Rubber vs. Wood

Dubya writes “what are the differences in hard rubber vs wood for clarinets? I know plastic is the student model material, but I’ve seen pro stuff in both of the others. Is there a quality difference, or is it more up to preference? What would guide those preferences?” 

I can’t think of any “Pro” clarinets that are made of rubber. Never heard of such a thing. There are clarinets that are made of wood, wood and carbon fiber (called Greenline by Buffet), or ABS Resin (Plastic). None of these are rubber. Wood is the way to go. If you live in an area where cracking could be a problem, or are playing in situations where cracking might happen, the wood/carbon fiber is the way to go. Plastic is for student models. Wood simply gives you a better sound, and the cracking potential is very low. So get a wood clarinet.

49 thoughts on “Rubber vs. Wood”

  1. I received this in my email this morning from Sherman Friedland

    "The wood vs. rubber article is simply not true. Rubber has been used in making clarinets for years, and now is being used in quality instruments. The Arioso and the Allora, both made by the respected Tom Ridenour are made of rubber and they sound as good or better than wood and they never crack.


    The only thing about wood is that it is traditional. Actually a fine clarinet can be made from anything, for it is not the material but the thickness of the wall and how and where and if the tone holes are undercut..
    read "the mythof Grenadilla" and also please see this site for much valuable information for the clarinetist:
    http://clarinet.cc/ "

    And my reply:

    I have yet to hear a clarinet made of plastic have the quality of tone that a wood one gets. Can you name one professional or recording that can demo a good tone from a plastic clarinet? Now I know that plastic (ABS or whatever) Oboes sound pretty good, but they still don’t have the tone quality that a good wood one can produce. And isn’t that what it comes down to? Tone? Quality of sound? If wood is only “Traditional”, then how come professionals by the dozen have not forsaken their wood clarinets in favor of plastic ones?

    Thanks for info on the rubber stuff. I haven’t seen nor heard of Arioso and Allora clarinets (though I have heard of Allora flutes). I’ll have to check them out if any of the stores around here have them……….

    1. Just played a ridenour lyrique.

      Probably the best clarinet I ever played.

      Worlds better than my 1972 R13….or my early yamaha custom.

      Tone is MUCH sweeter in the altissimo…sweeter than ANY clarinet yet….including Selmer signature, selmer recital…even better than my buffet elite.

    2. The 926 and 10-10 Boosey and Hawkes models both came in Hard Rubber (Benny Goodman played HR), as well as grenadilla. So did some of the finest Harry Pedler 18/7 clarinets. PENZEL mueller also made exceptional Hard Rubber clarinets. All were professional models. There were others as well, and they were far more stable than any wood clarinet has the ability to be, with wnilst providing excellent tone.. These are not plastic (or “resonite”), but hard rubber. The fact that many professional model clarinet makers have recently departed the exclusive use of wood is further evidence to their viability in a professional’s hands.

  2. Yet another reply from the same fellow

    "Yes, I can, and have made recordings and play plastic whenever the spirit moves me.


    Wood is where its at? No, ,however clarinets have been made of other materials, notably silver since almost the beginning, and the reason plastic sounds not well is because plastic is not machined in the way that wood is, with fraising and cylindrical and poly cylindrical bores. They are inevitably very cheaply made and wood is not cheaply made. It is not the material, it is the thickness of the wall and the rest of what I said in my other little note. I have given numerous demonstrations on both a plastic and a wood clarinet and people cannot tell the difference, when the test is behind a screen. By and large clarinetists are very much bound by tradition, and are biased beyond belief. In the mid twenties Selmer made an absolutely beautiful metal instrument, full-boehm professional clarinet, however it was discontinued for tradition reasons.

    http://clarinet.cc/

    above is my website for clarinetists."

    And my response:

    Again, give me examples of CDs or professionals who have given up their “traditional” wood clarinets in favor of a plastic clarinet. Or someone who actually uses a mid-twenties Selmer clarinet. I find your arguement flawed. Musicians will play whatever plays well. If there is a plastic clarinet that plays better than a wood one, then professionals would be using them instead of a wood one. Name me a symphony player who plays exclusively on a plastic clarinet. Oboe players use plastic oboes, why not clarinet players? If what you say is true, a musician can get the same sound out of a well engineered plastic or rubber clarinet, then why are people not using them? If the instrument PLAYS, then people would use them. Your tradition arguement falls flat.

