Klarinet Archive - Posting 000081.txt from 1995/03
From: Laurence Liberson <hardreed@-----.COM>
Subj: Re: eb sop. clar.
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 09:30:52 -0500
>this list stuff is all new to me, so bear with me while i learn where ev
>erything is and how it works. i do a lot of eb sop. clarinet playing an
>d wanted to know your thoughts on the subject. if you play this*&%^%in
>strument, please list specs, likes, dislikes adventures, etc. that 'll
>do for now. anyone else who struggles with this instrument, please comm
Wow, there sure has been a lot of "interest"(?) in E-flat thiese last couple
But must we resort to name-calling? I mean, really: weasel? How 'bout "the
weapon?" (David Zinman's pet name!).
Dan Leeson made a very good observation in stating that "the fact that one
may be a very good clarinet player does not necessarily mean that one is a
very good E-flat clarinet player." Having listened to way too many piccolo
auditions, one can easily see this is the case for all "specialty"
instruments--and E-flat clarinet is as special as it gets!
Besides my position of assistant principal of my orchestra I am also the
E-flat clarinetist. Before I cam here in 1981, I played first clarinet in
an orchestra and didn't even *own* an E-flat! (I borrowed one for the
auditon, actually!). For better or worse, I seem to have an affinity for
the little devil and have grown to be very fond of it (not to mention the
added overscale it provides!). With this background in mind, let me spew
out some of my ideas on E-flat clarinet and E-flat clarinet playing:
1) Intonation is the single most difficult aspect of playing E-flat
clarinet. First, I don't believe that an "in-tune-with-itself" E-flat
clarinet has *ever* been made! So that's our first concern--working to play
in tune with ourselves. You can throw your fingering chart away, boys and
girls, 'cause it will only provide a mere glimpse into what you need to know
to play your instrument even close to being in tune! Sure, many standard,
normal fingerings are just fine, but the higher you go on the E-flat, be
prepared to cater to your particular instrument's problems...Basically, you
will use alot of difficult fingerings (long, etc.), not to mention
"inventing" some of your own fingerings, due to the particular peculiarities
of your own horn. (and don't forget that what might play well in tune on one
instrument just may not be too great on your next!).
After you, hopefully, approach a half-decent scale throughout the range of
your horn, then you can approach intonation with various members of your
ensemble. This can be even more fun, as you develop a wonderful
relationship with such diverse voices as flute (try the end of the first
movement of Mahler 9th), bass clarinet (Le sacre du printemps), alto flute
(also Le sacre), oboe (Mahler 2nd) and piccolo (every piece ever written!).
It is times like these when we appreciate well written solos (solo meaning
"alone!") like Bolero! You must be able--and willing--to constantly adjust
(as any good and conscientious ensemble player should be) to survive with
your integrity, if not your ear, intact.
2) Making it sound like something other than a castrated clarinet: My
approach, for what it is worth, is to make the E-flat clarinet sound as much
as a "big" clarinet as possible. The embouchure should be "miniaturized,"
of course, as is our equipment. Other than that, I believe the approach
should be no different than our approach to B-flat or A clarinet. Why?
Well, why not? Do we do things radically different things when changing
from A to B-flat? I don't believe so. Basically, I don't believe that it's
necessary to bring out the "bright" and "squeaky"(or whatever you'd call it)
characteristics of the E-flat clarinet...Believe me, they will be there no
matter *what" you do, so why make it sound even more so? Just as we allow
the "big" clarinets to project their own qualities, let the E-flat do it, also.
With this in mind, let's discuss some more particclars: As I mentioned, the
embouchure should be, of course, somewhat like a miniature of your regular
clarint embouchure. For the most part, it is not necessary--and certainly
not advised!-to be biting and squeezing at every turn of the page. Sure,
you will need to exert a *slight* bit more pressure for certain notes (i.e.,
above high F) and you will find it necessary to "adjust" your embouchure for
purposes of good intonation, but to constantly be in a state of clenching
your mouth about the mouthpiece is only going to give you a very sore lip, a
sore jaw and constant headaches; besides, it won't do much for your playing,
Keep the tongue--particularly the rear part of the tongue--high in the
mouth. Often the real difficulty in getting ourselves to produce the note
correctly is that we're playing a part for E-flat clarinet, but our brain
reads--and hears--the note as if it were for "big" clarinet, therefore we
voice it accordingly with our anatomical equipment. Result? Generally, a
"scooping" up to the correct pitch, coupled with a sense of confusion as to
why! Do yourself a b-i-g favor and start "thinking" and "hearing" in the
key of the instrument you are playing. For playing E-flat clarinet, it is
I don't use anything fancy or special for equipment, other than the fact
that I use clarinet reeds and cut them down to E-flat length. I find this
much more satifactory than using pre-made E-flat reeds. You might find that
the "German" facing reeds will work for you (depending on your mouthpiece,
of course) as they are more narrow.
Okay, there's alot more to be said, but I've said more than enough, eh? (not
to mention that I have a show o play in less than an hour!) Whether this
makes sense to you or sounds like a bunch of garbage is, of course, up to
you! You might go out and purchase a few DSO discs and listen for yourself:
if the E-flat clarinet playing sounds good to you, then I must know what I'm
talking about; if you don't like it, then kindly disregard everything you've
read here! :)
Detroit Symphony Orchestra