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Topics - windydankoff

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I love this passage:
“There is something that strikes a chord deep in your body when you play a Laubin,” said Sherry Sylar, the associate principal oboist of the New York Philharmonic. “It’s a resonance that doesn’t happen with any other oboe. It rings inside your body. You get addicted to making that kind of a sound and nothing else will do.”

... and don't miss the Comments

My headphone cable wound around my clarinet and brought the wrong end crashing to the floor. I broke the tip of a vintage hard rubber mouthpiece that is one of my favorites. I dried my tears, then fixed it in about 1/2 hour. Next day, as proof of my faith (in super-glue), I used it in recording a Sabbath video. It worked fine.

On a great MP, the facing is sacred. Here is a method to restore the facing without altering it - not even by a fraction of a hair. I also use this method to restore old MPs with chips and dents in the facing, and to do re-facing.

Epoxy or CA (super-glue) generally work fine for joining breaks. I used Starbond rubberized CA glue because it bonds incredibly well to hard rubber, but doesn't get brittle-hard. It can be trimmed with a blade or by abrasive. I had two gaps to fill in this piece. They required several applications because CA shrinks as it hardens. If gaps had been larger, I would have used epoxy putty instead (J-B Weld or J-B Kwik). Photos show the damage, the initial bonding, gap filling, and the restoration of the facing.

Excess filler must be finished to conform exactly to the original facing. There must be NO removal of original material. The usual method, using abrasive paper on a flat surface, makes it impossible to see exactly where you are cutting. I found a way to SEE exactly where I'm cutting, by using frosted glass as a transparent abrasive. It's much safer and easier.

I have a piece of translucent frosted (etched) glass that is commonly used for bathroom shelves. It feels like about 800 grit abrasive. It's not as sharp as a true abrasive. It removes material gently, and leaves a smooth finish. By using glass grit-side down and wet, I can see exactly the location and progress of the cut.

I got the idea to use glass to survey the facing surface from a Ridenour YT video. I would use plain glass and fog it with my breath, and see exactly how the facing rolls on the flat surface. I changed to frosted glass because it holds the film of moisture longer. THEN I discovered that it is a perfect abrasive. I can inspect and grind simultaneously!

Photos show the stages of the process - the original break, the initial bond, the filled gaps, then use of the abrasive glass to restore the damaged tip and side rail. It's ... like ... miraculous!

All about Clarinets / Using dental floss to fix loose instrument keys
« on: January 31, 2021, 03:41:09 PM »
The professional way to repair loose keys (where possible) is by “swaging” or “swedging” if you prefer. Here is a reference on that:  https://musicmedic.com/swedging-woodwind-keys

I don't have the tools or experience (yet) to swage loose keys. Also, some keys cannot be swaged. Here is a technique that has been working surprisingly well for me. Dental floss makes an effective shim. It compensates for excess space inside the tube and on the ends. I have had great results eliminating loose motion on both worn and new instruments. So far, all my floss-fixes have stayed in place and functioned perfectly, feeling perfect even after several years of frequent playing. The photo shows an example, before the rod is screwed in and before the ends are trimmed off.

I collect packs of various sizes of floss. I mark them with their thickness (measured with a micrometer). I test the fit OFF the instrument first, to select the best size of floss. Occasionally, I use two pieces to get it perfect. IMPORTANT - Apply oil BEFORE inserting the rod, so the floss stays in place. After assembly, I oil it again. (I use synthetic motor oil.)

When I’m happy, I trim the ends with a sharp blade. If it’s a work in progress, I leave a little floss visible. When I’m finished, I cut it back so it’s nearly invisible.

In my records and on repair invoices, I list any keys that have been “shimmed with dental floss”. (I believe in full disclosure.)

All about Clarinets / Synthetic Reeds - Some shared experience
« on: December 12, 2020, 03:28:50 PM »
As a clarinet experimenter, I am tossing around many interactive variables. Synthetic reeds make my work far less confusing, by eliminating the constant variability of wet cane. As a performer, I am equally appreciative. My clarinets sit for hours in a dry environment ... and then ... I just pick it up and blow!

