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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000059.txt from 1995/03

From: "Kirby W. Fong" <kfong@-----.EDU>
Subj: Eb clarinet
Date: Thu, 2 Mar 1995 15:31:29 -0500

The recent discussions about Eb clarinet prompt me to comment on my
experiences. I played Eb for three of my four years in a college concert band.
It was a college owned Couesnon, and I guess I played it well enough that the
director did not object to my continuing to play it every semester. When I
was in graduate school, I bought a plastic Bundy Eb. It was all I could
afford. The intonation was reasonably good except the altissimo register which
was incurably flat. I discovered in trying various mouthpieces that the Selmer
S sounded best to me. I have since bought a second one as a spare, but this
is the mouthpiece I have been using since 1972. Upon finishing graduate
school, I decided to unload the Bundy and get an Evette Eb. Fourth space Eb
was noticeable flat; low register was quite sharp; altissimo was playable with
effort. In the late 1970's I decided I should quit struggling and "just buy a
good Eb clarinet." When one of the retiring clarinetists of the Oakland
Symphony put his clarinets up for sale, I tried his Buffet Eb. It was
terrible! I finally resorted to writing Russianoff Wind Instruments in New
York saying I wanted to buy a Buffet Eb clarinet, but it had to be in tune
because I was an amateur and don't have the time and skill to beat it into
submission like a professional. It took more than a year, but Leon Russianoff
finally found and sold me a superb Buffet Eb. The low register is a little
sharp but easy enough to lip down. The altissimo is a little low but can be
lipped up or assisted by holding down the key under your right ring finger.
I also found, for reasons I can no longer remember, that David Hite's Eb
barrel was better than the Buffet barrel. I use the regular Vandoren 2-1/2
to 3 reeds. I had been buying boxes of them for years and noticed about four
years ago that I had accumulated a lifetime supply, about 70 boxes. I there-
fore do not buy reeds any more. I prefer to play Eb than Bb in concert bands
so that I am not always playing the same thing as the person next to me. In
newer band music, the Eb is often doubling the first oboe or piccolo whereas
in older music doubling with first clarinets and flutes is common. I think
it is more important for the Eb clarinet to sit next to the first oboe or
piccolo since poor intonation match with them is more obvious to the audience
than mismatch with a section of clarinets or flutes (which sometimes are out of
tune among themselves anyway). I have not found any easy answers for those
of you struggling with inferior Eb clarinets. You either have to work with an
instrument to learn and master its idiosyncracies (for example by inventing
fingerings that play betterin tune than normal fingerings) or try to find an
instrument that's not afflicted with severe intonation problems. Luckily,
many conductors are so grateful when the Eb is played in tune that neither they
nor other listeners quibble about tone quality. I believe most people have no
definite concept of what an Eb clarinet should sound like and are willing to
accept a shriller sound than they would tolerate out of a Bb or A clarinet.
I like the Selmer S mouthpiece because it is the least shrill of the mouthpieces
I tried (twenty or so years ago). With only one exception, band conductors I
have played for preferred me to blend rather than stand out. The only exception
was Charles Cushing conducting his own composition Angel Camp who wanted a
piercing tone in an Eb solo. Anyway, good Eb clarinetists are scarce enough
that, by becoming one, you might be welcomed by groups that othewise don't
need any more Bb clarinets.

Kirby Fong

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