Tuning the clarinet

I can’t find anything on your site about out of tune clarinets. Have I missed something? If not, do you have any comments about
For the record, I am 76, returning the last year from 57 years away from the instrument, serious and really enjoying it. Your comments on reeds are so clear and helpful! Thanks!

Hi Bob:Hi, and thank you for your letter, Bob. Congratulations on returning to the clarinet . There are many facts concerning tuning in my site, however the following may be helpful to you and perhaps others:

1) “blown out” clarinets? when I play a range of notes on my clarinet, watching a tuner, are all the differences from in-tune due to me/ the humidity/etc. or do clarinets get out of tune?

Answer: Some clarinets are not necessarily intune from day one. The whole concept of tuning has to do with issues of a personal nature, considering how one is tuning, the ambient temperature when tuning. As far as the tuner is concerned it depends on the actual technical specifications of the tuner. I used to use a Korg that had a spring loaded needle activated by the pitch which would always go past the pitch then come back to it . I had to learn this because many of the notes seemed sharp.
The temperature in the room is a factor which muct be considered, and as you play, the pitch will rise on the instrument, most any . Clarinets do not get “out-of-tune”. We become more sensitive to them as we go/ a tuner is not the best way. An ensemble is better and your own sense of pitch, and timbre are important. It is easy to get used to an intonation of an instrument: For instance, if you have a sharp throat bb, then if you play on a horn that has a perfect bb, it will sound flat to you.

2) correcting the tuning?
Answer: In general correcting the tuning is only appicable for certain notes on the instrument, and is better left said than done. In other words, do not start cutting or taping to change tuning, it will be infinitesimal and I can tell you as a young man I broke a tone hole trying to “open it up” to make the note play sharper, and I was a fool to do it, and have never ever touched an instrument in that manner. I can tell you also that from time to time it is necessary to clear out the register key hole because one that is plugged with dirt and stuff will be stuffy and can make the clarinet really sound bad. It comes from swabbing out and getting the dirt from the swab wedged into the register key opening.

In general tuning and/or correcting the tuning can be done by the player using the throat, (open or closing), sometimes with finger shading, holding the finger almost across the key will flatten a note. Or sometimes a key is too close to the clarinet and not open enough and you can make is more free and perhaps a bit sharper by opening up the key a bit, but be careful because some keys are brittle and will break off rather than bend, so be careful, and go slowly.

Barrels can help in general but really only closest to the shorter or longer barrel will be affected. I believe firmly in these new tuning barrels which give you about 10mm one way or the other, so that a small flick of a dial will shorten or lengthen a barrrel making the note higher or lower, and most importantly pulling out a normal barrel changes the pitch because of that space you have created, hence the use of “tuning rings”, something eliminated by the movable barrel.

Good luck with your return to the clarinet.



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