Due to a jaw weakness, my reed search is focused on soft reeds for low blowing resistance. Reeds that are too hard cause me pain, literally. Only one brand I tried gives me the full quality of performance (easily, at least to altissimo G).  I discovered my favorite reed and cannot imagine going back to the 20th century.

Here, I summarize my experience with various brands RELATIVE TO MY NEED for low resistance. I am using standard classical French and vintage American mouthpieces.

MY winner is ...

FIBERREED  (Harry Hartmann) - Dannie at the USA office sent me an assortment to try. The one that sings for me is the Carbon Classic, grade S. It feels like beginner-soft, which I need. However, I can play past altissimo G which I could not do well with any other soft reed. The quality of tone and expressive control is beyond what I thought possible for a soft reed. In two days, I became a better player! A bit of texture makes it feel comfortable and secure. So far I have 3 months on two of them and they are going strong. Yes, it looks bizarre. My theory:  It is an efficient spring, being thinner than normal, and hard. So, it vibrates with less energy loss than wet cane or other synths. Also they seem to work with a good variety of mouthpieces.
    USA site:   https://www.fiberreedusa.com/Carbon-Classic-French-Boehm-Clarinet-Fiberreed-p/hhfr-cc-fc.htm  Contact: Dannie Hofmann

Fibracell - These were very pleasing for 1 year, but for two more years, I had quality problems. They are truly soft as described. I started with 1 and graduated to 1.5 (equivalent to typical 2). They sound good, but not as consistent nor as good in altissimo as Fiberreed.
  Source: http://www.fibracelldirect.com and others

Légère - I heard that the European Signature Cut is a favorite. Website shows it to be the least resistant of their reeds. I tried a 2.5 (the softest). It was much to hard for me.
      Note:  Amazon sells some returned ones at reduced prices

Forestone - The "extra-soft" I got is is much too hard.

Bari - have not tried.

Bravo - cheap, easy to blow, sound OK, good for beginners.

D'Addario Venn - I ordered one from WWBW March 2020 when they were first introduced. They have good reviews - from sax players (clarinet is more fussy).  The soft grade felt stiff as a popsicle stick. They sent me another one. Nearly as hard, like a 4 at least, causing me immediate jaw pain. I wrote to the company. They sent a nice letter explaining that they had some problems and here is a third one BUT it is EXACTLY the SAME. I think they are down for pandemic and have not responded again. Hopefully this will get straightened out, because they are a reputable manufacturer. It looks like cane but sandwiched between two glossy plastic skins. It feels slippery on the lip. Also, the tough skin on front and back makes it the only synthetic that cannot be sanded or scraped for adjustment.

That is my personal experience. Add yours?

The User-Friendly Clarinet
Free-blowing, in-tune, wood-free, and sax-player friendly
Bb and C

By Windy Dankoff      Black • Hole Clarinets      September 2020

Eastern European music got me hooked on the clarinet's fluid and soulful sound. That was in 2016. I had switched from clarinet to sax in 1964. But now, to my amazement, I craved a clarinet. But I have a weak jaw joint. Playing a reed hurts my head if it isn’t extra-easy to blow (low resistance). So, I bought a new clarinet, and asked for the easiest-blowing mouthpiece. It wasn't. I asked distributors, makers, famous technicians, Google past midnight ... I couldn't get a straight answer. I had to figure it out for myself. I soon discovered that it's not about the mouthpiece. The instrument is a synergistic system in which everything matters.

Over a four-year period, I found ways to optimize the clarinet for less blowing resistance and less fatigue, while maintaining and even improving its sound. I also developed modifications for some sax-like fingerings. My clients include beginners, re-beginners, and advanced players, from nine to eighty years of age.

We don't want to feel like these sax players at the bar:
1    Somebody stole my clarinet
2    I wish somebody would steal MY clarinet

Here's proof that blowing resistance is a product of the whole instrument. If you remove your mouthpiece, then blow only into your clarinet, you feel no resistance. You may deduce that the resistance is all in the mouthpiece. But, try your mouthpiece on other clarinets. You'll find that some resist more than others. It's because the clarinet resists vibrating air. This is called impedance.

Four years of research
Can the impedance be reduced, and still maintain good performance? It took me two years to find the answer - YES. I took two more years to understand the instruments hole-by-hole, and as a whole, so I can repeat my results. Surely others have explored this, but I found nothing written about it, nor anyone offering to supply low-resistance clarinets to people who have trouble with normal ones.