    Another example would be mouthpieces. You can engineer a mouthpiece to have the exact same specs as a “classic”, say, in this example, an Alto Meyer Brothers 5, the so called “holy grail” of mouthpieces. You can get the bore the same, etc, etc. But it doesn’t sound the same. It is the way the material resonates. Same is true with a clarinet. It’s the way the material resonates.

    Another example would be Oboes. I own a Loree wood oboe. I have a student who plays on a Fox plastic oboe. I’ve tried the Fox oboe. It plays really well. But it does not have to tonal qualities of a wood oboe.

    Yet another variable is the player. A good player can make anything sound good. One example would be my former teacher, who, as I remember, played on a piece of crap Vito Alto sax. Yet he could make it sound better than a student who owned a vintage Balanced Action Alto. But does he continue to play on the Vito? No, he has found a professional instrument that better suits the sound he wants to achieve. The same hold true for plastic clarinets. Yeah, a professional player can produce good tone on it, but is it the tone that they want? The absence of plastic clarinets in orchestras and symphonies seems to say……..NO.

    Wood is where it is at. If you cannot name a major clarinetist, or a good recording which the artist uses a plastic clarinet, then I see no support for your claim the material does not matter.

    1. Clarinet: Boosey and Hawkes, Model 1010
      Material: Hard Rubber (Ebonite) or Wood with Ebonite tone hole inserts)
      Clarinetist: Benny Goodman
      Which model 1010 Mr. Goodman played shall forever remain a mystery, but I suspect both.
      (He didn’t always play Selmer Centered and Balanced Tones, and in fact, for a number of years, he apparently ONLY played 1010 model B&Hs.)
      Hard rubber is an excellent product in which to make clarinets. It is almost unquestionably the finest material in which to make mouthpieces due to its density, uniform porosity, resistance to temperature and moisture, and projection capability over wood. It has a dark, warm timbre, and jazz players have long admired the sound, as well as the large bore of the B&H, especially.

      I have played a few well appointed and machined Resonite (not to be confused with Ebonite) clarinets, but most are intended for the student market. In fact, many even have the molding marks visible in the tenon joints that were never fully machined off. Ebonite (hard rubber) and the earlier, hard “Rod Rubber” of Henri Chedeville, or Lelandais stock, which B&H allegedly used–the stuff that turns greenish brown when left in the sun– is a completely different beast, and some of the best of its class. Further, another relatively new company making fantastic, pro-level horns of Hard Rubber is Hanson. Lastly, H.N. White and Henry Pedler both branded some very nice hard rubber horns in limited run, both of which were received in high acclaim, albeit in small numbers due to small numbers of production.
      Regards-

  3. Re. The reply; Listen to Kenny Davern recordings. He plays a plastic Conn that he has had for years. He doesn,t go for wood clarinets because of the problems of cracking and last time I spoke to him he was interested in a Green Line instrument.

    Selmer

  4. Sorry! On reading my comment I have just realised the confusion my nickname Selmer could cause. It rather sounds as if I’m saying the Green Line Instruments are made by Selmer which of course they are not. I hope this clears the point before we get a barrage of messages pointing out my apparrent ignorance!

  5. Sherman is on the right track. Actually the clarinet sound depends only on the mouthpiece, reed and the column of air vibrating. It can be shown acoustically that a clarinet mouthpiece inserted into a piece of plastic water hose will still sound like a clarinet – the material is not critical.

    In earlier times players in military (concert) bands in the US used metal clarinets and they sounded just the same. I have tested both clarinetists and other musicians by playing my metal clarinet and my wooden clarinet in another room – none so far has been able to detect a difference.

    I would suggest that any differences you hear depend on the quality of the clarinet and its design, not on the material used. If you were to get a top manufacturer to make an ABS plastic clarinet with exactly the same bore, same shape of the sound holes and the same top quality keys, springs and pads as their top model – it would sound just the same as the wooden one…

  6. See “Clarinet Acoustics”, by Lee Gibson for formants, etc. Blindfold tests show no discernable difference in timbre amongst instrument materials, but we all know the player makes a huge difference.

