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Topics - DaveLeBlanc

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The Legend:
These clarinets were made out of the wooden propellers of decommissioned or destroyed WWII aircraft.
There was a shortage of African blackwood (grenadilla) due to the rationing of the war.
Additionally, it was difficult to source large, solid pieces of wood to make instruments with.
So, C.G. Conn Ltd. directed their Pan-American division to scavenge the unused propellers of downed aircraft.
These propellers were the perfect size to make instruments with, and thus, the propeller wood clarinet was born!

The Truth:
In fact, nothing of the sort happened. It sounds great and may have been used in marketing or salesmanship lip-smacking, but there are zero indications that Conn actually used aircraft propellers to make these instruments.
In fact, Conn seems to have referred to these as "violin finish" themselves, and does not seem to have made any official announcements about the propeller-nature of the instruments.
Conn also made oboes out of this "propeller wood," but these are even rarer than Conn clarinets.

The wood itself seems to be some sort of laminated something. There may be some truth in the wood shortage, but that doesn't explain how every single other manufacturer seemed to have no problem producing grenadilla clarinets...
If the French could churn out countless stencils in the early to mid 1940s, then it seems unlikely that here in America the wood shortage was so severe that aircraft propellers had to have been used.

Additionally, some sources seem to indicate that this clarinet was not produced in the 1940s at all! Instead, they seem to have been made in the early 50s.

I still like the propeller story better.

Question of the year.

What, exactly, makes a professional clarinet considered professional-level?

There are three main components of a clarinet:
Key Quality
Key System

Most professional level clarinet (except Ridenour) are made of high-quality Grenadilla or ebony wood. This is a given.

Most professional clarinets have strong, sturdy, silver-plated keys. Some are nickel plated, but silver is generally seen as a signifier of higher quality.

How about key system?
In oboes, for example, professional models generally have more keys, allowing for more advanced fingerings.

However, in clarinets, more keys does not necessarily mean a more professional instrument. The most advanced key system possible for Boehm clarinets is the Full Boehm. This includes: articulated C#/G#, Eb bis key/third ring, left hand Ab/Eb, and low Eb key.

However, full Boehm clarinets are actually fairly rare as far as professional clarinets go. Most high end clarinets are "simple Boehm" - with none of the above features, just your standard Boehm.

Buffet, Selmer, Backun, Patricola, and most other high-end, high-cost clarinets stick with standard, simplified Boehm.

So the key system is inconclusive.

Other parts of a clarinet include:
bore type
tone hole type
quality control

Most high end clarinets, alas most modern clarinets in general have a poly-cylindrical bore. Standard bores are usually only seen in very old, or very low quality clarinets. So a poly cylinder can't be a signifier of professional level.

Tone hole type. Cheap clarinets usually have a tone hole insert, which is a tone hole made of either a separate or similar material, and then glued into the tone hole's place. Higher end clarinets usually lack this feature, with the notable exception of the Buffet C13/International which has inserts.

So with all this being said, does it really come down to quality control as the single most important thing one can point to? Most of the other features are inconclusive.

Lower-end materials can be made into higher-end instruments with good quality control (Ridenour) or with modifications (Windy Dankoff's adventures in Chinese clarinets).

What are your thoughts?

All about Clarinets / I broke a critical part of an Eb
« on: March 31, 2019, 12:10:55 PM »
On an Eb clarinet the lower stack 3-ring key shares a post with the upper stack A/D ring/bridge key.

That post has a little copper nub sticking out of both sides of the post for each of the keys to secure into.

I broke the nub that holds the A/D key in place.

I brought it to a local music shop and the guy said there was no way to fix it without finding a donor post from another Eb.

Does anybody have any ideas on how to fix this?

I was considering gluing the nub back on, but I’m not sure how strong that would be.

All about Clarinets / Is there any reason for a saxonette to exist?
« on: March 30, 2019, 08:31:17 PM »

As far as I can tell, the saxonette is nothing more than a standard Bb soprano clarinet with a curvy metal barrel and a curvy metal bell.

There doesn't seem to be any functional reason for this thing to exist. There may be a small argument that the upturned bell helps "project" the sound, but if you REALLY need that much extra projection then you can just play a bit louder for all the good the bell will do for you.

