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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000492.txt from 2000/09

From: (William Wright)
Subj: [kl] Re: old instruments
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 14:45:10 -0400

<><> Daniel=A0Leeson wrote:
do clarinets become less useful with age, and if so, why?

I will offer my novice opinion, which is reinforced by two recent

I purchased a clarinet that had been played for 6 years before it
cracked and then was stored unplayed for another 2 years. After pinning
and epoxy, the old owner declared that it was still a fine instrument,
but in her opinion the "magic was gone" and so she had purchased a
replacement. Rather than sell her old instrument to the first willing
buyer, she saved it for "a good home". This horn is so much a better
instrument than what I used to play that I am grateful she did.
This incident makes two points, imo: (1) since the crack occurred
when the previous owner moved into a new location (a dry climate), "OLD"
is not necessarily the relevant adjective when discussing instruments
that have been around for a while; they could have simply moved to a new
climate or received a different level of maintenance from the same
owner; and (2) wood definitely can change its shape as a result of use,
which is not quite the same thing "the stresses locked into the wood
originally will cause changes eventually." The standard sales pitch
from instrument dealers is: 'Our exclusive process acclimates each
instrument to the climactic conditions in this country <blah, blah>'.
But there is no way (imo) that an instrument dealer can replicate the
moisture and temperature cycles of many years of actual playing.
So my conclusion is: 'Blown out' implies exhausted or used-up.
It's a negative and inaccurate phrase. "Changed' is the better word.
As for the phrase "less useful", it's not impossible that a change could
make a particular clarinet more useful rather than less, particularly if
the instrument was an inexpensive mass-produced horn in the first place
that wasn't optimized for any particular quality.

Second incident: although I could attach any of my mouthpieces
(several Vandoren models, a Yamaha, and I forget the other brands that I
tried... Gregory Smith, I think) to this particular clarinet, it
required a lot of effort -- shoving with both hands with the bell
pressed against my thigh. It made me worry about damaging my
instrument. The same mouthpieces fit comfortably (and removed
comfortably with one hand when I needed to swab) from other people's
So I had to assume that the wood in the barrel of my
recently-purchased used horn had changed during years of storage and
moving from one climate to another. No professional quality
manufacturer would have shipped this horn with a barrel so far out of
tolerance (so far as I know, see next paragraph).
It turned out that the machinist had to remove .008 inches of
material in some areas but not in others in order to achieve a
"comfortable" fit that satisfied him (a technician with 50 years of
experience, now retired and doing favors for friends, who builds his own
barrels and mouthpieces as a hobby). Obviously it made no sense to
machine anything other than the tenon socket because the instrument
plays beautifully to my novice ear. And the technician commented
(truthfully, I'm positive) that he would rather own my clarinet than the
one he owns himself.
But equally as obvious, if the interior of the barrel has moved
that much over eight years of use and travel and storage, then other
dimensions of the bore may have changed this much also.
From this second incident, I draw the same conclusions as in (1)


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