Saxophonist interested in ressurecting his clarinet-playing

April 25, 2005

I’m a saxophonist, but am interested in resurrecting my clarinet playing (Started on clarinet and didn’t look back much after switching to saxophone.)
I’m thinking of purchasing a clarinet since all I have is a student model clarinet which isn’t very enjoyable to play.
My questions are:

1) Please explain the affect of bore diameter on how the instrument plays.

2) I notice that very few modern clarinets offer an articulated G#. Having a saxophone bias, this would seem to be a valuable feature. Did the articulated G# not prove it’s value for playing the clarinet?

There seem to be two popular bore diameters, one wide, one narrower, and the narrower bore present somewhat better aspects of intonation, hence that is the more popular at the present time.
The articulated G# is a terrific addition for the clarinet as it facilitates playing certain passages and trills with a great deal more ease on the clarinet. The only draw back is that it sometimes has to be adjusted, a relatively easy adjustment to make. I find it indispensable, though at present I do not have one on my clarinet.
The reason that there are not more clarinets with the articulated G# is because most teachers do not advocate the extra key, however I would always suggest that you have it on your clarinet.You will find it more difficult to find on an instrument and hence more expensive, however that is not a reason not to have one.
I do hope you understand the Western Hemisphere concerning the keywork of clarinets. It is a straight 17keys and 6 rings philosophy,evolving through playing tradition.
best wishes, sf


Are the New Selmers flat in the low and middle registers?

April 25, 2005

(Names have been left out in order to respect the writer)

I hope you can help me out in my dilemma. I am solo clarinetist in ****** band also do a fair bit of freelance playing on the side as well. Iíve been playing on professional Selmer clarinets since High School (1982) and Iíve always been satisfied with the instruments. I own a Selmer 10S & a Selmer Centered Tone. . I am currently playing on a 10SII which I have been playing on for the last eight years. Itís generally been a very good instrument. Iím able to play in tune with the rest of the section (who all play Buffets) although; Iíve had to work quite a bit on the intonation in the altissimo register.

After doing some research on the pro Selmer horns, I became interested in the new Signature model. I was impressed with the feedback from other clarinetists about the great intonation and response. I also had the opportunity to try one last year while I was visiting Tokyo Japan. It played extremely well in tune and was very free blowing.
Hereís the problem. I requested four or five Signature clarinets to try out with the idea of keeping one of them for purchase. The local instrument dealer who won the tender and supplied the clarinet for me was only able to obtain two clarinets from the supplier (I assume that would be Selmer in Elkhart Indiana) They came in last week Iíve tried them both & two of my colleagues have also tried them out & weíve all come up with the same conclusions. In both instruments, the low E & F and the middle register B & C are extremely flat (twenty cents or more). You canít even begin to try to adjust these notes with your embouchure. Is this a problem that can be fixed or are there just poorly manufactured clarinets with unfixable intonation problems? Complicating this problem is the fact that the money in the budget has to be spent by the end of this month or the funds are lost. So, if I do not accept either instrument, theyíre sent back the supplier and I may have to wait a year or more before I can order another. Is there any truth to the notion that Paris keeps the best clarinets for themselves, sends the rest to the U.S. and other countries & Selmer U.S. sends their rejects to Canada? ——————————————————————–
As far as Paris keeping the best clarinets for themselves, that is absolutley not true. They sell many more hundreds of instruments on this continent than in Europe , hence it would be very bad business for them to do this. (The supplier sent you only two because he only asked for two) My immediate response is to send the horns back right away and also to request a Buffet instead.
That probably sounds heretic to you, but I have been in sections wherein I was the only player of Selmer and it is uncomfortable musically as well as personally.
The Selmer horn has been playing low at the bottom of the horn since the entrance of the first Recital, of which I had a set. The low f was unplayable unless you whispered into the instrument. I ended up donating them to Concordia University.
I find that this problem with Selmer is here, and you have corroborated it.
You are a professional and I would consider changing horns if I were you.
I am currently playing Yamaha and they have the best tuning…..period.
The high register is much better than either Selmer or Buffet.
As soloist with the band you ought to be able to play what you want and they ought to be able to accomodate your wishes.
There is of course the possibility that the bell might help if you had it cut, again probably a hereitc thought but you have the same thing in 12ths on the intrument, so what can you lose. Or see if you can get a shorter bell from a colleague to try. Me, I would have it cut, period, especially if I could not send the horns back.
Your band director will help you on this; I just know he will. A couple of phone calls from him to Selmer will help, I just know it, and he can do things with the budget, that I am sure.
Let me know what happens.

