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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000447.txt from 1998/03

From: "Alec Hill" <>
Subj: Re: Clarinet as a Tuning Instrument
Date: Sat, 7 Mar 1998 08:06:03 -0500

Having talked to my trumpet playing friend I must correct one assertion I
made, namely that by inserting a tube into the bell of a trumpet, sufficient
to reduce the pitch of its lowest note by a semitone, the whole pitch range
of the instrument is lowered by that amount.

This is only approximately true. Only those notes in the same valve
position would be lowered by exactly this amount, the others would be
slightly out of tune. It would be necessary to increase the lengths
inserted by each valve by the same proportion, approximately 6 percent.
Apparently it is the case that, when confronted by a part for trumpet in A,
a player will often convert his Bb instrument to one in A by the simple
expedient of pulling out all the tuning slides in each valve position.

One other fact I learned, which finally demolishes the arguments of Roger
Garrett's friend, is that when you speak of a Bb trumpet or Bb tuba this
does NOT mean that this is the pitch of their lowest note, but rather the
pitch of their lowest note in the open position, i.e. using no valves. By
depressing one or more valves they can actually play BELOW this note.

The nearest equivalent on the clarinet would be if we named the instrument
after the concert pitch produced by the open g' (or c#'' on a saxophone).
Thus our Bb instrument would have to be renamed an F clarinet!

So, in conclusion, we name our instruments after the pitch of a suitable
reference note appropriate to the acoustical properties of our instruments.
On woodwind instruments this is C, on the lower brass the lowest note in
open position. On upper brass, as far as I am aware, these two amount to
the same thing. If we desire uniformity it would seem most sensible for the
lower brass to adopt the woodwind convention. The existence of Bb
transposed tuba parts indicate this may be happening anyway.

Alec Hill

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