All about Clarinets / Absurdly high bidding on Selmer bass
« on: March 30, 2019, 12:50:17 PM »

So here are the two body sections of a Selmer bass. NO case, NO neck, NO bell.

And yet, it's bidded up to over $1200 so far. This is insane. You can get a perfectly nice, complete bass clarinet of pretty much any brand for that price or less.

What gives?

All about Clarinets / Noblet with plastic bell
« on: January 25, 2019, 08:03:53 PM »
We all know the Normandy Special's specialty was the resonite bell on an otherwise wooden clarinet.

I guess they did that with Noblet as well.


Music Memes / Squidward from Spongebob plays the taragato
« on: January 25, 2019, 06:05:53 PM »
Those of you familiar with Spongebob no doubt are familiar with the continuing trope of Squidward being a terrible clarinet player.

But what instrument does he actually play?

The most common image of Squidwards clarinet shows a black, keyless instrument with a heavily conical bore construction. Each tone hole appears to be metal, and the instrument has a two rings - one near the bell and one near the barrel.

This is a bit odd. The clarinet, keyless or not, does not have such a harshly conical bore. It cannot be a soprano saxophone due not only to lack of keys, but also to the color. It is obvious a black colored wood, or plastic, and thus we can rule out a saxophone.

What about a keyless shawm? Convincing at first, but the shawm obviously has a double-reed instead of a mouthpiece. Most representations of Squidward's clarinet show what appears to be a mouthpiece. For that reason we can rule out a shawm.

The only instrument left that could possibly cover all of these bases is a for of keyless taragato with metal tone hole inserts. Metal tone hole inserts are not unknown, as some Simple System clarinets have (for some reason) metal tone hole inserts flush with the body.

I propose the Squidward's "clarinet" is, in fact, a very early taragato.
By the 19th century, taragatos had keys, so this places the instrument between the 17th and mid-19th centuries.
The material is likely ebony with either metal or ivory rings near the barrel and bell. I would lean towards ivory due to the age of the instrument.
To explain the tone hole inserts, I believe that the since Bikini Bottom is underwater, wooden tone holes would be sensitive to water temperature changes, and would expand and contract too much for it to work well. By an aftermarket addition of metal tone hole inserts, the tone holes can be stabilized in the saltwater environment.

Although Squidward is ridiculed for his poor playing skills, it's not his fault. Remember that he is playing on a possibly 300-400 year old wooden instrument under the sea. He's just doing the best he can with an ancient family heirloom.

All about Clarinets / EBONITE McIntyre
« on: January 24, 2019, 08:46:05 PM »
This is neat. Every now and then a few more McIntyre clues pop up.


I don't think I've ever seen a non-wood McIntyre before. I have seen a wood McIntyre with hard rubber or ebonite barrel and bell, but never one with that material throughout.

All about Clarinets / Fact-Checking: The Resonance Tube
« on: January 18, 2019, 08:00:28 PM »

I'm pretty sure I have all my facts right, but I wanted to run it by you all first.

The article is still incomplete - I still need to add pictures and links at the end.

All about Clarinets / Call For Instructors - Clarinet Classroom
« on: January 18, 2019, 07:59:35 PM »
Hi All,

I've founded the Clarinet Classroom on clarinetpages.xyz. Here I hope to post educational articles about clarinets.

I don't know everything, so I was hoping that folks on the forum could donate their time and write an article about something they're very knowledgeable in.

For example, topics could include:
history of the clarinet
the physics of polycylindrical bores
why clarinets have a register key instead of octave key
how a mouthpiece works

And stuff like that.

If you are interested, please post it here, or message me directly.

All about Clarinets / AMAZING deal on contra alto clarinet
« on: January 15, 2019, 10:51:52 PM »

I already have one (that I overpaid for...)

But this is a GREAT price. It doesn't get much lower than this.

All about Clarinets / The Elkhart Fire Extinguisher
« on: January 09, 2019, 05:37:54 PM »
I have seen many saxophones marked "The Elkhart," and with an engraving of a buck.

Here is a fire extinguisher marked "The Elkhart," and with an engraving of a buck.

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