Soft reed, large bore, and low-impedance
Low impedance starts with a soft reed BUT it plays flat and lacks focus and control. A soft reed wants to pass abundant air at low pressure. A typical clarinet wants to receive less air at greater pressure. The energy coupling is inefficient, like a bicycle with the wrong gear ratio. This is called an impedance mismatch. For the horn to accept the action of a soft, low-impedance reed, the entire instrument must match the lower impedance, top to bottom. A free-blowing clarinet has a low-impedance energy path, with few speed bumps, and smooth exit ramps.

Some clarinets have a bore (inside diameter) that is larger than average. That helps reduce impedance. But equally important, some tone holes must be larger and/or undercut, and some pads need to open wider. Large-bore clarinets were common before the 1960s. Then, Buffet refined their smaller-bore designs, which were favored for classical music. They gained market dominance as the “best” path to advancement. Other manufacturers followed their lead. Older designs, bad and good, went out of production. The ones that remain famous, tend to be expensive. Even then, not all have low-impedance overall. And, they are made of wood, and old wood can be risky.

Discovering low-impedance Bb and C clarinets
I found some non-wood large-bore clarinets from the 1940’s that are easy to blow, well-tuned, and sounded amazing. I kept collecting and studying them to see if I could make them better. They are made of ebonite (hard rubber). I also bought an ebonite C clarinet from China, and I was amazed. I've collected mouthpieces and barrels, calipers, reamers and other tools. I draw on my experience designing and making flutes and repairing woodwinds, plus a lifetime of shop experience. After two years, I optimized a free-blowing Bb and a C. I can play them for hours without hurting my weak jaw. I found them to be user-friendly in other ways too.

Harmonic integrity = simpler intonation AND easier blowing
Accuracy of pitch is called intonation. The intonation of large-bore clarinets (the good ones) comes naturally, using simple fingerings. Complex "resonance fingerings" used by classical players are less helpful and not necessary. The overtones are well tuned naturally. Tuned overtones reinforce the sound, so less energy is lost. So, it is easier to blow and easier to play in tune. Your embouchure can stay nearly constant throughout the range. It is a blessing for players without much formal training, sax players doubling on clarinet, folks with physical limitations, and anyone who wants to ease the journey.

More sax-like
The large bore strengthens the throat tones (top of the low register). I expand on that capacity in several ways. I refine the "trill keys" B and C to work as primary notes, like the left palm keys on a sax. They sound beautiful because they extend the delicate expressive quality of throat range. They often liberate you from jumping to the 2nd register (over the break) where you lose tonal flexibility. I enable another alternate fingering that's familiar to sax and flute players, the Eb/Bb using the right forefinger. On most clarinets, that fingering is very sharp. I correct it so you can use it routinely.

Expansive and expressive
An optimized large bore clarinet has a wide dynamic range; you can play loud, but also soft without losing quality. You get a wide range of color and expression that’s great for traditional and modern jazz, Balkan, gypsy, klezmer, you name it. If a modern clarinet sounds like a Hersey bar, this is more like artisanal 85% cocoa. Again, user-friendly qualities and great sound require more than just a large bore. The whole instrument needs to be optimized.

Hard rubber (ebonite) instead of wood
I'm lazy, so I eliminate the maintenance and risk of wood. Hard rubber (ebonite) was the alternative before the age of plastic. Unlike plastic, it sounds great, even amazing. After all, it is the favorite material for great mouthpieces. An ebonite clarinet can be left wet in a hot or freezing car, and it won't crack. And, it's making a comeback. (Reference:  Ridenour, The Grenadilla Myth).

The C clarinet
A clarinet in key of C (concert pitch) is user-friendly because you can read C music. And, it's easier in many keys that are common in string music. The modern C clarinet is a low-impedance design because it use a standard Bb mouthpiece. The bore is sized to the mouthpiece even though the horn is shorter. It approximates the proportions (and behavior) of a seriously large-bore Bb. C clarinets of ebonite are only produced in China. They are well made, but they need finish work to refine them. I play one that I fine-tuned to concert quality. I enjoy its bright bouncy sound, and play it more than my Bb. My clients and I enjoy accompanying other instruments, with no need to transpose.

