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Hey guys! I've been thinking lately about buying an albert system clarinet. I've gotten into jazz (mainly 20's "Dixieland" jazz) playing on my regular boehm system clarinet, although i am still very in touch with classical music. I've been doing some listening, and an albert system clarinet sounds a lot more jazzy and original. They're all over ebay, and used ones are going for under $100. However, aside from buying an albert clarinet and having to learn new fingerings, there's also the option of buying Vandoren's 5JB mouthpiece, which vandoren claims is "THE jazz mouthpiece". It costs around $75, which would save me money, but I'm worried it wont get that same jazzy sound that i love to hear from the albert clarinets. My worry is that if i play too much jazz, I'll loose touch with my main music, which is classical and chamber orchestra music. I recall hearing a recording of benny goodman playing Tchaikovsky, and it was a wreck; tons of slurs and glissandos and jazzy sounds. I like jazz; its fun to play, but classical is still my main genre, and i dont want to lose touch with it by getting too into jazz. What are your thoughts? is it okay for me to try playing jazz? If so, should i get an albert clarinet, or a jazz mouthpiece for boehm clarinet?
 

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Most of the Albert system horns on ebay are JUNK. Unless you know what you're looking for chances are you're going to get nothing more than a lamp. I know... I have a collection of Albert clarinets. Only 3 of the 5 would I concider 'playable'.
The 'new' ones with the red 'leather' pads are best left alone.

Unless you're looking at the clarinet while it's being played you don't know if the performer is using an Albert or Boehm system horn.
You really don't even need the 'Jazz' mouthpiece. Lighten up the reed a little and adjust your attitude from classical to dixiland.

See if you can find a recording of Benny Goodman playing Mozarts 'Clarinet Concerto'. I have it and his performance is flawless.
You see, Benny is/was a "Classically trained" clarinetist. He used the Klose Method just like the classical players.

Save your money, put your butt in the shed, and learn how to adjust your attitude to match the genre.
You'll be a much better musician because of it. ;)
 

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bandmommy has got it right (as usual)! Buying an Albert clarinet is not going to automatically transform you into a "jazzy-sounding" player.

If you want to play that style of clarinet, you need to listen to years of top-notch players playing that style. You need to buy recordings of people like Johnny Dodds, Barney Bigard, Edmond Hall, Johnny Mince... the list goes on. If you don't know who these people are, then you need to find out, or else you'll have no chance of playing that style.

Then you'll need to take lessons from a jazz clarinet player who can show you just what you need to do to play and improvise in that style. Once you're comfortable, then perhaps you can look into getting an Albert. (Even then, you may find that you're scratching your head and thinking, What's the point? I mean, music is hard enough--why make it even harder by having to learn a different type of clarinet that's going to go against all your natural instincts?)

While I understand your enthusiasm and concern for "doing it right," you'll be wasting your money buying an Albert at this point. That VanDoren mouthpiece might help, and then again, it might not. What they term as a "jazz" mouthpiece may mean big-band or modern jazz, which is a far cry from the music you're interested in. Most of what you hear in Dixieland is not the mouthpiece talking, it's the embouchure and throat. But you have to have listened to a lot of players to be able to know what to do to get this sound.

My experience with classical musicians trying to play jazz is that even the best of them have no idea what to do. Jazz playing is a whole different language than classical, and that includes different breath attacks and support, articulation, embouchure manipulation, and, as bandmommy said, overall attitude. It's something you need to listen to and absorb over some years before you can do it right. You also need to hang out with the jazz cats and learn that unique perspective they have on music and life. That regimen might be difficult for you to add to your classical practice schedule.

So I say, forget the Albert for now, stick to your classical, but buy records of those dixieland players and listen, Listen, LISTEN! Then you can try to imitate them. Be prepared--it may be a long row to hoe.
 

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I once saw a Selmer Paris Albert system sitting in a case in a music shop and I THINK it was listed $375. I was on a band trip with my band director so obviously I couldn't afford it, but man that's a steal if it's playable. Good luck on the search.
 

