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 Helping My Mother Out
Author: Speculator Sam 
Date:   2018-03-25 05:43

So fellas, I have a question regarding what mouthpiece to buy for myself and my Mother.

I currently rent a bass clarinet right, since it's easier to save a $1k-$2k for a good intermediate soprano clarinet then it is to save $2k-$3k for a shoddy bass clarinet. The one I have in mind is a Selmer 1400B, that's the one they have my music store. I plan on upgrading it with Backun barrel and bell, and a Vandoren Mouthpiece & Ligature. Since I play Vandoren reeds, it's fair to say that their gear'd fit the reed better, correct me if I'm wrong.

While I'm at work, I know my Mother would play that soprano clarinet. However, the mouthpiece I'd get for my Mother wouldn't be the right mouthpiece for her I'm sure. She used to play clarinet in grade school, from middle school to high school and she was one of those "run-of-the-mill first chair honors band members going to state exams" clarinetists.

I think a mouthpiece similar to what you she played then would be great. I don't know what exactly she played, but she told me that my Grandfather bought a Selmer clarinet and a Buescher Aristocrat Trumpet from a pawn shop in New York. This was the very late 70s- early 80s. Apparently, the timbre was so great that even the school bandmasters would tell her "that instrument sounds out of place. Belongs in a symphony orchestra, not a school's marching band".

Anybody know of any "legendary" Selmer clarinets that one could've found in a pawn in the late 70s/early 80s? It'd be cool to know, maybe when I'm at work and my Mother wanted to toot the horn I could get her a mouthpiece similar to the one she played.

Thanks for reeding (reed pun).

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Geronimo 
Date:   2018-03-25 07:17


I am a bit confused on what you are asking here, but I'll add what I can

You are saving 1-2K for a middle of the road clarinet, awesome. Although I personally wouldn't choose a Selmer 1400B at that price (soprano clarinet correct?). I am aware of selmer's top of the line instruments but didn't recognize that one so I did a quick search. I see used models available starting at 180-600 USD. Honestly if you have tried it before and like it, go with one of these used options and pay to have it overhauled to bring it back to top condition. You will save a lot of money and it will be comparable to the same item new. If you are itching for something new I could recommend other models that might serve you better.

Also, I'd be weary about purchasing a Backun barrel and bell. Depending on what you get, you are looking at spending +800 for the combo! At that cost you could buy two of the clarinet that you are considering putting it on. A barrel could be a good upgrade for a student model clarinet with out going out to upgrade to a new instrument. However barrels are a personal choice. The effect how the instrument feels and tunes, and not always in a good way. Try the products to make sure they work for you before you buy them. (this goes for all barrels, not just Backun) As for a bell, the do make a difference, but a very specific and subtle difference. If you are just getting into the world of clarinet I would hold of on this purchase for now, especially considering the cost.

Next you want to purchase a mouthpiece for your mother? You also mention that she has prior experience, if thats the case she will probably have her own preferences. Ask her. Vandoren is certainly a popular option but not the only one. See if your local music shop would let you try some out to get a feel for them. A well accepted starter mouth piece from vandoren is the 5RV lyre. If you want something else, the B40 is a common option (with a wider tip opening). Compare that to the vandoren M15 or M13 (with a closer tip opening) to get a feel of what you like or do not like. One thing to consider is that different mouthpieces respond differently to different reed strengths. Again, try before you buy.

However I can't know what she was playing "back then". Old Selmer instruments and accompanying mouthpieces are completely different from their stuff today. Maybe someone else can advise you better in that department.


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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Speculator Sam 
Date:   2018-03-25 07:57

Thank you for the elaborate response Geronimo. Of course, it's always best to try the mouthpieces, I can't say which one I like. If only my music shop wouldn't mind ordering a sampler set or something. I did a bit of digging with my Mom. Came across this website, under the subtitle "1956 Soloist... Shank" she pointed out that one that looked familiar and that it was definitely denser than the current mouthpiece I use now (stock one that came with my Selmer 1430LP Bass clarinet). She thinks it's an ivory mouthpiece.