The Pruefer Silver Throat, 1940-55
My favorite large-bore Bb is the vintage Pruefer Silver Throat (PST). It's ebonite, and the upper joint is lined with metal. It has a very large bottom bore with extra-large, tone holes. It's a unique instrument, designed to carry power in a field of brass. Pruefer was one of the best American clarinet makers before 1960. It was a high-end instrument in the school band market (in 1942, it was priced at today's equivalent of $1700). It's said to have a cult following among jazz musicians. I resurrected one, and I was hooked. I have a stock of PSTs, some of which sat in the closet for 50 or 60 years.

The internet reveals opinions of the PST ranging from useless to the best jazz horn ever. I studied nine PSTs made between 1940 and 1960, and found reasons for the mixed reputation: (1) The PST needs extra-wide valve openings at the bottom. Repair technicians would rarely see this, so most overhauled ones were degraded. (2) Versions made after 1955 have a smaller bottom bore. They play best only with harder reeds. (3) Only those late versions carry the Silver Throat inscription, and most are inferior. (4) Many barrels were not bored optimally. Knowing all this, I have learned how to bring out the best in a PST. The vintage PST and the Chinese C seem like the “odd couple”, but they are well-matched in playing characteristics.

User-friendly optimizing for Bb and C clarinets
Optimizing starts with a large-bore Bb or C, and may include any of the following changes as needed:
    Enlarging the bore in the barrel and at top of upper joint
    Some modified tone holes, pads, or action, especially to tune top and bottom
    Trill keys B and C optimized to use as primary notes
    Optimized thumb-key Bb
    Improved Eb/Bb when using right forefinger
    Fine synthetic and/or leather pads, resilient and reliable

Ergonomic improvements
    Springs adjusted for light and balanced action
    Keys may be adjusted to small or large hands
    Luxury thumb rest option
    Custom requests

Barrel modifications and tuning
Barrels are usually bored to match the upper joint. On the large-bore Bb and C clarinets, I discovered that a further enlargement of the bore can be transformational. I use reamers to remove about a hair's width of material. I continue the cut tapering into the upper joint. The horn goes a bit flat. When I correct the pitch, it breathes easier and comes fully to life. Throat tones are greatly improved, including thumb-Bb.

A player will often pull out a barrel for tuning. This produces an internal gap that can dull certain notes. But in large bore clarinets, the pull-out gap does not have such side effects. Most players won't need a second, longer barrel. My tunings tend slightly sharp, for flexibility while playing, and to allow adjustment. Tell me if you play outdoors in high/low temperatures, and I may include a second barrel.

Standard mouthpieces are fine!
Here is a fortunate twist of history - Today's mouthpieces still follow the design standards of the 1950s. They are native to large-bore instruments! Modern clarinets use a reverse-tapered barrel that adapts them to the modern bore. (Reference: Clark Fobes, Tuning and Voicing the Clarinet.) So, your favorite mouthpiece will work fine. But, don't use a modern barrel. I find good, normal classical mouthpieces to be just right. So-called "jazz" pieces are too wild.

Occasionally, I produce a user-friendly PST or C clarinet for sale. Some clients have bought both. They join me in being twice as happy. I also have a select stock of my favorite vintage mouthpieces, for easy blowing and amazing tone.

A review of my Black Hole Pruefer Silver Throat
With any strength reed, the Pruefer clarinet played very well in tune throughout the lower register and the throat tones. I was impressed as to how well in tune the throat tones were.  Those are usually the hardest to keep in tune on most clarinets.  As with most clarinets, it wanted to go sharp on the altissimo notes above high C (2 bars above staff), however opening my throat more while blowing easily, brought them right into tune.  I am impressed with the Pruefer clarinet.  Other than playing a little brighter it holds up well against my Buffet R13. I was amazed at throat Bb and A. They're usually crappy, but they come right out good. -- Dave D., Santa Fe

INCREDIBLE synthetic reeds
Many serious players use synthetic reeds, some exclusively. They hold constant under all conditions. Some players get more than a year of regular use. Fiberreed Carbon Classic S is my choice. It vibrates most efficiently, with reduced effort, and sounds rich and expressive. It is thinner than normal, but the composite structure is extremely stiff.  It acts like an efficient spring, absorbing less energy than other materials. But strangely, it sounds amazing! The soft S grade produces wonderful tone and expression on my instruments. Info: https://www.fiberreedusa.com.

