There's a topic in the world of clarinets that I've never heard touched upon, so I'm going to chance it tonight - Clarinet Porn versus the "Good Enough" clarinet. I may not make any friends with this, but I think it needs to be said...to YOU! "Yes, you there with your $5000 Backun with gold plated keys, custom barrel, handmade mouthpiece, $100 ligature and reeds hand shaved on the thigh of a Cuban virgin!"
Now, all kidding aside...I've been on Instagram for months and the volume of Clarinet Porn has to be seen to be believed: there should be parental settings on that darn site! Yes, Backun, Selmer, Buffet, Patricola, et al make some really fine horns (for thousands of dollars) and if you are in the top 5% of serious clarinet players you'll be able to tell the difference...and so will your audience?
I'm sorry to tell you this, but... its the player, not the fancy horn. I know pros who like hard rubber clarinets (for volume and cheapness), who like metal horns, who use synthetic reeds...and even my buddy Glenn, who has a 1970's Bundy student flute...and he can smoke on that thing! If you're in school but not planning on a career in performance, if you're getting back into playing late in life, if you're doubling from saxophone - in other words, the other 90 something % of players - please just buy a Good Enough clarinet and spend the rest on that transmission noise and your student loans!
Ideally, a Good Enough clarinet would be an older wood instrument (like a Leblanc Dynamic, Penzel Mueller Artist, or Series 9 Selmer) in good condition, competently refurbished with good quality pads, played with a hard rubber mouthpiece made by someone with enough pride of craftsmanship to put their name on it, using a Rovner or Bonade ligarture, holding a reed not made in China! I'm not going to get too specific, as there are lots of good clarinets, mouthpieces and reeds - you need to TRY them and see what feels good in your hands and sounds good to your ears...
That's it - that's all you'll need. You'll make beautiful music, your bandmates will love instead of envy you and your tranny will shift like a dream!
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The Licorice Shtick Blog is the creation of the Vintage Clarinet Doctor, a Winston Salem, NC based woodwind instrument repair shop specializing in vintage and antique clarinets, saxophones, and the occasional flute.