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I spent some considerable time with my new tech (I just moved to Northern California this summer) yesterday. At the end of our conversation, the recommendations for my Leblanc Concerto II were Valentino “Master” pads in the upper joint, and black Roo pads for the lower joint.

I’ve certainly participated in enough pad threads regarding saxophones, but getting serious about clarinets is new to me.

I’d appreciate hearing your experiences with the various high grade clarinet pads.

Thank you.
 

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Keilwerth saxes (S/A/T), Selmer clarinets (S/B), Altus Azumi flute
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I just recently repadded my clarinet (a Normandy 4) with white roo pads (from MusicMedic). It's the second time (in 20 years) that I have repadded this clarinet myself and it was the easiest repad that I've ever done.

They seal perfectly and the clarinet sounds great. Two advantages over the traditional (fish skin) pads are that (1) the leather pads take a deeper seat and (2) they are opaque (not translucent), which makes it much easier to correctly float/level the pads and to check for leaks using a leak light. Moreover, I've only had them on for about a month, but I can't imagine that they will degrade any more quickly than the traditional skin pads.

The only disadvantage to the leather pads that I can think of is the (slightly) higher price. But, relative to the cost of regular maintenance (or of reeds) the difference in cost is trivial.
 

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I have not done much clarinet work since I opened my own shop to specialize in saxophone repair and restoration. The one exception is repadding my repair apprentices Pete Fountain model LeBlance as part of gold plating the keys. We decided to try the Kraus EZ pads which are synthetics made with the same material as his more expensive Omni Pads. The Omni's cost more because they have a patented rounded plastic back. These pads were an easy install and they have held up extremely well. My apprentice is a professional and plays clarinet a lot in traditional and gypsy jazz groups. If you are going to choose a synthetic pad, I would suggest giving the Kraus pads a look. I can't comment on the black roos except to say the Saxgourmet ones have a reputation for being hard and noisy on saxophones, although some rock players apparently love them.
 

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Tenor, alto, Bb Clarinet, Flute
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I had my Buffet R13 re-padded a couple of years ago. First time since I got it in 1976. The shop used the white Roo pads on the bigger ones and cork on the small ones. I love the way my clarinet plays. It's actually better than new.
 

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I spent some considerable time with my new tech (I just moved to Northern California this summer) yesterday. At the end of our conversation, the recommendations for my Leblanc Concerto II were Valentino “Master” pads in the upper joint, and black Roo pads for the lower joint.

I’ve certainly participated in enough pad threads regarding saxophones, but getting serious about clarinets is new to me.

I’d appreciate hearing your experiences with the various high grade clarinet pads.

Thank you.
Hey, where in NorCal are you?

I am still playing my Evette and Schaffer from the '70s with its original skin pads. I took it in to my tech for some work (new tenon cork and leaky register key), and the only pad he thought needed replacing was the register key, which he did with cork. I don't know if current skin pads are the same quality, but I would probably just go with them again.
 

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My Signature came with skin pads. After a couple of years I had my tech put cork on top and a high quality skin pads on the bottom.
I've played a few clarinets with leather pads, and while they played well I didn't like the way they felt under the fingers.
 

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My Signature came with skin pads. After a couple of years I had my tech put cork on top and a high quality skin pads on the bottom.
I've played a few clarinets with leather pads, and while they played well I didn't like the way they felt under the fingers.
I still have my original plastic LaMonte clarinet from 5th grade. It has leather pads - not the originals. IT had leather sax pads when I got it in 1962. I gave it to my dad and he had it re-padded sometime in the late 80s. They look new. It never has been easy to play the break. I'm not a fan of leather pads on clarinets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·

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Valentino pads work great. They seal really well, are somewhat more forgiving than cork pads and last ages. It is great to have pads that work over a long time without regularly having to run in to the tech for adjustments and new pads.
 

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Most synthetic pads have a microscopically "bubbly" surface. After all, they are closed cell foam and most do not have a flat layer over that.
This bubbly texture can be a cause of poor sealing unless a key is pressed more firmly than many players would like. This only applies to the normally-open pads, and especially to the 2 large ones.
The normally closed ones typically develop quite deep seat. This can sometimes make them quite noisy duke to the "slapping" action.

Likewise, leather pads are typically a fair bit softer than modern bladder pads - I guess that is from the choice of felt rather than the leather - and can become quite noisy from the slapping action.

Most synthetic pads and leather are like cork pads in that they do not have a step in the sides allowing them to cover and be supported by the edge of the key cup. For clarinets which have rather large diameter tone holes relative to key cups, and those where the tone holes and key cups are not concentric, this can be a cause of unreliable sealing.