Mouthpieces, and MATCHING to the reed
When switching to Fiberreed, I tried a mouthpiece that was a previous favorite, and it was better than ever! So, I don't just pick a favorite MP, and then a favorite reed. I pick the best PAIR. The curve of the MP facing should match to the curve of the vibrating reed. You can't see it, but you will feel it! I collect vintage MPs so I can experiment. Now, my clarinet sales usually include a soft synthetic reed and a select MP to match. I've have had no returns in the last two years.

References and acknowledgements

Thanks to Phil Pedler (The ClarinetPages.info), Jared De Leon (Wind Instrument Repairs) and Clark Fobes, and others on The Clarinet Board and Sax-on-the-Web, for sharing their experience. For a historic comparison of bore sizes: http://www.clarinetpages.net/info-on-model-comparisons-and-bore-sizes and http://www.clarinetpages.net/stuff-phil-recommends/bore-sizes

All about Clarinets / A maestro TRANSCENDS the clarinet
« on: October 27, 2019, 10:19:04 AM »
"Tiger plays a clarinet" ... above and beyond! Watch:

Others may comment ... I'm at a loss for words.

I easily found three leaks in two clarinets, that I could not locate with a leak light. I used a modified stethoscope.

You need the type of stethoscope that reduces to a single tube. I found this one on eBay for $5. I cut off the diaphragm device and inserted a smaller tube as a probe. As you approach a pinpoint leak, you hear a soft breeze. When you aim right at it, it sounds like a windstorm!

Pressure is applied by mouth, with fingers down, and a cork plug in the bottom. You must use normal finger pressure, as if you are playing the instrument.

A blow tube, shown in the photo, makes it less awkward than using your mouth directly on the joint.  The blow tube adapter is a cork plug with a hole, into which I hot-glued a plastic tube.

 I'm sure others have thought of this, but to my surprise, I found no references to it.

I just got a G clarinet with Boehm system keywork. It’s on eBay, described as "French clarinet G Key Hard rubber”.  (They use the term French to distinguish it from the German system keywork that is normal on G clarinets.) I think it just came out in recent weeks. It appears to be from the same Chinese maker as the C clarinets that I have been fine-tuning. This maker has been selling German (Albert) system G clarinets for some time, so-called Turkish clarinets. They DO have the acoustics worked out. 

Why a G?  As an improvisor and by-ear player (as well as reader), G is a practical key because the low register is in C. It is a wonderful complement to my C clarinet that I play on an equal basis with my Bb.

Mine arrived in just a week, and it played right out of the box. BUT BE WARNED – It's not a mature product. The bell on mine WAY too short.  I pulled the bell out until it nearly fell off, then secured it with electrical tape (for now). Now, it's in tune basically and the 12ths are very good. Thumb Bb was fairly bad. I was able to improve it, much to my relief, but it took a day of experimenting.

It has serious keywork and ergonomic issues, and about 8 holes to retune. It's been a major hacking project, but I got it working with a few days of serious shop work. Simply said, they are dumping their prototypes on eBay. I expect it will be improved over the next couple years, (as the C clarinets did). Being an avid instrument hacker, I took a chance on this one, and I've succeeded in making it play wonderfully.

This G horn is not like an alto clarinet. It sounds closer to a Bb or A. The bore is similar. It takes a standard Bb mouthpiece. I had trouble at first with my favorite Bb mouthpiece. It felt resistant and had trouble with the notes that are typically weak on most clarinets. I switched to my previous favorite MP, a Noblet or Vito FRANCE 2V vintage MP. It improved everything. It's worth trying various ones.

Ergonomic issues are not bad if you are over 6 feet tall with fingers to match. I am 5'8" tall, size-L hands. I reshaped the bottom R-hand keys to move them downward. I did lots of metal trimming and epoxy work to reshape and extend them. I also formed my own thumb rest because it's a heavier horn, lower down. The action of bottom keys needed a lot of refining, but it came out fine good.

