Barrels for different venues and rehearsal spaces.

“The ridenour barrels look very nice! Sorry for being such a nuisance, but would I want the reverse taper or straight bore? And how big should I get? My clarinet is sharp when tuned to A442 so I pull out a couple millimeters, so should I go for the 67mm, or would the tuning improve with this barrel so I should stick with my current size which is 66mm? Thank you again, I hope I am not being a bother. J.A.”
No, J.A.. It is no bother at all.It brings to mind my favorite barrel when I was playing in the most contrary of weather circumstances.

These were the many churches both large and small, and sometimes unheated in the dead of winter or unusually hot or cold in other seasons.

In those venues and for every conceivable playing condition, your first consideration has got to be pitch, and I must say, it drove me to the edge of sanity(where clarinetists spend lots of time) So, I couldn’t have cared less about the taper or the subtleties of a darker throat register, I cared about the pitch and so, most assuradly did the engineers at CBC and other places wherein rcordings are made.



One gets a little tired ofmimpressionistic considerations, when pitch just has to come first. So, I used with great success, a movable barrel which had a latitude of 10 mm. I found it to be very relaxing as far as worry about high or low pianos. It was my first consideration. I can recommend the cheap “Click” barrel, which works fine and/or any of the others which afford latitude. Lips and throats can only be moved so much. If you’re working in different venues or even reheasing in different one, then a movable barrel is first on your agenda, no question.In fact it brings up an interesting a very frequently questioned and discussed subject.
I have been through the issue(s) of barrels for years, really ever since I discovered that most clarinets are not perfectly in tune, and that longer or shorter barrels can alter that situation to an extent. Because I have been asked to play in so many different venues in different seasons, even in countries in other latitudes, I finally usually played on a barrel that was quite short: 64 mm, but had an extension which I could pull out to make it as much as 10 mm longer,(mentioned above). I found this most convenient for pitch. But, there are other considerations as well and like every item you buy for your clarinet, indeed they do change things. But, it is very personal indeed.

As much as perhaps 40 years ago there was a barrel developed by the famous Moennig in Philadelphia who worked on many clarinetists tuning and general sound, a barrel which had a reverse taper inside. This changed the feeling and the timbre and sometimes the pitch around the throat tones of the clarinet, usually improving upon the timbre considerably. At one time I had three Moennigs 65,66, and 67 mm. Were these the end-all answer to the quality of the sound? No, not anywhere near that place, wherever “that place” may be. But it did change the quality.

Any time you see a clarinetist or their picture, with instrument, there is one of those brown things on the end of it, or somewhere in the middle.
And these people swear by them. Why? Because they cost a fortune, more than anything else. And, perhaps they attract attention.
As P.T. Barnum said, “There is one born every minute”, meaning a person who will buy something like this, or think about it.
Will it make the solo at the end on the Pathetique first movement more beautiful?And, if so, how can one tell? Without having another solo to compare , immediately? Sounds and is crazy. However we are that kind of people, always trying to improve or to change, hopefully for the better, sometimes not at all. This is the world of compulsive players, which one almost has to be in order to practice the same thing over and over again.

Here is what Tom Ridenour said when I asked him about his barrels.

“Happy to…
If he is sharp, and many Yamaha clarinets are, especially of the Allegro line, I think a 67mm barrel would be advisable. As I recall the standard barrel for that model is 66mm.
If his mouthpiece is fairly large in bore he’ll do fine with the R bore. Mouthpieces like that are commonly the M model Vandorens, the Marcellus, my pro model, the Gennusa and the Gigliotti. If the clarinet mouthpiece is smaller in the bore (and higher pitched) the C bore usually works better, but there is no science to this; much of it depends upon the tastes, needs and particular playing habits of the individual. So, these are just general guidelines, not hard and fast rules. The differences, in any case, are few and subtle.
Hope you are well.
Sincerely, tom”

We are all diffeent and so too are our clarinets, our embouchures and most certainly our ears. So a reverse taper, (with a hard rubber insert ) as Moennig designed will help. So will all the others who design barrels. I like Ridenours because hard rubber is his choice too. It’s simply much more stable, and it is darker in quality, whatever “darker” means, and that is another story. (they are also perhaps a third of the price.)

Stay well, all, and keep practicing.

best regards, Sherman


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