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 D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2018-09-06 03:45

I'm a returning clarinet player playing in a local concert band and aspiring to a local volunteer orchestra. I'm looking for guideance on D. Bonade soprano mouthpieces. I'm not very conversant in mouthpiece specs and can't seem to find any for Bonades anyway.

In going through my drawers of mouthpieces looking for one to use on my newly-restored Leblanc Symphonie 3 Bb and Double L "A", I tried the old D. Bonade mpc my college clarinet teacher gave me about 1968. I didn't like it on the clarinet I was playing then (a bored-out Classic II that I still have and that still doesn't play well with the the Bonade). But I really, really like the way it sounds for me on the Symphonie 3 and Double LL "A" - really makes them sing. The only other marking I can find on this mpc is a faint "7 3/?" and something that looks like it might be "France". (The ? is because the subscript number is illegible.) I'm going to be on the lookout for other Bonade mpcs to try, but I understand from some posts here that Bonade mouthpieces were highly inconsistant, which might make finding another one like this difficult. If anyone here is knowledgable about Bonade mpcs and can suggest other mouthpieces that would be sufficiently similar to this that I might explore as a backup, I would be most appreciative.

I also have another D. Bonade I picked up more recently that looks the same but has the marking "7 1/2". It plays terribly with any setup on these two clarinets. Not at all like the Bonade mpc mentioned above. (Both mpcs have clean tables and rails, the 7 1/2 has just the tiniest nick on the outer edge of the tip.) What are the chances that a good mouthpiece refacer could turn this 7 1/2 piece into something more like the other one, or would I be better off just getting another mouthpiece?

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: Ed 
Date:   2018-09-06 04:03

Contact Brad Behn, who has terrific knowledge and is an excellent craftsman. His work is superb.

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2018-09-06 05:09

Guess Ed hasn't seen my work! :}

Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces

Yamaha Artist 2015

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-09-06 17:56


Congratulations on finding a Bonade which has inspired.

Bonade mouthpieces came in several forms:

1. Narrow throat, gentle A-Frame, moderate baffle swoop. These are the most common, and often had 7 1/2 on the side. And the good news is that these have the best potential.

2. Wide A-Frame throat, high baffle - hybrid design employing a French mouthpiece external shape with German mouthpiece internals. Not many of these were made, and their sounds were less focused and lacked core by comparison to #1

3. Very narrow throat with parallel sidewalls, very deep baffle (this chamber shape was also used in some Chedeville branded mouthpieces and was the inspiration for the Gigliotti mouthpiece. These mouthpieces didn't have as much resonance as #1 and were more resistant as well.

4. Melior logo, unnecessary horizontal troughs across the table, medium-wide throat, relatively high baffle. These mouthpieces came in either two or three ligature lines at the bottom, and are generally considered not as good as #1, as their design concept is more for marketing than for any purpose of artistry.

5. And VERY rare, and by far the best, the much older Bonade mouthpiece with round logo beneath the bottom ligature line, made from much older blanks. I've only seen a few in all of my hours on the bench. These mouthpieces were made from a nice inventory of older ched. blanks. Their baffles were lovely in shape as they had a gentle slope yet were not too deep as was all too common, and their throats were nice and narrow for better tonal core.

It is worth noting that all Bonade designs played higher than A=440 which was customary of the era. None of them had facings which functioned well. It was a rule that Bonade's students came to lessons on a Bonade mouthpiece, yet none of them liked their mouthpieces. Bonade was ill in his post Orchestra, teaching days, had many medical expenses, and so he promoted his celebrity for sponsorship deals with instrument makers and mouthpiece makers as well.

All Bonade mouthpiece forms can be refaced into something very nice, but I would definitely urge players on a search to bias their efforts toward option #1. These mouthpieces were not all made from the same rubber formulation, but the better ones had a lovely chocolatey sound (rich, deep, yet full of character, tonal density, and good core). They weren't as ringy as some earlier era French mouthpieces, and some criticize Bonade mouthpieces as having a shallow brightness of tone, however a good one is all good. Some may perceive the brightness as a compact and tight resonance, which in fact with a good lighter reed opens up into a world of comfort, power, and flexibility which simply can't happen on a large chamber mouthpiece.