I'm very happy now with this new instrument. It has three unusual mechanical features that you can see in the eBay listings. Somebody put serious effort into this design. I think it's on its way to becoming a good product. Meanwhile, I'm the first on my block to play one!

REF:  A German production version of a Boehm G clarinet is shown here:
It's a lot different. Some Italian ones have been offered, but they aren't shown on the web sites.

Restorer's dream come true ... Remove the keys, remove pads and corks, and just dump them ALL into a tumbler. Run it all day or overnight, and VOILA! They are clean and polished like new. I got a vibratory tumbler sold for recycling brass bullet casings, for reloading ammunition. (Like beating swords into plowshares.)

This saves enormous labor compared to cleaning and buffing keys one at a time. No more struggling to get into tight corners. No more gummy residue to remove.

I picked a tumbler from Amazon that had numerous comments about how quiet it is, as compared to other tumblers that had comments about loud noise. It is really quiet. The polishing medium is ground walnut shells infused with rouge. The brand I picked seems to be perfectly sized for the job.

After the tumbling, bits of shell can be found in the hinge tubes. It's easy to push it out with a drill bit. Some rouge residue would be very undesirable in the tubes and the pivot holes. I remove it with a drill bit ground to a point, and then wash the keys in an ultrasonic cleaner.

So here are some pictures of what I got.
Hornady 050202 M-1 Case Tumbler
Lyman Large Tufnut Plus Reloading Media (12 Pounds) - walnut shells with rouge
Finished keys are shown after 13 hours tumbling.

They keys are unplated German silver from Pruefer Silver Throat clarinet circa 1945, never overhauled. A similar instrument is shown for comparison, showing what the keys looked like before tumbling.

Second photo shows a drill bit that I ground to a taper, to remove residue from pivot holes. Then I finish with tip of pipe cleaner in alcohol. I use a normal drill bit and pipe cleaner to push residue out of hinge tubes. Afterward, an ultrasonic cleaner is a nice way to finish the cleaning, although they look good right out of the tumbler.

Third photo shows the Pruefer instrument ready for re-assembly. The hard rubber body had turned olive-green with age (and washing). Here, it's shown freshly re-blackened using Pensbury Pen Potion #9 -- a product made for restoring antique hard rubber fountain pens. That's another topic.

I got a new Sonicare ultrasonic toothbrush. But my old one still works. I got this wild idea!

I put on a C3 brush head, which is designed for "plaque control". It's the stiffest of the various brushes available. It works so well, I must share this!

NICKEL PLATED keys are very stubborn about releasing their hazy and gray oxide. No more!
Wenol metal polish (Amazon) works on nickel (so do some other polishes). It was laborious and frustrating to do by hand, The Sonicare is a blessing for 50-year old keys! Just apply the polish like toothpaste. It turns gray in seconds as it cleans. Rinse and wipe it clean, and it's DONE perfectly, or nearly so.

GERMAN SILVER unplated keys take a different approach. Over decades, they may oxidize enough to put a rough texture on the metal, so buffing is really necessary. I found that white rouge works best as a buffing compound. Trouble is, the cloth wheel quickly turns black with oxide residue and stops polishing efficiently. It has to be resurfaced frequently (I apply a wood rasp to the wheel to do that). Then, I have to reapply rouge. It's wasteful and blows out cotton dust.

The Sonicare needs a fine abrasive to take this oxide away. Metal polish doesn't do the job. Automotive rubbing compound is too fine. Permatex Fast Orange PUMICE hand cleaner does it! It has a gel consistency that helps keep it on the brush. After this, the keys buff much faster, especially in the corners and especially if those corners contain old dark solder!

I know the brush will be helpful also for cleaning grimy instruments without removing posts and springs, at least for hard rubber and plastic horns. Maybe wood too, after oiling. I'll try that next!

These "Black Hole" C clarinets are from China, reborn in my New Mexico workshop. I was happy playing the renowned Ridenour C (that I fine-tuned). I bought one of these out of curiosity. I was amazed .. it's a BETTER instrument!

Workmanship is good. The keywork is strong. Pads are Lucien kid leather. HOWEVER numerous defects and mis-tunings beg for attention. I spend about 6 hours refining each instrument, based on accumulated experience, recorded data, and fine tooling.

