Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



My real estate job is pretty easy physically. I just boss custodians and repairmen around  and do paperwork: pay taxes, pay cockroach killers, and argue about security deposit refunds.  The only physical part is climbing the stairs and going on roofs.  None of my buildings has elevators.

Playing the clarinet . . . that can injure you.  You know where?  The right thumb.  The right thumb holds a disproportionate weight when you’re standing.

I had a pain in my right thumb that lasted 18 months.  The pain took a long leisurely trip through my body. Went from my thumb to my shoulders to my neck.

Physical therapists love musicians, particularly violinists, flutists, pianists and clarinetists.

I drove to Cincinnati to see a specialist for clarinet pain.  Then I did Alexander Technique, and every other technique short of amputation.

Some clarinet players use a neck strap. I do.  At KlezKamp, the music conference, I met a clarinetist who wore a neck strap.  He said, “The pain eventually goes away.”  That was my mantra for more than a year.

The clarinet is the agony stick.  Musicians call it that.  Not simply because the clarinet can be painful to play, but because it’s difficult.  The fingerings are harder than the sax, and a clarinet has the “break,” the awkward leap from A to B in the middle register.  The clarinet squeaks.  And the clarinet’s register key raises the note a twelfth, not an octave.  This is extremely odd physics.  The clarinet’s sound doesn’t typically come out the bell, like on a sax.

You mic a sax by clipping a mic on the bell, but on a clarinet you surround the clarinet with mics like on Wagon Train.  I had a mic rig for my clarinet that was so complex and heavy — and cost more than my axe — I  gave up on it.  Plus, it was hurting my thumb.

I asked a sax player in a big band if he played clarinet.  He said, “I have a clarinet.”
1 of 2 posts for 9/30/09.  Please see the post below too.
A version of this post will appear in the upcoming (Dec. 2009) issue of The Clarinet, the magazine of the International Clarinet Association,
Apparently some people don’t know there is a comments section to this blog.  Click on the “comments” link  below the “Tell A Friend” link. If there are few, or no, comments, go to the end of the “Sanctuary” post — two down from here. There are a lot of comments there.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter


1 zach { 09.30.09 at 9:40 am }

My brother used the Ton Kooiman thumb rest for a while. It eventually broke, but I can attest that it really took the stress off the thumb, distributing weight across the digit and hand much more evenly and comfortably.

You may want to look into it (and looks classier than a clarinet strap).

2 Dick Schoeller { 09.30.09 at 10:18 am }

That last bit, about having a clarinet, sounds like the comment I’ve read about Itzikl Kramtweiss (known for “Baym Rebn in Palestina”).

“He wasn’t a clarinetist, just a guy with a clarinet.” I think it might have been Kurt Bjorling who posted it.

3 Adrianne Greenbaum { 09.30.09 at 4:08 pm }

Aw, poor thing, Bertsky!

I sound irreverent, but really not.

Have gone through tsuris being a musician. Had a rib removed. It was giving me my tsuris because blood didn’t flow through to my dancing fingers. Now my feet do the dancing.

Frankly, I tell anyone who will listen that the clarinet needs the most help of any instrument in the woods section. Intonation is insufferable.

Someone has to come along like a Mr. Boehm to make big changes, we “others” think :-)

Maybe you can get some relief going on more rooftops?

I have a clarinet sitting in my music room. It sits.

4 "Kenny G" { 10.01.09 at 7:51 am }

I’ve gone through some of this PT stuff without the clarinet. Always thought my hands might be spared somewhat from my piano playing — extensive for some years — but eventually the arthritis hit these too.

5 Shawn Fink { 10.01.09 at 10:03 am }

My wife played clarinet for years (school bands, marching band at Pitt, a band in Reading PA), I’m not sure if she ever experienced any pain in her thumb from that, I’ll have to ask.

Ever since we’ve been married though, she does seem to mention suffering from a pain in the neck. Not sure what’s causing that ;-)

6 Ted { 10.01.09 at 5:42 pm }

Do you really need to hustle for comments at the end of your posts, Mr. Comments-generating Machine?

7 Bert { 10.01.09 at 6:00 pm }


Many AKs (say, people over 50) don’t about “comments” links.

I ran into a woman at Yom Kippur services who reads the blog, and I told her to should check out the comments, particularly the ones on the “Sanctuary” post. I thought the woman would be fascinated by the discussion there: the ins and outs of shul shopping.

All people over 50 are fascinated by shul talk, I believe.

The woman said she didn’t know how to find the “comments” link.

I’ve had at least two more encounters like that.

That Yom Kippur meeting was my main impetus for putting up the FYI/Comments info.

8 "Kenny G" { 10.07.09 at 11:13 am }

Encounters of the third kind?
I have to try my darndest to get comments on my “Ken’s Eyewear Club” in the Yahoo “Groups.”

I have no problem finding things to post, however.

Leave a Comment