More: on testing new instruments

How many clarinets have you tested? And, have you always used some kind of digital tuner? And, has it caused you endless joy? At the first test? But, less on the second, and sequentially, cause more frustration? Leading to drink? Or some other kind of break? Testing yet another clarinet? Against which one?Did you forget?
And, which reed did you use? Mouthpiece? Do you remember?
What is your teachers phone number? Will they charge for the call?


The whys and wherefores follow: Using a digital tuner, or any kind of tuner to test notes on a clarinet, determining which of any two notes are better in tune with one another, is a losing battle. Believe it or not, most, if not many clarinets are built mostly in tune, save for a few very well known problems:
The lowest e and f on most clarinets are or tend to be flat, considerably so; the throat Bb, not being the true Bb is usually stuffy and sharp. The so-called open g is also slightly sharp as is the G#, all throat notes.

When you use a tuner to determine where these notes are, the initial digital or other response is usually higher by as much as ten cents than the actuall note being tried. Then , the pitch settles to where it actually is. Of course, this is all determined by your familiarity with the instrument and the equipment you are using, the mouthpiece, and reed. More importantly, your clarinet development is crucial.

Have you been playing long enough to have developed an actual correct embouchure, well developed in all ways, and do you have a perceptive ear. This of course, assumes that you are a serious clarinetist, or an advanced student. Having been through these kinds of tests as a young man, I can attest to this searching quality, but even more so, to the extent of which mouthpiece sounded better, going all the way into the whole clarinet. After many years of testing,i am well aware that there are numerous aspects of what can be called musical sanity on display.

But, I have had an long and successful career as an offering in my favor.

Anthony Gigliotti, Principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia orchestra, was a life long player of Buffet clarinets, until of course, he allowed the Selmer company to practically duplicate one of his clarinets, which became known as the Selmer 10G clarinet, and was quite good, though not, a Buffet clarinet. Mr Gigliotti also had Buffet send him 55 clarinets each year. He went through them all, and picked two , which he then gave to Moennig, the famous clarinet technician in Philadelphia, for tweaking, and then he would allow two of his best students to play these clarinets.

Of well known clarinetists of the past, I know in gneral, of their procedures for trying these instruments. Mostly , they played extremely well known folk songs, or perhaps national anthems or very familiar melodies. Why? To determine how these melodies fit into their “ears of acceptance”. If they played a familiar orchestral excerpt like the clarinet in Egmont Overture, by Beethoven, did the interval to the high c, go perfectly smoothly and with the correct feeling in the upward slur. They did not try to determine if any single notes was either in tune or how much deviation occurred. That would have been quite obvious from a simple few notes played .

Of course , we are speaking of players of all levels of development. My specific point here is to well develop your study of the clarinet prior to engaging in testing activites which may be reached more successfully, later in your clarinet experience.

Stay well, and keep practicing to a musical goal.



2 Responses to More: on testing new instruments

  1. […] Clarinetist Sherman Friedland shares some thoughts on testing instruments. […]

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