Think of a mattress. It has extra springing for support near the edge, otherwise the sleeper would easily roll off, and sitting on it would be awkward too. Pads are similar in that they ideally need more support near the edge unless issues of relative diameters and concentricity are excellent.

It is unfortunate that so many clarinet pads are now made with substandard membrane, especially on Buffet. A few decades ago Buffet pads would last 10-20 years. This is giving bladder pads a bad name.
 

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I spent some considerable time with my new tech (I just moved to Northern California this summer) yesterday. At the end of our conversation, the recommendations for my Leblanc Concerto II were Valentino “Master” pads in the upper joint, and black Roo pads for the lower joint.

I’ve certainly participated in enough pad threads regarding saxophones, but getting serious about clarinets is new to me.

I’d appreciate hearing your experiences with the various high grade clarinet pads.

Thank you.
George, first off congrats on the move! Hope you're settled in! Clarinet pads: I have done complete overhauls on three of my five clarinets in the last 2 yrs. On all of them, I have used cork pads exclusively, except for the four bottom (low E, F, F# and Ab) keys, where I installed black leather pads. I source mine from https://www.prestiniusa.com/store/product/kc-1000-brown-kangaroo-leather-clarinet-pad/
The quality, evenness and installation of any material pad is obviously important. I love the cork because they seat very easily, maintain a good, consistent seal and last a long time. The leather pads on the bottom are not overly thick and don't feel mushy. Yes, if you get them thicker, they could certainly feel that way, but mine are the "medium" thickness and measure between 3.41-3.51 on my digital calipers (using 16mm pads for my measurements).
Honestly, I think typical bladder pads are certainly fine too. As you know, it's the quality of installation and overall setup that's most important. Good luck and let us know what you end up doing!

John
 

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I'm with BandMommy: Cork in the upper joint, fish skin on the large keys at the bottom of the instrument. I like the positive feel and the quick response of the cork. Makes the articulation better. All my work has been done by Brannen Woodwinds in Evanston, IL.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My Signature came with skin pads. After a couple of years I had my tech put cork on top and a high quality skin pads on the bottom.
I've played a few clarinets with leather pads, and while they played well I didn't like the way they felt under the fingers.
Part of the conversation with the lead tech was regarding cork vs other pads in the upper stack. Cork was attributed with enhancing upper partials and giving a brighter sound - the Master pads, in contrast, would damp some of those upper partials. Did you notice any difference in brightness?

I'm with BandMommy: Cork in the upper joint, fish skin on the large keys at the bottom of the instrument. I like the positive feel and the quick response of the cork. Makes the articulation better. All my work has been done by Brannen Woodwinds in Evanston, IL.
From a physics perspective, I could appreciate that having more upper partials present would enhance the response of articulation.

Thanks all for your contributions.

And John, thanks for your detailed response and kind thoughts. We are still in the process of getting settled, and the Universe is speaking to me in ways that I don’t yet comprehend. I’ve received two job offers (and I wasn’t even looking), and that - along with getting the family settled in - has derailed my plans to get integrated in the local music scene. Maybe I’m supposed to spend some time in the shed...

Be well all!
 

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My 2 cents... I have a Leblanc Concerto that was repadded with cork pads in the upper joint and good skin pads in the lower joint. I have been very happy with the results and it has lasted a long time. This was done by Lee Kramka in SF. Unfortunately I can't compare between having the cork pads and the original skin pads. The way Leblanc Concertos sound I would imagine it would be good to dampen the upper harmonics a little. Your tech might be onto something. I will be curious about the results.
 

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It's been nearly 12 years since the cork pads were installed on the Signature, but I can't say that I remember any change in brightness/darkness.
I can say that even with cork on the top and skin on the lower, the Selmer Signature is still a slightly 'darker' more focused sounding clarinet than my Buffet Evette Master Model that has skin pads on both joints.
This could also be attributed to the differences in bore design.
I'm sorry that I can't be more helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks to all who continue to contribute to this thread. I just got the horn back from its first tweak today - getting a leak out and renewing the tenon corks - so I could get a good handle on where it is now. I’ll see whether I’m happy with where it is sonically, and determine whether to continue with its current setup (cork upper, skin lower) or try the Master uppers with ‘roo lowers to adjust its spectrum.

Additional input remains welcome. I’ll be checking in here before I make any decisions.

Be well.
 