They were made by a famous French mouthpiece factory who's name has now been taken by Omar Henderson of Georgia, and sold to Georgia saxophone mouthpiece maker Jody Jazz. Jody and I had a nice conversation in Belgium this summer at the ICA conference. He'll reintroduce his version of mouthpieces under that famous French maker's namesake at LA's NAMM show next winter. Sounds convoluted because it is.

Again, it is important to note that Bonade mouthpieces had horrible factory applied facings which were virtually unplayable. As I see it, it is amazing that Bonade's students could get any service out of them whatsoever, BUT when properly refaced a Bonade mouthpiece can be a lovely option. I dare say that all clarinetists would benefit to become acquainted with Bonades, as they can offer a much sweeter, more ringy, focused, and resonant sound than is typical on modern mouthpieces, made from "German" rubber, and made from common molding practices. Their smaller chambers offer nimble handling, a nice tight tonal resont core, and nuanced response with a good (light) reed.

Again, not all Bonade mouthepieces were made from the same quality of rubber and some just don't have good service to offer. So if you want to explore Bonades, make sure to have patience and budget and perseverance sufficient to follow through. It may require refacing several before you find a gem. But it'll be worth it - if you like old-school ring in your sound.

I should also note that Bonades were made with narrow windows as compared to many modern mouthpieces. And these narrow windows add resistance, and core, so a light reed helps bring out their full potential when properly faced, and I would urge anyone doing the facing job to try and keep the integrity of the design by not widening the window too much. This just makes the mouthpiece more shallow sounding, yes more free...but at what cost? And one can easily balance mouthpiece-resistance with reed-strength.

That's something I would urge all to consider. When trying mouthpieces, rather than requiring it to play exactly as you require for your "blow" and for your reed, try to get acquainted with what the mouthpiece prefers. Try to find a reed to match the mouthpiece's resistance level, tonal character, response characteristics, and so on. In fact, a better mouthpiece shouldn't be the same as what you are currently playing, it should rather take you to a new and improved place. And by definition, it will be different.

So to that end, play new equipment with an open mind. Witness what you are doing differently, and then evaluate whether that different approach is a good thing.

If so, you've got a winner.

And with respect to Bonades, I had one in my earlier days as a refacer. I fixed the factory facing, making it a nice 1.01 with a 17.5mm length and it served me very well. In fact it showed me how to nuance, how to shape and voice my sound, how to play lighter reeds AND achieve greater tonal density, core, and cleanliness. It was a mouthpiece which inspired, took me to a higher level of playing, and achieve improved resonance. My sound was more complete with overtones, and my comfort was improved along the way. And perhaps most importantly, my musicianship was manifested through a greater source of inspiration.

One cannot underestimate the impact a great mouthpiece can have!

Congratulations on finding a mouthpiece with nice potential.

Brad Behn

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2018-09-06 20:22

I got a few on line and they don't play very well. Maybe I should send them off to brad. 👍

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2018-09-06 22:20

WOW! What a treasure trove of top expert info for this old returning amateur. I am incredibly appreciative of Brad and others who are willing to share their expertise on this bulletin board. There just was no source of such in-depth information when I was playing as a younger man many decades ago.

On closer inspection with a magnifying glass, I see that I erred in that both of these have "7 1/2" incised next to the right bottom of the table. They otherwise look identical on the exterior (including a single ligature line at the top and a double line below with "D. Bonade" below the bottom ligature lines). I also see on very close inspection with a good light and magnifying glass that one has what appears to be "QualiteSuperieure" incised parallel to and beside the table and the other appears to have like markings that have mostly worn off. But when I look inside I see that the throats are not quite the same. The one that plays well for me has almost, but not quite, parallel throat sidewalls - a very, very mild spread. The one that plays poorly has a somewhat more identifiably A-Frame throat. I'm not sufficiently educated in mouthpieces to assess the baffle heights, but the baffle on the "good" one appears rough like it might have been worked with an abrasive out to the tip, while on the other one the baffle is perfectly smooth for the first inch or so from the tip.

