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 Leblanc altos
Author: C. Hogue 
Date:   2001-07-31 20:27

In a recent thread on a mismarked eBay item (an alto described as a bass), several posters allowed as how they dislike Leblanc altos.

I'm curious as to why -- and whether anyone on Sneezy has a Leblanc alto they like.

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: C. Hogue 
Date:   2001-07-31 20:29

P.S. How do the Leblanc altos (ostensibly pro quality instruments) compare with that brand's intermediates -- the Noblet altos?

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: David Spiegelthal 
Date:   2001-07-31 20:36

Stuffy. So-so intonation. Poor response in clarion register. Uncomfortable keywork. Straight toneholes (not undercut). Mediocre wood quality. Did I miss anything?

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: Robert Small 
Date:   2001-07-31 20:53

My main beef with the Leblanc altos is the absence of a left hand Eb/Ab key. Without this key certain sequences of notes are impossible to play, such as low Eb up a fourth to Ab. This key is essential for any clarinet with a low Eb but Leblanc leaves it off their altos. Why is this? To cut costs? Pretty chintzy if you ask me. Also I tried a supposedly professional model Leblanc alto and found the sound rather anemic. This soured me on the alto in general so I ended up getting a bass clarinet (Selmer low C model). A bass clarinet can produce a big powerful sound. I'm doubtful that any alto can get a really big sound but I've only played the one Leblanc I mentioned. I do, however, like Leblanc sopranos and own three of them--a LL 3/4 Boehm, an LX, and an Esprit in C. All three are very good horns.

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: Robert Small 
Date:   2001-07-31 21:01

Dave's post went on just before mine. I agree with everything he said, particularly about the stuffy sound and poor response in the clarion. I would stay away from the Leblanc altos.

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: David Pegel 
Date:   2001-08-01 00:57

Robert~ This is cheating and shouldn't be allowed, I know, but a friend of mine taught me this trick. (This girl NEVER used her LH pinky except for C#/G#. But she started to use it later on and liked it. This is still a good thing to remember though.) Anyhow...

If you have long fingers, you can hit the RH Eb key at an odd angle or with the ball of your pinky. Then, by rolling your pinky quickly upward, you can hit the Ab key. I rarely have to do this, but when playing, sometimes rolling your pinky is all you can do to play the "impossible" progressions. I hate doing it myself, but when necessary, it works.

Those of you who reply saying that I shouldn't do this, I do NOT use it as a crutch or as a shortcut. It's just that with some POS altos it's necessary.

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: Robert Small 
Date:   2001-08-01 01:41

Might also be possible to get someone like Dave Spiegalthal to add a left hand Eb/Ab key. But I wouldn't buy an alto if it didn't have this key to begin with. Same with bass clarinet.

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: David Spiegelthal 
Date:   2001-08-01 15:31

I've personally never owned an alto or bass clarinet with the l.h. auxiliary Eb/Ab lever, and I've never felt the need for one. But then again, perhaps my standards are low??

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: Robert Small 
Date:   2001-08-01 17:38

As I mentioned above low Eb up a fourth to Ab and Ab back down to low Eb are difficult without the left hand Eb/Ab key. But other than these two examples absence of this key shouldn't be much of a problem. But still the extra Eb/Ab key should be standard equipment on all clarinets with a low Eb. My Leblanc LL soprano is equipped with this extra key and I find that it occasionally comes in handy, particularly when playing in keys with lots of sharps. But some people would prefer to slide one finger to the next note rather than using the little finger of the other hand to get the next note.

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: Robert 
Date:   2001-08-09 03:49

Actually when I was a Junior in HS I was supposed to play Alto for a ensemble... the school had 4 Altos, 2 Noblets, 1 Le Blanc, and 1 Vito. Well the noblets and the le blac all played exactly the same, and barly any better than the vito. I actually ended up playing the top of 1 noblet with the bottom of the other noblet. And that was all that really worked.... barly

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 RE: Leblanc altos
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2022-06-04 06:08

i bought my self a marlerne alto with left e/b/a/b lever thinking it would be the bees-knees. adding this key to a low quality built horn does no t help . the horn is still a dog!

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 Re: Leblanc altos
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2022-06-04 21:45

We're drifting off-topic here, but...

I've a Malerne-built alto in hard rubber with left-hand Eb/Ab, and these are both mouthpiece-finicky and require special attention paid to venting/pad heights in order to be reasonably responsive.

