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Couesnon Monopole

Discussion in 'Other Makes and Models' started by Roger Aldridge, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Roger Aldridge

    Roger Aldridge Composer in Residence Distinguished Member

    I've come to consider Couesnon Monopole clarinets to be something of a "best kept secret". Since I have two of them in superb condition I'll let the secret out so others can discover what a treasure Couesnon clarinets can be.

    I have David Speigelthal to thank for his rave comments on the Woodwind.org clarinet forum about vintage Couesnon clarinets. This inspired me to look for a Couesnon. The alinements of the Universe must have gotten behind my search for a Couesnon. Within only three days I found one that had just been restored. Not only that, its price was a fraction of the cost of a new R13. My first impressions of this Couesnon were extremely positive. I especially fell in love with the Couesnon's dark, vibrant sound and its consistancy of tonal quality throughout its range. When I took the Couesnon to my repair tech for a check over he raved about the high quality of its grenadallia wood and overall craftsmanship. After Eric's adjustments the Couesnon was even more impressive.

    This Couesnon has a 285xx serial number. Amazingly, though the Woodwind.org forum I was able to get in touch with another clarinetist who has a Couesnon only 6 serial numbers away from mine. Even more amazing, he is the original owner and still has his Couesnon's sales receipt. This enabled us to date our 285xx Couesnon clarinets to 1960.

    After playing my Couesnon for a year I decided that I needed to have another Couesnon as a back up. Happily, I stumbled upon a 70's model Couesnon on ebay being sold by a repair tech I recongized from the Woodwind.org forum. The starting bit was only $450. Remarkably, it turned out that I was the only bidder. My repair tech found several things that needed to be fixed on the clarinet. This added $200 to the ebay price. Still, it boggles the mind to think of getting a pro-level grenadilla wood clarinet for $650! This Couesnon has a 348xx serial number. Since it appears that there are no Couesnon serial number lists in existance, I have not been able to determine the exact production year for this clarinet. 1970's seems to be a reasonable ballpark estimate.

    Comparing my 285xx and 348xx Couesnon clarinets, I quickly discovered that their parts are not interchangable. Therefore, Couesnon made some design changes between the two models. I asked my repair tech to measure their bore sizes. The 348xx Couesnon has a smaller bore than my earlier model and is more Buffet-like in terms of its bore size. Performance-wise, it's my impression that the 348xx Couesnon has a bigger sound, more "ring", and a greater level of projection. My initial comparision was done with a Grabner K14 mouthpiece. I've recently discovered that a Grabner K11e gives the 285xx Couesnon a greater amount of ring and projection. So, it's a matter of experimenting and finding the mouthpieces that are an especially good match for the particular Couesnon model.

    I've come to use the 348xx Couesnon as my primary clarinet. Happily, a few months ago the same ebay seller put a 65 mm Couesnon Monopole barrel for sale, I was able to get it, and it fits my 348xx Couesnon.

    For me, vintage Couesnon clarinets have characteristics in common with 1930's Buescher saxopohones....which I also dearly love. I've come to feel a special bond with vintage Couesnon clarinets. For whatever reason, it seems to me that Couesnon is a perfect match for what I'm looking for in a clarinet.

  2. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

    I think well cared for older horns are a much better bargain for most players than a new Tosca. I have a couple of vintage Conn's and a vintage Noblet that work well for me. I've never tried a Couesnon Monopole clarinet but own an alto sax.
  3. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Yah. When I was searching for modern Couesnon serial charts, I saw a LOT of writings that said these were good horns. I'm unlikely ever to get one, but it's something to keep in mind!
  4. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

    Do you need an alto? It's on my list of horns to sell. Come on . . . everyone needs another alto (except me - my wife says five is too many).
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Clarinet or sax?

    The next thing on my "big expenses" list is an overhaul for my wife's Selmer Omega alto. If you were talking really, really cheap bari or bass clarinet, I might be interested.
  6. Ed

    Ed Founder Staff Member Administrator

    alto sax.

    I have a cheap bari available too. It's ugly as sin though. Old Vito (Beagnier) Low A.

    I'm trying to get rid of a few horns since five altos appear to be too many and four bari's are definitely too many. :emoji_smile:
  7. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Mmmmmm. Might talk with you, elsewhere, on the bari. I don't see the horn when I play, so what do I care how it looks?
  8. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    anyone know what this thread is saying about the Couesnon Monopole ??


    actually... i just want to know what a "Malerne profissional taco" is?
    Is there beginner and intermediate Tacos ? What is Taco Bell vs Taco Loco ?
  9. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Portugese, isn't it?
  10. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

  11. Courneson Serial #s!

    As my first ever post here on TWF I am hoping to be of a little help. Found this by scrolling down a little on the clarinetmania forum referenced in preceding posts.


