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Author Topic: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.  (Read 3199 times)

Offline Airflyte

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I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« on: April 07, 2017, 06:54:39 PM »
Yeah, this was listed as just an "Elkhart Clarinet" from shopgoodwill.   The only thing Elkhart about it is the Pedler barrel ( a nice HR one at that).  The rest of the horn is hard rubber as well.

I couldn't tell from the pics but there's some trauma to the body where a post is mounted but has been "repaired" if only to make it functional. It looks like crud though.

Another clarinet to put on the "someday" list. I'm actually getting my downstairs workshop back up and running. That's where I used to spend long winter nights building RC airplanes and sailplanes. Somehow, the workshop turned into a storage facility . . .

Here's some pics, I could not find any serial number. Notice the single post on the LH pinky keys.

« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 06:57:54 PM by Airflyte »
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2017, 08:15:26 PM »
That looks like it will clean up real nice, and a Pedler barrel is not bad, but might be a little short. The post fix looks like what I would try to engineer if I was a better tech.

I lucked into a Couesnon in a similar way. It was listed as a Penzel Mueller and that is the only reason I even looked at the listing. The only sharp photo was of the case with the Penzel Mueller long metal tag, not the round eagle tag. There was one or two relatively sharp photos that looked like it was a nice clarinet, but these were from the back. In one photo I could make out the Bb LP mark on the lower joint. I looked at the wrap around register and thought hmm. It might be an OK risk. Nothing looked broken at least. I could tell the seller had probably taken a return on it from someone dead set on a Penzel Mueller and was frustrated. The description was "I am selling what's in the photos. That's it." It was a best offer situation and I was mostly just curious. Turned out to be a nice wood Couesnon imported by Sherman & Clay, marked very plainly on the bell, but nowhere else except for a very small FRANCE imprint on the back of the lower joint and Bb LP on the barrel and just below the register valve on the upper joint and at the bottom center of the lower joint. No serial numbers. It has the trademark rounded top Couesnon trill guide, and I have since compared it to several other similar Couesnon clarinets. The keys look like this one with the shared post on the lower joint. The only thing Penzel Mueller at all was the case.

The barrel on the Sherman & Clay Couesnon is 68mm;- on the long side. When you get it into play testing, if you have tuning problems with the Pedler barrel, I've got some spare long barrels that might work well. Some Normandy barrels are long like that also.
- Silversorcerer (David Powell) exclusively for Phil's original “The Clarinet Pages" forum

Offline Windsong

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Re: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2017, 09:27:01 PM »
Oh, that appears to be a fantastic acquisition.
Does it play at all?  1930s?
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Offline modernicus

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Re: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2017, 07:39:08 AM »
I'm throwing in for 1900-1930...
If you ain't got 'em, that's why you need 'em...

Offline Airflyte

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Re: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2017, 08:36:30 AM »
The barrel on the Sherman & Clay Couesnon is 68mm;- on the long side. When you get it into play testing, if you have tuning problems with the Pedler barrel, I've got some spare long barrels that might work well. Some Normandy barrels are long like that also.

68mm, wow. I will mess with the Coueson tonight. Thanks for the reply. Your clarinet sounds like a good one.

Oh, that appears to be a fantastic acquisition.
Does it play at all?  1930s?

1930's?  Hmmn . . . around there somewhere. Does anyone have a rough estimate of when "LP" markings became irrelevant?
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2017, 08:36:47 AM »
I'd narrow it down to 1920s-30s, perhaps?
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2017, 08:38:36 AM »
The barrel on the Sherman & Clay Couesnon is 68mm;- on the long side. When you get it into play testing, if you have tuning problems with the Pedler barrel, I've got some spare long barrels that might work well. Some Normandy barrels are long like that also.

68mm, wow. I will mess with the Coueson tonight. Thanks for the reply. Your clarinet sounds like a good one.

Oh, that appears to be a fantastic acquisition.
Does it play at all?  1930s?

