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Leblanc Reviews (LL, L7, Concerto, LL/L7 "A")

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
The vintage Symphonie and Classic are small bore. I've had them and even though they are very well balanced and easy to play I found that they limited my expressionism (ease of more extreme dynamics). I'd definitely pick a LL or Dynamique/Dynamic above them especially if you are going to need the extra oomph in jazz.

Mouthpiece-wise. it doesn't take much to get more power from them.
For instance if you used a Vandoren M13, a M13Lyre would definitely work much better. But then so would a 5JB jazz (which is much more open).

I've found I use different mpcs for different genres.
If I was going to play chamber music I'd use a M13
Concert band - M13lyre.
then for more omph I have some vintage Woodwind K9 pieces that I use a lot.

As for more modern mpcs, it all depends on what you currently like, and what other options are available for the brand/model.

But the most important thing is learning how to play that new mpc. If you use the same embouchure/technique with a new mpc you'll end up just sounding the same with other technical issues.

I should also mention that I'm not a fan of Long Facing mpcs. I tend to stay in the Medium facing range for mpcs as it allows the reed to give a nice crisp response.
 
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Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
M13 is too closed for ease of dynamic flexibility. I think more closed than your 5RV.
I prefer my M13 Lyre (a little more open than the M13).

5RV .... maybe try a 5RV Lyre if you like it. A little more open and about the same.

the 5JB is the extreme of openness (next to the really open 7JB).

I don't have my mpc charts handy otherwise I might have a better recommendation.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
Chris the most important aspect of your sound is you. The size of your lungs, throat shape, tongue, lips, teeth. So it would be disingenuous for any of us to recommend only one instrument to you. But with those clarinets, any one of them will probably be fine to excellent for your specific physicals. In the best of worlds you could sit with each and give them a blow. A good teacher can help you in this endeavor. Good luck.
 
Chris the most important aspect of your sound is you. The size of your lungs, throat shape, tongue, lips, teeth. So it would be disingenuous for any of us to recommend only one instrument to you. But with those clarinets, any one of them will probably be fine to excellent for your specific physicals. In the best of worlds you could sit with each and give them a blow. A good teacher can help you in this endeavor. Good luck.
Hi, Well I do know how to play a clarinet, it's just been a while...I was first chair practically from the time I started playing in junior high all the way through high school...I thought it would be cooler to switch to alto sax which is what I've been playing...When I hit 50 I started missing my clarinet and have decided to finally buy one. My 7 year old has taken an interest in the sax but it's just too big for him so I thought I would be the good role model dad and go back to playing an instrument he can handle......So, here's the dilemma, I have the choice of a Dynamique (sn# 6**) probably circa 1955 or a Dynamic (sn67** circa 1970's. Both look to be in good shape - haven't played them yet..What do you think...is there something in the older build (quality of craftsmanship, etc.) that should have me leaning toward it???? Thanks for your help. Big purchase - I just want to get it right....
 
The vintage Symphonie and Classic are small bore. I've had them and even though they are very well balanced and easy to play I found that they limited my expressionism (ease of more extreme dynamics). I'd definitely pick a LL or Dynamique/Dynamic above them especially if you are going to need the extra oomph in jazz.

Mouthpiece-wise. it doesn't take much to get more power from them.
For instance if you used a Vandoren M13, a M13Lyre would definitely work much better. But then so would a 5JB jazz (which is much more open).

I've found I use different mpcs for different genres.
If I was going to play chamber music I'd use a M13
Concert band - M13lyre.
then for more omph I have some vintage Woodwind K9 pieces that I use a lot.

As for more modern mpcs, it all depends on what you currently like, and what other options are available for the brand/model.

But the most important thing is learning how to play that new mpc. If you use the same embouchure/technique with a new mpc you'll end up just sounding the same with other technical issues.

