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 Doubts about new clarinet
Author: SwingQuavers 
Date:   2019-06-28 00:33


I learned clarinet for 7 years as a child/teenager and gave it up, mostly for health and time reasons. About two years ago (= about 10 years after I gave it up) I came back to clarinet, but I played it only on the weekends (I had a faulty student instrument, but didn't know that the instrument was the reason that it was so hard to blow) for fun.
In December I bought a new Buffet Crampon E13 clarinet.
In January I joined a local amateur symphony orchestra (until then I didn't know that amateur symphony orchestra existed).

The other two clarinetists in the orchestra have a Buffet Crampon RC.
I play my E13 with Vandoren BD5 mouthpiece, Vandoren Optimum ligature and Vandoren Rue Lepic 3 (or 3,5) reed strength.
I love my E13 and its sound. But ultimately I have some doubts about the instruments I bought.

The reasons why I bought an E-13:
1. Years ago, one of my teachers said to me that tone and sound depends for about 80% from the player's anatomy and embrouchure, for about 15% from mouthpiece and only about 5% from the instrument (or so). Therefore, according to him, it's useless to spend a lot of money for professional instruments.

2. The clarinet is only one of my hobbys. Although playing the clarinet is very dear to me, I'm afraid I can't dedicate so much time to a professional instrument as it would deserve.

3. On the Internet (and on this board) I found that professional instruments are more difficult to blow than student and intermediate instruments.

4. Price: I got the E-13 for about 1700 €, the RC would have been about 3000 € (I absolutely need the version with the auxiliary Eb-lever). And I wanted a new clarinet, I don't like used instruments.

My previous instrument (a Buffet Crampon E10) wasn't so easy to blow, didn't have such a nice sound and had lower build quality.

But Stephen Howard stated in his review that the E13 lacked the "true power of the symphonic clarinets" and another source on the Internet said that professional clarinets provide a wider dynamic range and more freedom in shaping the tone.

So: although I'm happy with my E13, I have the doubt now that it would be suitable for a symphony orchestra for the limited dynamic range? Both the E13 and RC tune to 442 Hz (I'm Italian). Or is this only a matter of practice?

What do you think? For the reasons above, I again would decide for an E13. But there is this grain of doubt.
What is marketing (regarding the RC/R13) and what is not?

Post Edited (2019-06-28 07:36)

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-06-28 01:11

I perssonally disagree quite strongly with the notion that professional horns are harder to play. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you think about it, what is the difference in ANYTHING that costs more? It is the amount of TIME that craftsmen put into making the item at hand better. What is the BETTER in a musical insturment? That would be tuning. So once you get past the "stuffiness" that may have been caused by poorly installed pads, or key misalignment, the most important issue is how well the instrument tunes to itself. By that I mean once you have the basic global pitch at which you play, there is the tuning of note to note and the three octaves or so of range that is important to be as stable as possible. Here I'd mention all clarinets are imperfect but the better clarinets are closer to perfect than the others.

That aside, if your horn plays well enough for you in terms of pitch (and ease of play) there is no such thing as a horn that is markedly different in dynamic range. Yes, some feature a bit more overtones in their timbre but that issue is much more part and parcel of your mouthpiece/reed combination and how you play.

The BD5 should be fine (I've heard some really fine players using this mouthpiece). Although I see more symphony players around the US use more closed mouthpieces in general (of course that's based on when I was asking everybody I met what they used......back in the 80's).

A top horn should have better tuning characteristics and give you a bit more freedom to do what YOU want to do as interpreter of music. But nothing precludes a musician from getting great results from intermediate instruments that are padded well and continually maintained in top working order.

...............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-06-28 03:12

You've gotten so much nonsense from your Internet sources that I won't even begin to go through them. So many of the things that you've read make a top line instrument harder to play are silly. The instrument has to be in good mechanical condition. Given that, an R13 or an RC shouldn't be harder to play than your E13.

But putting aside all the misinformation you've gotten, you have an easy way to see what the differences are between an RC and an E13. The other two clarinetists in your orchestra have RCs. Ask them each if they'll let you try their instruments - just the clarinets - with your mouthpiece and reeds. Then you'll have the benefit of a real world comparison, but even better, you'll be able to compare the two RCs to see if there's variation between them.

Maybe they'll refuse you, but there isn't really any reason to. You don't want to switch mouthpieces or reeds if you're comparing the clarinets, so there aren't any sanitary issues involved.

I would suggest that you re-think your feeling about new vs. used instruments. You can sometimes get a really good bargain on a used instrument that someone else has sold because he has found something that he likes better, or thinks he has. But that could mean that he has moved from a perfectly good RC to one of the new Uebels or some similar move. Used doesn't necessarily mean wrecked.