A return to the clarinet, time to celebrate, and get the bubbles out

April 25, 2005

At 68, I have taken up the clarinet again after not playing for over 40 years. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a teacher in my area who was willing to take an older pupil, so I had to resort to teaching myself. However, I am happy with my progress, and practising gives me a lot of pleasure. BUT I have a problem which I never had in my youth, and for which I can find no advice on the Internet. After about ten minutes playing, the instrument gets a bubbly sound. I have traced the cause to build up of moisture between the reed and the sides of the mouthpiece table. If I take take the reed out and dry it and the mouthpiece, my lovely clarinet tone comes back. Does anyone know of this problem and a possible cure, or must I resign myself to being an old man who can’t help slobbering into the mouthpiece?

Thank you very much for your note. This is a typical problem for clarinetists of any age, and you simply take the condensation out of the mouthpiece by inhaling it out of the sides of the mouthpiece, for it is not anything but mostly condensation. Some have more than others, however with a little familiarization you get rid of it your self.(strong thin inhalation) Do not bother cleaning the mouthpiece.
Good luck and congratulations on the return to the clarinet.
best wishes, sherman

The Mozart Trio, play it correctly, and it will come to lifeThe opposite is also true.

April 16, 2005

Hello Mr. Friedland.
I just picked up a copy of what is referred to as the Kegalstatt Trio for Piano, Violin or Clarinet, and Viola, in E Flat Major (K 498). I’m wondering if this is the same work that you refer to in your article “Notes on Mozart’s Trio for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano”.
The first movement in my edition is marked Andante, followed by Menuetto and Trio. The first movement is in 6/8 as well.

If this is the same trio, I see exactly what you mean about the repeated figure of four 64th notes on the ‘and’ of the 3rd eighth(say that three
times fast ;-). I see that at 72 dotted quarters per minute it would sound
like a virtual smear of a turn. If it is not the same trio, well, I’m sure your suggestion of a slower tempo to make the “written out” turn playable
still applies.

Now, I would imagine, given I’m but a fair amateur, that this is more
playable by some more skilled than I, but even then, I doubt that it would sound very musical.

I’m happy to have come across your article just a few days after purchasing
this piece to study (and eventually play if I stumble over a willing pianist
and violist).

I returned to playing the clarinet just a few months ago after a 5 year
absence (gave up reluctantly because of chronic tendonitis in my right wrist). I have consulted my doc about DeQuervain’s (and read your articles).
DeQuervain’s was ruled out. Darned annoying, and still with me, but, at least I’m playing again. I’m a web and graphic designer in my day job and this contributes to my problem.

Thanks for your timely article and your site. They are great resource and a
gift. When I was a student, 15 years ago, the Web was not the resource it is
now. Isn’t technology wonderful in the right hands?
Take care and thanks again.
Vancouver, BC.
Hi Tom :
Thank you for your letter concerning the Mozart. Yes, it is one and the same and while I am absolutely sure that what I wrote is musically exactly correct, my feelings have been somewhat changed not by anything new, but by what is old and traditional:
People, specifically violists do not want to play the first movement in an adantino 6 beats to the measure. They want to play the movement in two beats to the measure and just “play it as a turn” which translates into each player rendering their own version.
I once had a fine violist tell me that he just plays the Mozart “the way the clarinetist does, copying whatever the clarietist plays for those many written-out measures.
And I have had others refuse to play the engagement because they knew my reputation with this piece. They just felt that “you let the music flow” or something like that.
Many years later sometimes I think the same, however this attitude absolutely decimates the beauty of this piece, as it is done to a fair amount of music.
The piece has developed the reputation of practically a “parking lot” piece, you know something while one parks their car for the concert, an opener if you will. But it is not that, it is like many pieces by Mozart a very interesting contrasting piece of chamber music. Three strikingly different movements, the first being quite dramatic, followed by a stately minuet and finally a piece of endless melodies.
He probably wrote it in a couple of hours or so, however,like many of the period in which he was writing just for money in Vienna, it is a lasting piece of classical excellence, which is simply why he is Mozart, perhaps the most gifted composer.

