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 changes in 50 years.
Author: bob gardner 
Date:   2001-04-17 13:10

Dee informed me that one of my horns is over 50 years old. It got me to thinking. Have there been any major changes in the design and manufactoring of clarinets over this period of time. I really don't see any major differance between my 3 year old and my 50 year old.

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: Anji 
Date:   2001-04-17 13:51

Most of the changes in a product lifetime are determined at two preliminary stages;

Choice of raw materials.

Operator intervention during development.

Many products start as good ideas, but end up stalled in committee.

This, of course, doesn't stop them from generating pointless meetings and spawning new products on their own.

It is often amazing how smart product developers were, in retrospect.

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: David Spiegelthal 
Date:   2001-04-17 14:20

From the clarinets I've seen, I'd venture the opinion that there have been no significant changes (and very few minor ones, even) in clarinet design and construction in the past 70 years (using 1930 as a rough transition from Albert to Boehm system, at least here in the U.S.). The alleged benefits of polycylindrical bores notwithstanding, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference visually between a typical 1930's clarinet and a new one. I'm sure the manufacturing of clarinets has become highly automated, but the end product doesn't seem to me to have changed much at all.

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: Dee 
Date:   2001-04-17 15:38

Both Albert and Boehm systems were developed in the 1840s with the Albert actually being developed *after* the Boehm. However as a direct outgrowth of the Mueller system, it was much more popular for quite a while than the Boehm.

In the last 100 years or so, the only major changes have been the polycylindrical bore and the undercut toneholes, both of which are pushing 50 years now. The remainder of the changes have been more in the nature of tweaks to refine the designs.

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: bob gardner 
Date:   2001-04-17 15:46

this is just like me. I may be getting older but I'm still in great shape. All you got to do is take care of yourself and your equipment.

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   2001-04-17 18:43

Bob -

There have been lots of changes in the details of Buffet clarinet design over the years. For the evolution of the keywork, see my posting on "Older Buffet Key Design" at and the very helpful additional information posted by other participants. For information on the bore and toneholes, see my recent posting at .

At least in the opinion of a (highly opinionated) former Moennig apprentice, the amount of time-consuming work put in at the Buffet factory has greatly decreased over the years, to the detriment of the quality of the instruments. See .

At least for me, the hand-forged keys on the 75-year-old Buffets feel better than those on my 20-year-old R-13s. Also, the old keys were made from unplated German Silver, which, for me, has the best feel and doesn't wear through, as the newer plated keys do.

The 75-year-old instruments were also made of wood that was denser and had a tighter grain than any wood that is available today. The effect that the material of which a clarinet is made has on playing qualities is of course the subject of loud debate, but there is certainly a difference in the wood between older and newer instruments.

On the other hand, if you search on "Platinum Service" on the Klarinet board and here on Sneezy, you will find everyone agreeing that Francois Kloc has significantly improved the average quality and consistency of new Buffets imported into the U.S., so that you're much less likely to get a dog than you used to be.

As to whether the polycylindrical bore R-13 plays differently from earlier designs, I find that there is a difference. There are things I like about the pre-R-13 design (which, by the way, had a big change in the late 1960s, which is why Buffet put out the R-13 Vintage, which is the original design). I recently got a 1937 Buffet, which has significantly different playing qualities from my R-13. Not better, not worse, just different. The pre-R-13 blows more freely, I can get different tone colors more easily, and the intonation is less stable. It has to be played in tune. The R-13 is more focused and powerful, harder to get a variety of tone from (though the basic sound is very good), and it plays better in tune by itself. Finally, the older instrument is smaller in outside diameter, physically lighter and feels better in my hands than the R-13.

This is of course all my opinion and what feels best for me.

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: Roger 
Date:   2001-04-17 18:49

The R-13 greenline may well be a harbinger of things to come as good quality wood becomes unavaiable. As I understand it, they grind up the wood into a powder,mix it with resin and epoxie and then cast it into blocks into which they drill as if it were a block of solid wood.

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: bob gardner 
Date:   2001-04-17 18:57


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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2001-04-17 19:15

Since most of my research has been with Leblanc clarinets, I've noticed that they have made lots of design changes with their instruments. A lot of those have been to try to design something to compete with the Buffet R-13, or the Pete Fountain jazz model--etc. But, basically most of the changes have been slight improvements.

Some of the differences in the models are features that merely cause one to want to purchase a new instrument--like say the new Opus II vs. the Opus of a few years ago. The Opus II has an adjustable bridge and a couple of other things. The basic instrument is the same--but, if you're really interested in having a clarinet with an adjustable bridge and you won't be able to sleep at night until you get one---the Leblanc Opus II is the one for you.

My first clarinet was purchased through a rent-purchase deal 40 years ago this fall. It was a Selmer Bundy with wood body and plastic bell and barrel. The guy who sits next to me in community band still plays his and does really well with it. I'm always passing him one of the new ones I'm trying out and he always says, "I don't see the point. The old Bundy is still working."

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 RE: changes in 50 years.
Author: joseph o'kelly 
Date:   2001-04-18 02:25

Many changes in the manufacturing process of clarinets have occured in the past 50years. Here are some cons and pros. (These are done comparing Buffet top of the line clarinets from both time periods)

- Lesser grade wood used today
- Inferior plated keys compared to the German Silver of yesteryear

-Polycylindrecal Bore
-Undercut tone holes
-Many advancments in pads (gortex)
-Option of Greenline (Grenidalia Billets formed into uncrackible wood)

I believe something should also be said for the advancing quality of the plastic or student line of clarinets. My first clarinet was an old Evette student line. It must have been a early model as the bore of the entire upper joint was lined with metal.
The modern student instruments actually play pretty well

I think the modern clarinetist is actually more discriminating than the prior clarinetist and as a result demand more from their instrument. I complain about the wood that goes into my clarinet but overall I believe my instrument is far superior and more stable in intonation than those of the past.

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