For half the price of the Ridenour C, you get a horn that is more in tune (especially Thumb-Bb and trills), with much better keywork and a better fit to large hands. The tone is exquisite, a bit better than the Ridenour that I had.

Warranty from me is 1 year / trial period 14 days.  Specify if player has Small or XL hands.

Use your favorite Bb mouthpiece, and enjoy the musical liberation of playing a C instrument!

Contact me through The Clarinet Pages Private Message system, or by email, windydankoff at mac * com.  ============

PHOTO 1 shows a work log that I keep on each instrument. A pitch graph shows the original mis-tunings. As I correct them, I also smooth out the response of each note.

REVIEW:  Please see Phil's review of my results on The Clarinet Pages, under Chinese C clarinets.

<<<  2020 UPDATE >>>   C clarinets are still going strong. I've learned how to refine the barrel bore and the bore in the top of the upper joint, to further improve the performance. I have vintage mouthpieces that play exceptionally well and include one with most sales. I've sold 10 of these, and had no complaints or returns, and very happy clients. I still play the first one I got, almost daily. It's been perfectly reliable. I also work on Bb clarinets especially for anyone who (like me) needs extra-easy blowing due to physical weakness.


All about Clarinets / Pruefer HR Bb with "silver" lining
« on: November 11, 2017, 08:42:55 PM »
Another unique eBay acquisition:  G. Pruefer , S/N16506. The bell is stamped Carl Fisher Exclusive Distributor. It played right out of the box, and with very good tone and intonation. I put an old Ridenour 147 HR barrel on it (with a smaller bore) and it sounds better, in fact gorgeous! Very rich and dark tone (with my favorite Riffault Noblet 2V mouthpiece).

According to the one set of S/N posted on the net, it would date around early 40’s. The material looks like ABS, but doesn’t react to acetone, so it appears to be hard rubber. The upper joint (only) is metal lined. The keys are unplated German silver of old-school and rather unique design, like the photo in Phil’s review of "Pruefer Silver Throat HR” (SN 35057). In fact, it looks identical to that Silver Throat photo, except for the shared key post for the top A & Ab.

The upper joint bore is straight 14.8, like the one Phil reviewed.  I suspect this was an early version of the concept, before they introduced that catchy tradename. Ah, but eBay searches reveal a Pruefer “Special” SN 51724, that also shows a metal lining in the UJ. They must have made lots of them that way.

The case has no labels or clues to indicate if it’s original to the horn. Does it look like 40’s?

Has anyone else here discovered a marvelous sound from these horns with the “silver” lining?

All about Clarinets / Evaluating a G. L. Penzel & Bro. advanced Albert
« on: October 23, 2017, 06:47:57 PM »
I bought this lovely antique 20 years ago, as a showpiece. I was not especially interested in clarinets until recently. So now I’d like to learn more about this. And, I wonder if it’s worthwhile to sell it. I see from maker history that it would be from the period 1883-1898, before Penzel-Mueller.

The wood appears flawless. The keys all move well. It’s appears to be in all-original condition. I understand that the 'B' designation was the German sign for Bb. The length is 56.8 cm (22 3/8 inches), indicating high pitch. It has no serial number. I have the case but can’t find it. I’m hoping the MP is in there!

I’ve seen many historic instruments in museums, books, internet, but never have I seen one like this, with the flourishes and extras gadgets. I would appreciate any advice from The Clarinet Pages, and any opinions regarding its value.

I have 9 photos, so I'll have to spread them out ...

An older friend’s husband died. He would be 81 now. He had been a serious clarinet student until he was in college when he had to quit due to a dental problem. He got this instrument, apparently when he was in high school, in Pittsburgh. We’re estimating around 1952. He had told his wife that it was a very good one. He couldn’t bear to part with it so alas … She took it to the local store for a minimal pad job so it could be sold or gifted. Then she met me and let me evaluate it. I got it to play acceptably, then I played it in a memorial for her husband. It brought her to tears. It sounds good, and has very good intonation, but it still needs lots of work. (The "Steel Ebonite" K9 mouthpiece is wonderful, and a testament to the owner's judgement.)