  7. I find this subject very similar to the subject early in modern science of whether light performs like a partical or a wave. The answer was both. So also here both sides are half right in my humble opinion which I will now seek to establish as more than an opinion. Wood has one set back that allows plastic or other materials to have a go at superceding it, providing that they add more than they subtract to what wood has traditionlally been offering. First it needs to be noted that there are two conflicting vital factors here that the law of symmetry declares needs to be given equal consideration, and that is the fact that the vibrations that travel through the body of the instrument do so at the expense of the vibrations that reflect of the inside of the clarinet bore, and of course visa versa. You can see why I get this deja vue experience, in that the first kind of vibration that I mentioned describes the vibrations (transmitted or radiated through the length of the inside of the body of the instrument)as those performing as a wave, and the other vibrations as a particle. It so happens that mostly the type of materials that are sensitive to picking up even finer vibrations are the very materials that also absorb the upper partials and sub tones just like a heavily curtained and carpeted room does compared with the inside of a gothic cathedral. So it is texture conflicting with tonal complexity. And if we consider three different materials for the body of a clarinet, say solid sterling silver, like with flutes, grenadillo wood and ABS plastic, where the solid sterling silver would reflect the most of the partials (harmonics) and the wood the least and the wood bodied clarinet would pick up the finest resonances and give the greatest sense of a three dimensional round and flexible tone and the solid sterling silver the least, even thought it may be made extra thin to pick be more sensitive or receptive to the finer vibrations. Just taking ball park figures and working out the product between these three choices with reference to the ‘law of symmetry’, I will first give an example of this law and how it works.
    I once saw a game of tennis doubles where of the four players, the best player was paired with the weakest of the four, and guess which pair won, 1×4=4, but 2×3=6, yes the middle pair won, and the game was world champion Bjorn Borg and his wife, woman’s Swedish champion versus world champion woman Chris Evert-Lloyd and her husband.

    So the ABS plastic of it was the middle with say a rating of 4 out of 7 for both resonance and harmonics and the solid silver had a rating respectively of 2 and 6 a and conversely the grenadillo wood had a rating of 6 and 2 respectively the product of the ABS plastic is 16 while that other two are only 12 each. So plastic rules, for the all round or most complete tone, but in the right hand of course.
    Scientifically an instrument should only be rated by how faithfully it brings out what is put in by the player so that most of us are unwittingly cheating by hoping to use wood to mysteriously make us sound better than we really are rather than reflect faithfully with minimum loss what we have put in.
    I am about to set up a business where I believe my ABS plastic clarinets will easily displace even the best of wooden clarinets such as the ‘Wurlitzer’ and the Buffet Crampon’s even though these wooden clarinets ergonomically will far surpass my clarinets, simply because the sound is that much more important than the comfort with which we play. For example, ergonomically most 10M Conn tenor saxophones (vintage of course) are really quite inferior even to an intermediate current Yamaha tenor student sax let alone a Selmer Paris Mark VI, and yet I would choose the best of the 10M’s over the best of the Mark Vi’s simplly because of the metal thickness and quality of the best 10M’s. Just like world champion Formula One racers are more concerned that their engines are the fastest compared to the handling and such like considerations that a champion can handle but not a car that is simply too slow. The material that an instrument is like the engine, just ask James Galway why he paid about $60,000 decades ago for his first solid gold flute. I heard a recording of him playing a solid silver flute and he would not have done rearly so well if that is all he had ever played he sound so much better on the solid gold.
    There is much more that can be said but I don’t want to spoil the innevitable discussion time that can be had agreeing and disagreeing with what I have said so far, keeping in mind that one should be able to say anything at all that they like providing that they can show just cause for saying it, that is the big ‘IF’.
    baroquerules

  8. That is interesting. I have tried Resin Oboes made by Fox. They have a nice sound, but still don’t sound like a good wood one.

    Science might say one thing, but my ears say another. Picking a Conn 10M just because the metal thickness and quality is better? That seems a poor way to pick a sax.

    I agree on the sound thing. If you can make a Clarinet that sounds better than a wood one, it would be a great thing. However, looking at the Oboe world, the best sounding oboes are still wood.

  9. baroquerules, you are out in left field. Really. Admin (ericdano?) makes a good point about Oboes. They have had huge developments with resin oboes, but pros still agree that wood is better. Clarinets? I would put more money on the wood/epoxy ones like Buffet does than an all plastic.

  10. yeah so if you can make a clarinet out of anything and have it have a good sound, why arent we all playing the metal clarinets o_O

  11. I play with a silver clarinet (a Silver King). The sound is very good (and not Jazzy).

    It’s just that the tuning of a metal clarinet vary a lot with the temperature! I, for example, am almost always too high tuned, and even more when my clarinet warms.
    NB: my clarinet is A440 tuned and I am french so we are A442 tuned here!

    May be another element is that musicians tend to be a little snobbish! (yes I know: like a lot of people)

    The music world is not very open to changes.

