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Author Topic: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread  (Read 27386 times)

Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2016, 12:23:14 AM »
Oh, that little print ad from 1958 about the 3* Bettoney:
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2016, 03:55:38 PM »
I took a few more shots of the Boston 3* Plateau. I've been playing it daily now for a few days, getting used to it. This clarinet plays very well. I can play 4 Ees with relative ease using the Penzel Mueller Artist MP and a LaVoz medium reed. The response, tone and projection are really good and as I get used to it, I can get it to do most of the things I want it to.

The first shot in bright sun shows that the bell and barrel are the same material, but not the same as the ebonite body. These parts are both original to the instrument and are Bakelite. There are several other clarinet makers that used similar material combinations. Many times we assume a part that is a different material is not original, but often the original parts of vintage clarinets were made from combinations of materials. In the case of this 3* it has an ebonite body with Bakelite bell and barrel. There are also Bettoney wood models with Bakelite bell and barrel and those that are completely made of the processed wood Bakelite composite, as well as some that are completely ebonite and some wooden ones with ebonite bells. It seems that Bettoney very frequently made clarinets featuring more than one material.

The second photo shows it set up with the Penzel Mueller Artist MP. This particular one is hard rubber. Penzel Mueller made some Bakelite mouthpieces as well as some hard plastic ones. I'm using my standard braided and waxed cotton string ligature with a LaVoz medium. I use this mouthpiece with several different clarinets so it's a good one to use to compare the Bettoney and it works well with it.

In overall appearance, the 3* doesn't look too different from a standard 6-ring clarinet. If it were fitted with dark inlays on the plateaus, it would be a stealth plateau model.

The last photo shows the back side of the lower joint bridge key mechanism, and it shows how each plateau key is separately adjusted to close the B key and lift the lever. Getting these adjustments correctly set is critical to getting this to play like a well set up 6 ring clarinet.
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Online DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2016, 05:16:48 PM »
That bridge key mechanism is definitely pretty interesting.  I guess it has to be there, as each key has to move independently of the others due to its plateau mechanism - meaning that converting a normal clarinet to plateau would require quite a bit of creative fabrication...
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2016, 09:08:53 PM »
Each one of those LJ plateau keys has an independent wire spring. There's a short post that has a spring coming out both sides. There's a lot of stuff packed under that one rod. Regulating it is setting up three keys to operate the B and bridge > Eb exactly the same way. Once it is working, it works very well. It is very tight key work and I notice that the post locking screws are almost everywhere. It's very well built.

Converting ring keys to plateau keys would be quite tricky on most clarinets because on most of them the ring keys operate on a solid rod with a pivot screw. Independent plateau keys require a rod. My guess is that the tone holes have to be somewhat different sizes also. I'm interested in what this one measures under the plateaus. Whatever the approach to getting the intonation right, it was successful. My guess is that a plateau design is a bit tricky for a number of reasons. Bettoney seems to have thought this one through pretty completely.
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2016, 08:19:09 AM »
I started wondering about the price of the Boston 3-Star plateau in the ad and what that would translate to in current currency. The ad was from 1958 and I was born in 1959, so I do have some first hand experience with the prices at that time and what the instruments my siblings and I played and how those were priced. The 3* was close to par for the course.

Inflation is the common term we use to describe currency dilution. According to the ad, the 3* was $142.50 in 1958. Using this convenient DOLLAR$ to dollar$ conversion page here: http://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=1&year=1958

So, this nice little Boston 3-star should get the respect it deserves because this is a clarinet that was priced at $1186.78 in today dollars. What kind of clarinet would that buy you today? I should tweak it and put it next to several new clarinets in that price category to see how it measures up in performance. Right now, I can tell you that it is an easy player, but to really do this correctly we need blind side by side comparisons. I might try to do this. This instrument is so close to brand new that I could probably convince a few youngsters that aren't clarinet historians that it is a prototype model of a new instrument and get them to compare it to what they are playing in school and then have them guess the market price of the soon to be manufactured "prototype".

That would remove the bias toward new if this were presented as "innovative new ergonomic key technology" and "high-tech all weather composite materials".  What would the consumers think about this clarinet if they didn't know it was an antique?

Of course there are many factors that go into comparing an economy at one point in history to an economy a half century later, but for general purposes the comparison is useful.

