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 Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-06-23 05:57
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Hello,

A few weeks ago a family friend handed down to me her mothers's pre-R13 Buffet (the serial number indicates it was made sometime between 1945 and 1947), and just now she gave me two old boxes of Vandoren reeds. I have a couple of questions about the mouthpiece that came with the clarinet and about the reeds.

I'm mostly interested in seeing if anyone knows anything about the origins of the mouthpiece, as I can't find much information about it. Unfortunately my particular mouthpiece is with the clarinet in the shop, so I can't provide too much detail about it at the moment, but as soon as I get it back I will post more information and some photos.
The mouthpiece appears to be made of bakelite or some similar material. It has a smaller window than the other mouthpieces I own, it's very slightly shorter in overall length, and it's significantly more resistant to play. The logo on the back has the letters RVS in a circular shape; I looked this brand up and found very little information about it. One person said they found one on an old bass clarinet, but they had no idea about its origins; another says that RVS stands for Robert Van Soligen, but that name turns up no other info; a third person posted a picture of one (mine is less scratched up but the same brand), but no other information was associated with it.
I have yet to try it with a softer reed to see how it sounds; it was much too hard to play with the reeds I use currently.

As for the old reeds, I'm just curious if anyone could identify what years they might be from, as there's no indication of the year on the boxes. There are both Vandoren and Olivieri reeds in the boxes, most of which appear to be used, have the tip smashed, or both (there are one or two that still look playable.) I've attached photos of the boxes and the reeds.

Thanks,
Max

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2014-06-23 06:49

The letters on the mouthpiece might be AVS, not RVS.

The Vandoren reed boxes say 25 and 12 reeds. In the late 60s (as I recall), they reduced the numbers to 20 and 10.

In that period, Vandoren reeds could be great. For me, Olivieri were middling.

If the reeds show signs of use, nothing will revive them. If they are pristine, with just the tip broken, you can clip the tip and re-profile the reed, which should play like new.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-06-23 08:31
Attachment:  goodreeds.JPG (284k)
Attachment:  badreeds.JPG (267k)

You could be right about the letters, although the right side of the first letter is angled in a way that makes it look more like an R to me. Who knows.

As for the reeds, most of them look used, but a few look like they were played minimally or not at all. Unfortunately I don't have the tools to re-profile the reeds with broken tips (I haven't learned much about adjusting reeds yet, besides working with sandpaper), but a few of them have intact tips. Maybe I'll try them in combination with the old mouthpiece and clarinet, and replicate the setup my family friend would've used.

I've attached some pictures of the various states the reeds are in.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: Caroline Smale 
Date:   2014-06-23 23:54

Those 25 reed cardboard boxes were definitely in use in the mid-late 50s.
I still have in front of me a cardboard box of 10 reeds that I bought from VD in Paris in April 1968 (Ahh April in Paris!)
The next oldest box I still have is from 1971 and was by then the purple plastic box of 10.
I don't remember seeing boxes of 25 much after 1960 and I don't personally recall the boxes of 12s but would agree with Ken's thought on this but perhaps put the latest date as early 60s.

I opened one of the 1968 boxes on their 40th anniversary in 2008 and most turned out to work quite well after break in and fettling but a few had a distinctly orange hue and were not really successful.



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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-06-24 00:36

That time period sounds about right, since that's around when said family friend's mother would've been playing clarinet the most.
Did you do anything different to break the reeds in than what you would do for new reeds? I imagine they might have dried out quite a bit over time, but maybe it doesn't make much of a difference if you break them in properly. I'm going to hold off on breaking them in until I have the old clarinet and mouthpiece back so I can test them together. The reeds would be too soft for my current mouthpiece anyways (I play a size 4, and these reeds are size 2 1/2 - 3 according to the package.)

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: Caroline Smale 
Date:   2014-06-24 03:15

I don't recall using a different break in procedure (mine usually takes at least 7-10 days before reaching "normal use") but I think the reeds did take rather longer than this to really stabilise and seemed to improve over a period of several weeks.
They did seem to all be a bit softer than modern 3s and work better on my Vandoren A2 crystal mouthpiece than the A1.



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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-06-24 10:27

Ok, thanks for the info!

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2014-06-24 23:28

Your RVS mouthpiece was made by Robert Van Soligen, who worked as a technician in the Lockie Music Exchange in Los Angeles before WWII and possibly into the 1950s or later. Ramon Wodkowski has a blog entry for March 11, 2013 on a bass clarinet mouthpiece that shows the same RVS logo that appears on your soprano clarinet mouthpiece.

