialist.
I would like to ask you to answer the next question.

“I recently found an c-clarinet which I like to play. What reeds are best for c-clarinets ( I can’t order c-clarinet reeds?). And what mouthpiece should I use?”

If it’s possible for you to answer these questions (in general) and you are willing to help us with it, please send the answer in an e-mail? We’ll translate it into Dutch. Of course we’ll have your name in the section and also a short cv (can take some information from the site?).

Hope to hear from you soon!

Yours sincerely,

Karin Vrieling

Dear Ms. Vreiling:

In response to the question concerning C clarinets and reeds for that instrument, I can answer that first, it depends upon the mouthpiece which fits on the instrument. I own and play a C and use the same mouthpiece as I do for the Bb clarinet. Most who do play this instrument use the Bb mouthpiece, which sounds as well, and makes the choice of reeds much simpler. One simply uses the same reeds as one uses for the Bb. If one has a smaller mouthpiece, the reed of choice will be an Eb clarinet reed.

There is virtually no difference in the quality of sound, or the response, however the Clarinet in C has a slightly more refined response than does the Bb, and there is no pitch differentiation. Playing the C clarinet is quite enjoyable , the repertoire being refreshing to both the ear and the fingers of the clarinetist. While most clarinetists can play parts written for C instrument at sight, (this technic is taught to all who pursue the instrument) playing on the C clarinet eliminates any possible transposition difficulties and one can play violin music at sight.

The only deviation to my response has to do with older models of the C clarinet which may require a slightly smaller mouthpiece. I owned one of these, an instrument made in the UK especially for younger players, called the Lyons Clarinet. It was made of all plastic parts, easily replaceable, was contained in a narrow round case and sounded lovely. I inquired of Mr Lyons of his instrument and he actually sent me one. It played beautifully, but required a smaller mouthpiece which was built to fit into the clarinet.

I later sent this instrument to William Ridenour, of Texas USA, who has designed some excellent clarinets made from hard rubber, including a C clarinet, but using the Bb mouthpiece. If you have to use a different mouthpiece,you must change, and usually have but one.If you play the C clarinet using the Bb mouthpiece, one is always prepared should the occasion arise.

I hope that this answers the question.

best wishes, sherman friedland

Selmer 10S and Buffet R-13: an explication

January 29, 2011

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I own a Selmer 10 S. I have played it profes. For 30 yrs. I use a selmer HS** It has a nice easy open sound. A couple of yrs ago I bought a Buffet R13. I think I know your feelings about the R13, but I wondered why it (R13) didn’t blow as easy as the Selmer? On the selmer the sound is effortless, but with the Buffet I have to think about what I am doing. Any thoughts? Thank You. D S

Dear D.S.

Thank you for your question concerning your Selmer 10S and the Buffet R13 you purchased.

I would first like to qualify ” feeling about Buffet”. They can be beautiful, lovely and a pleasure to play. The problem is that nobody I know or have known owns and play buffet without rather extensive choices being made, from the initial purchase to the tuning and voicing work on the instrument after purchase. For years, it was the instrument of choice of many players, choice being the operative word here. They are and were terribly inconsistent from one to another, if you will recall Anthony Gigliottis statement that ” I tried 55 Buffet Clarinets each year, and out of those chose two. These I gave to Hans Moenig for tuning and adjustment. One I would play in the orchestra, the other I would give to a student”. He was the Principal Clarinet of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The above is part of my impression of the Buffet clarinet, regardless of model. There are so many purported R-13s around that the other day I had a fellow ask if his Evette-Schaefer was an R-13.

The selmer 10-s happens to be my clarinet of choice and has been for the last several years. I bought it from a fellow in Europe who had gone there to play and found more receptivity to the Buffet clarinet. Whatever the reason, when it finally arrived I was very surprised at its quality.It had been tweaked by someone and the upper joint had all cork pads which were slightly beveled, supposedly for better projection and white leather pads in the lower joint. It came with a very sturdy case, with two barrels, was silver plated, and in general I was and am quite happy with this Selmer 10S.
I have purchased on consignment several other clarinets, and found them all good, but not quite as even and in tune as this 10S

I also play and espouse clarinets made from hard rubber, as the material is much more stable, easier to machine, does not crack and is much less expensive than any french grenadilla clarinet.

