Are Cork Pads Good?

Hello Sherman,

I am getting ready to have some pad work done on my R-13. I use it mainly for chamber music and orchestral work. I have been getting a lot of diversity of opinion on the use of cork pads. Some have told me that cork pads should be avoided since they cause a loss of tone quality. Others recommend limited use of cork pads (i.e. only on the upper joint – the two lowest side keys, the C# – G# key, and the D# – A# key, the throat G# and A keys). Your opinion?



Hello Tom:

Cork pads are usually the salvation of many clarinetists who do a lot of playing. I can remember when Larry Combs was in Montreal that he told the folks at Twigg Musique to put cork in the entire upper joint of the clarinet. No, they have to be put in properly, tightly, and cerainly totally airtight, and if so, they will always be a godsend, regardless of what detractors may say.

What tone problem? Because of air passing over the cork? A negative vibration because cork is more dense than fishskin? No, that is an old wives tales as they are called. Statistical surveys would have to abound in order to show which notes on which clarinets suffered in tone quality and how. The variables on such a survey would be in the myriads, so worry about the gurgling pads which make a dreadful noise rather than any distraction of the tonal quality.

For the record most clarinetists have the side Bb/Eb, the G# (especially if it is articulated), the fork F and the top trill keys corked. Any good reed will cancel out any perception of cork-tone blues. Go for it.

ake a conductor wait while you get the water out of a pad might cost you “big-time”. Cork pads will only benefit you. But they must be done professionally … do NOT do it yourself.

Thanks, and good luck


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