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 A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-11-05 23:59

Good evening guys,

so it turns out the alto clarinet, albeit dismissed by some (many?) as the most unnecessary instrument ever, is almost my favorite clarinet. Can't help it, sorry.
Anyways, I'm part of a concert band that twice a year plays quite the demanding stuff, and with the new conductor, we've become even more ambitious. What he arranges has beatiful alto parts.

As such, the 1950s Selmer I currently play on can hardly keep up. It's so worn down, there's just a limit on how fast one can operate the keywork. In fact, if it was only for the keywork and eveness of the intonation, a Bundy would probably a do decent job

In short, I *have* to look for a better alto, one that can easily play up to f''' and possibly above, with a low Eb so that the low E/B is easier to operate and with a good keywork.
My brief playtest of a Leblanc "Swan neck" type showed that this one might be a candidate to meet all the demands. Does anybody happen to know what the production of a ser. #6120 could be?
Do you guys have any other recommendations? For reference, I felt like the Bundy (no kidding) almost meets all the demands and for some reason, doesn't really have any issues playing high notes, unlike the Selmer.
In the long run, it might be necessary to save for a Buffet or custom made one - Mr. Foag from Bavaria, Germany, actually makes a Reform Boehm model with an optional low D extension. But for now, a used one will do, I hope.

Any help would be appreciated & kind regards
Christian

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2019-11-06 00:44

I think the most important question to ask is what's your budget?

It sounds like you have a Selmer that only goes to low E. These instruments haven't been made for almost 70 years so finding an instrument with a low Eb should be no issue. The low Eb is important because, as I'm sure you've found out, clarion B is greatly improved because it vents from a tonehole and not the bell.

Knowing this, if you like the Selmer otherwise I would look for a newer Selmer with the low Eb. This will set you back $1000-$2000 for a used instrument depending on age and condition.

If you don't like the Selmer in general then you could look at another model like a Leblanc. Personally I would go with a Noblet instead as it is basically the same instrument but with a tuneable neck. A Noblet alto in good playing condition will cost well under $1000 and potentially under $500.

If you want the best of the best I would highly reccomend the new Yamaha professional alto clarinet. A new one will set you back $5000-$6000.

Personally I play a 1960s Buffet. If you can find a Buffet that would be a good option, but they tend to be overpriced for what they are.

-JDbassplayer

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-11-06 01:17

Indeed, I would not want to have to play that crappy clarion B ever again, but the low E might be even worse (way too low).
After some research, the Leblanc 300S must’ve been in production for decades. It was considered a professional instrument.

So, are you sure with your assessment on Noblet? The keywork with the register mechanism in particular looks somewhat simplified.

True, vintage Buffets are overpriced... no option!
Selmers... perhaps yes, but I‘d prefer to have an instrument that hasn’t actually been overhauled, so I can set it up to my liking. Leblancs on the other hand regularly pop up with no work done to them, which is perfect price wise too.

In the very, very long run I might consider going for something custom made. From what I’ve heard, the Leblanc basset horn doesn’t sound so different from the alto, but for playing the Requiem, I‘d prefer something considerably less fat sounding than the altos I know. Yes, I‘d feel no shame in transposing that piece. Does the Yamaha even beat the Buffet? I know someone who owns the latter.
But for now, an affordable workhorse under 1000€ will do. I’ve noticed Leblancs can be had for way less even.

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2019-11-06 02:06

Mechanically the Leblanc and Noblet have some design differences, but acoustically they are almost the same. The keywork on both instruments is generally very strong and stiff so there are no worries about constantly having to make adjustments. Both have the standard single register vent and 18mm bore. Both have been made for decades and while one was sold as a "professional" and the other as an "intermediate" these are just meaningless marketing terms and there are professionals who use both instruments. IMHO the Noblet is better because many have a tubeable neck which is a "professional" feature the Leblancs lack.

As for whether the Yamaha beats Buffet, that depends on which Buffet, as unlike with Selmer and Leblancs, Buffets have varied wildly throughout the years. I like the Yamaha better than my 1960 Buffet, however all Buffets came standard with an alternate Ab/Eb key going back to the 1950s so I prefer them for that reason. I have heard good things about the new prestiege alto, but it also costs around $15,000 which is about 20x more than I've ever paid for an alto clarinet so I don't think it's worth the price.

-JDbassplayer

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-11-06 02:49

Right on, 15000$ prestige alto is ridiculous, though in my country, you could order one for 8000€ - still way too much for what uses it has.
The tuneable Neck is quite an argument, however, since I always need to tune to 442Hz, my hope is the Leblanc‘s neck doesn’t have be pulled out much and/ or will work with tuning rings.

Thanks for your input. I might have the opportunity to playtest a Leblanc again, so I can find out what it takes to play it in tune.
The Noblet on the other hand can probably had for what we‘d call „an apple and an egg“. In other words: very little :)
Both can be found in a decent enough condition.

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2019-11-08 11:25

I've tried all the current pro alto clarinets and I'd say the Selmer is the best one, even though I usually prefer others over Selmer for soprano or bass clarinets (not that they are not as good, just personal preference). I was actually a bit disappointed with the ergonomics of the Buffet). I wouldn't say the Yamaha is the best but it's definitely good.

Older Buffet or Selmer can be great. I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with yours that can't be repaired but it's possible that it's not as good as others.

