Tuning in any ensemble,part II

Dear Mr. Friedland,

I was lucky enough to get to your ‘Clarinet’s corner’ on the web. First I want to thank you for setting up such a helpful site. Second, I’m playing a Selmer 10S clarinet (sn Z9004) in an amateur local orchestra, after many, many years without playing it regularly. I switched to sax as a main instrument a long time ago. So I realize that currently everybody there in the orchestra is tuned at 442. Fortunately enough, my 10S came with two barrels, but I can’t get in tune even with the shorter one. Well, after some warm up, it goes a little better, but I regularly found myself lipping it up to approach the 442 diapason. I thought that this shorter barrel was a 442 one, but when testing it with an electronic tuner it seems to be a 441 barrel.

So, my questions are:

1) Would any of the current in-catalog 442 Selmer barrels fit for my 10S? Or would any other brand barrel do the trick? Or maybe the problem is me and not the instrument? 🙂
2) Would the instrument intonation be negatively affected in any way by using a 442 barrel?

Thanks in advance,


P.S.: My 10S briefing: It was bought at the Selmer head office in Paris, as no music shop in the city, at that time (circa 1976), was selling it. I was told they didn’t sell clarinets with Eb low key because nobody used them in France (I’m from Spain). The very attentive Selmer technician that served us at the Selmer office initially hold me the instrument with sn. Z9003. He told me to play it for a couple of days before considering it a definitive purchase. Eventually the central joint got a fissure thru the c#/g# hole, and the company took back the instrument and sold me the Z9004, that now has gone fine for already 35 years!

Dear Pierre
I do not think that the tuning problem is your fault in any way, but it is your responsibility to fix.

This can be done with some understanding of the tuning exercise in an amateur orchestra, which probably varies considerably, as does the meaning of the word “amateur”.

First, you must start the rehearsal already warmed up, meaning that you should arrive earler than the time you play so as to have your horn playing at its normal pitch. If you do not arrive early, I have found that you will spend the entire rehearsal out of tune and groping around for something like a pitch center to hang on to.
Please take that advice. You must be warmed up prior to the beginning of the rehearsal.
It is my practice to arrive at least a half hour prior to the beginning of the rehearsal. Stick to that time. As you warm up your clarinet, you will receive the benefit of hearing others arriving. They have to have a pitch to hang to, and perhaps they will listen to you or begin to associate their pitch with yours. This is really a part of the rehearsal. Get with the first oboe if they are to give the A and tune with him/her This will assist all who arrive at the rehearsal.
Attempt to tune to the note given by the first oboe.
If you cannot reach that pitch, you must come to a resolution, which may be solved by a shorter barrel. On the 10S, which happens to be very familiar to me, the pitch should easily be reachable with the 64.5 barrel that came with the horn. If not, I recommend first obtaining a pitch fork, or a small battery driven electrical tuner. which you can get in any music store. If you are in tune with that, then you must resolve the issue with the pitch giver.
Who is right? You are both wrong, if the giver of the pitch is higher than 442.
You can obtain a movable barrel which are also available and are not that expensive, and should be able to get you above 442. If not, you can buy a shorter barrel which may help . Or it may not.
When I was playing either in an orchestra or in chamber music ensembles,pitch always came first, and it was really a part of my livelihood. I made sure that I could reach the pitch by any of the methods mentioned above.
I also had a couple of extra barrels always with me in case of playing in very cold rehearsal spaces or with real amateurs, the kind that don’t really bother with tuning. Then you are in “tiger country”.
Mouthpieces can be an issue as well. There are certain brands which tend to be a few cents sharp, such as the Van Doren mouthpiece. And mouthpieces made on the Zinner blank, a gorgeous sounding blank are also a bit sharp. These can help.
The last culprit is you , your embouchure and/or, your reed, which I can tell you nothing about without hearing you play .
I know that it is not your clarinet, which I know is basically an in tune instrument . The two barrels are 66.5 and 64.5.
A 63 mm barrel is available, but that is an extreme.
Try one of the fixes mentioned above. I know that early arrival at a rehearsal is a plus, and warming up is also. The shorter the barrel, the more the notes closest to the barrel will be sharper, in other words, the entire instrument is thrown a bit out of tune.
Wooden clarinets , such as all of them take more time to warm up than specifically hard rubber, which are coming more and more into vogue these days, specifically for tuning purposes. Hard rubber is a much more stable material than is wood, and is more easily machinable.

I am not saying you should change clarinets, just that is is a crucial issue with really any ensemble playing.

I’ve spent at least 60 years concerned with tuning.
Good luck., and keep practicing.

(Get in touch with Ridenour Clarinet products. He sells a hard rubber barrel in many sizes which will fit your clarinet.)

Please see Part I , “Tuning the Clarinet”, from 2004, which is more specifically for an individual clarinet, not necessarily ensemble tuning.


One Response to Tuning in any ensemble,part II

  1. pieraco says:

    Thanks very much for the good advice. I will try to put it in practice at our next rehearsal. You also pointed me to a movable or 63mm barrel, just in case the band is really high pitched. Where can I get them? I browsed the Ridenour site but I can’t find those barrels there.

    Thankfully yours,

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