Mine came equipped with thin white pads installed in many of the normally-open pad cups and it's more responsive than those I've sampled with thicker, brown leather pads installed throughout.

I play mine with a Selmer C-Star mouthpiece and (GASP!) Rico Orange Box alto sax reeds. Thus equipped, it projects well, tunes accurately, and sounds very nice. I need to have pinky-key touchpiece locations adjusted on its next service to made it more user-friendly to play.

If you've one of the wooden ones and it doesn't improve after a careful regulation, it's probably, as you say, a dog...and hopeless.



Post Edited (2022-06-04 22:01)

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 Re: Leblanc altos
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2022-06-05 02:42

agree about the key heights being of paramount importance on these marlerne altos in rubber. after lots of regulation work -i got my dog to play much better. whoever repaded this horn either was lazy or didnt care how it played. its useable as a practice/ outdoor bad weather horn now . indeed these are mpc finicky.

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 Re: Leblanc altos
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2022-06-05 17:56

After returning to playing clarinet as an old fart a few years ago I picked up a Leblanc swan neck alto just to fool around with and had it overhauled. I went through more than ten mouthpieces and various reeds, consistently encountering the stuffiness, poor clarion performance, and intonation issues mentioned above. Then I bit the bullet for a Fobes San Francisco Zinner and a Grabner mouthpiece, and after sorting through a bunch of different reeds I found that those mpcs and Legere American Cut and Fibracell 1.5 alto sax reeds cleared up all of those problems. I've not played other makes of altos, but this one has become just fun to play. Clear focused sound top to bottom, good responsiveness, projection and reasonably well in tune. I like it. Probably not a solution for most serious alto players, and just another data point as to how finicky these instruments are.

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 Re: Leblanc altos
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2022-06-06 03:45

the legere american cut adds a lot to the mix of waking up a stuffy alto sound. i would love to try the leblanc swan neck for my self some time. neither of my noblets are stuffy in the least. all mpcs work fine on them also. mabey that goofy swan neck has something to do with with this? another bright synth reed you can use to wake up a dull sound is the bari original synth reed model. i also like the forrestone lines of synth reeds also on alto clarinet

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 Re: Leblanc altos
Author: NOLA Ken 
Date:   2022-06-20 20:36

(his is a two decades old thread, originally about Leblanc alto clarinets which are pretty clearly problematic.)

I've ordered some Bari synthetic reeds to try on mine, although I don't see much love for them on this bulletin board. I used a 1.5 Fibracell alto sax reed on a Fobes San Francisco mpc for my own enjoyment at home because it has a more sax-like sound and great projection. It also worked very well when I was filling in on a low bassoon part in community band. But crossing the break is a bit challenging with that setup. I've recently discoverd that the 1.5 Legere American Cut alto sax reed on a Vandoren B44 mpc and a Fran├žois Louis Pure Brass ligature produces a very nice clarinet sound for me and smooths crossing the break quite a bit on the Leblanc alto. It doesn't have quite the projection of the Fibracell/Fobes setup in the bottom range, but it's a useful tradeoff for some pieces. I did discover, however, that I had to to replace the swan neck with one of Jared De Leon's tunable wood composite traditional-style necks because the Vandoren mpc plays significantly sharp compared to the Fobes. I would say that the lack of a tunable neck on the Leblanc swan neck alto is one of its major drawbacks and maybe a source of their mouthpiece finickyness.

Mark Wolbers of the U of Alaska did a paper in 2011 on alto clarinets as an endangered species in which he describes among other things the rehabilitation of a Leblanc alto, its strong points, and the construction of a tunable metal neck for it. It can be accessed at:

https://docslib.org/doc/3362747/alto-clarinet-the-endangered-species-of-the-american-band-mark-wolbers-university-of-alaska-anchorage-cbdna-2011-national-conference

I'd love to try a Noblet alto sometime. They do sound easier to work with than the Leblancs. but I've promised myself to not buy any more instruments. (At least not for awhile -chuckle.)

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 Re: Leblanc altos
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2022-06-20 22:06

after trying 5 different altos and mpcs combos-i can tell you a tunable neck is almost a must. you will be stuck with a limited selection of mpcs with out it. i also avoid ANY bass clarinet thAT has a cork tenion for the reciever unless it has a tunable neck. the noblet bass is an example. your tunning flexability is too limited. back to reeds for a stuffy alto-the legere american cut is best and the bari original 2nd in my book. others i have tried=forestone ,bravo and the harry hartman carbon fibre reed which was horriable. i will settle on the legere till/if something better comes along

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