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As I understand it, early jazz players used Albert system horns mostly because they were cheaper than Boehm system instruments, and wedged chewing gum in the mouthpieces to make them loud. I can't hear anything special in the sound in the horns I've tried, any more than there is between the typical modern small bore (R13, etc.) clarinet and the old big bore horns, Boehm or Albert. And bandmommy's got it right, most of the Alberts you see for sale are lamp material. If you want to spend some $$ in pursuit of an authentic sound, first practice and listen a lot, then maybe think about mouthpieces.
 

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Bandmommy is OLD and has been around the block a few times.
Don't forget that Albert system clarinets were being used way before Jazz/Dixiland/Swing or Boehm system horns were 'invented'. Proof that Albert system clarinets aren't strictly 'Jazz' horns. ;)

But if you want to spend ~$100 for a lamp that most techs won't work on.... Go right ahead.
I'll be waiting for the thread where you complain about not being able to play in tune, the lack of alternate fingerings, and asking for advice on how to 'fix' it.
Or the one where you ask what the difference is between HP and LP....
 

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I started playing jazz on clarinet, and played a Boehm system clarinet. I used a vandoren B45 mouthpiece with vandoren traditional blue box reeds number 3, and played everything on it, classical and jazz, mainly stuff from the 20's and 30's - Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Sidney Bechet, all kinds of stuff, - and side by side Classical music, I did Grade 5 (I'm in the UK) and studied for Grade 8 - but all with the same setup. I just played, I didn't know about 'jazz mouthpieces' or 'jazz reeds' etc, I just played. When I did my classical exams I was completed by the examiner afterwards for my tone, and similarly when I played in jazz clubs with the jazz band people commented on my sound - but the two sounds were completely different - because the musical setting called for a different approach and sound, so I changed.
It's really about hearing the sound they produced on those old Dixieland recordings, as one poster said "listen listen listen" and then try and imitate those players - try and sound like Larry Shields from the ODJB - try and play those strident flowing glissando lines, as another poster said a lot has to do with attitude - try and make the clarinet laugh, make it cry, make it sing - you don't an Albert system clarinet, you can do everything you want on the one you have, with the mouthpiece and reed you have, you just need to play and practise and work at it, and you'll get it.
Hope this helps....
 

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Well, I'm gonna put a little fly in the ointment...

I don't feel that there are any major problems with the idea - I mean, many of us are multi-instrumentalists and we quite happily switch between instruments that have different fingering systems (sax-flute-clarinet-oboe). Some even manage to switch between woodwind and brass. I quite happily noodle around on a low whistle, which not only has a different fingering system, but an entirely different method altogether of covering the holes.

I can also appreciate the 'sound' the OP is talking about - I have a number of clients who play 'period jazz' and they absolutely swear by simple system clarinets...and as a player myself there is nothing that would thrill me more than a Boehm system clarinet with the tone of the simple system models. It's not a subtle difference, it's huge.
These clients also play Boehm system clarinets too, and with as much agility.

It also shouldn't be too much of a nightmare to find a decent example - most of my clients seem to favour the Boosey Clinton system models, but there's certainly plenty of choice out there if you do your research and tread carefully.
There should not be any issue with getting one fixed up - most repairers turn them away purely on economic grounds, and usually because the hapless client has bought them in error. They're actually quite easy to work on.

However, there's rather more to it than simply picking one up and getting down to it - and if your focus is on classical playing then it's inevitable that there will be side-effects. My simple system clients are all jazzers - and I think it's quite fair to say that you can get away with things in jazz that just wouldn't cut the mustard in the classical genre.
So this means work - hard work, and lots of it if you want to have a foot on each side of the river.

With that in mind my recommendation is going to be that you find yourself another Boehm system clarinet - one that has more of the qualities you're looking for, one that is perhaps less 'sombre' than your existing one.
This approach has several advantages; you already know your way around the clarinet, so you'll be better able to hear and feel the tonal differences...much less chance of buying a lemon; the fingering system is the same, so no subconcious reaching for keys that aren't there; the tuning scale is likely to be a close match, so your embouchure won't have to make quite so many adjustments - and there's a lot more choice when it comes to makes and models.
To top it off, buy a different mouthpiece for it and treat the two instruments as entirely separate entities.

Regards,
 

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I've always wanted to own a good Albert system clarinet myself. I've yet to even put my mitts on one however.
 