The mouthpiece and lig. I'd get myself would be something different of course. Thanks to that website, I believe the search for my Mother's clarinet has been narrowed vastly.

EDIT: 1956 Centered Tone Bb Clarinet, we found it! Once again thanks Geronimo, I'll heed your advice.

Post Edited (2018-03-25 08:01)

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: zhangray4 
Date:   2018-03-25 08:08

If you are planning to upgrade your clarinet, I suggest upgrading in this order: 1. mouthpiece 2. the clarinet itself 3. barrel or ligature 4. bell

I agree with Geronimo on the barrel and bell. Don't rush to upgrade them, since they are not as important as the clarinet and mouthpiece. Now if you end up playing super flat, then yes a different barrel is important, but worry about that later, after you settle on a mouthpiece and clarinet.

I do not believe that Vandoren mouthpieces fit their reeds better than other branded mouthpieces. So don't limit yourself to Vandoren. Take a look at Behn, Fobes, D'Addario, Selmer, and other companies.

-- Ray Zhang

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Speculator Sam 
Date:   2018-03-25 08:54

Ray Zhang, thanks for responding. I agree with that upgrading order, I thought it to be common knowledge on this board; I should've specified. Also, seeing how many people are actually selling the 1956 Centered Tone Selmer for about $1,500ish which shocks me; if it's a "legendary instrument" why isn't it selling for higher?

I might just keep reading up on clarinets. I was considering that Selmer 1400B because it was at my music shop, along with a Vito and a Normandy instrument all of which are selling for $750+/-$20. I don't think they'll let me try the instruments though, due to the nature of spitting into a clarinet and the fact that the place is really a guitar shop that happens to sell other instruments.

A resonite clarinet wouldn't be sensitive to the weather when Christmas caroling time came or if I decided to go busking ten years from now when I gained some chops.

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2018-03-25 19:37

Most music shops will let you try before you buy, and if they won't you shouldn't buy an instrument from them. The Bundy/Vito instruments you mentioned are student level instruments and can easily be found refurbished for under $300 online.

Saying the Centered Tone is "legendary" if kind of misleading as some may interpret that to mean "rare". Buffet, Selmer, Leblanc and other manufacturers all made both excellent and mediocre instruments. The good ones (R13, Centered Tone, Opus...) are the ones players seek out. While The Centered Tone is considered by many to be a great instrument at the end of the day it's just another clarinet that was sold in large quantities. You don't really see to many vintage Bb clarinets selling over $2000 regardless of brand (obviously there are exceptions) because there is still a large supply of these instruments for players to choose from. If someone wants a Centered Tone they usually don't have to search too hard to find one.


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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2018-03-25 21:16

Hi, Sam:

1. A good used Selmer 1400B can be had for much less than $750. This model is an evolution of the Bundy Resonite Model 1400 clarinet that debuted in 1948. I found a Bundy 1400 in excellent cosmetic condition at a pawn shop for...drumroll, please...$35. I then had it serviced with pads and bumper corks replaced as needed, and the E/B rod swedged to put it into excellent playing condition, and had all of $90 invested. Seek and ye shall find!

2. I have a Backun MoBa and Fatboy barrel in grenadilla, as well as a Backun Traditional bell in cocobolo with voicing groove here in my studio. I also have a Ridenour Ivorolon hard rubber barrel, and a Doctor's Products Power Barrel. After giving all of these accessories a trial with the 1400, I concluded that it played best with its original equipment barrel and bell.

3. The 1400 played brilliantly and sounded gorgeous with a Grabner K-series mouthpiece and Vandoren Optimum ligature with the dual rail plate. If you upgrade anything, I'd give the Grabner K-series top consideration.

