Tag Archives: Hardware

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.

Leblanc or Selmer – Best clarinet for jazz?

pattern_sound writes “So, im looking into getting a new clarinet. i have it mostly down to between a Leblanc Pete Fountain, and a Selmer Signature. I will be playing jazz, alongside some orchestral and new music type stuff. would the Selmer be more versatile, by less jazzy?”

Totally does not matter what kind of clarinet you play. What you should be looking/listening for is what kind of sound you want to get. If the Selmer is the sound you want, go for it. Same for the LeBlanc. Buffet might even be the clarinet for you.

Do different type of barrels influence the sound?

Anonymous Coward writes “Hey,
Does a different type of barrel influence or change the sound?? The other day I saw in a site hundreds of different type of barrels and I just wanted to ask you if it really makes a difference. Thanks”

To make a long story short, yes, it does effect your sound. It depends on the player, for some a different barrel changes a lot of things, for some, it doesn’t change hardly anything. Go to a music store that has some barrels and try them.

Is it wood or resonite??

akakoa writes “I have a Selmer Signet 100 series B flat clarinet. It’s serial number is 95593 and it was made in the USA.

Is this clarinet wood or resonite??”

Good question. I don’t know much about Selmer Clarinets. But, it’s usually easy to tell if a clarinet is wood or resonite. Maybe take it to a shop and have someone confirm what exactly it is.

Of course, we really want to know, does it BLEND.


“Most people will not have knowingly seen blackwood but almost everyone will have heard it, for it is the premier wood of choice for fine concert-quality woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes and flutes, as well as being used in the manufacture of bagpipes. Blackwood is also the finest material available today for producing ornamental turning. In its African homeland, it is used to make intricate and highly detailed carvings, and plays a vital role in the ecology of the East African savannah.”

The Blackwood Conservation website has lots of information about where your favorite came from.

Fobes on Clarinet Pads

I found this email off the Sneezy Clarinet List. It’s from clarinet master Clark Fobes and details his experiences with various pads on the clarinet.Subject: [kl] Pads, cork, skin, whatever

Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001 09:46:01 -0700


Reply-To: klarinet@sneezy.org

Pad installation is the ultimate challenge to the craftsman’s skill and sensitivity. I have seen work from repair people that are excellent mechanics, but never developed the skill of installing a pad.

One of the fortunate aspects of my career as a repairman was that I learned to repair all woodwinds (and brass and strings and percussion!). Before I
turned to the clarinet as a specialty I spent many years repairing other
woodwinds, especially top end flutes. Flute pad installation may be the most
difficult skill to learn with piccolo repair at the apex. Because of so many
hours leveling flute pads I developed a heightened sensitivity to the fine
art of making a pad to seal properly.

Over the 23 years that I worked as a repairman I encountered just about
every pad available and even experimented with some pad making of my own.
Here are a few thoughts.

Cork pads.

Cork pads are an excellent choice for the upper joint of clarinets. They
must be made from high quality, optical cut cork. Pre cut cork pads are
available from several of the repair supply houses. Select the best side and
gently sand it against a flat suface. I do this by placing a small square of
600 sandpaper on my jewelers anvil and then place the cork pad on the paper.
With index finger of my right hand I hold the pad down as I gently rotate
the sandpaper.

For proper installation on Buffet clarinets I buy 9.5mm pads and hand
cut a “ledge”and bevel away the excess so that the cicumference of the pad
lines up with the edge of the pad cup. This similar in shape to a standard
French style or “beveled” skin pad. This prevents the pad edges from
shrinking or retreating into the cup over time. I also use a glue similar to
hot gun glue. This remains some what resilient over time and has better
adhesion than shellac. Finally, I almost never see cork pads properly shaped
once they are installed. After leveling, the key must be removed and the pad
edges should be rounded with 400 sandpaper. This reduces turbulence around
the edge of the pad and consequently noise. I never use cork pads on any
keys that are sprung open.

Skin Pads

Skin or “bladder” pads are made from the stomach lining or intestines of
cows or sheep. This material has been used for about 150 years and is still
the best agent for covering wool or wool-like substances in the use of small
woodwind pads. The best bladder pads I have ever seen are those made by Bill
Brannen of Chicago. His pads are very “round” and emulate the feel and sound
of a finger closing a tone hole. I think part of Brannens success with those
pads is the particular felt he uses. I have no idea where it comes from and
it is probably one of those close guarded secrets that he may never reveal.
In fact, it is highly possible that his felt is no longer available. This
happens a lot in the music manufacturing business.

As I said earlier, the bulk of my overhauls in the past years were done
with a mix of cork pads and Straubinger pads. Thge Straubeinger pads are
rather firm so I developed a special technique to allow a bit of “give” when
the “E?B” pad an “F/C” pad of the lower joint work together. Remove any cork
from the “crow’s foot” and put a small dot of felt on the key surfaces where
the “crow’s foot” meets the key. This adds a bit of give and reduces the
feel of the pads hitting the tone hole.

If I have a customer that wants skin pads in the upper joint I use a
very firm, flat pad. However, I prefer a softer pad in the lower joint. This
produces a better legato.

Leather pads

Leather pads are most often used in the larger clarinets because they
will retain their shape better than a large skin pad. I don’t use “tan” pads
any longer. I prefer the white kid leather used for bassoons. J.L Smitth
1-800-659-6073 carries an excellent called “Lucien”. My only complaint is
that the pad is a bit too thick and the leather on the back must be trimmed
for some areas of the bass clarinet or basset horn.

Leather pads are much more porous than skin pads and fro the best seal
the area inside the seat ring should be sealed. Melted bees wax or parafin
works well.

Tim Clark of Columbus has developed a hand made pad that uses fine
leather covered with skin. These pads hold up well and feel great.

Valentino Pads and synthetic pads

Curiously, I worked for Pete Valentino at the old “MV: Music store in
Fresno when I was a very young man. Pete owned the store, but had been an
excellent repariman in his day. He began experimenting with synthetics in
the 60s. The best pad he ever made was a black pad that has not been
available for many years. I repadded the upper joint of my bass clarinet
with those pads in 1985 and I have not replaced them! The upper joint seals
like a bottle. I tried them for awhile on soprano clarinets, but I found
that over a year the larger pads compressed and “popped”. I agree woth
Gordon Palmer that the adhesive that Pete uses does cause the synthetic cork
to migrate.

I use the valentino synthestic cork extensively for key corks, but i buy
it without the adhesive backing and just use contact cement.

For a short period Pete also sold his “black” material as a key cork
material. When it was available I made pads that were cork covered with a
layer of the material. These pads worked very well in some problem areas of
bass clarinets and basset horns.


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