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I've been away for a few years and just happened to look at the site - to see this thread. For those of you who don't know me (or of me), I used to post quite a bit on SOTW. I've played soprano saxophone for over 50 years, and I play trad jazz exclusively. I added clarinet (Boehm) many years ago (maybe 40 years now) and currently I am playing sop sax, clarinet, and alto sax with the Golden Eagle Jazz Band in Fullerton, CA (Steamers Cafe two Sundays each month). Two guys I know (terrific players) in trad jazz here in SoCal play Albert clarinets. One is an 1887 Buffet and the other is a newer Hammerschmidt. I own three Albert clarinets and three Boehm clarinets now.

First of all, I read on this site that Alberts sound different from Boehms. And, that it may be because of different bore sizes - the Alberts having bigger bores. I disagree with those assertions. An Albert clarinet sounds like . . . a clarinet. I will discuss bore-size below.

There are tonal differences among different clarinets - when I bought my Buffet RC Prestige Boehm clarinet years ago, I tested several different brands and at least two RC Prestige models against the one I eventually bought. All sounded different, even among the same models. But it wasn't because of their keywork. My Buffet RC Prestige remains the best soprano clarinet I've played (or heard - for tone). It was once played for a show by noted French trad clarinetist Alain Marquet, who borrowed it from me because his clarinet was stolen. I've heard it from both ends.

Last year on a European river cruise, I happened upon a music store in Regensburg, Germany. They had several new "German System" ( meaning Albert, Simple, and Oehler System) clarinets on display. I didn't have enough time to play them all, but the store personnel allowed me to put my mouthpiece on one (a Yamaha YCL 457-20) and give it a blow. Other German System clarinets on display were higher and lower Yamaha models, German-made clarinets, and a couple of inexpensive Chinese-made clarinets. The clerk told me that almost 100% of German clarinetists trained in Germany play the German System. He called Boehm System, "The French System." I knew that Yamaha made German/Albert/Oehler System clarinets but I had never seen one - they are rare in the U.S., if there at all. This was a chance to actually experience a new Albert clarinet.

I played the 457-20 in a back room and had to wrap paper around the mouthpiece tenon to fit the larger tuning barrel opening. When I finished, the guy said he had never heard a German clarinet sound that way. I took it as a compliment. I got a good, strong sound out of the thing.

I passed on buying it but the idea intrigued me enough so that when I returned home, I contacted Matthews Music in The Netherlands and ordered a new Yamaha YCL 457-20. It was about $250.00 less buying it that way.

The Yamaha arrived and I immediately began working the thing trying to get my mind around the fingering differences. I have owned various Alberts over the years and knew the basic fingering differences, and I have a recently restored Triomphe-Paris C Albert clarinet so I practiced on it before the Yamaha arrived.

The Yamaha came with a nice case and a German-System mouthpiece. The Yamaha mouthpiece fit the tuning barrel just fine. The mouthpiece also had string-grooves around the barrel for those who used string ligatures. It came with a reed. The mouthpiece table and window were much more narrow than my clarinet mouthpieces and the reed was considerably more narrow than my clarinet reeds. I got a very weak sound out of the Yamaha mouthpiece. Besides not sounding good, this would not work for me because I do not use any amplification when I play in public.

I ended up using my Boehm mouthpieces and they worked just fine (mainly a Lakey 5* with a 1 1/2 Fibracell reed, and also a Selmer HS** with the Fibracell), except that I had to have the corks replaced to allow them to fit the tuning barrel's larger receptacle. When those corks became compressed, I ended up wrapping the mouthpiece's tenon with plumber's tape so the mouthpieces would fit.

Vandoren has a site where they sell German-System mouthpieces and you can select tenon diameters larger than those for Boehm clarinets. I thought about buying a Vandoren with the larger tenon for it but the tip-openings were a lot smaller than what I use, so I passed on that idea. I didn't need to pour another $150 into this instrument.

I worked this horn for months and got to the point where I could play it in public. I did several feature tunes with it (STRANGER ON THE SHORE, WEST END BLUES, LOOSE LIKE A GOOSE [see Bennie Moten's Kansas City band from 1929], and Bechet's LOVE ME WITH A FEELING, to name a few) and the audience didn't know the difference between the Yamaha German System and my Buffet Boehm. In fact, at one time, I told the cornetist I was playing a new Yamaha German System (Albert) clarinet and he said, "It sounds like you."

