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 Leblanc Normandy 4 or Rapsodie
Author: Karonbaron 
Date:   2018-09-30 11:56

Hello everyone,

I'm an intermediate to advanced player and am looking to upgrade. I've been playing a Selmer Sterling for 25 years, which saw me through grade 8 to degree level although not without challenges.

The old beast (made in 1930s-ish) needs alot of maintenance and my last quote for an overhaul was £200. This is because the keys need alot of work, thanks to the softer, unplated metal. It has intonation issues and presents a lot of resistance due to the aforementioned issues. I've adapted to the issues, because I love the instrument but am thinking it's time to make life a little easier.

I'm looking at getting a secondhand instrument and will mostly be playing for fun now, I'm considering joining a local rehearsal orchestra and may reach beginners at some point.

Anyway, enough blurb about me. I've spotted a secondhand Leblanc Normandy 4 and a Rapsodie. I'm wondering if anyone has experience of either instrument, how do they play, what are the issues to look out for on secondhand ones?

Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated,

Thanks for reading.


Reply To Message
 Re: Leblanc Normandy 4 or Rapsodie
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2018-10-01 10:30

Hi, Karen:

No experience with the Rapsodie here, but I can tell you about the Normandy models, as I have had several in my studio.

All of the wooden Normandy models share the same acoustic design that was introduced with the first Normandy clarinets in 1948. This is the same acoustic design as the Noblet 40 clarinet which was likely introduced well before World War II.

Thus, it's an old design--.584-inch cylindrical bore and quite free blowing. You add working resistance to the instrument through your choice of mouthpiece and reed.

The Normandy was the entry-level wooden clarinet in the Leblanc lineup, except for a few years when the Jeffrey marque took over that role.

Intonation on a Normandy 4 is not as accurate as with today's entry-level instruments. I would hesitate to use the Normandy 4 when teaching private lessons, since it's a top priority that students hear accurate pitches from you when developing their own sense of correct intonation.

Getting involved with a Normandy has another potential pitfall: If you decide that it's time to upgrade, you'll find that today's professional clarinets use polycylindrical bore technology and offer resistance and tuning tendencies quite unlike the Normandy series of clarinets. The Buffet R13, Yamaha YCL-650, Ridenour RCP-576, and the like will likely require a substantial adjustment in your approach to playing versus what you'd become accustomed to on the Normandy.

The Rapsodie, a much more up-to-date design, probably suffers from none of these drawbacks. I'd be inclined to give one a trial before investing any time at all with a Normandy.

If you find that the Normandy 4 meets your needs, be assured that they're a durable and dependable instrument when properly maintained. The key work is very strong and stays in regulation. Faulty nickel plating is an issue with early Normandy models, but this had been generally resolved by the time the Model 4 was introduced. Still, I've seen a few Model 4 clarinets with plating issues.

Reply To Message
 Re: Leblanc Normandy 4 or Rapsodie
Author: Karonbaron 
Date:   2018-10-01 12:21

Thank you for your response, Ursa. The Normandy sounds like it has similar issues to my old Selmer, with the exception of the keyword which isn't at all sturdy on my instrument.

You make a very valid point about intonation for students too, I couldn't agree more.

Your reply is very thorough and gives me lots of food for thought.

I would love an R13 but my budget won't stretch to that, sadly.

Thanks again,


Reply To Message
 Re: Leblanc Normandy 4 or Rapsodie
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2018-10-01 22:43

Glad to be of assistance, Karen.

Note that Buffet is infamous for building scores of R13 clarinets with faulty intonation.

Two affordable wooden clarinets with modern design, consistently good intonation, and strong keywork are the Yamaha YCL-450 and YCL-650 series. I wouldn't hesitate to teach lessons or play in orchestral settings with either model.

Good luck in your search for a new instrument!

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