Why get your instrument from me?

Why get your instrument from me?

And what’s this “earspasm setup” you speak of?

Well, let me tell you.

Above all, I want you to make a good decision for your needs.

So, first off, I select only instruments that I would personally play. And I play them before I offer them for sale on the site (or in person). Some clarinets feel right, and some just feel yucky—so if I don’t like it, I don’t select it. Next, I write detailed descriptions of each model—not just ad copy about how “effortless” an instrument is able to play. (Nothing is effortless, amirite?) I record a video of each instrument so you can hear them and compare. I use some expensive equipment to do that, and though there are limits to the fidelity of Vimeo and your listening environment, you should get an idea. Any questions you have, I am here to answer. Weekends, too.

Then, it’s time to get them set up. Put bluntly, new instruments — even the expensive ones — show up to the shop needing a lot of love. Sure, they play okay but when you are putting down serious money for an instrument, I think you deserve an instrument that feels and plays perfectly. So, after I select it, I send each instrument up to my tech to work his magic. He looks for leaks in pads, posts and the wood itself (yes, the wood leaks, too!). He adjusts spring tensions to be lighter, based on the measurements he took of my black Selmer bass, Bb and A clarinets. He regulates everything so you don’t have to clamp down on keys to make them seal.

And then he finds some crazy stuff, which he takes pictures of…and then fixes. So, below is a gallery of before & after photos for you to gasp at.

Finally, and most importantly, I’m here for the life of your instrument. If there’s ever a question or concern or problem, I will answer it—or find someone who can. It sounds cliché, but bass clarinet and clarinet players are a pretty small, tight-knit family.


Here's some stuff we find on brand new instruments.

Tone Holes

Tone holes are often the culprit when instruments leak — even on brand new, 5-figure-expensive ones. So, we take every key off every instrument and inspect the tone holes for damage. If there’s damage, we resurface the tone hole so it seals like it should. Or, in some instances…well, we send an instrument or two back where they came from.

Exhibit A

Tone Hole Damage

Tone holes can get damaged by a whole bunch of things during the manufacturing process. But if there's a chip in a tone hole, no amount of pad seating is going to make that thing seal. So we need to resurface it.

Exhibit B

A really bad gash

Here's an example of "how in the heck did this make it out of the factory like this" situation. I mean, we were really scratching our heads about this one.

Exhibit C

What the...?

No clue what is going on here. But when all of the tone holes looked good on this instrument, it was a leak light positioned juuuust right that uncovered the culprit. Must have been a bubble in the instrument's ABS plastic or something, but we sent this one back.

Exhibit D

Leaky Thumb Tube

This brand new $10,000 Buffet Légende A clarinet was leaking and we didn't know why. Turns out the culprit was what Buffet used to seal the thumb (F) tube: an O-ring gasket that got pinched when they inserted the tube into the top joint. Oops?

Bath Time!

Like in the Thumb Tube example above, when a leak can’t be located in a pad, we plug up all of the tone holes looking for any leaks we can’t see. We push air through the joint with a Magnehelic differential pressure gauge looking for bubbles. We often find bubbles. Bubbles are not good. So we seal anything we find.

We're now finding Buffet Greenline bass clarinets now come with leaky bodies — and in the oddest places, too. So now we take all of those instruments apart and check for random leaks, sealing them as we go along...and then they play like champs!

Spring Tensioning

Instruments need to pass Quality Control at the factory. One thing they check for (we hope!) is whether the instrument seals well. I find almost every single instrument has springs that are simply too tight. Why? I dunno, but my guess is that tight springs = pads that seal = QC passes. Downside, of course, is that your fingers have to open those pads and you don’t really want tendonitis from using a Superpower Grip™ on your clarinet, do you?

So, in Step 3, Miles re-tensions all of the springs on each instrument to match my spec. What’s my spec? A lighter key that facilitates quick fingers…and no hand or arm tension. He uses a force meter for precision, so Sir Isaac Newton is involved in the process.

Key Regulation

Pads should seal, right? Well, when an instrument is new, they usually don’t. Go figure. So once the instrument body is airtight, springs are initially set, and the tone holes look good, we refit the keys and make sure the regulation is perfect. Regulation means that when you push one key down, every key that is supposed to seal, seals. Once it looks good with the leak light, the instrument moves to the Magnehelic again. We look for no more than 1 psi on the top joint, and 2 psi on the bottom for bass clarinets, and <0.5 psi on all clarinets. This is, frankly, a pain in the a**, but we do it anyway.

And then it’s ready for you to try! Finally.

All of this. On every instrument. Because, once again, you want the instrument to be “living its best life” when you get it.

Love always, Mike