While the Yamaha had a slightly different tonal quality to it than other clarinets I've played/owned, specifically my Boehms, I sure can't say the differences were because it was an Albert/Oehler/German - whatever. It was just a different sounding clarinet. When I played it next to my vintage Albert, the Yamaha sounded more open and bright. Intonation wise, the vintage Albert was better, and it dates to the '20's, I think. When I play my lower-level Buffet Boehm against my RC Prestige, they too sound different from each other.

The Yamaha had some intonation issues . . . F2 (the one fingered like a saxophone's C2/C3) was sharp. I had to close R1-2-3 to bring it into anything close to proper pitch . . . or I could use side F. The low E was also sharp but there was nothing to do about that. The tuning barrel cracked but Matthews sent me a new one and I returned the cracked one. As I played and played this thing, some of the adjustment corks lost their firmness and made difficult the closing of various intonation vents. That resulted in some notes failing to speak at critical moments. Finally, a spring lost its tension and I had to replace that. I am not impressed with the build-quality of the Yamaha.

The Yamaha's bore is smaller than any of my Boehms. I know this because the Yamaha will not fit on my standard clarinet pegs. I've concluded that the YCL 457-20 is more of a modified Oehler System than a simple Albert System (aka German System). The reason is that when comparing the Yamaha to an old Conn Albert I own, the Yamaha has many more intricate intonation gadgets - the rings around the tone holes on the Yamaha act to open and close related vents to aid intonation, much like full Oehlers. But the rings ended up being a deal-breaker for me in that they made a light touch on the tone holes well nigh impossible. I found myself pressing each tone hole harder than necessary just to ensure that the intonation vents were fully closed. It isn't the same as the rings around my Buffet's tone holes. Even after having the adjusting corks replaced (which improved the horn's response a bit), it still requires a concentrated effort to fully depress each tone-hole ring.

I've returned the Yamaha to its case in my closet and use the Buffet RC Prestige exclusively for public performances. I also bought from Dave Kessler last year a new Buffet E-11 which I leave out, assembled on a peg so I can pick it up on a moment's whim and practice.

Bottom line is that if you think playing an Albert in trad jazz settings (make that "Dixieland") will make you jazzier, it ain't necessarily so. That "jazziness" and trad sound comes from the player, not the instrument. DAVE
 

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Nice to see you here again, Dave.
 

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Why do you think you can't play jazz on a Boehm clarinet. Jazz players I know who tried to switch to Albert system have told me there is no difference in sound and why should there be. Why would you want to learn a new fingering system? Why can't
you play jazz on a B45 mpc.? Woody Allen plays dixieland on an Albert system and he sounds awful. Traditional jazz musicians like Pete Fountain, Kenny Daverne and many others played Boehm. It's my opinion, Dixieland players played Albert system clarinets because they were cheap and readily available in New Orleans. Any albert system clarinets being sold now are mostly junk anyway. I say, forgetaboutit.
 

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I flirted with Alberts several years back. The reason I didn't continue was simply low utility of doing so - I, personally, wasn't interested enough in the difference in tone and response to spend the time overcoming the difference in feel and fingerings.

One major pitfall, of course, is the lack of ergonomics and alternate fingerings. The Albert really plays YOU to a greater degree than the Boehm. The answer to a lot more hand position, finger movement, and note change difficulties is: "tough!"

Another issue - which I found very important in improvisation - is the basic F/C major scale. This is straightforward on Boehm flute and clarinet (more or less just lift up the next finger). On Albert it includes two forked or trill key fingerings - chalameau Bb/clarion F in the RH, and F/C in the LH. Bb/F is particularly problematic in fast passages.

Admittedly, saxophones have the same issue in the LH, but on clarinet it's complicated because the trill fingering sounds a lot better - the middle finger F in chalameau is off and a bit stuffy.
 