    Finally, it’s been a long time that brands pay or make gifts to renown players and “stars” to say that their instruments are the best ones, if not engaging them as ambassadors! It works with all kinds of products, musicians are like all the others: they can be influenced to buy what brands want them to buy!

  12. Since I posted the article about materials for clarinets I came across the H N White web site and found that the challenge to wooden clarinets was very real and they had exactly the same argument that I have used as a result of my own observations, and that is, that, just as the solid silver, gold and platinum flutes pushed out the wooden supremacy in flutes it should be the same for clarinets, and if any of you look up this site, run by survivors of this wonderful company H N White – King, it will tell you that Henderson White made the clarinets as good if not better ergonomically as the best of the wooden and so did Selmer and some others such as Haynes where one is for sale at US$8,000 ane another for $10,000 in a famous music store. Two things that turned aside the supremacy of metal over wood, were (i) that the market was flooded with so many cheap ones that it prejudiced people against the really good ones and (ii) Henderson himself would have achieved success if he had only made the whole bodies out of solid sterling silver because unlike the brass instruments the bell only favours a few notes. If, on top of this, he had gold plated over the solid silver bodies entirely made in solid sterling silver, and of course, I am referring to the inside of the clarinet, as that is where the surface material counts, then I doubt that wood would rule as they do. As far as I know I am the only person to have plated in this way and already the daugther of the person that I have worked out many of my ideas with, immediately, and most uncharacteristically, upon hearing me play this prototype to her father, from the echoing large modern tiled bathroom of their home, decided to take up the clarinet, she told me that although she had heard manly clarinets before they had never made her want to take it up like now.
    I have heard a solid gold flute live in Auckland,Town Hall and it filled the town hall more than the trombones and french horns at any volume. Gold is like that, and also when I was videoing both my mighty King Super 20 Silversonic in our local high school hall late last year and my prototype internally plated Holton metal clarinet, the Holton easily filled the hall out, just like the gold flute, and at any volume, in a way that it never could have before I plated it. I have not thought of doing this to my King yet because since it is the best sax that I have ever played I want to be sure if I can, that all of the saxes that I sell will outplay my King and for much less than my King would cost to replace.
    I will also be putting standard, at cost, my a matching pair of Hites, a rod rubber J&D and a silver one of my own making and faced by my favourite facer, Brad Behn, who in my opinion leads the world by quite a margin in providing us with the premium rod rubber not seen since the original Chedevilles of the 1930’s.

    Finally, our top technician in Auckland told me how impressed he was when he heard the solid 14 carat gold Yani alto last year at Frankfurt Expo, and of how it was the amazing projection was immediately noted plus the fact that the player played it first so that the solid silver model sounded like nothing after it. He is a very sensible person and a great bandsman as well and I doubt he would have any trouble passing a blindfold test on this.
    Regards to all.

  13. Just so you know, your argument for ericdano’s argument about tradition is wrong. All you have to do is look at violins as an example. violins are and can be made with more accurate and precise mechanical tuners now. These, believe it or not, give an even better sound than violins with traditional tuners, because they allow for direct connection to the tailpiece for all strings. Even though this has been proven in various studies, professional violinists have refused to make the transition to mechanical tuners. This is only because of tradition, and is much like the same thing as what’s going on here.

  14. Since I posted the article about materials for clarinets I came across the H N White web site and found that the challenge to wooden clarinets was very real and they had exactly the same argument that I have used as a result of my own observations, and that is, that, just as the solid silver, gold and platinum flutes pushed out the wooden supremacy in flutes it should be the same for clarinets, and if any of you look up this site, run by survivors of this wonderful company H N White – King, it will tell you that Henderson White made the clarinets as good if not better ergonomically as the best of the wooden and so did Selmer and some others such as Haynes where one is for sale at US$8,000 ane another for $10,000 in a famous music store.

    Are you quoting the sale of an antique? Is that a realistic comparison?
    The trend of metal in flutes is really a 20th century thing, and it certainly didn’t really hold for piccolos, piccolo players seem to use wood over metal by a wide majority.

    Two things that turned aside the supremacy of metal over wood, were (i) that the market was flooded with so many cheap ones that it prejudiced people against the really good ones and (ii) Henderson himself would have achieved success if he had only made the whole bodies out of solid sterling silver because unlike the brass instruments the bell only favours a few notes. If, on top of this, he had gold plated over the solid silver bodies entirely made in solid sterling silver, and of course, I am referring to the inside of the clarinet, as that is where the surface material counts, then I doubt that wood would rule as they do.

