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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000392.txt from 1995/03

From: "Edwin V. Lacy" <el2@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re: More on "Light" and "Dark"
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 1995 21:01:45 -0500

Dan Leeson wrote:

>And if there is yet something to be said on the subject of light and
>dark, then say it

OK, thanks for the invitation. In a previous posting, I defended, at
least to a degree, the use of terms such as light and dark to describe
tone quality. But, in another one I protested against conductors who
want to talk to orchestras in poetic terms. Generally, orchestra players
appreciate a conductor who will tell them whether he wants them to play
louder or softer, flatter or sharper, faster or slower, etc. Then they
know exactly what to do. If a conductor asks for a brighter or darker
tone, players are likely to just play louder or softer. But, sometimes a
conductor will ask the brass for a "fatter" or "richer" sound, and I
think they generally know what he means, and they at least believe that
they know what to do, and so do I.

One of your replies was that the problem with relating tonal concepts to
the relative intensity of partials in the harmonic structure of the tone
is that you (presumably a generic "you") don't know what to do to get
more high or more low overtones. In that case, it's a good thing I am
here, because I am going to tell you how.

If you open your mouth a little wider, playing with a larger oral cavity,
you will get more low overtones. If you use a slightly stiffer reed, so
long as it is not so stiff as to create wild and uncontrolled vibrations,
you will get more low overtones. If you play on a Selmer clarinet, and
switch to either Buffet or Yamaha, you will get more low overtones,
because the bore of these instruments is set up to emphasize the low
overtones. Some ligatures will give you more low overtones, others will
give more high overtones, although this is possibly a less significant
factor than most of the others mentioned here. If your reeds are made
from thicker cane and cut more deeply, thereby forming the vibrating
areas from farther below the surface where the vascular bundles are less
dense, you will get more low overtones. Some mouthpieces will give more
high overtones, others will emphasize the low ones. If you blow harder
(play louder), you will get a larger number of overtones (the additional
ones will be added on the top of the spectrum) and the overtones at all
frequencies will be more intense. These are just a few of the factors

Many of these influences on tone quality have been documented in
experiments. Almost any good text in acoustics will list several good

So getting the sound which your ear wants to hear is a matter of
experimentation, and balancing many diverse factors which contribute to
the sound of the instrument. Again, there is certainly a subjective
factor involved here, and therefore we don't have to worry in the near
future that all clarinetists or all bassoonists or all hornists, etc.,
will sound exactly alike.

OK, I have my fire extinguisher at the ready, so bring on the flames!

Edwin Lacy

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