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 Help me upgrade please
Author: Evert 
Date:   2023-10-31 18:31


I've been playing in a public school orchestra from age 10 to 25, took a 25 year break and now started playing again in a pretty well regarded orchestra.
It's mixed with teachers from the school, old students and even some pro level musicians.
I've noteced the other clarinet players got nice instruments, mostly Buffet.

My clarienet is a Noblet 40 from mid 80's with a Vandoren 11.6 mouthpiece (Vandoren 3 reeds).
It sounds pretty good, but I always wonder what I could gain from an upgrade.
And in that case.. what should I upgrade? Should I start with a new mouthpiece? Is the 11.6 any good?
Or should I get another clarinet all together..?
I've been checking some workshops selling refurbished clarinets, S1, BC-20 and Continentale for around €1000. There's also an RC for €2000 and an RC Prestige going for €27000.

What would you do?


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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2023-10-31 20:15

While the Noblet is an intermediate clarinet, it is still a decent instrument and is not going to hold you back (Assuming it's in good playing condition, if it hasn't been serviced in 25 years that should be the first thing you do). Before rushing to upgrade it would be a good idea to try as many instruments in person as possible to get an idea of what you like. It's entirely possibly to spend a lot of money on a professional clarinet that plays worse than what you already have, I've seen many people make that mistake before.

As for the mouthpiece, the 11.6 was discontinued but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad mouthpiece. Mouthpieces are a very personal choice and everyone has different tastes. I would also recommend trying as many as possible before upgrading, you may find that you like your current mouthpiece the best.

In general I recommend upgrading the mouthpiece before the clarinet as the mouthpiece arguably has more impact on how the clarinet plays than any other part of the instrument.


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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: lydian 
Date:   2023-10-31 23:29

You likely won't sound any different. But a high quality instrument will feel better and be easier to play. If that's worth a couple thousand euros to you, go for it. I'd personally experiment with mouthpieces first if you're looking to change things up. Like you, I've played mostly the same instruments and mouthpieces since I was a kid. But they continue to serve me well, so I have no desire to change. Plus, as an amateur, it would take me years of the kind of low paying gigs I get in my neck of the woods to pay off an expensive instrument. If I were a pro, it would be a different story.

Good luck, whatever you decide.

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2023-11-01 09:53

Well, (a) how much money are you willing to dump into a setup, and (b) how good do you really want to be, which translates into "how much practice time are you going to put in on a regular basis?" Going to something like Clarinetfest will give you a good idea of what the options in equipment are and what works well for you, but we're all different, so the instruments, mouthpiece and reeds are something we all need to figure out on our own. That's why having several rooms full of vendors with their best stuff can give you a better idea of what the possibilities are. But it all starts from an idea of how you want to sound, and what you want to say musically.

Yeah, best of luck!

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2023-11-01 15:33

Looking at the initial post I thought....instrument. But that's because it may not be in the best shape. So I'd say that I'd make sure that your current instrument does not have leaks or bad springs or missing bumpers (for silencing). Also I like the idea of trying out equipment that was offered above. Go to a vendor and try out a different (newer, better) horn.

Either way you go, mouthpiece or instrument, do ONE AT A TIME. You're used to both so you want to compare one thing to one thing instead of getting into a big mess.

Good luck!

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

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: m1964 
Date:   2023-11-02 00:11

Only you (the OP) can decide if your current instrument is worth upgrading.
What part (1st,2nd, 3rd) are you playing?
Do you play solo part(s) with the orchestra?

A good quality new instrument most likely will play better and feel better- I say "most likely" because after trying other instruments you may find out that you do not like the key work, or resistance, or something else on a brand new expensive clarinet, and will want to go back to your old trusted one.

Budget is another consideration for most of us. Is a few thousands USD/GBP/Euro a pocket change for you? Or is it a major expense?

Without knowing your personal situation and condition of your current instrument, it would be hard for anyone to tell if you need to upgrade.

Another possibility is buying a used pro level clarinet from a reputable dealer.
Recently, my friend and I went to check a used silver-plated Buffet R13 which turned out a "meh" instrument but the dealer had an older used R13 which sounded great and tuned well, so my friend bought it on the spot.

Good luck.

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: moma4faith 
Date:   2023-11-05 04:28

I'd say make sure your keywork is buttery smooth and fun, as well as the wood, all corks, pads, and springs in good condition.

Then, if you have the funds to splurge, you can try some mouthpieces, or even new clarinets. There are a lot of fun gadgets out there for us clarinet players! I tell myself that I try new ligatures, mouthpieces, and reeds so I can report to my students what is working best. The truth is, I just like trying new things as my budget allows.

The most important thing is that you are playing again. Do whatever you want to keep on going!

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Evert 
Date:   2023-11-14 16:16

Thanks everyone, some excellent advice here.

I had an opportunity to buy a retired orchestra member's BC20 but read some mixed opinions on that one.
So without the opportunity to test anything I ordered an RC Prestige from 1993 in good shape for €2200.

Will be exciting to try that (what if I don't feel it's an upgrade at all?? =)

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Grendel McGrenadill 
Date:   2023-11-15 00:11

Maybe you could also look here?

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Evert 
Date:   2023-11-17 01:53

What do you think about the mouthpiece that came with it, F3A 125.
Would my current Vandoren 11.6 be better?
Or what else suits the RC Prestige good?

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Micke Isotalo 2017
Date:   2023-11-17 18:31

Hi Evert,

I'm in the same country as you.

The F3A 125 is a mouthpiece Buffet has included with their student level instruments, which is generally considered as low quality (but could of course still be fully playable, especially if undamaged).

Here, as well as generally in other Europe, the Vandoren B40 is the most common of all mouthpieces - and it's used by beginners to professionals (though not by me  :) ).