I should also mention that I'm not a fan of Long Facing mpcs. I tend to stay in the Medium facing range for mpcs as it allows the reed to give a nice crisp response.
I have the choice of a Dynamique (sn# 6**) probably circa 1955 or a Dynamic (sn67** circa 1970's. Both look to be in good shape - haven't played them yet..What do you think...is there something in the older build (quality of craftsmanship, etc.) that should have me leaning toward it???? Thanks for your help. Big purchase - I just want to get it right....
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
I tend to favor the newer instruments just from tweaks in keywork etc that may be there. Plus (hopefully) less over all wear.

The 1970s instruments were before companies started pushing automation and starting to take short cuts in wood selection/aging, etc.
So I'd go with the Dynamic just from it's younger age which will puts it at 40+yrs old.

Leblanc keywork even for older Leblancs is normally very solid. They were probably the best designer of keywork from the 1950's to their demise.
In other brands the keywork is normally vastly improved in newer instruments.

In older (pre 1950s) wood clarinets I've noticed some deterioration of the wood in some examples. So I now tend for newer instruments. You'll also come across air penetration through tonehole chimneys which need to be sealed, etc so you'll need a very knowledgeable tech to go over older clarinets.
 

TrueTone

College Student who likes wind instruments & music
LL - 1970

The Leblanc LL has a long history of a fantastic professional clarinet.

In mouthpiece testing I picked the LL because it has a "medium" 14.80mm cylindrical bore as compared to the two other instruments in my testing, a Selmer Centered Tone with a large 15mm cylindrical bore and a Buffet R13 with a polycylindrical bore. Thus the bore design would act differently to various mpcs.

I could have chosen a smaller 14.64mm bore Symphonie model to do this test. But the Symphonie, even though fantastic clarinets, always seem to limit my playing style. This "limit" is in relation to the amount of pressure one has to dictate to get good dynamics. Basically, (mpc excluded) the larger the cylindrical bore the greater ease of dynamics one can obtain. A duex or polycylindrical bore clarinet has differing dynamic capabilities due to the varying bore design.

Regardless, the LL has been one of my mainstays for a number of years. It is a fantastic sounding clarinet, ease of playability, great intonation, really good keywork.

In comparing it to more modern Leblancs it falls short in several categories. Thus the evolution to newer models and designs.

One, the keywork, though nice and smooth just isn't as smooth and nice as modern keywork on a Opus or Concerto/II This could be due to the shorter ring arms (un measured) thus quicker in a sense but not as smooth action.

Two, tone is superb, though dynamics is more limited due to the bore size. The Leblanc Dynamic (Dynamic H, Pete Fountaine models etc) are large bore and give greater ease of dynamics though with a more centered and reserved tone compared to a Selmer CT due to the smaller toneholes.

Though the LL is a great instrument with a great history, it is becoming harder to hold on to considering I have a L7 too.

If you play primarily concert/symphony settings the LL would be a great instrument to have. If you play in more performance, jazz or even big band settings the LL may limit ones flexibilities.
Well I bought one of these for $250 earlier today at an antique store. (that also had a nice Yamaha trumpet that I need to go back and get when I have money, as they want less for it than it's worth...) It needs a few new pads, but sounds extremely nice as is.
And maybe it's just how leaky it is, but it's currently giving me a bit of a headache to play for a long time as it's rather resistant as of right now.
Its UJ bore measured out to 14.78ish mm so it's definitely not been bored out to 15mm.
I'll get some pads replaced on it soon (hopefully tomorrow after a rehearsal) and then report back on how it plays then.
edit: oh, and it's from 1974, serial#407xx, and also came with a Vandoren 2RV, a screwdriver, Conn key oil, used reeds,(yuck...) and a very dirty swab which I threw away as soon as I had the chance.
 
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Leblanc LL v Leblanc L7 "A" clarinets

Initially tested with a Vandoren M13 mouthpiece, this becomes important later on as you will read.

Here I have two vintage Leblanc "A" clarinets that I've tweaked but have not refurbished as of yet. In my background I have loved both the LL Bb and L7 Bb. I've always liked the L7 Bb a bit more than the LL Bb as I've found it more flexible in dynamics with a good tone, though I've also really have liked the tone of the LL just a bit more as it is more colorful. I've always stated the LL is better at chamber music and the L7 at Jazz arena, though of course they can be used for any genre at any time. Just the idiosyncrasies of the two at the same time have me thinking that way. Back in the day when only the LL was around you used it for anything.

