Buffet Crampon’s Introduction of Mopane Clarinets: Reactions and Demos - ProSono Hardwoods

Buffet Crampon’s Introduction of Mopane Clarinets: Reactions and Demos

mopane clarinets

At ProSono, we’ve been promoting the use of mopane for clarinets for many years. It’s in this context that we welcomed Buffet Crampon’s introduction of a special, limited edition of mopane clarinets this year.

Buffet Crampon is far from the first respected clarinet maker to use mopane – but it is among the most famous to do so.

In this article, we outline:

Please note that we don’t currently have a commercial connection with Buffet Crampon. However, we do admire beautiful instruments – and as an international supplier of African hardwood, we see compelling reasons to promote mopane as a sustainable alternative to grenadilla.

Introduction of mopane clarinets by Buffet Crampon

In July 2021, Buffet Crampon launched a special mopane edition, consisting of 85 instruments. These include a selection of Divine, Légende, Tosca and R13 clarinet models.

Responses (so far) from musicians

Since July, musicians around the world have had time to try out and react to Buffet Crampon’s mopane editions of the R13, Divine, Légende and Tosca clarinet models. We consider some of the responses so far.

A review by Professional Wind Instrument Consultants (PWIC)

After unboxing a mopane Tosca, Mark Sloss of PWIC offered this video, comparing the mopane instrument to a Tosca made of grenadilla (mopingo): https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=264372581805038

In the video, Mark elaborates on the environmental advantages of mopane for clarinets. Grenadilla is in increasingly short supply and, as he notes, “alternatives are necessary.”

After playing both the mopane and grenadilla clarinets, he had this to say about mopane:

  • “…the wood itself is… a little bit oilier – so that should make it a little bit easier to work in a stable way, without having to worry about it drying out and splitting like some other hardwoods.”
  • “…I found that the instruments played very, very similarly.”
  • “If anything I found this mopane instrument…smoother, maybe a little bit creamier, a little more plush…”
  • “I’m excited by the possibilities here” and “this is a high-quality wood that you can make beautiful instruments out of and it’s not a threatened species…”

Guangzhao Huang plays mopane and grenadilla

Here, clarinetist Guangzhao Huang plays the new mopane Légende, followed by a grenadilla instrument. Worth a listen.


Reaction from clarinetist Eric Black

In a YouTube video, clarinetist Eric Black plays an excerpt from the Cavallini 30 Caprices, first on a grenadilla Tosca model and then on a mopane R13. Among his reactions:

  • “I would say the mopane had a very sweet quality to the sound and, especially in the upper register, it was perhaps a little rounder.”
  • “…there was a great hold to the large intervals with the mopane instrument…”

Testimonials from Nicolas Baldeyrou and Paul Meyer

In two interviews for Buffet Crampon, international soloists Nicolas Baldeyrou and Paul Meyer give feedback about their respective Légende and Divine mopane clarinets.

Some responses we think are worth noting:

Nicolas Baldeyrou: “After two years of use and despite the winter, the heating, the change in humidity, the wood has not moved. We checked the drilling, nothing moved, no tuning required for the clarinet, which is often the case with other woods. Unbelievable, a definite advantage, the stability of mopane wood.”

Paul Meyer: “Compared to others, this [mopane] instrument is particularly resistant to ‘sound shocks’.”

“…a fluting, soft, pleasing sound. With beautiful colours.”

Interview of Greg Raden and Buffet Crampon USA CEO

Here, Matt Vance interviews well-known clarinetist, Greg Raden, and the CEO of Buffet Crampon USA, Francois Kloc, about the tonal differences between boxwood, grenadilla and mopane for clarinets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBat1mKNxyg

About Buffet’s mopane clarinets, Raden says:

“…they have a beautiful sound, beautiful quality. I guess I would characterise it as a slightly more mellow quality – a little warmer, maybe – than grenadilla.”

“Unboxing” videos (musicians open and play the new mopane clarinets)

On behalf of Buffet Crampon, a number of eminent clarinetists have featured in video clips, unboxing and then playing their new mopane clarinets.

The videos – all under a minute long – are an entertaining way to get a feel for the sound of mopane clarinets, as handled by musicians with a range of different styles. We recommend picking a few to give a listen!

Unboxing the Tosca in Mopane:

Unboxing the Légende in Mopane:

Unboxing the R13 in Mopane:

Other leading makers of mopane clarinets that bought their sets from us

Just some of the world’s well-respected clarinet makers that offer mopane models are:

How mopane compares to grenadilla wood

Compared to grenadilla (or African blackwood), mopane offers:

  • similar hardness; both are very dense, highly durable woods
  • better workability; it is less prone to cracks and slits
  • comparable or even better stability over time
  • excellent musical tone, often described as slightly “warmer” than grenadilla
  • a warm, attractive aesthetic quality.

Why we promote increased adoption of mopane in the musical world

To our knowledge, ProSono is the only supplier of musical-grade mopane in southern Africa.

We also have a history as a supplier of grenadilla (African blackwood) to the musical industry.

For over a decade, we have been promoting the use of mopane as a suitable alternative to grenadilla. This is based on:

  • our first-hand experience in the field, witnessing the dwindling availability of musical-grade grenadilla relative to the more sustainable supply of mopane across southern Africa
  • feedback from leading instrument makers among our customers about the quality and suitability of mopane for clarinets
  • listing of grenadilla wood as potentially threatened on CITES Appendix II (emphasising the need for sustainable alternatives, now rather than later).

For more information about mopane for clarinets or other musical instruments, contact us at ProSono. We’ll be happy to discuss your needs and assist where we can.

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