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 No Subject
Author: Tom Puwalski 
Date:   2019-07-05 14:34

Post Edited (2019-07-05 14:36)

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: TomS 
Date:   2019-07-05 20:21

IMHO, "pro instruments", ironically, are usually EASIER to play ... they don't necessarily have more resistance but usually have better intonation, more consistent sound and blowing resistance from note to note and register to register, and the key-work has a better feel and action.

So, it's kinda crazy that we expect kids to learn on cheaply made and/or designed instruments!

Fortunately, with modern designs and manufacturing, it's POSSIBLE to make an intermediate clarinet (or even some beginner models) that have many of the positive attributes of the so called "pro" clarinets. There are a few good examples out there ... but it's true, many less expensive clarinets are much more difficult to play, in almost every way.

Your E13 is a different design than the RC clarinets, but it's still considered a high-end instrument and should serve you well.

One good example of nice instruments are the clarinets made by Tom Ridenour ... moderately priced, but very well designed and a pleasure to play.


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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2019-07-06 00:59

The E13 is a high end intermediate model clarinet and is perfectly suited to orchestral playing just as any clarinet should be as they are orchestral instruments after all. If it wasn't, then they wouldn't be making them.

If you bought it new, then have it checked over before the warranty expires to be sure everything is in regulation and there aren't any leaks. Chances are there may be some leaks as I've never seen any Buffets that were perfectly made or finished and there's a lot that can be improved on which the warranty won't cover.


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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2019-07-06 16:06

To be brutally honest, buying new isn't always the best thing as the factory finish on many big name clarinets is only done to meet basic quality control standards and many things are overlooked. Bench time on student and intermediate level clarinets isn't going to be spectacular and even some pro and prestige level clarinets leave a lot to be desired.

Now if you buy a used pro model clarinet from a respected tech, it ought to have been completely overhauled to a much higher standard using better quality pads and materials as well as addressing all the flaws that were overlooked when it was made such as tidying up toneholes and better key fitting, spring tensions balanced better and all other things the average player wouldn't even know about.


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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2019-07-11 18:32

The instrument (mouthpiece/reed especially, less the Barrel, but still can help a lot, as well as the Ligature also) matters a LOT. I'd say 50% or more. Player matters equally.

Pro Clarinets play quite easily!! Some are a little more resistant than others, but it is a very comfortable feeling.

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2019-07-11 18:33

We get players sampling the plastic, or student level Clarinets, and they no matter how great they are, still don't sound nearly as good as on their own Instrument.

Not even close.

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-12 00:18

Yeah, I'm sorry David but I have to disagree with that concept.

When I try out my student's horns with my mouthpiece (really all I'm saying here is a reed/facing combo that I know) the vast difference is with the execution of SOUND. I sounded like myself on a crumby Backun or base line Bundy.

Now if you wanted Daphnis and Chloe out of the Bundy, you'd have some response and intonation issues..........but 50%........NO WAY!!!!

.................Paul Aviles

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2019-07-17 04:35

I have to agree with some of my friends above that a pro level clarinet is easier to play. I tell parents their student may be actually impaired from being their best by an inferior instrument. It is also true that a fantastic clarinetist can play a basic Buffet B12 and use his/her own barrels and mouthpieces and sound terrific. Case in point is King of Klezmer Giora Feidman. He made a recording in Jerusalem using a clear plastic Buffet B12 and sounded magnificent.

Another problem with student or even intermediate level instruments is the intonation. Not that it can't happen with an upper level professional model, but you are usually better off with a pro model.

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-17 11:58

I'm an adult beginner and I definitely sound better on a pro model than on the a student one. I think maybe because I don't have the strong breathing and good embouchure yet, having good equipment makes a bigger difference to me. It does cost a lot though to buy a pro model.

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-17 14:36

Ok, let me just say that I certainly agree with the idea that you need to play on the best possible equipment that you can afford to allow you the freedom to do your best.

I suppose I cringe at the idea that an instrument represents 50% of a performer's ABILITY to play.

There's the old apocryphal story of a fan going to meet Jascha Heifetz back stage after a magnificent performance to say, "Maestro, your violin sounded wonderful tonight!" In response he leans over, placing his ear close to his violin case and replies, "funny, I don't hear it making any sound."

My sensitivity may have something to do with being told recently that a certain student had trouble hitting the high "C" five ledger lines above the staff because that student couldn't afford a better clarinet. I'm sure that shortfall was caused by the reed/mouthpiece/embouchure/airstream.

