I have been quite fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Tico Musica S.A., the main distributor for Buffet Crampon in Spain. It has been a great experience to exchange opinions with such professionals regarding the production of instruments.
If you are a clarinettist you may know that there aren’t two clarinets that sound and feel the same when you try them, even if they share the same brand and model. Most modern clarinet bodies are made out of African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon). Every clarinet is carefully measured and milimetrically adjusted by machines at the factory, but the wood fibres will always differ from one another and this will change the sound of the instrument. If you are thinking of buying a new clarinet my advise would be to try as many as you can. I hope this post will help you to get a clearer perspective on this subject.
Tico Musica provided me with a fair range of models to try, as well as fixing any minor corrections required to achieve a more accurate intonation and evenness in the sound of those clarinets.
I find it quite intriguing how renowned clarinet manufactures such as Buffet Crampon are restlessly offering clarinettists new models and innovations in their production of instruments. As a player I find that with so many choices it may become a difficult task to identify the sound you are looking for.
Buffet’s clarinet production has been based on two kinds of bore design for many years, the RC bore and the R13 bore. The difference is quite distinctive for the player in terms of sound and response of the instrument, but both of them have proved to be quite reliable. Both the RC bore or the R13 bore are both poly-cylindrical, which means that diameter of the bore doesn’t keep the same measurement all the way down the instrument. From these two main bore designs have evolved other models such as the Vintage, Tosca and Divine.
Their new release of the Tradition & the Légende models share the same new bore design, this time completely cylindrical. This alteration of the bore design brings a new acoustic concept and sound quality to the instrument, something extra-ordinary from what had been produced in the last decades. This kind of bore has been based upon the BC20 model, last produced in the 1950s.
The chart below classifies all of the professional models from Buffet Crampon by bore design.
Festival (modified R13 Prestige)
In my visit to Tico Musica I could try some of these new clarinet models too. The new Divine includes a lot of new features, which makes this model a bit more unique. It has a very characteristic & distinctive sound from the rest of clarinet models but, in my opinion, has less resonance. I was quite impressed with the sound of the Légende model, as well as the Tradition. Before this appointment with Tico Musica I had previously tried some Tradition clarinets. I felt quite dissatisfied because I was expecting a much more compact sound from this new bore design. The response was quite uneven between one note and the other even after adjusting it at the shop, so I wasn’t really pleased with it. However, when I tried this same model at Tico Musica my opinion completely changed. It was a very different sound to the RC or R13 but it played really nicely and I couldn’t notice any major problems in the evenness of the instrument.
After testing a total of fifteen different clarinets I ended up buying an RC Prestige, similar to my B-flat clarinet. From this experience I would like to highlight the importance of trying clarinets that are well adjusted. It can massively change your perception of the instrument.