    That is really sketchy history and analysis there. Perhaps the whole endeavor failed because they just don’t sound good? Maybe clarinet players wanted a more woody sound?

    As far as I know I am the only person to have plated in this way and already the daugther of the person that I have worked out many of my ideas with, immediately, and most uncharacteristically, upon hearing me play this prototype to her father, from the echoing large modern tiled bathroom of their home, decided to take up the clarinet, she told me that although she had heard manly clarinets before they had never made her want to take it up like now.

    So the Bathroom test is proof? What? That’s cool that someone has a prototype of a new clarinet. Great. But hearing it in their bathroom, and not really comparing it to a wood clarinet? Maybe if we had Benny Goodman come and play in their bathroom on a plastic clarinet she’d want to play on a plastic clarinet? Maybe all the clarinet people she had heard up to the bathroom test were not good?

    I have heard a solid gold flute live in Auckland,Town Hall and it filled the town hall more than the trombones and french horns at any volume. Gold is like that, and also when I was videoing both my mighty King Super 20 Silversonic in our local high school hall late last year and my prototype internally plated Holton metal clarinet, the Holton easily filled the hall out, just like the gold flute, and at any volume, in a way that it never could have before I plated it.

    Actually, the best metal for a flute is Platinum. Sir James Galway did a blind test a month or two ago, and played like 10+ flutes out of his collection. All of different metals. Platinum was the winner. Though, I’m sure Sir James could fill a hall with anything he played, wood, plastic, paper. A good player can do that.

    I have not thought of doing this to my King yet because since it is the best sax that I have ever played I want to be sure if I can, that all of the saxes that I sell will outplay my King and for much less than my King would cost to replace.

    Probably not a good idea to replate a saxophone. It, more often than not, changes the sound in a bad way. Most saxophone players like their lacquer off.

    I will also be putting standard, at cost, my a matching pair of Hites, a rod rubber J&D and a silver one of my own making and faced by my favourite facer, Brad Behn, who in my opinion leads the world by quite a margin in providing us with the premium rod rubber not seen since the original Chedevilles of the 1930’s.

    I haven’t heard much about Behn.

    Finally, our top technician in Auckland told me how impressed he was when he heard the solid 14 carat gold Yani alto last year at Frankfurt Expo, and of how it was the amazing projection was immediately noted plus the fact that the player played it first so that the solid silver model sounded like nothing after it. He is a very sensible person and a great bandsman as well and I doubt he would have any trouble passing a blindfold test on this.

    Ah yes, Yaniagasawa. They had a huge hit in the 90s with those silver saxophones (or part silver ones). Then, in 2000ish, they had those Bronze ones that everyone ditched the silver ones for. I don’t think they even make those silver ones anymore. Now, they are making Gold ones? With the price of Gold? Yikes. I’ll stick with my non-gold Mark VI, thanks.

    You have some interesting ideas, but until I see a major clarinet artist start using a non-wood clarinet because they “sound better”, then it really doesn’t matter. We tried metal clarinets last century. They make great lamps and wall decorations now. Clarinet players want that sound that they get from wood.

  15. Hi there!

    I can tell you that you can’t make the difference between a wooden and a metal clarinet IF THEY HAVE THE SAME POSITION, SHAPE… OF HOLES (excuse me, since I am french I don’t know the exact technical words)

    Yes, top players play with top instruments and nowadays top clarinet makers only make clarinets out of wood!

    Do you ever question the fact that we almost all play with Boehm clarinet?
    As far as I know, Oehler clarinet are better tuned and can even play quarter tones!
    But sadly they are more difficult to play!
    The brands we all think are top clarinet makers, are simply the ones who choose the Boehm system at the beginning and decide to be kind of industrial rather than stay small factories. They just won the “commercial” battle!

    Do you still think that we play wooden Boehm clarinet because they are better or because we are told so?

    How could a major clarinet player play a non wood clarinet since only good clarinet he can find are wooden ones?

    If I can make an analogy: we all know that todays car engines are not the better engines but we have no choice because we can almost only find that type of cars (unless you are Cresus)
    Or the same for windows… We all know that this definitely not the best for computers, but it’s the more easily found and more important: the vast majority of people is acustomed with and don’t want to change! (I don’t even mention the dominant position which enable to communicate more than the others…)

    If all is made for you don’t knowing about something, how could you know there is something better than the one you know?

    There is a non wooden clarinet (Buffet Crampon Green Line) that some top players have choosen.
    Strange no? When Buffet decide that something is as good as wood, because they sell it, players buy it!
    But if it’s someone else who tells it, they don’t believe him?
    How can people be so blind?!

