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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000779.txt from 2004/08

From: "Karl Krelove" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] Selecting a clarinet
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 22:34:53 -0400

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John J. O'Neill []
> Every time I consider buying a new clarinet, I am confronted with a
> zillion questions and a resultant confusion that stops me in my tracks.I
> hope that list members will tolerate all my questions, and perhaps
> even answer some of them. Here are my questions:
> 1. Is there any 'correct' way to select a new clarinet, besides playing
> as many of them as possible?
Not really - you basically need to try instruments within your price range
and compare them.

> 2. What characteristics do you look for during a trial period? Also, in
> what order should you rate these characteristics?

For me it would be tone character, responsiveness and resistance,
intonation. You're gambling with any of these, because they'll change as you
play the instrument. Some intonation problems can be fixed or at least
greatly improved, which is why I list it third, but you really want ideally
to have a clarinet that allows you to produce your best and clearest tone,
produce a consistent sound whether playing legato or staccato and play in
tune with your surroundings with a minimum of embouchure adjustment and
"humoring" of specific notes.

> 3. If tone is first, how much of the actual instrument determines its
> tone? (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.
In a very real sense, sound is created in your imagination. The instrument
(including but not limited to the reed, ligature, mouthpiece, barrel,
clarinet body and bell) either impede or allow you to produce the best
result your technique and imagination can combine to produce. Whether the
ideal is easier or more difficult to achieve is influenced by all of the

> 4. What is meant by the resistance of an instrument? Is it the same as
> ease of response?

They aren't the same, but the resistance you feel contributes to the
response. An instrument that is too free blowing can feel difficult to
control, while an instrument that is too resistant causes it to be stuffy
and unresponsive. Of course, too free and too resistant are personal
definitions for each player. If there were an ideal resistance level, we
wouldn't need all the variety the manufacturers provide for us.

> Some people talk about the ease in which the altissimo
> tones are produced. I have played (almost exclusively) Buffet R-13
> clarinets, and I have never been able to 'whisper' those altissimo
> tones. Are there clarinets that actually allow you to reach altissimo F
> and F# without straining to reach and hold these tones? Sometimes it
> comes down to the use of alternate fingerings. I know that air support
> is part of the answer, but are some clarinets easier to play than others?
Sure, but unless the player has the technique to take advantage of the
greater ease, those notes won't be magically easier on one than on another
clarinet. 35 years ago the Selmer 10G, for example, was specifically
designed to provide, among other things, a more in tune, robust high F and
F# than the Buffet R13. Response in any area of the clarinet (or any other
instrument) is a function of its acoustical design. Trouble is, often the
design features that improve one register or quality of an instrument cause
trade-offs that result in unique problems in other registers or qualities.
Parenthetically, those altissimo notes are among the ones that can be most
influenced by other parts of the equipment - especially the mouthpiece and
the reeds you use on it. So I wouldn't personally choose a clarinet
specifically for those notes.

> 5. Do our top players really choose a brand-name instrument for its
> playability, or is it all about money?

They didn't become "top players" without sounding good and playing well.
That only happens on an instrument the player is comfortable playing.
Whether or not there are any financial considerations in any one player's
choice of instrument *after* he/she has become well-known depends, I'm sure,
on the player. But I can't imagine that any player deliberately plays on an
instrument he or she considers unflattering or difficult in any way just to
make a buck. Life's too short.

> I realize that top players can
> make a shoehorn sound good, but what about the rest of us who are
> limited by cost, geographical location, talent, etc?
You (we) need to do the best we can. Of course, those three specific
limitations are not at all equally meaningful. The only one that probably
can't be overcome in some way is lack of talent. The others can be gotten

> 6. Is a Buffet better than a Leblanc, than a Rossi, than a Patricola,
> than a Yamaha, ...? (I am thinking of changing brands.)

See Ormondtoby Montoya's answer - I couldn't possibly do better.

> That's all the questions for now. I hope that some of you will read and
> answer them. Thank you in advance!
Good luck.

My 2 cents' worth,

Karl Krelove

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