Looking at one of those idiosyncrasies, the air pressure balance of the L7 was a bit more stable over the entire instrument versus the LL which is a cylindrical bore and seems to have a variance as one plays down the instrument. This isn't as obvious as say a Selmer Centered Tone which is a large bore and large toneholes but one can still feel this variance with the LL, even if it is slight.

I fully expected a similar result with the sister "A"s, but it actually was a bit opposite.

Using the Vandoren M13 mouthpiece the LL A's tone seemed a bit more full and it was very well balanced from top to bottom. I was able to easily get some good dynamics out of the instrument with the fortissimos requiring a good (though not overwhelming) amount of air support.

The L7 A was a bit disappointing. The dynamics were not quite there. The tone was not as full and robust as the LL A. There was something a bit missing from everything, excluding the dynamic aspect of the characteristics.

Keywork and mechanics for both instruments were superb as normally is with Leblanc clarinets. The keywork is right where most people would expect it, right underneath your fingers. No need for extra finger stretching.

The L7 A did not have any of the problem of it's siblings Bb in regards to the nickel plating. The nickel plating on this A was superb, visually and by feel. In the Bbs it seems as though the nickel playing bubbles at finger touch locations causing an irritation to the fingers, much less the visual oddity and devaluation. Repair people have to spend some significant time sanding down bubbling nickel plating to get it smooth to the touch without making it look like it has plating removal due to the smoothing. But the L7 A has none of these deficiencies.

So in this particular case the LL A won over the L7 A with a fuller more round tone and excellent color. Whereas the L7 A just lacked a bit in all areas to the LL A.

BUT from past testing I've known the L7 A to wanting a bit more airflow. So now I pulled out my Vandoren M13lyre, which is slightly more open than the M13.

The extra air flow makes the L7 A come more alive, more of a full robust and slightly more spread tone than the LL A with the M13. Now the dynamics are an ease for the instrument, and the fortissimmos can be reached much more easily and more of it if needed. This is the way the L7 A should respond to the player.

Now reed response is different between the two clarinets. The LL A bore being a higher pressure and than the L7 A bore with the same reed/mouthpiece combination. This messed up my tonguing on fast passages until I adjusted between the two. The high pressure kept the reed reacting quicker, and thus a faster responding instrument with the M13lyre mpc. We are talking very slightly here but I have played a particular piece (Mozart quintet for strings) numerous times and when I swap between the two on a few fast tonguging runs I have to tongue slightly "before" I normally would on the LL A. This I have found a common problem when I use my long lay (facing) mouthpieces. But in this case we created this issue in relation to how the instrument's bore in relation to the back pressure is related to the mouthpiece/reed vibration. Very interesting science here.

But overall, the LL and L7 "A"s are very evenly matched. with the LL seems slightly better overall as it can handle a wide variety of situations and flexibility a bit better than the L7 while provided a slightly sweeter tone. The L7 is no slouch in this regards but the production run of the L7 was approximately from 1968 to 1978, and the LL's were far before, and after that L7 production (LL harmony clarinets continued even later). The L7 were known to have bad plating issues (L7, L27, L200, LX2000) but for some reason the "A"s were fine and LLs seem to be much better in that time frame too (truthfully I haven't kept track of LLs as the other Ls were more obvious).

So for me, I slightly preferred the LL A as being more mouthpiece friendly while providing a top notch playability and tonal color with the L7 being a slightly brighter instrument preferring the more moderately opened mouthpieces. Two fantastic A clarinets, neither are a loser in my book but both have a particular purpose if played next to each other, otherwise they are both perfect at any scenario the player needs.
Steve, I have a question about the LL A clarinet. I saw at an LL model and it had an A above the serial number on the lower joint and it also had an A on the bell. Does that mean it is an A clarinet?
 
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