    1. Correct , as far as I am concerned a greenline is a plastic clarinet – I dont care if they have mixed sawdust in it !
      But if Buffet say its ok – then it must be ok . And like sheep everyone does .

      1. Um….so think about what you said. Plastic would be 100% plastic. Green line ones have something like 90%+ of the material being wood. Now, sure, it’s not a natural chunk of wood….but it’s certainly not plastic at all. And clarinets I’ve played that were green lines sure don’t sound like their plastic cousins.

  16. The reality is that most of us start playing the instruments that are available to us and are influenced by the advice of others. I’m just starting clarinet, having played soprano and tenor sax – a reversal of the usual process. I therefore arrive at the instrument with at least a part- formed saxophone embouchure.
    The range of second-hand instruments here in Australia is very limited, particularly in a provincial suburb so I buy over the internet, occasionally on eBay.
    Looking at reviews and prices I bought a nice Conn 424N – large bore – and a vintage Link Tone Edge mouthpiece to replace the plastic Yamaha someone passed on to me. By a fluke the combination works for me. The horn blows freely from top to bottom with few problems at the throat or across the bridge. Another player might find the combination unusable.
    One factor for me is that I want to be able to sell my instrument if I upgrade. I have seen Tom Ridenour’s website, though his instruments have yet to come on the market here. I also accept his own evaluation of them, along with Sherman Friedland’s endorsement. However I recently saw one of his clarinets sold on eBay for a derisory price – I was tempted to bid but am happy with my current horn.
    The argument that the prejudice against hard rubber (ebonite) instruments is a consequence of the poor workmanship previously applied to such instruments has a ring of truth, and given my experiences with mouthpieces it would probably be a great mistake to bracket hard rubber with plastic.
    Of course the ultimate mistake is to assume that, in finding the combination of horn, mouthpiece and reed that at present works for me I have found the ultimate instrument for everybody. We have different mouths, tongues, lungs and experiences and these all colour our sound as much as they colour our preferences.
    Fundamental rule: If it works for you it works for you.

  17. The argument that the prejudice against hard rubber (ebonite) instruments is a consequence of the poor workmanship previously applied to such instruments has a ring of truth, and given my experiences with mouthpieces it would probably be a great mistake to bracket hard rubber with plastic.

    Not at all. If a hard rubber clarinet was such a great thing, makers like Buffet and LeBlanc would have switched to it rather than plastic. In fact, Oboe companies would as well. A lot of high end Oboe makers offer Resin upper joints (the one that generally cracks), but not ones make of Ebonite. Well, they DO make them, except they are found on low end Oboes. So, you can deduce what that means.

    Of course the ultimate mistake is to assume that, in finding the combination of horn, mouthpiece and reed that at present works for me I have found the ultimate instrument for everybody. We have different mouths, tongues, lungs and experiences and these all colour our sound as much as they colour our preferences.
    Fundamental rule: If it works for you it works for you.

    This is true, but it goes away from the original discussion, which was that a Rubber Clarinet sounds as good as a Wood one, if not better. When Eddie Daniels or some other amazing clarinet player actually says “yeah, well, this clarinet is just amazing over my wood one” and can go and list why, I’ll play attention. Otherwise, I think the argument that rubber is as good if not better is rather moot.

  18. Leslie Craven, the principal clarinettist for the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, performs using ebonite clarinets. Specifically, the Ridenour Lyrique.

    Crazy Brits!

  19. I think that you need to approach this topic from a rational standpoint i.e. what does is sound like to you and your critical listeners. Any argument from what Joe Blow or any other clarinet player uses is really irrelevant, especially when players are sponsored or otherwise rewarded by playing a certain instrument. As for makers using wood as opposed to ebonite (hard rubber) then there is a vested interest in marketing wooden instruments, not least the need to replace them as they wear out/crack and so on.

    I personally use a Ridenour Lyrique RCP-5768C Bb ebonite clarinet with one of Tom Ridenour’s hand finished mouthpieces, though I also use a Vandoren B45. I have tested this instrument (with the same mouthpiece and reeds) against a wide variety of clarinets, everything from the cheapest ABS Buffet B-10, through all Buffet models, up to and including the R13 Tosca, Vintage, Prestige and so on; various Selmer models, all Yamaha models and several Leblanc models (though not the high end since they are not stocked locally).

