Dear Mr. Friedland,
I just bought a full-Boehm Buffet clarinet, which I am told is called an R-16 3/4. When I complained of intonation problems in the altissimo register, the person who sold it to me suggested I write to you, as you may have some experience with this particular model, and may even play one regularly. Specifically, from about high C on up the pitch gets progressively more flat, so by the time you reach, say, E natural (second ledger line) you’re almost a full half-step flat. I’ve tried a number of different barrels (Buffet 64mm, 65mm, and 66mm, a Buffet Moenning 66mm, and even a Buffet A 66mm), and a number of mouthpieces (four different Vandorens, M13, B-40, B-45, and RV5), to no avail. I’m pretty sure it’s not my embouchure, as I’ve been a musician for 30+ years and this doesn’t happen on any of the other half-dozen fine clarinets I own. Are there special fingerings one must learn and use on this model that I don’t know about? For example, I can make the high E tune by opening the side Eb-Bb palm key, but as a regular practice this would be very awkward, to say the least! Do you have any suggestions? I don’t want to spend a lot of time learning to “lip” certain notes into pitch and thinking about that problem instead of the music making.
Thanks in advance for taking the time to think about a solution.
P.S. Enjoy your column in The Clarinet Pages, which is how I know your name
Dear Mr. Friedland,
Thanks for you quick reply.
1. When you say speaker key, are you talking about the register key, or something else?
2. With regard to the bore and length, the one thing I have noticed is that the bell for the instrument has no flange in it, that is the usual inside rim on which the lower joint comes to rest when the clarinet is put together.
3. Could this have anything to do with the intonation in the altimisso register? I just noticed this, at a time when I couldn’t experiment with other bells, but I will.
Thanks for your question. But I must tell you that it does confound a bit, though not completely. I will tell you that when I first acquired my Buffet full Boehm it played not very well at all. It was stuffy , funky, I called it, without much hope, but did not have those weird intonation problems. After having it adjusted it turned out very well indeed as I have stated.
Your instrument could have somewhat the same problems, however flat on all those notes makes me think of another problem. If there are no other bothersome intonation problems, which I find doubtful, it is possible that someone could have fooled with the length of the top joint in order to try to repair a perceived problem, however that too is doubtful.
I would take the speaker key off to see if the hole it covers is full of dirt of some kind; (that happened to me once) and clean it out totally, or there may be something in the bore of the clarinet, (also doubtful). Now here, for a break is a true story:
As a kid I studied in Texas for a couple of years prior to US army time (also in Texas). Once I came home to Boston and found my A clarinet to be terribly stuffy, awful. I finally looked in the bore of the clarinet, shook it, and out came a very big and live spider!!!!!!!!. I wish I could say it was a Tarantula, but frankly I dispatched the thing very quickly and, as they say, I did not look back.
Back to your full Boehm, adjustment, speaker key blocked is really all I can think of presently, however please look at my site and see if there is not another article on the same or similar subject.
Which brings me to the point of constructing a better index . That site is a large book length, I think and with a proper index it could be a better help to people.
Thanks for writing and good luck. Tell me if you find the problem. Yes, it could be a lemon clarinet. They are few, but certainly exist. Or, it can be that part of the instrument got terribly warped, another remote possibility
1. Yes, register key.
2. No, unless you think that the clarinet joint has been cut there; if so, a big insurmountable probably.
3. No, see #2. Examining the bell will be a waste of time.
Please examine to see if the clarinet is, by any chance, a Mazzeo Model. Usually it says so on the bell and other places. It probably is not, however I know of some Buffets that have been changed to Mazzeo. I knew students who wanted the Mazzeo, but played Buffets, so they played Buffet and had the fingering system changed. Little chance, but possible.
I am getting “curioser and curioser”. When you play Bb, what concert pitch comes out?