The more interesting aspect of it is that even though it is still exactly the same clarinet and in near perfect condition, I paid less than 50 today $$ for it. That illustrates the consumer value of "new" vs. "antique". It is worth(?) less than 5% of its' original value according to the current sales events. Completely tweaked with the best pads available, it would be difficult to get even 25% of the original value. This is not a "functional" antique in poor/fair cosmetic condition. This one is near perfect. Just to drive the point home, here's one more good photo of the 3*
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Online DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2016, 09:06:01 AM »
I guess people just won't want it unless it's a new Selmer or buffet. This might have something to do with many band directors and private tutors recommending brand new instruments to their students.  There's obviously nothing inherently wrong with vintage, but the market value is just so low.

I like your idea of a blind test. It should be fun to see the reactions when told that they were actually playing on a 60-year-old instrument!
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2016, 02:32:29 PM »
If you go to the primary 2nd-hand selling site, there is an option at the top of the page to "shop by brand", and of course they only give you three choices. There are good used and vintage instruments made by those brands, but the way it is presented is as if those are the only brands of clarinets that ever existed. Vintage is a whole different category. My approach is to ignore those 3 brands because I realize that everyone else is being directed to them. I'm picking in a different orchard entirely.

I am sure that the band directors and "educators" in general are quite responsible, if not accountable. Add the peer pressure factor that determines most student choices and it's down to which company has the best PR department. It was the same when I was a kid. We all had Conn Director cornets, saxs, and trombones in my beginning band class. A couple of kids had other instruments. If it was something old, they were made to feel like lepers. Old was definitely not "cool" during the 1960s. And generally the older instruments that a school owned would not be in good repair so the lack of proper repair and maintenance reinforced the idea that new was always better.

And the band directors are too young now to remember any of these old instruments and lost brands. If I were a band director, I'd be nearing retirement.

One of my friend's kids had a Bachinese trumpet fail on him and I looked it over and thought that it was not really worth fixing. I gave that child an instrument that cost me less than the repairs his needed to play again, if it could even be fixed. It took a pencil point dent in a valve casing and that was it;- frozen valve. A Conn Director might have been scratched by something like that, but not ruined. So I set the kid up with a 1961 Conn Director with the Coprion bell. His band director had never even seen one and was quite impressed.

The young band directors have no idea that these are commonly available and of course all of the later student horns are so poorly built that the assumption is that any instrument that is old must be worn out. All it takes is the typical disparaging snob comments that other students with new vanilla instruments make on web forums and the vintage market becomes primarily the territory of collectors.

So I am thinking now, what would the reaction be of a band director if a student came in with this 3* plateau clarinet in a generic black zipper case for first year band? It's Bakelite and hard rubber, so it looks very similar to the plastic clarinets. And it looks brand new. "Hmmm. I  see you have a ... Three Star???? (it doesn't even say Bettoney on it anywhere) Is that something you bought on the internet?" "No, my Mom got it from the Silversorcerer.... ;D" "Well, yes that looks very nice.... But the keys, they look;- let me see that...."  :o "No, Susie! If I let you use that one it would be like cheating!" Which is entirely my point. This one is the "head start" model.  ;) Go, Susie, go! "Susie, I think your instrument is defective. Every time I use the C# side key it moves the Eb ring key....." "Well, yes Mr. B.D, that's a defect patented about a century ago....."

I could see why a band director would favor the common flavor;- and it is mostly a selfish reason.

 I remember one older cornet in my first year that belonged to Cathy Jackson and it had belonged to her grandfather. It was French and it was raw brass and heavily engraved. It was probably from the 1920s or 1930s but we all thought it was ancient in 1971. It was probably a good instrument, but Cathy got a Conn for Christmas;- so she would have one like everyone else. Even then my Conn Director was ten years older than most of them and had a factory re-fresh done on it. Mine was like new but about 3/4 the price. It had nickel highlights. I could spot it among the rest of them because of the nickel details. Those nickel on brass details of my first cornet could be why I favor your two-tone trademarks.

Almost all of the flutes and clarinets were Bundy. One girl had a Selmer clarinet that was made of wood and we all thought that was pretty old fashioned. It also had the old style hard wooden box case. If a company could get in good with both the major local music store and the school board, the sales of new instruments were a foregone conclusion. Does it work the same way now? Everything is the same except there are fewer band programs, fewer students, and fewer brands of instruments. It has become a binary marketplace. If there are more than two choices, it's too confusing.  ???