1930's?  Hmmn . . . around there somewhere. Does anyone have a rough estimate of when "LP" markings became irrelevant?
I don't think I've seen them on any later than a clarinet that could be reliably dated to the 1930s.
I'm racking my brain and I think the latest LP I saw was on a boehm M. Lacroix with double posts for the LH pinky keys, which should be of a later date than any clarinet with just a single post.
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: I finally scored a Couesnon . . . well, most of one.
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2017, 10:27:20 AM »
The US government (and many others as a result of treaties at the end of WW1) adopted the A=440 standard in 1920. The American Federation of Musicians moved quicker than Congress and adopted it in 1917. That started a shift in the designs between 1917 and 1930 as the LP standard at A=435Hz instruments were gradually redesigned to the A=440 standard. It couldn't happen over night because too many musicians were playing LP (A=435) instruments. While the difference is very small, it is not as negligible as most think. I think this may be why we perceive the intonation on LP instruments to be worse than the later A=440. I'll need far sharper knives to cut that idea clean. I just don't have the Conn laboratory at my disposal.  ;)

In fact we are trying to force LP instruments to be "a little out of tune" with themselves. That's no big deal because Albert Cooper and the promoters of A=442 are doing the same thing AGAIN! RESIST! Odd that the low notes are flat almost no matter what we do? And if we alter the barrel it all goes awry, with some up and some still down. The reasons may be more complicated but in general, LP was a different pitch standard than A=440 and the designs changed. I have many instruments, flutes and clarinets that illustrate this very well. Polycylindrical design doesn't really come into play too much in the lower register. It should be possible to get almost any clarinet in tune from top to bottom below the register break. When we are continually approaching that problem with barrel length, we might just try playing in a slightly warmer room. Air conditioning could be the prime reason we wind up barrel swapping. Lowering the temp 1degree Celsius throws the wood wind pitch as much as 2 cents flat. 5 degrees and it is way off.

On trumpets and cornets, the availability of the second set of slides for HP disappeared first, round about 1922. A 1919 Conn New Wonder that I have still had both sets, HP and LP slides. A 1922-24ish Frank Holton trumpet that I have clearly has LP stamped on the receiver. By 1925, the Conn trumpets are only A=440 and have no pitch standard marks anywhere. I think Dave LeBlanc is correct in that any reference to HP or LP is gone by 1930. It probably was gone even sooner in France where the treaties are usually signed. The French were in favor of a single standard in 1859 and readily embraced 440 because when the "standard temperature" was considered, this was extremely close to the French A=435 standard which was specified at a different temperature, and we all know that temperature and humidity are the true determinants of the pitch at the moment regardless of what was built into an instrument at the factory. Looking at the 1902 JTL catalog, it is obvious that makers knew how to build an instrument to any standard. JTL offered even customization in that regard. And the history of pitch inflation in the French opera also proves that instrument makers had to know how to make in tune instruments at continuously fluctuating pitch standards. The pitch standard changes kept them real busy;- and profitable.

Find a few other Couesnon clarinets to compare it to and see if there are other details that also appear or disappear (the shared lever post comes to mind as does the adjustment screw on the A/G# arrangement). The elaborate bell markings of the French makes also seem to have changed about the same time as the pitch standardization. The prize banners and all the other scroll that is common on JTL, Couesnon, early Kohlerts, and others seems to disappear some time in the 1920s also. So by the bell, this one is older.

Regarding the barrel length, I have found several pairs of clarinets of identical make that have big differences in barrel length. At first I thought this was some kind of shortening of the clarinet as a whole but more examples proved otherwise. When the barrel got shorter, the upper joint got longer, retaining the same distance between the reed tip and the register key port. The barrel design is what changed with the trend moving to shorter barrels. So it is that distance between the reed tip and the register port that is critical, not necessarily matching a barrel length on an example even by the same maker. I have two Henry Gunckels that illustrate this, Penzel-Mueller Pruefer, Pruefer, and Penzel Mueller that also illustrate this, and some others. If that Couesnon is later than mine, it could be the same way;- tall upper joint with shorter barrel. In that case the Pedler barrel might work just fine. If not, then seek a longer barrel until the clarinet is in tune with itself top to bottom in at least the low register. I want to get myself one of these telescoping barrels so I can use it to figure out improved barrel lengths. But given that the barrel was the first part where a conical bore was introduced, even a telescoping barrel does not give us the whole picture. I think it would be better than nothing.

While barrel swapping has its' perils, generally it is fairly easy to find a barrel that works very well with a little experimentation and you won't be able to do that until you get it playing and even which mouthpiece you choose will factor into it.
- Silversorcerer (David Powell) exclusively for Phil's original “The Clarinet Pages" forum