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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000007.txt from 2001/07

From: Neil Leupold <>
Subj: [kl] Re: [Starting a beginner]
Date: Sun, 1 Jul 2001 09:07:24 -0400

Since: (a) my R-13 Prestige has consistent on-pitch tuning throughout its
range, and (b) my own Fobes mouthpiece nails the needle on pretty much every
note with minimal adjustment on my part, I used my Fobes for the entire test,
using the Debut only at the very end between the final two instrument candi-
dates. At that point, I walked up the range of each instrument using the
Debut to ensure that the Debut didn't have any quirks which would throw off
the otherwise good tuning of these two instruments. It didn't. The whole
process, from the moment I blew into instrument #1 until she pointed to the
Yamaha and said "That's the one", took two hours.

Which room at the store did you use? I've found that the only useful room
for any purpose there is in the left back corner. The other three are too
live and/or marred by humming/air conditioning noise. Also, since the left
corner room is not adjacent to any of the other practice rooms, there is less
bleed-over of sound from other players. I went to the store early specif-
ically to ensure that, if necessary, I could wait around in advance until
that room was free before my student arrived. I remember trying mouthpieces,
a decade ago, at Woodwinds & Brass on 10th St. in San Francisco (not associat-
ed with WW/BW). The store no longer exists (Irwin Berger passed away from
cancer, sadly; a very nice man with a wonderful German accent). Anyway,
Irwin let me go into one of his back rooms to toodle around on a few mouth-
pieces, and the acoustics were appreciably live. I walked out of the store
thinking I'd just improved my tone quality and response two-fold, only to
discover in a more controlled acoustic environment that I'd actually bought
a dud.

When it comes to testing equipment for purchase, it's always important to
ensure that your testing environment is as close to neutral as possible --
no reverb, but not completely dead either. I think we got a fair impression
of the instruments in the room that I chose.