Although Bonades may have been designed to play higher than A-440, one of the things that impressed me was that the better of these two plays very spot on in tune at A=440 pretty much across the range on these two Leblancs. (Haven't checked the other mpc.) Part of that is the instruments, but some of my mouthpieces produce whacky tuning even on these Leblancs.

If I'm understanding correctly, it sounds like that if I want to stay with this sound (which I do for serious classical/orchestral playing) I will be better off finding and working with vintage Bonades rather than trying to find a more modern piece that sounds similar as a backup. I don't want to mess with what works by having the nice one altered, as it has definitely taken me "to a new and improved place". But I'm always conscious of the possibility of disasters such as losing or breaking a mouthpiece and I have nothing else that plays this well on these instruments. I think I'll take your suggestion, Brad, and play around with different reeds a bit on the mpc that gives me more trouble, and keep an eye out to acquire other Bonades that can be worked into something as nice as the gift I received from my teacher long ago. Am I correct in guessing that in refacing a mouthpiece throat sidewalls can be opened out but not closed up?

- Ken

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: Ed 
Date:   2018-09-06 22:58


Guess Ed hasn't seen my work! :}

A. That is correct, but perhaps will have the opportunity someday.
B. You are as bad as some of my students! If I compliments one on doing something well, invariably another student will chime in "what about me?!"


Post Edited (2018-09-06 22:58)

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2018-09-07 01:13

Ed, my original thought when you did not respond to Bob Bernardo's initial post was "perhaps you had seen his work and..."


PS Mr. Bernardo, I have always found it best for my work "to speak for itself."

Post Edited (2018-09-07 01:16)

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: Brad Behn 
Date:   2018-09-07 02:46

Hi Ken, yes a mouthpiece throat can be widened and not as easily closed back down. However with proper epoxy and craftsmanship, one can add material anywhere and reshape. But generally speaking a nice narrow throat on a Bonade mouthpiece is an essential part of what makes them good.

Sounds like your well playing Bonade has been nicely refaced and brought into performance worthy condition. Nice!

Congratulations on your nice find.

Indeed there are excellent modern mouthpieces and some are true to the old school tradition, so I am not suggesting that you shouldn't try. However a good Bonade with a proper facing can be a lovely thing as well. And if you have developed a relationship with yours, and seek a spare mouthpiece, then I would definitely recommend getting another Bonade. Then get it refaced to bring out its best potential.

The good thing is that Bonade mouthpieces are relatively undervalued and there are other mouthpieces with the "Quality Superieure" trademark such as DeLacroix, Portnoy, Freeman, etc. which means that they were "cut from the same cloth", making them quite common and relatively inexpensive.

Have fun on your search.

Brad Behn

Reply To Message
 Re: D. Bonade mouthpieces
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2018-09-07 19:44

Brad, I'm going to add a bit of interesting history here, as I've been revisiting my own history with the clarinet after over 3 decades away from it and am only now beginning to appreciate this Bonade mouthpiece. A question by a local music teacher sent me researching my old college clarinet teacher, whose name I had forgotten over the years. It turns out that he was Earl Bates, a student of Daniel Bonade and former principal clarinetist with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. I was entirely immature as a person and as a musician when I tackled Indiana University School of Music where he was teaching in 1968 (I lasted less than a year), and asked Prof. Bates to take me on as a student entirely on the basis that he played Leblancs as did I. I had absolutely no knowledge or appreciation of who he was in the world of music. I'm certain that I was an uninspiring student. (In our initial interview I told him that I was interested in playing Dixieland like Pete Fountain and Benny Goodman. I've recently learned that only a few years earlier such an utterance would have resulted in the IU School of Music showing me the door.) He expressed disapproval of the Leblanc Classic II I had received as a high school graduation present (for reasons I now understand but which he failed to articulate). But for some reason in those few months I studied with him he gave me this D. Bonade mouthpiece, suggesting gently only that I try it instead of the Vandoren B* I had been using. He never explained how it was supposed to help me, and in fact it never worked well on the Classic II (which I've since learned had been rebored and sounds more like a Dynamic H/Pete Fountain than a Symphonie or Doubel LL). But now fifty years later you've helped me to realize what a gem and piece of history I have. Thanks.

- Ken

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