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The Buzzing Reed: Clarinet Breeds and Behaviors


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
David Thomas' blog, the Buzzing Reed has a thought provoking piece on categorizing the tone of the "big three" clarinet makers.

"As far as the difference in tones, I firmly believe that (unfortunately) there is no standard tone for the clarinet. Everyone is happy that the clarinet player just doesn't squeak. I personally think the big 3 makers – Buffet, Selmer, and Yamaha cater to different needs – Buffets have the best (sweetest) tone with the best key work (if you don't get a lemon) and are more for solo work. Selmers are the darkest and heaviest, their key work is different than the Buffet, but in no way negative. They are good for large orchestras. Yamaha has the best consistency instrument – if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all. In my mind, these make the best military and band applications, where there is much more uniformity in tone and intonation."



Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
And what of Leblanc?


I sorta agree with the characterizations, but my opinion is that the Buffets I've played (older R13s) are milk chocolate, the Selmers I've played (10, 9, Centered Tone) were dark chocolate (i.e. both have similar character and are equally irresistible, but one's a bit sweeter than the other). While I haven't played the Yamaha pro clarinets -- just the 34s and lower -- I think that they have a balance between dark and milk chocolate. However, I also think a lot has to do with the player, reed, ligature and mouthpiece. Not to mention barrels ....