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Should I Do It?

2084 Views 18 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Chris Peryagh
My clarinet is an old Leblanc Symphonie. It's been a SUPER axe for me. However, someone knocked it off a bandstand and left it unplayable. Given it's age I was worried that it couldn't be fixed... There aren't a lot of replacement parts for a clarinet made in the 50's. However in the end a tech got it going for... ... $12! I was relieved to say the least.
That's when things got wierd. The same repair guy suggested that my horn was 'pretty good in its day', but a lot of advances have been made since. Even though there aren't any cracks in the body, and my clarinet is considered a 'professional quality' instrument (whatever the devil that means) , he thought I should scrap it and buy a Buffet E-11 from him. I was a little taken aback. And he was quite serious. Wadday'all think?
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The Symphonie, in good condition, is a much higher quality clarinet than the E11.
Sorry, there is no nicer way to say it, but sounds like this repairer is trying to **** you and I wouldn't let him near <deleted as too rude> your body!

Please keep it clean folks. - Gandalfe
The E-11 - although a good clarinet - is something that I suggest an advancing Middle School or 9th grader move to from a plastic clarinet. It's not something that one moves to from a professional quality instrument.

Maybe your tech isn't familiar with your current clarinet - some don't get the "vintage" thing AT ALL.
Just curious, did you try the recommended instrument?

Chuck Kessler had heard me play and knew my buying style. But he recommended a Ref 36 over a Ref 54 and I was taken aback. That was last year. The Ref 36 is now my favorite sax and I do prefer it over my wife's Ref 54. Sure it's not in the same comparison class as your clarinet decisions but if you have small hands, limited funds, oh there are many reasons, maybe the recommended instrument makes sense.

And if it isn't better, you will know for sure. Don't take our word on the matter.
The current E11 clarinets are crudely made in comparison to the Leblanc - I'm not saying they're bad instruments, they're just not anywhere near the same league.

Stick with your Leblanc as there's not much that can better it - there are loads of clarinets that ARE better than an E11, yours included.

It's like taking a pay cut to do the same job.

Stick with what you know and what you like.
Chris Peryagh said:
Stick with what you know and what you like.
Amen to that.
Besides, you're used to your Symphonie and know it inside out. Heck, it's like suggesting Glenn Gould to buy a new chair.
To get into a top end Buffet will cost you a small fortune, stay with the LeBlanc. Equivalent Buffet models are the RC models with the larger bore. The Festival series is very nice and will also cost you a small fortune. Remember cheap and Buffet are relative terms.

I'm in complete agreement with all of the comments posted. These guys are among the top clarinetists on the forum. If you follow their advice in this matter you can't go wrong.

I, too, am a fan of vintage clarinets. In my case it's the Couesnon Monopole. One thing that I love about a 60's pro-level clarinet is its quality of Grenadilla wood cannot be matched by a new Buffet R-13....let alone an intermediate-level E11! The resonance of 40 or 50 year old high-quality Grenadilla wood is extraordinary. The key things with a vintage clarinet are to make sure the bore hasn't warped, there are no cracks, and it has good intonation. It sounds like your Leblanc is in good playing condition.

Definitely keep it!

If you feel a need for something more with the clarinet, you're much better off spending $200 - $250 for a top-level mouthpiece made by someone of the caliber of Walter Grabner, Gregory Smith, Richard Hawkins, or Clark Fobes than buying a new clarinet. Just a personal opinion.

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BTW, jentone made a very good point - and I would like to believe your tech that only charged you a pittance fix your clarinet was an honest person. Many music stores are geared to selling new instruments, and never venture into the vintage market. A Symphonie could certainly be a fairly old clarinet - I'm assuming unplated "nickel-silver" keys. I'd like to think it was an honest attempt to help you. Judge by your long term relationship and not by this one - however misguided - offer.
It's (hypothetically speaking) almost like some sales person spurred on by the thought of their commission (and to get rid of older stock) telling me to give up my Series 9 full Boehms for a supposedly new wooden Cibali (or another Chinese clarinet by another name that has previously gone out on rental) - and making up some ****-and-bull story that 'no-one plays full Boehms anymore, they're like, soooo old-fashioned. EVERYONE plays Cibalis now, even the top pros' - only for them to make a mint on the Selmers and I'm left regretting taking their advice.

I'm sure you've heard that old chesnut used in some faceless music shop by the money-grabbing owner into fooling the gullible to part exchanging their classic instruments for a right pile of dog****e.