--- wrote:
> Neil,
> I just went through the same process for a student of mine at the same store
> with the same models (maybe even a few more instruments of each brand, since I
> warned Laurie and Jonathan I was coming in I had very similar
> results when I *first* tried the instruments. I was wondering...did you try
> the instruments out with the mouthpieces it came with or with other
> mouthpiece(s)? If you tried the instruments out with other mouthpiece(s), what
> mouthpiece(s) did you use for each of the instruments? Did you try all with
> the one, same mouthpiece, all with a group of different mouthpieces, or a
> different mouthpiece for each instrument? I notice that you said you set up
> the student with a Fobes' Debut, which was exactly how we finished up the
> purchase.
> Kelly Abraham
> Woodwinds/Computer Geek
> New York City
> P.S. My e-mail account at is being cancelled, since it is going to a
> pay site at the end of the month. I have had problems with access with them in
> the past, so paying for a lackluster service is not an option. I will be
> moving my klarinet linked account to another account in a week or so. I'll
> keep you all posted!
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`
> Neil Leupold <> wrote:
> > 'Had the pleasurable experience this afternoon of helping a new
> > student pick out an instrument for herself -- no kidding, I ac-
> > tually enjoyed it quite a lot. I showed up at the store (WW/BW
> > on 23rd St. in Manhattan) 40 minutes early and had the staff grab
> > as many as they had of each model I had in mind: Buffet B-12, Vito
> > 7212, and the Yamaha YCL-20. By the time my student arrived -- an
> > adult beginner, approx. 34 years old -- our practice room was popu-
> > lated with 6 clarinets: 3 B-12's, 2 YCL-20's, and one Vito (no par-
> > tridges in a pear tree, however).
> >
> > I had her "mix up" the instruments for me and turn the brand stamps
> > away so I couldn't tell which was which (although the matte finish
> > on the B-12's made it kind of obvious in their case, not to mention
> > the key design when I held them in my hands). One by one, she handed
> > me an instrument and I proceeded to run up its range, one note at a
> > time, the tuner showing clearly which notes were questionable. She
> > found the visual feedback from the tuner very interesting and began
> > to invest herself in the process, recognizing in her own mind that
> > wide tuning variances across the range of the instrument were red
> > flags. We were picking out an instrument, but it also doubled as
> > her first lesson, and she never actually played a note.
> >
> > The Vito was a dog from the start and we put it aside shortly after
> > seeing the tuner needle jump twenty cents sharp between chalumeau Ab
> > and A. It stayed 20 cents sharp up into the throat tones, and the
> > twelths above were even worse, except long B to Eb, of course, which
> > were much closer.
> >
> > One of the B-12's, I'll call it B-12 #1, was a used instrument, and I
> > thought, "Hey, maybe it's in good shape and she'll come away with a bar-
> > gain." Unfortunately, the lowest trill key had been bent upward slight-
> > ly. There was absolutely no evidence of trauma to the instrument, no
> > metal fatigue in that area, no scratches on the keys, but it clacked
> > against the next trill key up. It also clacked against the bridge key
> > when fully depressed. I thought to myself, "I'll bet Jimmy Yan would
> > bend this back into place for ten bucks," so I proceeded to check it
> > against the tuner. It wasn't outrageous in any direction, but it
> > was just a little inconsistent (i.e., not perfectly in tune with it-
> > self). I was *very* impressed, however, with the 12ths on all three
> > B-12's...the needle barely wiggled. I put this one next to me as a
> > possibility.
> >
> > Next was one of the Yamahas (I didn't know that, of course, but I
> > looked at the brand stamp afterward). It was resistant compared to
> > B-12 #1, and a little sharp in the lower chalumeau and clarion. I
> > wondered to myself if a beginner would want to deal with that kind
> > of resistance built into the horn. This was Yamaha "#1".
> >
> > The next B-12, #2, had remarkably good intonation, and I came back to it
> > repeatedly to make sure I wasn't adjusting to any of the other instru-
> > ments' quirks while measuring *their* tuning. B-12 #3 had a problem sim-
> > ilar to the Vito (albeit to a lesser degree), and I feared that maybe I
> > was losing mental focus and starting to pinch. So I immediately switched
> > to B-12 #2 and the suspect notes were spot-on with this instrument. B-12
> > #3 was simply sharp in the chalumeau, by a good 15 cents compared to B-12
> > #2.
> >
> > Lastly we came to Yamaha #2. It was everything Yamaha #1 was not: free
> > blowing, nicely in tune, with a slightly brighter tone compared to Buffet
> > #2. It ultimately came down to a choice between these two in-tune instru-
> > ments: Yamaha #2 vs. Buffet #2. They both had the most even resistance of
> > all six instruments from low E up to high C (i.e., atop the 5th ledger line
> > above the staff), with consistent tone quality between the three registers.
> > Mechanically, they were equally well-adjusted, and (I was shocked with my-
> > self) I actually found Yamaha's keywork and spacing more fluid for my tech-
> > nique, even though the Buffet was so "recognizable" to me compared to my
> > own R-13 Prestiges.
> >
> > I played a little Mozart, a little Weber, a little Brahms -- the same
> passages
> > on each instrument -- awaiting her feedback. After first playing B-12 #2,
> we
> > suspected the rest of the comparison exercise was a moot point, especially
> since
> > I kept coming back to that instrument for tuning comparisons with the other
> five
> > clarinets. Yamaha #2, however, was easily the Buffet's equal in all of the
> basic
> > areas -- intonation throughout the range, evenness of resistance and tone
> quality,
> > mechanical integrity. Even the alternate fingerings were impressive on both
> in-
> > struments. I've heard a lot of bashing of mass produced instruments, but
> clearly
> > mass production has come a long way over the years. I swear I was not
> compensating
> > for any eggregious weaknesses in any of these beginner clarinets -- tried to
> stay
> > as consistent and objective as possible.
> >
> > In spite of her own leanings toward the Buffet throughout the trial, she
> ultimately
> > favored the Yamaha. I had to agree with her. She commented that she
> literally liked
> > the Yamaha's sound quality better than the Buffet's, and that it had a
> "ring" to it
> > that the Buffet seemed to lack. I never used the word "ring" during that
> session,
> > so she didn't get it from me. Despite what I felt were equally lyrical and
> tech-
> > nically well-executed excerpts, she said she could hear greater effort from
> me on
> > the Buffet, whereas she sensed greater ease on the Yamaha. I was actually
> quite
> > comfortable on the Buffet, so this subjective comment from her was valuable
> in the
> > decision-making process. They were both very good student instruments and I
> would
> > happily play either one in a pinch. The fact that she had a decisive
> preference
> > after the final comparison made the purchase decision an easy one, and I
> suspect
> > that she will be very happy learning how to play, knowing that she got what
> she
> > felt was the best instrument for her out of the six that we tried.
> >
> > I have to say again: that was a lot of fun. After setting her up with a
> Fobes Debut,
> > Vandoren 2's, a Rovner (I'll let her futz with my ligature collection after
> she has
> > basic tone production down), and a swab (the instrument came with cork
> grease), we're
> > ready for her first "real" lesson next Thursday. In retrospect, I think I
> should have
> > pushed for a metronome too, but she'll have no problem springing for one if
> it comes
> > up over the next few lessons. Now I need to go to Sam Ash and pick up a
> method book.
> > Any recommendations?
> >
> > Just kidding! :-)
> >
> > Neil
> >
> > Do You Yahoo!?
> > Get personalized email addresses from Yahoo! Mail
> >
> >
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