    Ah- just saw that Steve has previously listed these data on the Clarinet Perfection site. I will leave this post as is, however - so that it might have an additional opportunity to be noted by those interested.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  12. OK-Purchase!

    Just tonight bought a Couesnon clarinet for $87.00 including shipping on "that auction site." Solely because of this forum. Pictures looked very good - obviously I will not really know until the instrument is delivered and tested. But? For $72 dollars plus shipping? Serial number unknown - but pictures not demonstrating obvious problems? Has to be a reasonable chance at a bargain, I think.

    People - without my new addition to this forum - I would NEVER have even heard about this clarinet maker. And would never have bid. No fear - if this turns out to be a total clunker - not that much money has been expended.

    Wish me good fortune.

    Ah- timing between posts? Totally at the whim of the gods, whomever they may be. I got engrossed in the Woodwind forum and then, when checking on an E-Bay Leblanc clarinet that I am watching - saw this Couesnon! Looked good - bids were essentially non-existent - so I thought. Go for the gusto. Talk about immediate turn-around.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  13. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    That's an old page .. text left there just in case people (and bots) have it cached.
    here's the newer page with the pictures


    fyi, that's my website :)

    any new pics or information is greatly appreciated
  14. Couesnon History

    Having just purchased an old Couesnon SA clarinet, I am searching for info as to its' actual age. Turns out that essentially ANYBODY with an old Couesnon instrument of any type is also seeking the same, because a fire in 1969 destroyed the archival records of the company, which is still in existence (more or less) after over 180 years.

    Access this link to find out more:
    This info has also been posted, essentially verbatim on a few other message boards over the past few years.

    Since my newly acquired clarinet is marked Couesnon S. A. and it is NOT a Monopole, I am guessing it must date between 1931 and the very early 1950's. Currently unplayable, so it will be a while before I can address how the instrument will eventually actually sound.
  15. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

    Couesnon was reformed in 1931 and their serial numberage changed. I heard about their fire. Happened with Selmer and Buffet, too.

    I would think that pre-1931 instruments followed the same theme as their saxophones and they'd stamp a number on your horn in a grenade-fruit. The number is when the horn was made.

    1931-1937 saxophones were ... interesting.
  16. Serial Number

    My Couesnon S.A. clarinet has NO serial number, but the local pro technician today thinks that it IS a real Couesnon and not a stamped knock-off. The woodwork and key work seem to indicate this, but, again, only more time will tell the true story.
  17. Dave Dolson

    Dave Dolson Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    Aldo: Much depends on the individual characteristics of each instrument.

    That overhaul price doesn't sound unreasonable to me. If it were me (and mind you, I don't know either of these brands except to think the Evette isn't the same quality as Buffet's pro-line horns, but I could be wrong) I'd have the Couesnon overhauled.

    Many of us can tell tales of stumbling across a no-name horn and finding a real player. I've done that before. Recently I was gifted an old Triomphe C-Albert System clarinet (wood, Made In France). I had it overhauled locally and it plays very nicely. You pays your money and . . . DAVE
  18. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    The Couesnon Monopole is designated as a professional instrument back when it was made. The Evette a student level vintage clarinet. I know alot of people have faith into the Evette but I would prefer the Couesnon between the two when comparing two well setup instruments.

    As to the "old wood - ain't good" comment many professionals and semi-pros prefer their older instruments. It has been stated that after approximately the year 1978 the "wood hasn't been as good". Of course this also is around the time the "old world craftmanship" was introduced to mechanization.

    As long as a clarinets body is in good shape it can be "revitalized" and brought to a new condition. Many prefer the tone of older clarinets versus the newer ones too. When you hear names such as Leblanc LL or Selmer Centered Tone these have not been produced for a while and are of course an older model but still revered by many players.
  19. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator


    The Evettes were really nice student instruments ... but it's a student horn. Having a completely overhauled professional horn isn't a bad thing, even if it's old. Old doesn't necessarily mean "bad", especially when we're talking clarinets -- provided the clarinet is pitched A=440hz or A=442hz.

    Now, if the Couesnon has bands, pins or cracks, that's a different story.
  20. Dave Dolson

    Dave Dolson Distinguished Member Distinguished Member

    I forgot to address that comment about old wood being not so good. My favorite trad-jazz clarinetist plays a Buffet Albert System clarinet made in 1887. The horn sounds great! DAVE
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