Call me a cynic, but it's best to be cynical.
To be honest I never seriously considered buying the E11... I've had E11's before. They're fine. That said, my Leblanc is an axe that I ENJOY playing. In the unfortunate event that it ever sustains irreparable damage, or just get 'played out', I'll look for another one. I was just surprised, and amused that the tech (a very good one, and a nice guy), made such an overture! BTW, I purchased my LeBlanc for $280 3 years ago. I do occassionally have my 'dark' moments. However, I'm not so cynical as to think of an E11 as a logical lateral replacment!
That's why I snap up old Selmer full Boehms when I see them on eBay - to safeguard my clarinet-playing future.

I've been offered R13s and turned them all down - I'm just not interested in them, even if 'everyone plays them', they just don't do anything for me. It's been large bore Selmer full Boehms for me for too long now and I'm not giving that up - but I would like a full Boehm Leblanc LL A to go with my LL Bb.
I wish i had a complimentary 'A' to go with it as well! The show I've got coming up has a very exposed 45 seconds (at least) of runs along the break in F#! ... Off to the shed!
I recently got to spend a few hours with Tom Ridenour at his workshop. Part of our discussion (more like an education on clarinet acoustics) revolved around older versus newer clarinets. The gist of what I got from this discussion (and I could be mis-stating some of what he said, but I think I got it right).

1) Clarinets in the 50's were large bore. The lowest notes (RH without the register key) were consistently sharp compared to the rest of the instrument. It did not overblow 12ths properly in tune.

2) Small bore clarinets came into vogue in the early 60's when Buffet introduced the polycylindrical bore, which was able to compensate for the shrillness that had previously been inherent in the small-bore instruments.

3) In the late 50's 95% of symphony players were on large bore instruments, and by the late 60's 95% of symphony players were on small bore instruments.

4) Tom seemed to think that the modern Buffet isn't that good of a horn compared to a top-line Leblanc (which he helped design) I inferred from this that Buffet may have "rested on their laurels".

5) Tom's own line of clarinets uses bore dimensions similar to the Leblancs, not the Buffets. He demo'd one for me with a tuner. Every note was within a cent or two and the tone was very very consistent in all ranges.

Anyone who has watched the ATG reed system video can tell that Tom is an absolute pragmatist. After spending a couple hours with him (supposedly about saxophone mouthpieces!), I was really wowed by the extent of his knowledge and abilities related to the clarinet (including some very impressive playing).
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I have always been impressed with the quality of sound that I can extract from a high end Leblanc horn. What puts me off the things is the keywork - my large hands and fat fingers do not go well with all of the major and minor innovations that the Kenosha firm has used over the years.

I have used LL horns for an extended period in the past, and have spent a couple of years time playing Leblanc professional bass clarinets, but the weird (to me at least) keywork (and the student-style register keys on the basses) has always driven me elsewhere.

And like the crazy oboe guy over the jolly old country of United Kingdom, I too am worried to death about the disappearance of the full Boehm instruments from the market. I've current got a Series 10S Selmer horn that I use "day to day", and I've got my "good" Series 9 horn in reserve and another Series 9 waiting in line behind that.

I used to dread having to replace my main clarinet, as only Leblanc was making the full Boehm option. Thanks to eBay, that is no longer the case, but you have to take precautions (as both Chris and I have done).
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And this most recent purchase of mine will see me right for a long time to come:

... but that's after I've stripped it all down and rebuilt it (and had all the keys and fittings silver plated).

Unfortunately it came with a much shorter barrel than I'd have liked (only 65mm as opposed to 67 or 68mm), but I can at least use a Vandoren "13" series mouthpiece with it and not worry about it being flat.
What a beauty! Chris, do you ever use custom barrels? Suzy (SuzySax on SoTW) has at least two barrels for each of her Leblanc Opus' Bb clarinets. There are some weather conditions that mandate that based on our experience in past performances. :cool:
We don't seem to be that wild on aftermarket barrels here in the UK, though that's no reason for me not to experiment. But the off-the-shelf choice is limited to mostly standard issue ones, I would be worried if I tried a barrel from the US and anything untoward was to happen to it.

Such as the barrel I bought back in December - it was sent from the US to me and sat in the Royal Mail depot for several months before being sent back to the seller.

In all that time I'd emailed the seller at several intervals to let her know the barrel hadn't arrived, and as USPS didn't issue her with a tracking number, there was no knowing of it's whereabouts (and they couldn't use a post code to check if a parcel was sitting around or on it's way to me). As it hadn't surfaced, she refunded me the full amount.

But only in the last month it had arrived back with her in the US with a Royal Mail label stuck on saying 'Not called for'! Funny really as I had no idea it was in the UK as I had not been notified by Royal Mail of it's existance, and the seller isn't prepared to send it outside the US for fear the same scenario will happen again. So I have little faith in the postage service to deliver anything from overseas.

But there is a happy ending in sight - as I'm visiting Portsmouth VA soon, she's happy to send it to me when I'm there.
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