The tip opening of the B40 is 1.195mm, while your 11.6 seems to be 1.16mm. As a bit more open, the B40 would thus probably require a softer reed.

While the B40 is considered "mainstream" here i Europe, by US standards it's considered very open (in US probably something like a Vandoren M15 with an opening of 1.035mm would be considered "medium"). Since many contributors here are US based, you may get recommendations of a lot more closed mouthpieces than the B40 (which in turn would require stiffer reeds).

Especially with used mouthpieces it's essential to check they aren't damaged in any significant way, by wear or accidents. Maybe some of your more experienced bandmates could make just a quick playtest, to rule out any such damage?

If you then still feel for an upgrade, at this stage I personally wouldn't recommend anything more pricey than some of the Vandorens. In my opinion, what matters most at this level is something that isn't faulty and works. Later, with maybe a few years of added experience, you would be better equipped to evaluate by yourself your own preferences regarding a mouthpiece.

Still, at any level it's always what works and suites you that matters (your anatomy, embouchure, playing style, etc), not anyone else's choice. So, maybe you could even still go on with your F3A 125 or 11.6 - depending on which one of those two you yourself prefer?

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2023-11-17 19:02

mpcs that come with buffet clarinets are garbage-upgrade

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Micke Isotalo 2017
Date:   2023-11-18 00:43

Evert, concerning your question which mouthpieces suites a RC Prestige: Basically every Vandoren mouthpiece suites every Buffet clarinet.

Just be aware that the 13-series (with the numbers 13 stamped on the mouthpiece) is aimed for the "low pitch" a=440 level, as in the US and some other countries (the "13" alluding to the Buffet R13, a popular model on the US market). Thus a "non 13-series" (without those numbers stamped on the mouthpiece) is for the a=442 level, as in most European countries (ours included).

Exceptions are of course also the Vandoren German and Austrian models, which still could work, but are primarily aimed towards German and Austrian system clarinets, not French.

Post Edited (2023-11-18 23:48)

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Evert 
Date:   2024-01-02 17:58

So a quick update, I decided to first try out what reed type and strenth I need
Been playing on a Vandoren Classic 3.0 and ordered a couple of each of the following:
Classic 3.0 and 3.5
V12 3.5 and 3.5+
56 3.5 and 3.5+
V21 3.5 and 3.5+
Legere French Cut 3.5 and 3.75

Threw in a BD4 mouthpiece while i had the order active..
..and a Rovner Versa..

Thinking of a recorder of some type. Been using my phone in the orchestra rehersals to be able to practice easier at home. Do you think a Zoom H2N would be suitable?

Next rabbit hole is barrel and perhaps bell.. Backun..?
And perhaps some of the "premium" mouthpieces like Fobes, Behn and so on.

Oh this hobby.. =)
Concidering it's 40 years ago I started playing, there were no internet communities or youtube channels..!

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Bennett 2017
Date:   2024-01-02 20:46

I would have suggested trying to rent some of the more expensive clarinets for a month or so. Still a possibility if the RC Prestige that you purchased is not worth the money.

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: Micke Isotalo 2017
Date:   2024-01-03 01:03


Considering both how personal all clarinet equipment is, and the variation from what gear works together or not, it's certainly a good idea to try out those different kinds of Vandoren reeds.

However, since it's not uncommon to find only 1-2 really good reeds out of a box of 10 (at least as they are "out of the box"), I would definitely recommend buying at least a full box of 10 of each. Otherwise, with just a couple, you would probably end up comparing either two bad reeds, or a bad reed to a just "accidentally" good one - which of course would't serve the purpose of your comparison.

Concerning Vandoren reeds, many players are certainly sounding great on them (I believe the V12 to be the most popular kind among professionals), but personally I sense an element of "hoarseness" in the tone of them all, which I don't like. Thus, my personally preferred Boehm cut reed is the Pilgerstorfer Dolce, with also otherwise a "smoother" tone than on the Vandorens (they run softer than Vandorens, so a 3.5 "Vandy" would be about a 4.0 Dolce). Maybe worth a try also for you, at some future point - in case you also like that kind of tone?

If you like the BD4 mouthpiece better than your current ones, that's of course just fine - but, as with your reeds, you could consider a similar approach also to mouthpieces. So, if the BD-line interests you, why not try out the whole line - BD2, 4, 5, and 7 - before deciding upon a certain one (perhaps even several specimens of each, at least the ones you like best)? If that's practically doable for you, just be prepared with a couple of good reeds in a variety of at least a half step up and down from your current strength, to suite the differing openings and other characteristics of each. If you happen to like the BD2, it would probably also be more in line with the main offerings of Fobes and Behn, if they interests you further down the road.

The Zoom H2N would surely be a good choice for your needs, I'm using its predecessor H2 a lot and I'm very happy with it.

Last but not least, I would just like to emphasize and repeat the sound advice from Paul above, about doing just one thing at a time, "instead of getting into a big mess". So, start with just the reeds, then later the mouthpieces, and wait with the barrels and bells until you've settled well with your preferred reed/mouthpiece combo. At a later point, you are of course free to start all over again, if you like.  :)

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2024-01-03 03:54

who isnt gong to not like a buffet prestige? this is still a lot of horn even in this day and age.

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 Re: Help me upgrade please
Author: m1964 
Date:   2024-01-03 04:08

super20dan wrote:

> who isnt gong to not like a buffet prestige? this is still a
> lot of horn even in this day and age.

It is not about the model- I've seen a couple of "bad" Prestiges and a couple of "so-so" ones.

That is why when buying a relatively cheap instrument, I accept if it turns out to be nothing special.
When paying over $2000, I'd like to try the instrument first.

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