In the 1970s, I got to play an RVS when Glen Johnston told me these mouthpieces used to be popular with some of the movie studio clarinetists, and he had one in his workshop. The one I tried looked more like it was made of fine vintage rubber than Bakelite, though. It was an extremely flexible piece that made wide glissandi and responded quickly to embouchure changes.

The RVS has some value as a collectors' item, and at least some of them could be restored to play very well. Wodkowski remarks that "RVS mouthpieces have the potential to turn out extremely well as long as they are finished properly." and he believes the blanks for (some) RVS mouthpieces came from the same source that Henri Chedville used.



Post Edited (2014-06-24 23:32)

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-06-25 01:56

Interesting, maybe I'll see if someone can restore mine. I'm curious to try it with the old reeds once I get it back from the shop (or maybe I'll buy some new, softer reeds). I don't really have a sense of how well it plays yet, since I've only tried it with much harder reeds. Thanks for the information!

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2014-06-25 02:28

Let us know how the RVS Robert Van Soligen works when it's been restored. It's part of the "West Coast" lineage, which includes such mouthpieces as the Bob Mario, the August Perrier (sometimes supplied with Monopole clarinets), the Gale, the Gregory, the Mickey Gillette, and the early Bay-Gale.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-06-25 10:14

Will do. I'll also post something once I get the mouthpiece and the clarinet back from the repair shop and try them with the old reeds.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-07-06 11:03
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Ok, the clarinet is back. I've uploaded some pictures of the mouthpiece, and a video of me playing a less-than-stellar rendition of the first few bars of the Mozart clarinet concerto on the old clarinet, mouthpiece, and reed.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcBL3xwvgxE

Some new observations about the mouthpiece now that I've had the chance to look at it some more: The plastic seems to have some orange specks in it - is this any indication as to what type of material it is?
Also, besides the "RVS" logo, there's an inscription I'd never noticed before which looks like 4*. Perhaps that's an indication of the model of mouthpiece.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2014-07-06 16:11

Sounds nice, but there are intonation problems. In particular, C6 [C6] is quite sharp. I couldn't live with that.

Ken Shaw



Post Edited (2014-07-06 16:12)

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-07-06 20:10
Attachment:  IMG_8990.jpg (784k)

Yeah, I noticed that. Interestingly, the RVS mouthpiece is quite a bit shorter than my other mouthpieces, I assume that's part of the problem (picture attached comparing my Clark Fobes CWF to the RVS 4*). It may just be an out-of-tune instrument as well, or perhaps it has to do with the fact that clarinet bores were different back then.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2014-07-06 20:31

Which mouthpiece were you using to play the Mozart? Possibly a different mouthpiece might improve the sharp C6 problem. Have you cleaned out the tone holes? a partially blocked tone hole could account for the sharp note.

Tony F.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-07-06 21:00

I played the Mozart on the old RVS mouthpiece, as well as the old clarinet and even one of the 60-70 year old reeds. It definitely sounded different than my normal setup, and it was a bit sharper (I'm thinking it's probably a combination of the mouthpiece, barrel, and different bore that made it sharper. And more likely than not, I was just playing out of tune.)
As for the tone holes, I just got the clarinet back from the shop yesterday. We decided not to go all-the-way with the repairs since it would be a lot of money to put into an old clarinet that might not work that well (although both the repair specialist and I were surprised at how well it worked; perhaps I'll bring it in again to get the rest of the repairs done.) So some of the older pads, particularly around the thumb hole, are not sealing 100%, and that could account for the sharpness on that particular note. I can take a look at the actual tone holes too when I get a chance.
The woodwind repair specialist said he was surprised at how well the clarinet has held up, and seems to think that it wasn't played much before. The pads and keys were a little off (which is fixable), but the wood is still in great condition.



Post Edited (2014-07-06 21:02)

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: Tony F 
Date:   2014-07-07 04:02

The fact that the mouthpiece you were playing with was shorter than a standard mouthpiece would probably account for the sharpness. The effect would be a bit like using a shorter barrel. It would be interesting to try it against a tuner using a conventional mouthpiece. Possibly the original was intended for A-442.

Tony F.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: david sherr 
Date:   2014-10-18 02:35

I thought Van Solingen worked for Langenus and that he used whatever blank was available. Glen Johnston had his tools. I didn't know he worked for Lockie but it makes sense. Mitchell Lurie played an RVS and the first Mitchell Lurie mouthpieces were copies of it. Mitchell told me that himself. His teacher, Antonio Raimondi, played an RVS but switched to a Lurie and sounded exactly the same (beautiful and unique sound) on both. A lot of people played them in those days, including Russ Cheever, 1st clarinet at Fox. I wonder if they would seem to bright by today's standards?

http://www.belairjazz.org

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-18 03:08

The family friend I got the old clarinet/mouthpiece from took lessons from Mitchell Lurie! That makes sense.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: clarinetguy 2017
Date:   2014-10-18 03:45