    My conclusions are as follows:

    For focussed sound, evenness and intonation, only the Leblanc Sonata came close – most of the Buffet models were either uninspiring (Tosca) or uneven (R13 standard and below), as well as being poor in intonation throughout the registers. One R13 Prestige was exceptional and was arguably richer in the Chalameau register than the Lyrique, though not quite as even through all the registers.

    My conclusion is that for me at any rate, the Lyrique offers a blend of evenness, intonation and quality of sound unrivalled at any price. It does suffer however, in that it does not have the “ego” factor of a high-end wooden instrument such as a Buffet R13 Prestige or Tosca,

    It also does not need so much loving attention, nor does it suffer from atmospheric changes like a wooden instrument.

    If you want to buy a wooden instrument then you MUST test them yourselves with your own mouthpiece and reeds – every instrument is different and some are poor, no matter what the price. I know several professional orchestral musicians, and they test many instruments before selecting one – most will only buy from the factory. They know how variable wooden instruments are and cannot afford to have a poor instrument. Most of us cannot do this and would be better off with the consistency of an instrument like a Lyrique.

    Remember, that when metal woods were first introduced in golf the purists ridiculed them until they saw how effective they were. In golf however, there is an absolute measure i.e. distance and accuracy, whereas in music there is much “smoke and mirrors”.

    Please let your ears rule in choosing between a professional instrument such as a Lyrique or a high-end wooden clarinet.

  20. I play a wooden Selmer clarinet, a plastic B&H Emporer clarinet and a Silver E Flat clarinet of unknown parentage. (no makers marks visible, bassett system and antique). My judgements are of necessity subjective, but I would say that all of them give me the tone that I want. Also, all of them sound bad if played badly.While choice of material and quality of construction are vitally important in tone production,the technique of the player and the choice of mouthpiece are also major factors, and are often not given sufficient weight. A friend gave up on a Yamaha, and said that it sounded like a duck. I put a different mouthpiece on it (Selmer AH*) and for me it played like a dream.

  21. You can sound great on just about any clarinet, like chris m said. But I will admit that I am highly partial to solid wood clarinets. They just sound so good. Never got shivers when listening to a rubber or plastic clarinet play:)

    Yes I have seen rubber clarinets – I didn’t like the tone.

  22. I’ve read alot of replies about how the material affects the tone or doesn’t affect the tone. My question though, has to do with ease of playing. My goal when playing is for the sound to come out as natural as possible without me having to do alot of compensation or adjusting to create the tone I want. Yes it is true that a great player can make any instrument sound good, but how does it “feel” to play on the different materials? Any opinions?

    1. There are a lot of good plastic or whatever (rubber or composite) that play well. It just doesn’t “sound” the same as a wood one. And it certainly feels a little different.

      I guess you need to figure out what sort of sound you like, then go see how the different clarinets work for you. I still think that wood is probably going to win out.

  23. I agree that wood is going to win out. I have played on composite clarinets, plastic clarinets, clear plastic clarinets, metal clarinets, and some student-line wooden clarinets. To me, none of them match up to a fine professional-level wooden clarinet. Even a top quality composite wood clarinet does not have the same depth or flexibility of sound.I believe that when a person reaches a high level of playing she or he will hear and feel the difference. Other clarinets will serve their particular purpose as a person moves through various levels of musicianship. Also of course, if you’re playing a gig outside in the winter, the composite clarinet will be the way to go. Finally, I personally feel better about my music if I’m playing on real wood.

  24. Whatcha gonna do when da good quality wood eventually runs out. And that ain’t far off, it’s called depletion of natural resources.

    1. Oh geeze……yeah, like people won’t plant the trees and grow and harvest them specifically for use in woodwind instruments……LIKE THEY DO NOW.

      Idiot

  25. Oh Geeze Ericdano , I forgot about that little detail, yes they have begun planting new trees about 20 years ago in places like Mozambique and Madagascar and even here in Australia apparently someone in Queensland has started up a plantation. But there’s some bad news for ya . It takes about 70 years for this type of hardwood to grow to maturity and that’s only if the trees survive the wood borers which love the stuff. So hang in there for another 50 years. Oh , but there’s plenty of ebony type woods in Indonesia if you don’t mind the lower grade. That source is usually used for carving elephants and other ornaments.

      1. Welcome to the modern world of depleted resources. Lower grade wood will always be available but be prepared sometime soon in the near future to pay anything up to $US12000 dollars for a Clarinet made out of good quality wood. That’s if ya silly enough.

        1. Of course, you did not figure in Mr. Obama’s out of control printing of money, which will lead to inflation the likes of which we have not seen. So, I expect that gas will be easily $8 a gallon and things like Clarinets that are imported will be at least that, but not because the wood is scarce but rather from all the import tariffs and VATs that will be added to it.