One day I want to be a band director. And if you want to play, you must have an instrument older than your parents. It can be any brand except brand new. That would save them enough money to pay me to restore their instruments.  ;D
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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2016, 03:08:06 PM »
There's definitely a stigma on older instruments.  When I was in high school, not that long ago, the only kids without new instruments were the poor ones who had to rent from a shop or the school.  Without regard to playing ability, they were immediately seen as second-class players.

I always think it's fun to bring something different to a rehearsal and watch people hem and haw and try to figure out what's going on.  Once I brought a metal clarinet to the music store asking where I could get some screws and posts for it.  The repairman looked it over, gingerly, and said "is this a flute...?"

I currently play a metal alto clarinet and nobody can figure out what it is. 
Is that a saxophone? 
No, it's an alto clarinet. 
Don't you mean alto saxophone? 
No, I mean alto clarinet. 
What's an alto clarinet?
and so on.

Luckily, our resident instrument prodigy knows even more than I do about old instruments (one of his *many* instruments is a 1920s Heckel contrabassoon) isn't fazed by anything i bring in.  But everybody else is left scratching their heads, trying to figure out what the heck a "Kohlert" is.
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2016, 09:03:40 PM »
Mostly I just show up with really old instruments, and usually not the same one twice in a row.

The only really odd instruments I have are circular mellophones. They look mostly like French horns so that is what people think they are. I have a couple that can be tuned to any key from D to F. So I can read sax parts or French horn parts depending on how the slides are set. It does have a sound similar to a French horn so that is very useful to be able to have that sound but be reading an alto sax real book chart. It's a jazz French horn, sort of. I think there was only one person who released a jazz album using a mellophone. Conn did make one that has a circular body with an in line bell and lead pipe. Those are closer to marching mellophones used now, but it still has the circular body.

The confusions that surprise me are when people don't know what instrument my Frank Holton trumpet or very normal Pedler clarinet are.

I'm thinking this 3* could slip under the radar at a jam session;- particularly if I were to put some black masking tape dots on the plateau keys;- stealth plateau mode. It does reduce the chances of squeaks and squawks here and there that happen with leaky finger technique, but there is a down side to these keys. They are quite slippery and I don't get as good a grip on the instrument. I think the masking tape would also resolve that issue.
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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #24 on: May 19, 2016, 02:08:37 PM »
OK, after a few days practicing at home with the Boston 3* I took it to a rehearsal and am happy to report that it blends in quite well on supporting parts and can also shine well on a solo. The intonation was quite impressive. It doesn't suffer from bi-polar intonation disorder. I switched between it and my wooden Pedler Premier and there was not any real noticeable difference in the way it sounds. It has really good tone and dynamics and can be played with equal expression. I am using a Goldentone 3 on the Pedler, which has more edge than most of my hard rubber mouthpieces. It's some kind of hard plastic. The tone of the 3* when played with the hard rubber mouthpiece is very close to the Pedler with the Goldentone.

The only thing that really can't be done with plateau keys is glissandos and the same could be said for plateau keyed flutes. Certain rhapsodies might be compromised. Even so, I still think a plateau keyed clarinet is a better instrument for most beginners. What I see with the current situation in school bands is that students are expected to upgrade their instruments to the so-called "step up" models between junior high band and high school band and many of them do.

The expectation of a middle-school to high-school upgrade means that the beginner instrument could be a plateau model like the 3* and speed rather than impede learning progress. It would allow a beginner to focus on the embouchure and tone production more than on covering tone holes and I think that would be a big help to most beginning clarinet players. The trumpet players get away with three sealed valves with buttons and the flute players get keys with pads so why should the clarinet players be made to suffer such difficulty? Glissandos are not necessarily advanced technique but typically that is not expected of a two or three year school band student.

So what kind of common sense type of musical instrument maker is going to build the 21st Century 3* plateau-keyed beginner clarinet? I see a completely untapped, albeit revolutionary opportunity.

It really needs to be someone who isn't trapped by the corporate stagnation in innovation. It needs to be made of hard rubber for durability as well as great tone. It needs to be available at a beginner instrument price point. I'm putting it out here as a challenge, an invitation, an opportunity and offering an already existing successful design model in the Boston 3*.

Is there a clarinet maker out there hearing me?  ;)
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Offline andybeals

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2016, 07:44:01 AM »
There's definitely a stigma on older instruments.  When I was in high school, not that long ago, the only kids without new instruments were the poor ones who had to rent from a shop or the school.  Without regard to playing ability, they were immediately seen as second-class players.

I always think it's fun to bring something different to a rehearsal and watch people hem and haw and try to figure out what's going on. 

