Don’t tune your own clarinet until….

when, as a young man, I used to visit as many repair shope for woodwinds as I could find, used to watch the techies working on clarinets, sometimes my teacher with me, and then, alone. Once I was able to purchase a Yamaha from a pawn shop, fairly new, and I was aware of the model and all its features. It was a model 62, and looked very good. Upon playing it when I got home, I found several bent keys and a few stuffy notes,but knew it was a fine instrument.

I brought it into Twigg Music in Montreal for a techie to obserVe. Withou even playing it, he took the instrument and pushed the entire right hand keys stRucture against the radiator next to him. Nothing else Then, gave it to me to try,,,and it played perfectly. He ws talking with the other techies as he did these simple procedure, and hardly stopped talking. I was there for maybe 10 minutes. In other words, he saw immediately the problem, and was correct in his repair.

This takes experience. Another time, I was in with my teacher concerning a tuning problem, the Technician played the horn listening, then took a small tool and rotated it into the tone hole next to the bad note, and it was fixed and in tune in a few minutes. This took the ability to hear extremely well, plus the experience necessary to adjust the opening of the correct tone hole.

Another time, I was about to play the Easley Blackwood Clarinet Concerto in Tanglewood , Gunther Schuller was the conductor. I remember it being a warm muggy night. I swabbed my clarinet prior to the performance.The swab stuck in the middle of the horn. It was immovable.(so was I) Finally, one of the members of the orchestra fixed it. He took a small wrench which he had, and unscrewed the hexagon shaped speaker key, which was on all Selmer clairnets at he time. It took three or four minutes, and I was able to get out of a real panic with the experience and his knowledge.

( speaking of swabs, I was once fired from a summer job playinh in small band n New Hampshire. Dyson Kring, the “conductor” and keeper of the meager funds we received, told me that I swabbed my clarinet too much. His name used to make me smile. I guess my attitude didn’t help things)

A clarinetist wrote me this letter “Hi Sherman I have a Selmer Series 10 II that plays well in tune and has good twelfths except for throat E –E is almost 20 cents flat, F about 10 while D is right on. I have tried many barrels and mouthpieces but with same results. I am contemplating undercutting the high end of the second finger tone hole hoping that I will not upset clarion B and C too much. Do you have think this is the right fix or is there another cure for this?

In the first instance, I think the writer meant  low e on the clarinet,but it is slightly confusing. If it is the low e, the 12th above would be the clarion b. The “throat e” would make the 12th abovehigh b and c. In either case, my advice would be, don’t touch it until you can bring it to a technician, one who is both experienced , can hear, and can work the gouger with enough of both, to help you. Thanks for your letter and question. My own experiences, reflecting upon my youth,tell me to keep away until this discipline and experience has been gained. Stay well, everyone. best regards. sherman


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