I used Vic Olivieri reeds in the late 70s and early 80s, and they were nice reeds. The company was based in Spain at the time, and as far as I know, all their reeds were made there. I never knew (until I saw your picture) that they once manufactured reeds in France.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-18 06:36

I decided to give the mouthpiece another go. It's a little different feeling from my current mouthpiece (Clark Fobes CWF) but I like the sound quite a lot. I'm afraid it may tune slightly sharp.
Also, I've occasionally noticed a chirp or two - not sure if it's me or the mouthpiece.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2014-10-19 05:07

A good mouthpiece tech like Brad Behn, Ramon Wodkowski, or Nathan Beaty could evaluate the RVS and access the possibility of eliminating the chirp and possibly improving the tuning. RVS was definitely a top rank mouthpiece in its day, much better than the typical Vandoren, Selmer, or Woodwind Co. models, even though it seems not to have been known or used much outside the West Coast. To this day I'm sorry I didn't buy the one Glen Johnston let me try.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-19 05:46

Thanks for the info; I'll be sure to get in touch with one of them.
I actually emailed Clark Fobes about it earlier today since I didn't know who else to get in touch with before your post; I wasn't sure if adjusting preexisting mouthpieces was something he did or not, but I figured it was worth a try.
Looking forward to getting it fixed up- besides the chirps, the mouthpiece is sort of growing on me.



Post Edited (2014-10-19 05:48)

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-19 06:43

Clark Fobes says he can look at it, but he might not be able to do much if it's too different from the types of designs he's used to working with (which I'm afraid it might be, as they blow completely differently, with my CWF taking size 4-4.5 reeds and the RVS taking 2.5-3 reeds.) I'll just send it to him and see what he can do, though - worst case scenario is that he sends it back.
Chances are this mouthpiece won't replace my CWF as my primary mouthpiece anyways.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2014-10-19 18:33

From what you've said, your RVS has some different characteristics from the RVS I tried in the 70s. Mine was not short and had excellent intonation. Yours is the same brand but probably a different model or vintage. Listening to your video, I do still hear some of the characteristics I recall in the RVS, such as a strong tone in both the lowest and highest registers and flexible response. It was very easy to play the glissando Rhapsody in Blue solo on that RVS.

I believe some other ligatures than the one you are using might bring out the best characteristics of your RVS. If you can, try it with an inverse Bonade, a BG Revelation, a BG Duo, a GF, or an Ishimori.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-19 20:22

In the video, I was playing it on the old clarinet with an old reed and an old ligature, which accounted for some of the sound/tuning differences. Maybe I'll record another video today with the setup I'm using now.

On my newer clarinets, with a Vandoren Optimum ligature, a Vandoren traditional 2.5 reed (did the one you tried require soft reeds? I might also try V12 3s), and a Clark Fobes barrel, it definitely has the strong tone and flexibility you describe, and it tunes pretty well, maybe slightly sharp if anything. I haven't had the chance to try playing it in an ensemble yet, as I'm afraid my conductors will glare at me if it starts chirping :P

The only major issue with it is the chirping, which Clark Fobes is going to assess and see if he can fix. He seems to think it's probably a problem with the tip or the side rails, not the fact that the table is slightly concave, as I was guessing.



Post Edited (2014-10-19 21:00)

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-24 07:01
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One last question - can anyone identify the material the mouthpiece is made from? It seems to be some sort of hard rubber or bakelite or something of the sort (I'm no expert on mouthpiece material.) It's blackish-grey, with specks of orange. Pictures attached.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: BobD 
Date:   2014-10-24 10:35

Thanks guys, a very interesting exchange. The orange specks are interesting and might be an intentional "filler" in the compound. The color reminds me of a phenolic thermoset used by Big Red Parker fountain pens back when. It's possible that the compound (thermoset phenolic i.e. "Bakelite" or hard rubber) maker used regrind phenolic filler of that color. But I'm just speculating.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-26 03:15
Attachment:  IMG_1625.jpg (924k)

You're probably right that it's a filler.
Here it is compared to a Clark Fobes mouthpiece made from hard rubber. The orange isn't actually that noticeable unless there's a lot of light shining on the mouthpiece - in regular light, both mouthpieces are more or less black.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: maxopf 
Date:   2014-10-31 04:40

Clark Fobes got back to me - he says he thinks it's a knock-off, or at least poorly made. He's going to send it back to me. Oh well, it was worth a try.

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 Re: Old Mouthpiece and Reeds
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-02-01 23:56

I'd love to have those old broken reeds. The cane would be great. I have made my own reeds since the 1960's, when I stopped buying your pictured Vandorens,

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