Your experience has all or nothing to do with the two different clarinets of which you speak. If one is familiar with a certain mouthpiece on a certain clarinet,trying another instrument of a different construction may or may not feel either stuffy or free and open. It has a lot to do with the reed you are using as well as the mouthpiece, as well as the clarinet and its condition. You play one instrument, become familiar with it, and trying another will feel different,no question. How you judge the difference has everything to do with you, your embouchure, mouthpiece and reed, on a particular day.

I hope this helps .
stay well, sherman

A professional Clarinet, Part 2

January 2, 2011

Any universitys description of a professional clarinet in order to enter a department is the worst part of any music department. It is such a  travesty on an incoming clarinet student, one then turns to an honest drescription of what can be termed professional, when it comes to the clarinet.

I enter the criteria from the experience of study with the finest teachers,performing as principal in a major symphony orchestra, and a lifetime of performance, conducting and teaching in all types of institutions.

From observing a large number of music students who had entered a university for the purpose of receiving a Bachelor of Music Education, the “necessary” for a career as a music teacher in a secondary school, one of the first hard lessons one learns is the art of assembling and disassembling ones clarinet, no small feat of strength and resolve when playing in a concert or a marching band for up to 15 hours a week,or more.

There is no wooden instrument that can stand this amount of being blown for that length of time. The biggest problem is the frozen barrel, imossible to remove from the clarinet without superhuman strength, and finally a call to the technician who spends many hours prying these things apart. Some hard headed, and more harder of hearing band directors will instruct their students to always leave the barrel 1/4 of an inch out, or more.  Others advise it for all of the joints.

The wooden instrument is usually made from material which is aged improperly, if at all, freezes from the amount of moisture left in the barrel to swell and shrink as one walks their horn back to the dorm.

The simple answer to this vexing problem is the acquisition of a plastic instrument for band rehearsals. Some of the Yamahas are excellent for these purposes, but usually are possessed of a bright shrieky kind of reponse, not pleasant, and now , much too costly. When this company changed their number 20 to the number 250, the quality remained the same, the price trebled.

Another answer is PT Barnums clarinet response to “there’s one born every minute”,meaning sucker,(but in this case, blower), the famous saver of the forests, the Greenline, made from carbon fibres and a few shavings of grenadilla and costing the same as one of their highest-priced instruments. These things are more stable than wood, but if you brush up against a hard-bodied fellow clarinetist, they tend to shatter, to break, and while you can replace the joint , if the break occurs between two joints you are clearly in deep doo-doo, as the saying goes.

The only answer to this vexing question is the acquisition of the least expensive clarinet on the market, a clarinet made from ebonite, or hard rubber. This material has been around for many years, is the selected material for the clarinet mouthpiece, and, is one of the most stable materials on the market.

There are three or four of these ebonite clarinet being manufactured today, all in the orient, and they are excellent and easy to acquire. The material is not only stable, but much easier to machine accurately, and therefore much less expensive to manufacture.

It takes two things to make this ebonite clarinet: One, is an excellent ear, and two is the ability to put what your ear hears to the machining of the clarinet, with accuracy.

The best ear in this end of the clarinet manufacturing business is that of  Tom Ridenour, who has designed already the worlds best-in-tune clarinets, the Opus and the Concerto. He has designed a Bb, a C,and an A clarinet, all excellent and less expensive than other instrments. But, these clarinet designs are easily copied, and copied well by others in the orient.

I own several of Ridenours instruments, but one with an even better response is the Orpheo 450, packaged exactly in the same manner as the former, but at a third of its price. I purchased an excellenr Orpheo 450 for 133.00  including shipping.

Please consider these alternatives to the problems mentioned above. I have absolutley nothing to gain, save for  all that wasted money in a world where it is so hard to acquire, or borrow, as is frequently the case.

Have a happy , healthy and free-blowing new year.

Stay well, and keep practicing,

sherman friedland