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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000557.txt from 2000/09

From: "Kevin Fay (LCA)" <>
Subj: [kl] The Hypothetical Question -- Old v. New
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000 12:33:35 -0400

William Wright wrote:

<<<The original question (I think) was whether a student horn can be
reworked into a 'professional' horn, such that it becomes a better
instrument than it was originally (when brand new).>>>

My $0.02 is that the answer is "no."

There are 2 variables to any manufactured product -- manufacture and design.
Cheap horns are cheaper for a reason -- typically, they are cheaper to make.
One variable is material -- plastic is cheaper (by far) than mpingo, and
good mpingo will generally cost more than imperfect. Another large
component of the price difference is the labor for hand finishing.

A good tech can go a long way to make up for the lack of labor in the
cheaper instrument -- what you're buying is the hand finishing etc. that
wasn't done at the factory. But I don't think you can get all the way
there; cheap horns are *designed* to be cheap. Design decisions are made to
lower the cost of manufacturing, at the expense of the sound of the horn.
Bores are molded, tone holes are not undercut, and (in the case of the
God-awful USA Selmers), keys can be cast in strange shapes and not forged.

The bottom line is that a good repair person can make the substandard
instrument sound better -- but the same effort on a better instrument will
produce better results.

[ . . . dons Nomex suit . . . ]

Sorry to disagree with the consensus, but at least in the context of
artist-level clarinets I believe new to be better than old -- at least as a
general matter. Let me explain.

There is no question that Buffet etc. made great horns in the past. I have
owned several; my current Bb is pushing 30 years old. Buddy Wright and
Stanley Hasty did pretty OK using the same set of Buffets throughout their
careers. Hans Moennig must have done *something* to deserve the reputation.

The flip side, however, is that the factories made dogs, too. If the horns
were good ex works, Moennig wouldn't have had so much of a market for his
remanufacturing services.

. . . anyone try out new Buffets or Yamahas lately? If you remember
twenty-five years ago, you would try out a bunch and pick the one that stood
out. Today, none of them stand out -- the consistency is really so much
better. (I suspect that the consistency of Selmers & Leblancs is improved,
too, but I don't play them).

Part of this is do in no small part to improvements in manufacturing
technique. Today's hand finishing is likely no better than that done fifty
years ago -- on a macro basis, it can't be better or worse -- but it was not
possible to get a computer-controlled lathe at that time. Machine tools of
today really are better. Much, much better. So much better that it should
not be a surprise to see improvements in the quality of manufactured goods,
like clarinets.


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