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New to the site --- so catching up on a bunch of threads. I learned to play in a Boehm (like virtually everyone else in North America) and played Boehm for about 35 years. I switched to alberts about 10 years ago. My musical preference/playing is jazz. Can you "sound jazzish" on a Boehm - absolutely yes. Can you sound "jazzish" on an albert - absolutely yes. Personally, I believe (and as many have said above), it's practice, practice, practice AND it's getting "that sound" in your head that counts. Additionally, at least in my opinion and experience, jazz is a totally different set of techniques (finger, embouchure, throat, mouth cavity AND state of mind) than classical. I am so far away from where I was initially trained --- wide open mouthpiece, european reeds (single cut french) at a strength of 1 1/2 (maybe 2 !!!) and sometimes even a 1 --- I am likely freaking most of you out. Can I get the same sound with a 2 1/2 or a 3 ---- yes! .... but it's easier with a softer reed. SO, what's my point --- most of the success is in the practice, the techniques and the mindset. Having said that, I do believe an albert has helped me achieve THE sound I want. The primary reason I play an albert however, is because I want to be "early authentic" .... .... as an aside, I woudl be VERY happy to take any good alberts off yoru hands if you no longer need/want them !!!! .... seriously ! ... thanks for this site --- great threads ....


oh yes --- I also tried out a Yamaha 457-18 (the 18 has the least amount of metal - 2 rings top/2 rings bottom and 4 rollers). I liked it --- no significant issues/problems as noted above by Dave -- but --- i still like the sound I achieve on an old albert. I have to admit though, I am still on the hunt to find a really good albert horn.
 

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Do NOT buy a cheap Albert system off eBay unless it's a recognised brand. Mostly they are Indian "clarinet shaped object". I have one and it's TOTALLY unplayable.

On the other hand I recently bought a Boosey and Hawkes simple Albert system for 98GBP and it's a good instrument (recognised brand strategy). I'll have some fun fiddling with it. The only difference in my sound is a higher than average number of wrong notes. This might not even be discernible to audiences. :)

It's a bit of fun to play an instrument with different fingering and learn a new skill. In trad jazz there is a reverse snobbery to mastering the Albert system. The most revered (mainly black) players learned and played the cheaper more available system. So if you're a fan, you play what your heroes played. I know personally about 10 Australian players who made the change.
 

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Yes, I've enjoyed my experiences with Alberts. In fact, after I bought the Yamaha German System, I spent a lot more practice-time on clarinet than I ever had before. When I returned to my Boehm, I realized that my clarinet skills had improved a lot. So, I'm thankful that I went through the process. I'm not a good-enough player to readily switch between the two distinct fingering systems, but with practice I managed (not "mastered") both of them

Another issue is the authenticity of playing trad on an Albert. True, all of my early-jazz heroes played Alberts, but I realized that playing a German System clarinet made in Japan didn't corroborate my "authenticity" claim. I suppose an Albert made in Germany or France may be more acceptable (if someone somewhere is passing judgment) since I doubt that Bechet, Dodds, Noone or Lewis ever played on Asian-made clarinets.

Finally, one of my all-time favorite trad-jazz clarinetists (Bob Helm, who played with Lu Watters and Turk Murphy for many years) played a Boehm. Alas - some reprieve from the must-play-an-Albert world. DAVE
 

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I have not had experience with the Alberts System, but I would love to try one. If it helped me with my quest, I would buy an old one. What is my quest? As a doubler, I want a clarinet with less resistance. As primarily a tenor player, I have a very difficult time adjusting to the breathing on clarinet. I take that big breath and end up with lungs full of bad air. The closest I have gotten to what I am looking for is with my current Centered Tone from 1956. It still has resistance but a little less than my former Leblanc. Classical clarinetists want resistance but I don't. If bandmommy can advise me here, with her experience with the Alberts system, or anyone else for that matter, I would appreciate it very much. Maybe it is my setup. (I hope this isnt a hijack. Not my intention.)
 

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I don't agree that you can't hear whether it is a boehm or albert being played on a recording. I am pretty sure I could pick out an albert 9 out of 10 times. To me it is a very distinct sound that you either like or don't like. It is a sound you hear from most of the old traditional new orleans jazz musicians. (johnny Dodds, Jimmy Noone, Sidney Bechet).
I personally prefer a boehm, simply because of the technical and tuning advantages.
 
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