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Seymour Duncan Pedals



Since 1905, the Van Doren family has been making mouthpieces and reeds.

Eugene Van Doren was a clarinettist at the Paris Opera during the Belle Epoque at the end of the 19th century. It was a time when wind players made their own reeds, with a greater or lesser degree of success. Eugene Van Doren must have had the knack: his reeds sounded so good that his colleagues prevailed upon him to sell them some.

But making reeds by hand is a long and tedious business. In order to save time Eugene, a skilful and gifted engineer, designed and built a special reed-making machine, treadle-operated in the same way as a sewing machine. The reeds he made with this machine in the dining room of his home in the rue André del Sarte were immediately successful, and in 1905 (the year his son was born) he founded a reed making business at 51 rue Lepic, which soon took up more of his time than playing the clarinet.

His son Robert also studied the clarinet, graduating from the Paris Conservatoire. He considered a performing career, and in 1928 left France for a year-long tour of the United States during which he drew attention for the beauty of his tone. He was one of the first French clarinettists to perform as a soloist at Radio City Music Hall in New York. It was during this tour that American musicians first discovered Vandoren reeds, and since then their popularity in the United States has sky-rocketed.

As the company grew, Robert Van Doren, like his father, found himself devoting more time to making reeds than to his performing career. He soon took over management of the company and in 1935 bought a vacant lot at 56, rue Lepic, Vandoren's present address. It was at about this time that Robert Van Doren started selling a mouthpiece he had developed, the famous 5RV still so popular with professional musicians. In 1967, Robert’s son Bernard, blessed with his grandfather’s mechanical genius, joined the company, bringing a third generation into the family business. A new range of mouthpieces was developed under his guidance, the basic model being the B45 which soon became as familiar as the 5RV. Applying the same manufacturing principles as his father and grandfather, Bernard Van Doren has developed highly sophisticated machines which have made it possible to reduce manufacturing tolerances to less than one hundredth of a millimetre while allowing output to increase tenfold. In 1990 the workshops previously situated at the foot of Montmartre were transferred to Bormes les Mimosas in the south of France, near the reed beds. Besides housing Vandoren's offices, the Paris site has been redeveloped to offer visiting musicians from France and elsewhere test facilities, practice rooms, and the Espace Partitions, a speciality sheet music store for clarinet and saxophone.

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