Chewing a Hole through her lip….painful and needless.

April 12, 2005

Great site!

I have played clarinet 14 years over the last 30, and recently purchased two books: C. Baermann Complete Method for Clarinet and Virtuoso Velocity Studies for Clarinet by Kalmen Opperman. When I first opened them, I thought I’d made a mistake and ordered flute books; some of the notes are on Mars. I found a fingering chart for all these screeching notes I had previously not known existed, but practically chewed a hole through my lip playing altissimo G# and A.

My questions are: Are these notes possible for most normal human beings? If so, how often would I use them outside of these books I purchased and extending all my scales even further than before? (in my brief career, I never came across any of these killer notes) I would really like to take my ability as far as it will go (something I should have decided years ago, I reckon), but I’m not sure this is a healthy direction (or sane, for that matter) to go.

Thanks for your help!
Well, many friends do as you do. You include the solution to the problem in your initial note. Now, what do you suppose it may be? Very simple. You are as you say, “chewing a hole” through your lip, which is the ultimate no-no in playing the clarinet which, I must admit can give one plenty of problems as you pursue its illusive goals.

Not seeing or hearing you play, makes it a bit more difficult, however I can give you a reference to a question I answered several weeks ago which is called “Copland, the altissimo register” (archives). That may help.

I need to know what kind of reeds you use and mouthpiece as well, and you may as well tell me the horn make also.

But first and foremost, you must take on this challenge with extreme deliberation: that means very slowly and critically, listening to yourself constantly and yes, criticizing your own progress, not an easy thing.

Do you take lessons with a clarinetist? If not, that is a problem, really it is. Not a band teacher, but at the very least a teacher who plays and can make a good sound on the clarinet.

I was fortunate enough to have this when I started and I must say that I will always remember my first lesson and even more the absolutely incredible sound my teacher, my first teacher made.

For a student with a good ear, I will say it is worth a year. At least.
Besides biting, what else are you doing? Do you take more mouthpiece in when in the high places? if so, that is wrong, and will lead you to horrors unimaginable.

Do you play on american reeds, like Rico or La Voz , etc? Wrong. These reeds play well initially, however they die quickly, are too thin in manufacture to play in the high register and are not the correct reed for an ambitious musician.

Do you practise in this high register for more than 10 minutes at a time? That is the worst thing you can do, something akin to suicide by reed.

Practise(with THOUGHT) makes perfect, but just whacking away at the horn is useless. Know what you are going to practise and practise only that, even if it is one note. You need a success, no matter how small, and then stop and play something else after you rest.

That is enough for now.

good luck, s

Taming The Demon Bass Clarinet

April 5, 2005

Subject: Clarinet Corner Query: Bass Clarinet
Bass clarinet–I am an adult who played soprano clarinet through 9th grade and I was very good for my age then. Now I am trying to learn the bass. I have squeaks alot and can’t always cross the break. My high notes come out low (sometimes) even though the register key is completely open. Sometimes when I first try to play it, either nothing comes out or squeaks come out. Sometimes squeaks come out when I first hit any note. Sometimes I can hit the high notes well, but then sometimes also I tongue them and the sound goes away. What am I doing wrong???? I had one lesson today but he did not help much with these types of problems. I am a) looking for another instructor, and b) going to switch from a 2.5 reed to a 1.5 reed. Do you have any suggestions? What do I have to do different because it is bass? I think I am puting more of the mouthpiece in my mouth. Please help!! Thanks!!!
Regarding the Bass Clarinet and learning it as an adult, this instrument has different problems than those of the soprano clarinet and those problems are mostly concerned with reeds, mouthpiece, and instrument.

You are most probably tonguing too hard and with too much tongue on the reed and not enough support.

In general, I always suggest softer reeds on the Bass clarinet. As a matter of record, I used to use #1 1/2 myself, and I purchased tenor saxophone reeds at that, having been advised of this by my teacher at the time, who was an escellent Bass clarinetist and teacher.

I also chose a mouthpiece, a good Selmer Bass Clarinet mouthpiece, with a medium facing. This is crucial.

The instrument must always be in top mechanical condition, or else you are going to have problems, although unlike the mouthpiece, the instrument may be of not the highest quality. I myself played on a Bundy plastic, one-piece bass clarinet in Carnegie Hall for Pierrot Lunaire, but it was in perfect adjustment and I had my good Selmer Paris C Bass Clarinet mouthpiece.

