Director wants a darker sound, suggests tape around the bell.

Hi,
Recently I travelled to Kauai with my clarinet and sat in at rehearsals of a local community band. The band leader during one rehearsal commented that someone’s (clarinet) sound seemed “too bright” and that he wanted a more “German” sound. He said that one could change this by wrapping tape around the clarinet. I forgot to ask him about it; but one of the other players tried it and sent me note about it. Have you heard of this and how does one go about gauging the effect it has, if any?

Bill

Hello:
The idea of putting a piece of electric tape around the bell and barrel of a clarinet in order to dampen the sound is easy to trace,but is deep within the area of fantasy when extended to change a “bright” sound to a “german” sound. Your band director,whatever planet upon which he resides or whatever he is smoking, couldn’t be further from the truth. which in itself, is nonexistent.
It is a case of too little knowledge or a smattering of ignorance.
There is a clarinet with a different bore, a different amount of resistance and a different mouthpiece, which is played on the European continent which produces a slightly different sound than that of the North American clarinetist who usually plays in the French tradition , starting with people, such as Gaston Hamelin and Daniel Bonade,who were French players who came to the US to play in symphony orchestras, mostly imported by European conductors who themselves, were imported to conduct US orchestras, and the list is endless. The basic sounds of these clarinetists and their students was basically what is called “french”, being lighter and brighter than the so-called German, which really was available only with the kind of setup used by these players: different reed and mouthpiece, more resistant clarinet producing a somewhat denser sound.
There were and are exception to this, notable Marcellus, who played principal for Szell in Cleveland and had a noticeably more dense quality. Also presently in the same orchestra, Franklin Cohen who is currently principal has a similar quality.
Now, back to taping the clarinet. Forget about changing the sound in that way, the tape may make a slightly different response to your ear , but none at all to the listener. Taping the barrel helps nothing as well, though one may get the perception of some change, there is none.
The ring around the bell of most clarinets cuts in to the bell by 3-8ths of an inch, making the middle B flat. Take the ring off and it improves slightly, but only on the middle B.
The Mazzeo system clarinet had a bell with no ring and a different shape, rendering the midB sharper, but also brighter and it needed getting used to.
Holding the clarinet on your knee makes the B even flatter, but helps nothing else..
Returning once more to your question, if you desire a more dense sound, try a reed with a thick blank, slightly harder than you are accustomed to and you may achieve a bit of the quality for which you are looking, but please, no tape. Maybe handcuffs.
best wishes,

Sherman

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