Can anyone here advise me on its value? I called Volkwein’s Music in Pittsburgh. I was told that they have seen a few by that name come through over the years. It is a private label, probably from some European maker, but he had no information. The aesthetic style of the keys is delightfully old-school. Perhaps it was old when our hero received it? We have no idea.
I would appreciate any opinions as to its possible origin and its potential value. We will then decide whether it is worthy of a first-rate overhaul.

It needs a few rods and screws replaced because heads are rusted and damaged, but they are not stuck now.

Thanks to The Clarinet Pages!

I'm starting a new topic (my first) to share my experience with hard rubber C clarinets made in China. This includes the Ridenour Lyrique RCP-570C (made over there, and tweaked in Texas, so they say). I have one that I bought new in April 2016.

Summary: I am giving a very quick review of the Lyrique, then moving on to the "songtailun" (STL) that I bought from eBay and received a week ago. I the new STL better! In fact, after about a day's work (I'm an amateur technician), it's really REALLY good. I loved the Lyrique, and performed well on it, but I'm going to sell it now. The STL is better all around, more consistent, and fits my hands better.

Ridenour fit and finish is mediocre. And, it wasn't tested or treated with any critical care. A couple of corks were too squishy so I had to replace them. I had to fine-tune a few toneholes too, and trim down the top of the socket of the lower joint to bring its top notes up in pitch (and close an inner gap). To acommodate my size-Large hands, I did some key grinding and bending around the L pinkie low-note keys to gain clearance, and made the L&R sliver keys narrower. It would be better for somebody with small hands.

Now, here's my review of the Song Tai Lun (STL) clarinet. I in late June 2017, and got it 2 weeks later. Cost was $149 + $49 postage to USA. It is listed on eBay as "New Advanced C key clarinet Ebonite Good material and sound". I figured it might be OK as a spare instrument, and maybe I would get lucky. The eBay seller is called "songtailun". The photos on eBay are watermarked STL. I saw similar listings from two other sellers, showing watermark STL or SONGWEI and some identical photos. The packing slip listed my shipper as Wei Song. Therefore, I believe the are all the same item. Perhaps my vendor is the original manufacturer? or one step away? Anywei, here is my review:

I wrote this detailed review as a way to thank STL / Songwei for selling an amazing instrument. I took it out of the case (a nice one), put my favorite Bb mouthpiece on it, and WOW! I was amazed by the rich sound and the quality feel. I have big hands (man’s glove size Large) but the keys fit perfectly. (On my other C clarinet, they do not.) The thumb rest is adjustable and has a big soft rubber cushion.

The body is hard rubber (ebonite), not plastic. It is great for the sound, and won’t crack. The pads are fine leather! They are fitted perfectly, every one showing perfect tonehole impressions. Thin pads are used where needed, to make the ring keys close comfortably. This is good attention to detail. The cork work is good, and glued strongly. I adjusted some keys a bit, and found the metal to be medium-hard. They won’t be bent easily. The tenon joints were super-tight. I greased the corks AND the inside of each socket, and left it assembled. After a week, the corks compressed enough but it’s still a bit too tight. In future, if that tight, I will sand corks before first greasing.

It did need some fine tuning. I found the C#/G# (left little finger) was a flat. I undercut the hole a lot to bring it up. The B/F# “sliver” key (right hand, between 2 and 3) needed a small undercut. Bb/F was playing sharp so I glued in material to make the right 2 hole smaller. Low F/C was flat so I undercut the hole a bit (3rd hole from bottom). Maybe they will correct these in the future. I made other adjustments especially to the 2 upper trill keys, but they may be highly individual and influenced by my mouthpiece and emboucher. On the workbench, I found the keywork to be mechanically precise. The screws and rods are high quality. Only the top 2 trills have a bit of play, partly because they share one rod.

I love the C horn! The sound is bouncy and very expressive. It’s great for the E. European Klezmer and jazz, using standard C music!. The Lyrique C cost me $1200. This one sounds better, fits my hands much better, and the workmanship is better! So again, it played well right out of the box but it’s best to take it to a good repair technician for adjustments. This is true with ANY clarinet! I feel blessed to have such a wonderful horn. I'll be happy to compare notes with others here. How about some other brave soul order the A horn from songteilun? (It's $10 cheaper!) Be sure to write.

Kissing the Black Muse!

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