4. If your Mom's old mouthpiece was built from heavy ivory-coloured material without a black bite plate on the beak, it was almost certainly an old Selmer Goldentone. If it did have a black bite plate, it was likely a Brilhart Tonalin. Neither mouthpiece can hold a candle to what Behn, Fobes, Grabner, and Pyne are making today.


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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Speculator Sam 
Date:   2018-03-25 21:57

Wow, it's really cool to see all this discussion going on! Thanks a bunch Bboard community! So, I'll respond to all.

@jdbassplayer Interesting, I didn't know that. My Mother always talked the instrument up like it was, but I suppose if there are really that many floating around then it makes since why they don't go for more than $2k.

@Justputmytwocentsin Cool, so it seems you have a variety. Further establishes the point that one should try multiple pieces before selecting one.

@Ursa It's funny, seeing how much all the Backun affiliates, Richard Morales, Eddie Daniels, Jessica Philips, and of course the all mighty clinician Michelle Anderson insist that upgrading your barrel and bell will TRANSFORM your instrument. Sponsorship and shameless advertising at it's best :)

Ok, the Grabner K-Series seems like a good idea, assuming it feels good in my mouth. Double checking the website I posted earlier, yes it's a Goldentone. Wow, and they sell for pretty cheap too. I learned that ivory isn't great a mouthpiece material, and of course the elephants so it makes since they don't sell anymore. I think I'll talk this one over with my Mom and see what mouthpiece she'd prefer; whether or not she'd like one she's simply familiar with or a modern one that's similar and indisputably better.

Once again, thank y'all so much for the elaborate responses, it's greatly appreciated.

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Speculator Sam 
Date:   2018-03-25 22:20

It seems that half the quest is done. A Selmer centered tone with a goldentone mouthpiece was my mother set up back in the day. Seems the vandoren ligatures are pretty popular, however the mouthpiece is something that I really just need to try some out in order to find what I like. Seeing how I wouldn't mind saving up $2,000 and that the center tone would be something that my mother would play all the time anyway, I think I'll go ahead and purchase that one.

I'm more of a bedroom practice or anyway so I wouldn't have to worry about ever cracking my wooden instrument outside. If I ever went Christmas caroling or something, then chances are I'd probably find a resonite clarinet for that sort of purpose anyway. Still stumped on what exactly what mouthpiece I should get. Anyway thank you guys so much, feel free to tip into this discussion.

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2018-03-25 23:02

Hi, Sam:

The Backun barrels and bells do make a significant difference on some instruments but not on others. It's hit or miss. I find they enhance my Ridenour 576BC and Yamaha YCL-20, but don't work well for me on my Backun Alpha clarinet.

The old ivory-coloured Selmer Goldentones are made out of plastic. They were and are a cheap mouthpiece, and quite inferior to entry-level mouthpieces you can get from today's mouthpiece artisans.

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: Caihlen 
Date:   2018-03-26 01:31

And just to muddy the waters a bit more, I have the grenadilla barrel and bell on my Alpha and I think it makes an enormous difference.

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 Re: Helping My Mother Out
Author: EaubeauHorn 
Date:   2018-03-26 22:36

Ursa (and sorry for stealing the thread) what mouthpiece do you use on your Ridenour? I went with a Fobes Debut and am 20 cents flat across the board, with the shorter barrel. I have a Lyrique and gave up because of the flatness problem. I was learning on a borrowed Bundy from the 1950s that the owner wanted back. I don't think I checked my pitch on that one, so have no comparison. I'm told it is likely the bore of the mouthpiece is a mismatch with the instrument. Ridneour included a pro mouthpiece with the clarinet, which I did not do well on, but on that instrument I was a beginner (although far from a beginner wind player) and while I got some technique going, and quite decent tone, I could not get up to pitch. Legere reed, not interested in cane because of experience with oboe. I don't even know if I'm willing to shell out for a different mouthpiece or not. I have good chops for brass and oboe, for what it's worth. Maybe I'll dig the thing out today and see what I remember from two years ago.

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