I have spent the past few days re-accustoming myself to my beloved Buffet clarinets. Sweetness over size. Ring over darkness. Tangy lemon cream chiffon rather than chocolate cake. These are not preferences of quality, they are instead qualities of preference.
Choosing and developing a tone for yourself is a very personal process. One Buffet may sound better than another, one Selmer design better in tune. But a good Selmer and a good Buffet clarinet are merely instruments of tone, not producers of it. The player is the real tone producer, the shaper of it. The choice to play one instrument over another is only one of countless decisions in the process of creating a your own special tone.
My tone production mechanisms had recently become somewhat generic; my breath, embouchure, voicing, the whole package had adapted to switching back and forth between Buffets and Selmers. Though this generifying adaptation was instructive, it felt good to slip back into the same familiar shoes several times a day, and to relish that intimacy and let it re-evolve toward my personal tone.