...................Paul Aviles

Post Edited (2019-07-17 15:04)

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-17 14:49

Hi Paul,

I know what you mean there. A couple of times I've heard my £52 violin played by experts and it sounded extraordinary. I hope I might make my clarinet sound that good one day if I stick at it.


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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Carmelo 
Date:   2019-07-17 16:05

Nothing against the E13 but in my humble opinion for what you paid you could have gotten maybe a Ridenour 576 Lyrique clarinet or the Liberta clarinet and probably have more fun playing in the local amateur orchestra. especially with your mp reed setup. These clarinets would really sing nicely.

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-07-17 20:55

Paul Aviles wrote:

> I suppose I cringe at the idea that an instrument represents
> 50% of a performer's ABILITY to play.

SunnyDaze wrote:

> I know what you mean there. A couple of times I've heard my
> £52 violin played by experts and it sounded extraordinary.

I think it's much easier for a learner to improve when the instrument itself isn't setting up hurdles. When an accomplished player shows that a less high quality instrument can sound good, he is demonstrating a skill level that helps - allows - him or her to overcome the instrument's natural shortcomings.

The player, as he becomes more highly skilled, becomes more responsible for the result because part of the skill involves having learned how to operate the tool in his hands and the other part involves having learned what to do with the tool once he knows how to use it.


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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-07-17 21:25

I think you're right there Karl, and I'm finding it's much more the case with the clarinet than with the violin and piano which were my previous attempts at music learning.

fwiw, our family clarinet sat unused in a cupboard for decades because none of us could work out how to get a sound out of it. With the violin and piano that would definitely not be a problem. I got quite solidly to grade 1 violin self-taught by from watching the tv close-ups of an orchestra.

As I'm working through the grades on clarinet I'm finding that each new skill shows up the shortcomings of my clarinet, and then suddenly becomes possible when the equipment is set up right. I'm really fortunate to live cycling distance from an independent woodwind shop where they give me great advice and can always sell me the part that will get me over the new hurdles. I can't imagine having got anywhere near this far without their advice.

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-07-17 21:27

Get a less open mouthpiece. It's way too open even for most pros and a 3 1/2 strength reed is torture. The tip opening of the BD5 is around 1.13mm's.

You will find satisfaction with something around 1.03 to 1.07mm's. Feel free in emailing me for ideas that may fit you better.

Also have your horn checked out for pad leaks. Just a tiny leak can cause the clarinet not to play. This includes the cork joints.

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

Yamaha Artist 2015

Post Edited (2019-07-20 11:46)

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-07-17 21:28

Also NEW Buffet clarinets are horrible. They all leak when new. So you kinda have to have the pads wealed by a decent repairman. So this too can add resistance too your playing.

Im not putting down Buffets, just advising people to have the new horns serviced.

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

Yamaha Artist 2015

Post Edited (2019-07-20 11:45)

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-17 22:20

Now now.

Finishing is different from the quality of the horn. I don't know about you, but I change almost everything about whatever clarinet I buy to arrive at a finished product from pads to spring tensions and even some key bending.

I love to include my experience with Wurlitzer, a company known (at least in the 80s) for their incredibly high hand made quality. Even with that, the finishing folks (whoever they were at Wurlitzer at the time) placed silencing corks OVER the adjustment screws of a key juncture rather than on the opposing side.

When trying out new horns I perform a leak test FIRST just to see where the horn is at. Then I take whatever results I get into consideration with the other things I know I'll change shortly down the road.

We all know that clarinets are not "tuned at the factory" (meaning we don't slap it together and miraculously play perfectly in tune with our peers without thought or adjustments), and we should not expect any clarinet to be set up exactly the way we want right out of the box either.

In short, Buffet top of the line horns are played by most of us for a reason.

.....................Paul Aviles

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: SwingQuavers 
Date:   2019-07-17 23:20

Hi again!

Thanks four your input.

I bought my clarinet at a specialised woodwind shop and they set the instrument up before they sell it. This was very important for me because I don't know any repairers in my near surroundings. Unfortunately here specialised woodwind shops are rare. And everyone plays Buffet. I understand that Ridenour clarinets are American (?), but I don't know any shop here that sells them. Also, do they have the auxiliary Eb-lever?

About buying second-hand: the price of second-hand pro horns in specialised woodwind shops I saw was still much higher than what I paid for my instrument. And buying from ebay is out of the question since I don't have the knowledge to decide if the instrument is ok or not. Also I'm not comfortable about the warranty issue. I got 3 years of warranty buying new.