You most properly use eith a neck strap or a bass clarinet peg that helps support the weight of the instrument. Some players use both.

The instrument should be held directly in front of you, not to the side.

Practising on the bass should first and foremost include playing from a to c and then from a , Bb, c, all throat reister problems, and here the mechanism must be perfect or you will get the squeaks you talk about.

Passage of air should be steady and minimal finger movement must also be employed.

Slowly, even more slowly until you can cross the break easily and with great mechanical precision and clarity, and perfect legato.

Going up from there requires a constant stream of air, no biting and with precision and continuance of the regularity of the air column. F on the staff can be a precipice.

Always play easily, though support well the sound.

Above high c use all alternate harmonic fingering never those of the regular soprano Bb, or else you will be in real tiger country.

Read my article on Bass Clarinet reeds.

Good luck in all your work. Slowly, is much better .


Getting used to braces

April 3, 2005

I have recently had braces put on, and it has changed my tone and everything completely. I think I sound funny and everyone’s like ,”You sound fine.” I don’t know what to do. I change how much my throat is open, I change how firm my embouchure is, and I change my air. When I finally sound on the note I was tring to sound better on, all my other notes sound weird. I don’t know if my problem is my playing or my instrument and accessories. I am playing on a Buffet R-13 with the silver plated keys and 3 1/2 silver box Vandoren reeds. The instrument was used like for two years before I purchased it. I have only been playing for 2 1/2 years.

Please help,

confused clar

———————————————————————Hi, and thank you for your note.
I can tell you without a doubt that it is only the braces that are making everything seem and seem to sound funny.
You do not and are quite probably just getting used to the braces, and that is all.
It is very true that braces in the mouth along with the clarinet seem like an unwanted guest.
There can be rubbing, which can be a discomfort or even a pain.
Most dentists don’t extend their compassion to players of woodwind instruments because they are being paid to straighten your teeth.
So, if nothing else, please try to relax and understand that the braces are doing two jobs: one is straightening your teeth, and the other is to create a disomfort in your mouth.
I would suggest strongly that you continue with your clarinet playing and practise, especially if you really love the instrument and your study. It is just going to take some getting used to the braces.
Try to remain calm and you will do just fine, I know.
I have had many students with the same problem and I have had a lifetime of disturbances in my mouth due to teeth, root canals, abcesses, everything you can think of and I have never given up.
That is because I love the clarinet, just as you.
best wishes and…..courage.

Consideration of purchasing a new instrument.

April 1, 2005

I am a father with a fanatical interest in music and with a fairly musically talented daughter aged 13+. She has been playing the piano for 5 years and the Clarinet for just 2 years but already she has reached the same standard in our Australian Music Examination Board (level 4) exams for both instruments.

She is now playing the Clarinet in a number of her High School ensembles and bands and is developing a keen awareness of the Clarinet played in Jazz groups from Dixieland to Big Band. The big decision coming up is to select a new Clarinet for her to explore these musical tastes as well as perform the Classical pieces required for the AMEB exams.

At present she plays a Buffet Bb B11 with a Van Doren B45 mouthpiece. As with many of your other correspondents, advice from school music teachers tends to veer towards another Buffet instrument but I wonder if another make wouldnít be more appropriate. In fact, is now the right time for her to move up to a new instrument ?

If cost can be in the middle to top of the range, what would you suggest for the best combination of instrument & mouthpiece ?

Many thanks –

Congratulations on your daughters achievements with two instruments, clarinet and piano. At age 13 and a half however I would think twice before any new clarinet purchase and especially a new mouthpiece. The B45 is a very reliable mouthpiece and if she is happy with it, let her keep it. A mouthpiece is best left alone unless it is incorrect or warped or in some way pitch distorting.
The clarinet upon which she is now playing is just fine for the next several years or months, as long as it too is not in some way distorting her playing and progress and that instrument is certainly sufficient for a student of her age.
There is a very natural tendency or even zeal to help a talented child, however that kind of help is perhaps saved for moving on to another level of education or musicality.
I would think an R13 or a Prstige or one of those in any other make would be excessive both in cost and imposition of responsibility for which she may not be that eager at her age.
Best of continuing success to you both.
sincerely, sf