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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000778.txt from 2004/08

From: (Ormondtoby Montoya)
Subj: Re: [kl] Selecting a clarinet
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 21:31:02 -0400

John=A0J.=A0O'Neill wrote:

> Is there any 'correct' way to select a new clarinet,
> besides playing as many of them as possible?

John, I'm not an experienced performer nor a teacher, but perhaps you'll
find a few words from a recreational player to be interesting:

IMO, there is no clear-cut 'formula' for choosing an instrument. The
basic strategy is (as you've already said) to try many of them and to
listen to & feel the results and to take your time. Adjectives in a
catalog such as "focused", "dark", "round", "golden", etc are

Clarinets can be broadly divided into categories by the shape and size
of their bores, whether they are wood or plastic or composite, whether
the tone holes are fraised or not, how the keys are shaped and plated,
and so forth. But even if you decide that you like a certain model and
manufacturer, two instruments of the same model from the same
manufacturer will most likely sound and feel at least slightly
different, and perhaps a lot different.

Also important, the same instrument can feel and sound noticeably
different depending on which 'setup' (mouthpiece & ligature & reed &
barrel) you use with it. I think it's fair to say that many people
choose their instrument first and then try different setups with it over
the years (I did); but if you don't try a few different set-ups with the
instrument that you are intending to buy, you may be caught by surprise
later on and you may wish that you had chosen a different instrument.

Also important, regardless of whether you are trying a new or used
instrument, be sure it is in good repair before you make a decision.
Some (many?) instruments are not perfectly adjusted when they first come
out of the box. A responsible dealer won't allow you to make a final
decision --- either pro or con --- based on an instrument that needs
some adjustments.

Also, don't be unduly afraid of trying or buying a used instrument.
They cost less, and if you encounter one that you especially like, you
shouldn't be afraid of it because it's a used instrument. (I bought my
clarinet in used condition after trying a number of new ones at music
stores and ClarinetFests.) Being sure that a used instrument is in
good condition before you make a decision is important, of course.

If you are a beginner (but you don't sound as if you are), definitely
ask a teacher or experienced player to help you choose. A beginner's
sound can be sufficiently erratic to hide the true 'sound' of an

> (For some reason, I believe that tone is
> determined by the barrel, mouthpiece, reed,
> ligature, and the individual's oral cavity. The rest
> of the instrument (upper and lower joints and the
> bell) only provides space for the vibrating air
> column that produces the characteristic clarinet
> sound.

!!!!! Absolutely not true !!!!!

> What is meant by the resistance of an
> instrument?

There's a mathematical term (impedance), but basically it means how much
force you need to put behind your breath. "Responsiveness", such as
piano notes in any register, is a different thing.

> Is a Buffet better than a Leblanc, than a Rossi,
> than a Patricola, than a Yamaha, ...?

!! Heh !! First let's agree on which brand of beer is best. Then
let's agree on which flavor of ice cream is best. Then let's agree on
who should be our next president. And finally, before attempting to
choose the best brand of clarinet, we need to agree on who is the most
beautiful lady in the world. Then (perhaps) we will be ready to debate
which brand of clarinet is best.

Nor is it true that a certain bore or setup or brand is definitively the
best for (say) jazz while another is best for classical (etc). Some
jazz players prefer big bores, for example, but certainly not all of

In the broadest possible terms, you usually get what you pay for ---
stay away from the cheapies --- but it is *NOT* necessarily true that a
$4000 custom instrument will give you more pleasure nor earn you more
applause than a $2000 instrument.

....and finally: My father told me as a young man that there is
probably more than one woman on this planet with whom I could be a happy
husband. The same is probably true of clarinets and the clarinets that
they play. Unlike the choice of mate however, many of us own more
than one clarinet and play them in different situations, or just because
the mood strikes us.

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