Putting all your comments together, I get the picture that the difference in intonation/playing comfort/tone quality... between a high-intermediate instrument and an entry level pro instrument can't be that large. Also, the E13 is advertised as having an accurate tuning scale on some websites. So I decided to stick with my new instrument, improve my technique and when I'll get very very good I might buy a top pro level horn, if I'll still play in the orchestra (here amateur symphony orchestras are super rare, and I might live somewhere else in the future, who knows?) and actually have the money. I feel that like this I'm more motivated.

In my youth I played for 7 years on my student E10 (which was a step below the E11, wooden with resin bell, but had the auxiliary Eb-lever) and my teacher never spoke about upgrading. So I had the idea that pro level horns are meant to be for professionals (people that play clarinet as a job), but mainly because of quality in the materials (and marketing). When I sounded good my teacher complimented me on my tone and asked me if I had practiced a lot. But I agree that the E13 is another world compared to the E10, tonewise and handling-wise.

About the mouthpiece/reed combination: I learned as a beginner on a B45, which is way more open than the BD5, so I'm not shure that I would be comfortable with an opening of 1.03 to 1.05 mm, and here you can't test the mouthpieces before you buy. I agree that the B45 is too tireing if not played everyday, but I feel comfortable with the BD5.

Lately I was quite sharp, so I thought about getting a B40, but I was told that clarinets tend to be sharp when it's hot outside. I have to admit that I find it very difficult to hear if I'm sharp or flat because I never played with other people before, and when you play alone intonation is not an issue (at least when I took lessons nobody talked about intonation).

Thanks for your comments.

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-07-18 02:29

I think in general that you are rightfully satisfied with your E13. I would suggest finding some community band or such just to get the hang of playing with others. It is NOT so much about playing some theoretical ideal pitch but rather just blending with those around you (in all the gory of their imperfections).

I don't see where the B40 (another Vandoren) would be different in pitch unless you mean you have a "standard" pitch BD5 and the B40 you refer to is a 13 Series (slightly lower pitched mouthpiece).

Yes, ambient temperature affects pitch. Excited air molecules (at high temperature or greater pressure) move faster and consequently represent high pitch for wind instruments (our sound is the sound of the vibrating air column within the instrument). Strings are affected by the expansion/contraction of the strings which means that hotter temperatures make strings play lower (it's all so confounding).

Fortunately we can pull out a little more at the barrel or use a slightly longer barrel when conditions cause the pitch to rise.

..............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Doubts about new clarinet
Author: Kaos 
Date:   2019-07-18 02:37

I really think that you should stick with your E13, as long as you keep it serviced it's not a bad horn at all for playing in amateur orchestra. RC is not necessary unless you play as soloist or professional, that's maybe when you may start to feel the difference between the E13 and RC not in an amateur orchestra. I don't know the % of influence between the player's skill and the instrument (with upgraded mouthpiece and matching good reed). Just to give you an idea about skills and clarinet, I'm from italy too and I'm a conservatory student. I can't afford the upgraded Buffet clarinet they require (E13 or R13 or RC etc.) not even 2nd hand, so I'm still playing with the Yamaha 26II my parents bought me when I got admitted to conservatory for 90€ (100$) from a remanining inventory of a music store that was about to close (brand new after 30 years, but the store man said is there from 1985). I don't know how much it's holding me back from my studies, surely it has in some ways because I miss the Eb-lever and even if I keep it serviced, I study daily 4/6 hours and try to get the best sound out of it, it's still a plastic clarinet... but even if my teacher is undestanding, for sure they wouldn't let me graduate with it. Long story short, be happy to own a E13 it's just a little step below the RC and it has a great sound if you can work with it, improve with practice, try changing the mouthpiece and reeds to get the perfect set for your clarinet don't care about the reviews you read because often they are biased towards a brand or a certain model.

So strange your teacher never spoke about intonation! That's one of the first things he corrected me, especially on the higher notes when we started playing duos. In conservatory you start immediatly classes where you play with others so you get used early how to tune your clarinet and yes as Paul Aviles said they are not "tuned at the factory" they need adjustements, even the pro ones. Mine for example is always sharp even in winter, just a little less!

About the mouthpiece I suggest you try/get the B40 (13 series if you really play sharp) it's the most used in our conservatory to play in orchestra. I have the B45 my teacher gave me but I'll get the B40 (88 13 series) when I can afford. B45 is not tiring to play, just needs softer reeds I use 2,5/3 and if you can control the loudness you can easily play pianissimo with a clean start of the note, quick staccato. Many adults also like to play the M30, so it's up to you but I would not recommend a too closed mouthpiece. If you can go to a store where you can try them and see the one that is confortable to you with a good sound.

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