Klarinet Archive - Posting 000211.txt from 1994/09
From: James Follan <100345.3041@-----.COM>
Subj: Re: Plastic for Professional Model Clarinets
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 1994 18:36:23 -0400
To make a professional plastic clarinet, it's not quite as simple as just
performing the same machining operations as you would to make a wooden
professional clarinet. The problem is that the same tool, applied in the same
way to two different materials, will produce two different shapes! (The
difference is tiny, but crucial.) For the clarinet, tone and response depends
upon the shape of the junction of the tone hole and the bore (as well as on lots
of other things). The sharper this corner, the more high harmonics in the tone
- this will lead to a harsher sound.
When machining wood, there will be some breakage and fragmentation as the cutter
breaks through to the bore, giving a slightly rounded corner. Machining a hard
plastic, or a material such as ebonite, would probably tend to give a much
sharper edge. So, to achieve the same exact shape with a hard plastic material
is likely to require some additional (very delicate) undercutting of the tone
In his book "Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics", the late Arthur Benade
describes an experiment where two identical new clarinets had their tone holes
altered in "opposite directions", giving opposite results - jazz players thought
that one had been ruined, and classical players thought that the other had been
ruined, each group preferring a different instrument! Benade went on to
describe how he had altered plastic clarinets so that other clarinettists felt
that they played like good wooden instruments.
I would suggest that a good, professional model, plastic clarinet could be
built. However, it would require serious development work, probably involving
additional manufacturing operations not necessary with wood, all of which would
add to the cost! An advantage would be less sensitivity to weather conditions,
and no risk of splitting.
Of course, plastic student clarinets are mostly (invariably??) moulded, which
probably introduces even more sharp corners than if they were machined.