Personal Instrument Choices

Backun Musical Services

The Backun Alpha synthetic clarinet is a student clarinet with no compromises.  Dark and rich in tone and remarkable in its vibrancy, it is not just for outdoor work!  Add a wooden Protege or MoBa bell and barrel and you have a wonderful concert stage instrument.

The Backun Protégé clarinet is a professional clarinet at an intermediate price.  The premium-grade grenadilla or cocobolo body, barrel and bell are made at Backun Musical Services with a CNC-machined complex bore and detailed undercut tone holes.  The power-forged nickel, silver or gold keys and Valentino pads help the instrument just sing with dazzling verve and speed.  A beautiful, warm, powerful sound, without the “sizzle” that lesser wood can produce.

The Backun MoBa Clarinet takes the clarinet past standard symphonic models and onto the virtuoso stage. The tone is just chocolate covered caramel. The chalumeau is warm and woody; the throat tones are rich and clear; the clarion register sings; and the altissimo is sweet and pure. Dynamic range is extended, the fortissimo incredibly powerful but still sweet and centered. You can plaster a ppp right onto the back of the hall, and can diminuendo al niente into the hall ambience. You will have the audience hanging on the edge of their seats.  I own both Cocobolo and Grenadilla models, and cannot decide which is more beautiful.

Backun Bells and Backun Barrels simply free ANY clarinet from tonal restrictions, register, textural and response issues. They allow the player to choose the color and tonal palette he or she wants to deliver. The profusion of designs and woods give the artist a rich world of choice. Be warned, it’s hard to stop with just one!

Vandoren Mouthpieces have great winners in both old standbys like the 5RVLyre Soprano Clarinet mouthpiece and Optimum Saxophone mouthpieces.  The 21st Century V16 Ebonite jazz saxophone mouthpieces are modern masterpieces with a vintage sound, and the Black Diamond clarinet mouthpieces have the sweetest, darkest and most centred ringing sound of all time.

Vandoren V21 reeds are a revelation in tone quality and ease of register change.  Their thickness from tip to heel and extremely conical profile give anyone with “reed adjusting chops” the opportunity to tailor the reed as if they had made it from scratch.  That profile also produces a dark ringing tone and a sweetness and fullness in the altissimo like no other reed.  Currently available for Eb ClarinetClarinet, Bass Clarinet, Soprano, Alto and Tenor Saxophones.   While I test and keep available all premium reeds in the studio, I often tell my students “You always come back to Vandoren.”  And of course, for beginners Vandoren Juno reeds are the only  choice. (See detailed article on the Educational Resources page.)


The Selmer Privilege Bass Clarinet is the icon of the low clarinet world. Effortlessly robust, woody and rich in tone. The legendary Model 33 tone quality of the chalumeau register now extends all the way up into the altissimo, perfectly in tune, and with vastly improved mechanics. Gorgeous wood, seamless tonal texture from top to bottom, great intonation, and beautiful factory workmanship. I bought the best two of six on display at Clarinetfest 2007 and would have been perfectly happy with any of them!

The Leblanc Bliss clarinet is a vibrant revelation. The throat tones are clear and resonant, the instrument is in tune from chalumeau to altissimo, the tone is warm and lively and the keys just dance.  This is a professional clarinet at a student price!  There is no other woodwind instrument made that has this kind of sound and quality at this level of pricing.

Yanagisawa Baritone and Soprano saxophones demonstrate the performance expected from instruments made in a specialized handcrafted setting.  These instruments are crafted by highly skilled artisans who work with the most technologically advanced tools and machinery to produce every single part of every saxophone at the Yanagisawa factory in Tokyo. The solid sterling silver models that I play are dark, sweet, warm, rich and incredibly vibrant with the most solid core sound I have ever heard.

Trevor James

Trevor James RAW  Alto and Tenor saxophones offer the vintage French saxophone sound that first compelled me become a saxophonist while studying clarinet in University.  The glorious reverberant, dark and slightly grainy sound so appropriate for early 20th Century French Classical repertoire, and for capturing the sound of the jazz heroes of the golden age of bop and post-bop playing is produced by these instruments like no other modern saxophone.  These instruments are incredibly well made, by an English manufacturer that listens to its artists, distributors and dealers like no other company.