My alto (which I pretty much never use) is a Leblanc exactly like you are asking about (with the swan neck). I've tried a couple of others too. I'd say this not as good as the better current one, but also not as good as most older Buffet or Selmer I've tried. It's very comfortable (about as comfortable as it gets for me), the overall tone is pretty good, but intonation and especially evenness and response in part of the range is not as good. I would prefer an old(ish) Selmer or even Buffet but I'd definitely want to try it first.

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-11-08 21:44

clarnibass,

well, that's great to hear! Though the current Selmer comes with a rather crazy price tag, I reckon they know how to make fine low clarinets.

In two weeks, I'll get test a #9xxx serial "swan neck" Leblanc and it's actually for sale, so we'll see how favorably it compares to the Selmer, which I really need to service to unlock its potential. Interestingly, the Leblanc is equipped with a floor peg and the case seems to have been designed for it, so it must've been one of the late days of Leblanc's France production. This is a true "300S" model. Here's hoping that they also did something to improve tuning. By "better current one", are you refering to the Leblanc USA L7165?

Sure would be a nice add to my collection since I already own the 430S bass.



Post Edited (2019-11-08 21:45)

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: bradfordlloyd 
Date:   2019-11-08 23:58

I have a Selmer Paris Series 9 alto clarinet from the 1960s that I love.

It's highly recommended if you're in the market for an alto -- I like it better than the far more expensive Selmer Paris Basset Horn I own from the same period. I have also played alto clarinets by Bundy, Noblet, and Kohlert and none of them even come close.

Truly, if you're serious about alto clarinet, it's worth waiting for (and paying for) a good Selmer Paris.

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2019-11-08 23:58

>> By "better current one", are you refering to the Leblanc USA L7165? <<

I meant in comparison with current Selmer, Buffet, etc.

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-11-09 01:09

Oh, OK
You're probably right, guys. From what I've seen, THAT Selmer alto is going to pop up eventually.
If the price is right, I'll nevertheless get the Leblanc, since I could always sell it later. And who doesn't love aquiring instruments?

Thanks for your help!

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: EbClarinet 
Date:   2019-11-09 05:47

I also loved the alto clarinet. I've taught on it online if any 1 wants 2 read my teaching. Does the alto clarinet also go down to low C? I write for it all the time because I'm a composer.

Concert band music calls for it all the time but I don't know if they're any orchestral pieces that call for it, are there? I write for it using symphonic band.

I have a clarinet choir piece for it if any 1 wants it, will play it and give me a recording of it, I can give it to any 1.

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/mbtldsongministry/

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: concertmaster3 
Date:   2019-11-10 00:38

I'd second the Noblet. I have one (but I stole the neck for my basset horn). It felt great before I made the cork on the neck fit my basset, and now not the alto. Prior to this purchase, I used my college's Yamaha alto, and it was amazing. We had a few solo's that needed to be played, and it fit the bill perfectly! I also play on Yamaha clarinets, so it felt really comfortable.

Ron Ford
Woodwind Specialist
Performer/Teacher/Arranger
http://www.RonFordMusic.com

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-11-10 09:14

Re Selmer...
Somewhere around the 70s it saw a redesign, particularly easy to identify with it’s new register mechanism.
Other than having been equipped with floor peg the keywork of the current mod. 19A/22 seems absolutely identical to the ones of older vintage. Well, some of them had nickel plating, or Selmer switched to silver plating at some point.
Chances are, the acoustical design is also identical. In that case, it’s easy enough to find one for 1000€-2000€ in good condition, like jdbassplayer stated. A shop I know stocks one, so I‘ll try to get my hands in that too.
There seems to have been a transition period where Selmer made them with a traditional register key, but it eventually turned into a more ergonomical arc shaped one.

Ron, how does the Noblet alto handle altissimo notes? It seems like you’re implying it’s generally on par with the Yamaha.



Post Edited (2019-11-10 09:20)

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: m1964 
Date:   2019-11-10 09:52

Kalashnikirby wrote:

"..THAT Selmer alto is going to pop up eventually. If the price is right, I'll nevertheless get the Leblanc, since I could always sell it later. And who doesn't love aquiring instruments?"

Acquiring new instruments-yes.
Selling old ones-no.
I prefer (if I am able to afford) to buy once and never look back.
Works best in the long run...again, if able to afford.



Post Edited (2019-11-10 09:54)

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 Re: A good alto clarinet for demanding uses?
Author: Kalashnikirby 
Date:   2019-11-23 22:30

Well, it turns out...

The Leblanc, despite being relatively young and in a splendid condition, is an OK horn at best. Firstly, because it's a little bit stuffy, even compared to that old Selmer, or in fact, a plastic bundy. Secondly, because it really doesn't tune better than other instruments I've tried. Seems the register mechanism just doesn't cut it: e''' and f''' are way too flat, c#''' and d''' don't really go well with c''' either. It's all OK and you could get used to it, but the "combat value" of that horn isn't much better than that of an old Selmer or maybe even the Bundy. The keywork is fairly comfortable though and the low register is really smooth.
There's no point in spending 12,k€ or more on that horn. I'll keep looking for a good Selmer.

By the way, I had my C* mpc refaced. Beats the Vandoren B44 (especially on the Bundy) by a long shot. As Mr. Gleichweit of Vienna explained to me, one has to pay attention to the sort of ebonite used, too, and in this regard, it would seem that Selmer has been using a better quality. For 70€ that was the best investment into my alto hobby so far!

Best regards
Christian

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