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Clarinets Clarinet tone


ex Landrover Nut
Just north of Munich
A question or two for the clarinet guys here.

My son's been learning teh clarinet for a few years now, and is doing very well. The low notes are round, rich, full, but as he gets higher, it gets much harsher. Yet I hear recordings of (e.g. Benny Goodman) and the high notes are smooth and liquid.

In my best German I tried to discuss it with his clarinet teacher (who's also my sax teacher), but got nowhere. On listening to the clarinet teacher, he has a similar harshness on his clarinet as he gets higher and higher... So

1 - Is this normal?
2 - Is it likely to be mouthpiece/reed? (Currently using a Yamaha no size marking, with Pflaumer Sinus 2.5 reeds)
3 - What makes Goodman and the other good clarinettists (including classical) so smooth?

I don't want to cause trouble with the teacher.... Or mess my son around, but I'd appreciate some informed feedback. Clarinet's a German System, which I believe has a slightly differnet bore to the standard Boehm system models.
Recordings may well smooth out any harshness to some extent. Is the teacher principally a clarinetist or a saxophonist - a dedicated clarinetist would probably sound better. I'm afraid I can't remember what the differences in tone are between Boehm and German systems, but a chap I know plays a German one and I can't remember any particular harshness. Obviously the mpc and reed make a difference and a beginner's set-up is going to sound worse than a professional's. A combination of a close lay and a hard reed is what you want for maximum smoothness - but a beginner may struggle to cope with that. I be inclined not to fret about it, but if you're anywhere a music shop you could try some different mpcs.

I play clarinet, and have played for two years, I think that it depends on read strength, and the player too. Support from diaphragm helps get out higher notes, but how high in the register?
I have found that after 2.5 strength reed, tone improves
Thanks for the comments/hints.

He's been playing for 5 years or so. The instructor's first instrument is probably Steirische Harmonica, then clarinet, then sax. But there's not a lot in it (he's a superb musician - and just to keep you happy Nick, amongst his saxes he has a bari - a Mk VI....).

How high - mid rnage and upwards, but it comes in progressively. I won't fret about it, will just keep it as something to look at more later.
Hi Kev,

I bought a clarinet a few years back. It was the cheapest clarinet I could find. I was warned BIG TIME, not to buy a cheap clarinet because they are virtually useless in the higher ranges. Well, the clarinet covers four octaves, and I was only interested in playing in the lower two anyway. So since cheap clarinets play fairly well in the lower octaves I went for it. I still only use it to play in those lower octaves.

However, the point I'm trying to make here is that the higher ranges on a clarinet can be highly dependent on the quality of the horn itself. I've been told that how well a clarinet plays in the higher ranges is a real test of just how great the horn actually is.

Not to imply that your son's clarinet isn't good, but how well the higher ranges of a clarinet sound is indeed a hallmark of a great clarinet. From what I've heard, finding a clarinet that plays truly well in the higher ranges is the dream of many clarinetists.
Thanks for teh input. It's a good clarinet (F A Uebel). But a little old. No cracks or leaks.

Funny, his teacher also plays the same one.... But has been recommending an upgrade. (I vetoed this, cos he doesn't take care of the one he's got). Didn't really get a straight answer on the upgrade story from the teacher, he can be very evasive when he wants to be, and my Bavarian is even worse than my German.... My wife was going to dig more, but hasn't had a chance yet - difficult to find a good moment.
Well I started clarinet at 12 finished at 17(discovered sax 'n' sax) so I knew what was waiting when the urge for a 'clari' reappeared some three years ago(age 59) I tried sop sax but no not for me so I took the easy way out bought a Bass clarinet and learned to cover the bottom 2.5 octaves well. Worked for me as I play mainly Baritone so the bass clari fits in well and for the past couple of years have been messing about with a short scale bass guitar and enjoying that too...
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Hi Kev,
However, the point I'm trying to make here is that the higher ranges on a clarinet can be highly dependent on the quality of the horn itself. I've been told that how well a clarinet plays in the higher ranges is a real test of just how great the horn actually is.

Hi Kev,

I've always played a student level clarinet, until Friday, when my new Yamaha 650 arrived. Wow, what a difference in tone on the high notes, so I agree with 'Sweet Dreamer' above.

Perhaps it would be worth taking your son to a music shop and blowing a few different clarinets...although I guess it would be pretty difficult to do that and then not buy one of them...

I played my new clari' in public for the first time last night...what a pleasure...

Good luck,
Twin or single?

Sorry, couldn't resist... Will bear that in mind, thanks. Was bidding on a pro R Keilwerth model today, but it got a little more than I wanted to pay unseen.

How do clarinets cope with the humidity & heat there?

Oops, it does sound rather like a two wheeler doesn't it!

I'll let you know how it stands up to the climate. I'd always figured a wooden clarinet was a bad idea in the tropics until I came across someone sailing around with one onboard with no apparent problems. It's hot and humid here, which is probably better than hot and dry.

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It’s simply down to experience – loads of playing! The tougher the embouchure – basicallly your lips – the better it’s going to sound, all through the register.
My clarinet played by my teacher sounds like a totally different instrument.
There’s one way forward, long notes!

If I’m playing a piece with high notes, my girlfriend sends me to the other end of the house!

A harder reed can make the high notes sound more rounded, but I’ve heard Benny Goodman played on a 2.5!!
As my teacher says, you just need a gob of iron.
Hi Kev,
Clarinet is my main instrument and i'm studying it. Over the years ive moved from clarinet to clarinet and mouthpiece to mouthpiece.
My final set up after 8 years has been a Buffet E13 Bb and a B&H Emperor A.
Im now using a selmer HS with a 3 on both- high notes come out clean without that harsh oboe sound that comes from a lower price range set up.
I think it depends of trying and testing over and over again- and from day to day.
I do have problems in the summer with the heat- playing it Italy has always been challenging.
I think it goes down to what mouthpiece you're coupling with a reed. Also a nice ligature that improves the grip and vibration of the reed. Just a week back i got a BG super Revelation.

But in saying this, it may also be down to experience- my teacher, a retired Air Force Player has a beaten up buffet from the 50's, uses a student mouthpiece and a 2 1/2 reed- the sound produced is wonderful.
I just think you need to set the clarinet up to how you want- and stick with it, over time you'll adapt the embouchure naturally to produce the best sound.

Hope this may help you.
The Uebel is my son's. I'm sticking to sax. Not sure what you mean by flat keywork, but Uebel's are pretty common over here. They were the best of the pre-war brands, but in the DDR times they were nationalised and things changed. Seem to be going OK now. If you like I'll keep an eye on ebay Germany for you. And I can have a word with the instrument builder, he often has a rebuilt one for sale. But most of the ones we see here are german system, not Boehm.

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