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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000121.txt from 1994/05

Subj: Keys and The Stuff Clarinets are Made Of
Date: Thu, 5 May 1994 14:32:57 -0400

> The older model Buffet that you have (probably under #90,000) has a type
> of key alloy that has a higher silver content than keys today and this
> was known as "german silver". I am not an expert in alloys, but I do
> think that new keys have other metals in addition to nickle and silver
> that make them stiffer and more durable.

Yes, it is under 90,000. It's in the 60,000 range. Thanks for the
explanation. No, they don't "shine like they used to" (i.e. when I first got
it), but they don't seem to be wearing down, and I have yet to experience the
dreaded "green-key" syndrome.

> There is nothing like the sound of a gold flute (with a possible
> exception of a platinum one). It has a distinct beauty.
> (I admit that anyone owning such an instrument is probably
> a virtuoso anyway)

Not necessarily. I worked in a music store for a little over a year. I did
see a gold flute get sold - it is, indeed, an impressive-looking thing. And I
must admit that I like the velvet gold sound better than silver. But, the lady
in question who bought the flute was NOT a virtuoso in any respect. She simply
had money to burn, and instead of giving it to some deserving soul (like me :)
she decided to buy her college-age Flute MINOR daughter a gold flute. Nobody
said you had to be smart to have money...

> Although clarinets & saxes share single-reeds and a superficial
> resemblence (both have bells), is it fair to say that the sax
> and flute are more nearly akin acoustically? They both do octaves
> instead of 12s.

Depends on how you mean "acoustically". Flutes and Saxophones are conical-bore
instruments, and overblow at the octave. Clarinets are cylindrical-bore, and
as such oberblow at the twelfth. In that respect you're right. The fingering
system used, though, is not the same (or so I'm told - I've yet to play a
flute). Sax FINGERINGS are more akin to Clarinet fingerings. Sax MECHANICS
are more akin to a flute.

> Why are metal clarinets unpopular? Just because of b)?

Well, again I'm no expert, but I did recently play on an overhauled metal
Clarinet. The job was well-done, but I didn't like the thing.

I took out your "answer b)" to save space in the rather long post, but in
essence you're saying people don't play on metal Clarinets because they aren't
very comfortable to hold and play. I say that this is part of the case. Yes,
they are a little uncomfortable to hold. But I think that a bigger reason is
TONE PRODUCTION AND SOUND. I've heard metal Clarinets before, and I always
thought they sounded a lot like Soprano Saxophones. I like Soprano Saxes, but
I did NOT like that metal Clarinet I played. The tone is nasal, biting, and
has almost no warmth to it (IMHO). Why Saxophones do and Clarinets don't is
beyond me, but I found the instrument very cold.

I also think it's a matter of "what people are used to". I think that if they
had started out with metal Clarinets, they would be accepted. Then Wood would
sound "wrong". I know it's kind of a catch-22, but people are used to hearing
the wooden Clarinet, and they find that sounds pleasing. Then they hear the
metal version, and they notice that it doesn't blend as well, has a hard edge
to the sound, and doesn't express feeling as well as wood. So, matching that
with what they have to compare with (and already like), and I think that
contributes more to the death of metal Clarinets than what they feel like.

These are just my opinions, so if you don't agree with them, tell me what you

-- Scott McChesney

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