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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all -

I've recently gotten into a local big band (bari) and need to buy a clarinet for doubling. Through my day job, I know a woodwind tech (who used to work for Selmer) who's lending me a horn, which I can buy, if I like it. It's a wooden clarinet, with nicely pinned keys. The brand is "La Couture", which is stamped on the bell, along with "Paris". Judging by the case, the horn is quite old, but it's been completely overhauled an plays quite nicely... The limiting factor is clearly ME, not the horn ;) .

The guy I'm dealing with is asking approximately $200-$250 for the horn, which seems reasonable to me - if only to compensate him for his time and materials for the overhaul. I was wondering if anyone is familiar with this brand. I've searched the net and learned that La Couture is a town near Paris where numerous instrument makers have their factories, but haven't learned much about the brand.

Thanks!
- Mark
 

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I reckon it could be a Malerne, though I could only tell by seeing the keywork.

Can you get hold of any pictures to post on here fo us to mull over?
 

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If you can get some high detailed photos of the keywork and pillars that would be good - especially the G# key, RH cluster and bottom joint pillars - and the logo.

But also general pics of the joints as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Interesting thread, Fred. Pretty much jives with my thoughts so far - an old, well made, no-name horn.

Chris - Here are some closeup photos I just took. Let me know if you need additional views:









 

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I reckon that's made by Malerne - and a pretty old one at that. It looks to be in pretty good nick, so definitely worth the asking price.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I just searched the SOTW archive for info on Malerne; It looks like that's a pretty reasonable hypothesis, Chris.

I'm not sure I understand exactly what a stencil is, though. Am I correct in thinking that it's a horn manufactured using a company's parts by an apprentice or someone else who's not employed by company? Or was it a horn made for resale by a second party?

I imagine we'll never really be able to know how old the horn is, since there's no serial number... at least I haven't been able to find one. Any ballpark guesses?

Thanks for your help.

- Mark
 

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My understanding is a 'stencil' is an instrument made by a (usually large) company for another company to fill a gap in their lineup - eg. a Yamaha trumpet made for Holton with 'Holton' stamped on the bell instead of Yamaha (hence the term 'stencil' - they've 'stencilled' on another name), and the Holton logo on the tuning slide brace, or a Yamaha YAS-23, YFL-221 or YPC-32 stamped 'Vito'. And Yanagisawa saxes stamped 'Martin'.

Malerne started using pillars with very wide flanged bases later on (and the same locking screws as pictured), not sure exactly when, but if anyone knows this it may help to give a rough idea when it was made. I think it's probably around 50 years old.

I've put a link on the above Clarinet BBoard thread to link to this thread, so if anyone on there knows more of Malerne's history...

If you're looking for an equivalent clarinet today for insurance purposes, insure it as a Buffet E11, Yamaha 450 or Leblanc Sonata.
 

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Robert Melerne worked for Noblet (as early as 1904 apparently) before setting up on his own account ... in the same town as Noblet and so many other French instrument makers. He made clarinets and saxes, largely targeting the American market.

He retired in 1976 selling the factory to SML who wanted it because it was better equipped than their's! SML sax production continues only until 1981, however.

I owned a Malerne student sax which played very well for that class of instrument and still have a wooden clarinet (also studnet model) which produces a very nice tone.

There is some information on the Vito-Leblanc site if you search for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Chris - Thanks for cross-posting this to the Clarinet BBoard. According to Vytas Krass, it's R.M.R. Malerne "Standard" from the 40's. Good call.

I've been playing it for a few days now - it plays well and had a nice tone. The only problem I've noticed so far is the notes going over the break (G#,A,A#) are a bit stuffy, but given the fact that prior to this, the last time I played clarinet was 30+ years ago, I've fairly sure that any problems are more likely my fault; not the horn's.

Of course, the only mouthpieces I've tried are those that he lent me... a "The Woodwind" 9 and a Selmer HC*. I've thought about trying a "standard" piece like a Vandoren B45 and see the difference.

Based on everyones input, it seems that the fellow I'm dealing with is asking a fair price for this horn, since it has "good bones" and has been completely overhauled. I guess I'll continue evaluating the horn for a while, working on my clarinet chops, then I'll offer to buy it from him.

I going to keep practicing...
 

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The 5RV Lyre has a closer tip opening and longer lay, whereas the B45 has a wide tip opening and a shorter lay.

This means with a smaller tip opening, you will be able to get the high notes to speak easier than you will with an open mouthpiece, and also the tuning up top will be better with the closer tip opening, and less tiring on your chops.

A lot of sax players taking up clarinet much later on do tend to go for a wide mouthpiece tip opening and a soft reed for ease of playing, but find the top notes flat as they still play with a sax embouchure. They then 'cure' this by shortening the barrel from a normal 67mm down to 62mm which completely knackers up the intonation - it makes the left hand notes very sharp in comparison to the right hand notes, and an altissimo register that's all over the shop.

So the best course of action is find a clarinet teacher, and one that specialises in clarinet to make sure you're getting your embouchure right - on clarinet it's a much firmer embouchure, and you do have to lip up a lot (in comparison to sax) when you go up, though you shouldn't be biting.

(The comlpete opposite to clarinet players that have taken up soprano sax much later on - they play a soprano sax like it's a clarinet and go mega sharp up top because they lip it up as they go up.)

But generally you do need a lot of embouchure support on clarinet to get a full tone - once you master this it will keep your chops well and truly in form for saxes as well.

And NEVER have the barrel shortened!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
It's funny... the first thing that our lead alto player asked was if I had gotten a short barrel along with the standard one (I did, btw). Thanks to your clear and concise explanation, I now understand why that may not be the best solution. I'll give the 5RV Lyre a try...

Thanks again.

- Mark
 
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