I keep hearing from other woodwind people that (a) wooden instruments are "blown out" over time and (b) cracks (that go all the way through) are inherently fatal. 

As a woodworker, I know that wood does shrink (and grow) with humidity/temperature, but also that wood gets harder (and darker (how much varies by species)) as it cures.  Generally, most of this hardening has happened before the billets are slapped into the lathe and formed into a clarinet.  I can certainly understand subtle changes to tone-holes (which is why we value our technicians' ability to regulate our instruments) and post-holes (which can be filled easily enough), but save for a major defect, which would/should have evidenced itself in the billet stage, changes to the instrument should be minor.  As a tropical hardwood, grenadilla (blackwood, mpingo, zebrawood, Dalbergia melanoxylon), it's going to be resistant to bugs and moisture, and relative to the other members of its genus (Brazilian rosewood, cocobolo, Indian rosewood, tulipwood, etc.), it's even more water-resistant. 

As an endangered wood, more effort should be put into conserving the clarinets we already have. 



As to bringing old instruments into rehearsal, I've passed around a Clemens Meinel B♭ clarinet (full Boehm, with German-style rollers on the G# and F keys, but it has the expected cluster of five keys under your right-hand pinky) to the other clarinetists and they found it to just "felt strange" under their fingers, even though it "played well" for them.  (My only complaint about it is that the mouthpiece socket is wider than normal, which requires a freshly-corked mouthpiece rather than one that's been compressed over time.)  I've also brought in a century-old stencil-horn cornet after I had it lovingly restored and showed it to the trumpet section behind me.  While I had heard them talk about playing cornet parts, little did I know that some of them not only swapped to a cornet to play those parts (I'm sure the composer is thanking them for that), but also at least two of them pulled out their own antique cornets to show to me, as those are the instruments they like to play on. 



This chart suggests a 0.5mm difference in tenon diameter between a German mouthpiece and a French one. 

http://www.schwenk-und-seggelke.de/englisch/klarinetten_birnen.php

Martin Freres suggests a 0.35mm difference

http://martinfreres.net/clarinetcatalog/accessories/barrels/clarinet-barrel-frequently-asked-questions-faq/

Maybe I'd be better off getting a barrel made for my preferred mouthpiece.  (Fobes)
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #26 on: June 01, 2016, 06:55:08 AM »
I double on cornet myself, and prefer a 1919 Conn New Wonder. It has three "plateau" keys. I think the open hole version is a kind of wooden horn called a cornetto.

There definitely should be a concerted effort to restore more older wooden clarinets. What I observe is similar to what I observed with acoustic guitars;- the farther back you go the better the quality of the wood. With clarinets it also seems like the fit of the key work is better on the older top end models;- and the metal of the key work is also a better alloy base metal and better plating.

There are wooden clarinets that become very distorted and ovoid to a very obvious degree. Some of those are beyond redemption. The typical shrinkage we see that causes loose bell rings not of much consequence.

Minor changes in the shape of the tube due to weather were generally anticipated by woodwind makers. I see this often on clarinets where I can follow the grain orientation at least through the two joints, but very often through the barrel as well and less often the bell. The strategy is more easily observed on maple recorders. If the parts are made with the grain matched around the diameter then the parts are less likely to develop a poor fit and become loose or stuck at the sockets.

The collective perception of new is somewhat flawed particularly with regard to wooden musical instruments. New does not equate to "perfect" and can't equate to perfect because the wood is a dynamic material. If it was perfect the day it left the factory, then it will not be perfect 6 months later because regularly playing will have caused it to change. Hopefully it will not cause it to crack, but sometimes it does. If what is "perfect" is stability in the wood, then it becomes more "perfect" with age. It might need adjustments to compensate for aging, but that is a result of the dynamics at work in the material. Once the material settles down a clarinet will probably not need adjustments as frequently.
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Online DaveLeBlanc

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David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
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Offline Silversorcerer

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #28 on: June 21, 2016, 06:50:35 AM »
That's nice enough that a couple of pics for the record are in order. I love to see how different makers approach this concept. When it's all 7 plateau keys, the concept is an end unto itself. When it is 6, it's an early learning step.
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Offline philpedler

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Re: Official Plateau Keyed Clarinet Thread
« Reply #29 on: June 26, 2016, 05:36:27 AM »
I just want to say thanks for this thread! Great idea, Dave!
The interest is higher than ever in plateau clarinets because of the number of senior bands today.
They're great for arthritic hands.