    1. This reminds me of the story (true) of the forest Nelson had planted of oak trees . They figured there might be a war in the early part of the twentieth century and they were dead right – its just that we did not need wood for battleships , technology had moved on .

      1. Yet wood clarinets are still what everyone plays on……

        Honestly, look at the oboe world. A fox plastic or resin oboe is $2k. Does it play well. Yeah. Does it play as well as a wood oboe…..no.

        Case closed

  26. I play mostly on a Buffet R13 Vintage, which is of course a wooden clarinet. Giora Feidman used a clear lucite Buffet B12 student model to record the Klezmer folk music on Schindlers List. He sounds better than I do–period. Of course that may have more to do with his skill rather than what the instruments are made of. Feidman also plays on wooden instruments.

  27. Out of all these comments Gero makes the most logical sense. My personal situation/ example would be like his. I know that windows sucks ass compared to a mac. BUT I’m used to it, in my opinion it’s more streamlined and easier to get the same result with less effort, and my memories of mac’s in elementary school were bare bones “DOS” type computers. I still associate that with mac even tho I’ve used friend’s macbooks, have the knowledge they never crash and are far superior to windows, and are equally if not more equipped than a pc. Once a stigma is set it’s almost irreversible. Take for example The Hyundai Genesis. I’ve had a Mercedes S500. I went and looked at a genesis for the hell of it. The Hyundai was a beautiful car, “dressed to the nines” and had just about as good of quality, (I’m sure even better quality considering that was back when Mercedes was daimler chrysler). BUT I would never trade my Mercedes for a HYUNDAI. The history and legacy of Mercedes is worth more to me than the quality and craftsmen ship of the Hyundai. But if Hyundai so chooses, it can and will become the next luxury car, just as toyota did with lexus… People got use to the fact that a normally “lackluster” product (japanese and korean vehicles) can be made to compete with the hierarchy of german luxury. To me, lexus could never out do a benz, even though they may already have. Come on! The very first car was a benz! To me it’s he pinnacle. As it may be with your wood clarinets. Give me what ever sounds best and I’m happy I don’t care about ergonomics and ease when it comes to instruments. The more difficult the better. It’s stimulating.

  28. Gero has it right. It is more the sound and placement of the holes dimensions and so on that make the clarinet what it is. It is more the player than the played instrument. It is more the prestige than the practical. It is more the traditional than the technical. Sound is created by the reed and the player, lungs, mouth, physics and the mouthpiece. The rest of it is just an escape artist of harmonics. I make an Armenian Duduk here in America out of Apricot wood, which is traditional to Armenian instruments, but am open to other woods or even hard rubber as well. Simply because it can work, not because it’s good better or best. Armenian makers rarely, if ever, oil the bore of their Duduks. I coat the outside and inside of my Duduks I make with Almond Oil. It gives better tone and resonances as the surface of the bore now does not become the absorption of the sound rather the carrier of the sound waves. I would rather have a hard rubber clarinet simply because it will sound exactly like the wooden clarinets but without the influences of dryness, warmth, cracking etc that is prone to wooden instruments. I’ve heard both, and prefer the sound of the Ridenour clarinets to anything I have yet heard.

    1. Totally disagree. I haven’t tried a rubber clarinet, but I have lots of experience with oboes. There is a huge difference between a wood oboe and a non-wood oboe. Same with Piccolo. So then you guys with the insane ideology that it’s not the shape it’s the holes and dimensions come along…..it simply doesn’t hold water.

      When Eddie Daniels switches to an all rubber or plastic clarinet, then we will talk. Otherwise…..I just don’t believe it. All the evidence I have of playing instruments, mouthpieces, etc, the material does factor into how something sounds.

  29. Wow. It’s weird reading an old article like this. I’m sitting here with a professional Liberta hard rubber clarinet. I tested it against the R13, Tosca, and Yamaha CSVR. This thing plays and sounds way better. I do think wood will fade as boxwood did. Hard rubber already replaced the most important part of the clarinet which is the mouthpiece.

    The same thing is happening with reeds. Berlin Phil has their clarinetists playing synthetic reeds. Even one of their oboes. I know professional bassoonists using synthetic reeds now. It’s a new world my friend. A better enlightened world at that!

  30. Pro player performing with plastic clarinet (not joking)
    – obviously not me in the video, and it may be that Genisson was paid to perform with the plastic Buffet –

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