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I have had regular skin pads, cork in the upper joint and skin in the lower, Valentino Master pads with white roo in the lower joint large pads. I think I prefer the last combination. The Valentino Masters are durable and quiet.
 

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Living in Germany the standard pads here are leather. Seems to be the traditional material for german system clarinets. I have a böhm from a craftsman manufacturer close by that is equipped with leather pads, checked a Yamaha CSG III, duodecime and trill keys are cork, probably for moisture reasons, the rest is leather. For me leather is fine. Maybe my sonic tastes are not that distinguished.

Anybody experience with gore tex pads? The high end craftsmen manufacturers here offer gore tex pads for their most advanced instruments. Valentino pads are not a topic at all here over the pond.

Alphorn
 

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Not all bladder pads are the same. Some start dying within a year or so. Some last for decades.

Not all leather pads are the same. Some are quite porous. Pad porosity constitutes a leak. WE go to a lot of trouble to eliminate leaks in an instrument.

For the leather enthusiasts, possibly an even better alternative is Music Center's synthetic "leather" pads, possibly by special order. Totally waterproof/airproof, exceedingly tough, and non-sticky. But expensive.

As for the synthetics... It seems there is something new and claimed to be better on the market on average every 4 or 5 years.
This is a problem for techs who need to keep inventory.
I have significant stocks of "Perma Pads" for flute. They were once highly promoted but I barely used them. I learnt from them that there is a downside to elastomer pads, especially if the keys are normally open.
I have have an expensive inventory of Norbeck clarinet pads, silicon rubber laminated to an agglomerated cork which could be glued. They were a better concept and worked well providing tonen hole edges were perfect and installation was perfect. (Not unlike the needs for cork pads.) However they tended to be sticky. So another great waste of money.

"Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside." Alexander Pope
 

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I've tried almost all pads mentioned here (I think all with the exception of the black Roo pads, though I've tried Roo pads, both black and white, for saxophones). "Tried" means anything from testing them (installing a few and checking) to full overhauls.

Re the issue of non-stepped pads (mentioned by Gordon), it's not very common, but it pops up occasionally. It could be anything from the non-stepped pad not even covering the tone hole, to just barely closing less firmly on the edge. In the latter case it might sometimes become an issue that the pad starts to leak earlier. In the former you can't use a non-stepped pad anyway, which is pretty rare, but I did see it recently on a pro model oboe.

Re the synthetic leather pads by Music Center (also mentioned by Gordon), they are excellent, basically anything a leather pad is but better. I'm not sure they even make them for clarinets, but either way they are only special order, not even listed on their website anymore.

For synthetic pads, I've used Valentino Masters and Greenbacks, Omnipads (both firmness options) and the new ones from Music Center (both plain model and with synthetic bladder). Basically I think all of these are now at a point that they are good, Valentinos have definitely improved since some years ago. I'm still not sold on them for the larger keys, in particular the F/C and E/B open keys.
Gordon is right about the foam layer, but leather and bladder also are not completely smooth to a certain degree. The question is what degree that is and how it affects their seal. IME there isn't a significant difference in that regard, but I think the foam being slightly more springy does have an affect (a quality that is generally bad for pads). However not enough to make a difference for smaller pads and for now I actually recommend (and use) synthetic pads for smaller keys (not using animal products being another advantage for me).

Cork pads are very good, but I don't like them so much because of their feel and "noise". I use quotes because it's not a bad thing, I just mean the sound they make when they contact the tone hole. It's not that much louder, but it is the type of noise itself that I don't like. So just personal preference. I actually don't like too quiet pads and prefer to have some "noise".

Leather pads are also very good. They tend to be or feel a little softer than bladder pads but it really depends on the model. Sometimes it's the felt, but sometimes they use the same felt, so it's the leather layer itself being a little softer. They tend to last longer than bladder pads but assuming both are good quality, both types would last a long time, with some exceptions.

Re pads making an instrument brighter, darker, etc. the different feel and "noise" of different pads can make a significant difference to how they seem to sound.
For example re what bandmommy mentioned, a Selmer Signature (and Recital for that matter) is a pretty unique model and would have feel and sound different to an Evette Master Model even if they had the same pads.

Re Goretex pads, they are common on some models, like buffet pro models, maybe Selmer, Rossi, and maybe a few others. They are basically the same as bladder pads but have a layer of teflon over them. They are absurdly expensive. Their only advantage is being stepped and lasting longer than bladder in that the sealing layer is less likely to tear. If tearing is not the issue, IME it's at best as good as bladder. I don't think they are worth their price.
 
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