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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001483.txt from 1998/04

From: Bill Hausmann <>
Subj: Re: [klarinet] Wood vs. Plastic vs. Metal
Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 06:10:18 -0400

At 05:41 PM 4/26/98 -0400, Tristan Carpenter wrote:
> I'm sorry to say this, for all those folks out there who cherish thier
>plastic clarinets; there is a definitive (ok, so it's not THAT major; but
>it's noticible) difference in the sound between a plastic and a wood
>clarinet. Here are the scientific facts as I have been informed by SEVERAL
>friends in the scientific field...
>1. The difference in sound is, in part, quality. Though some excellent
>plastic clarinets have been made, most are of sub standard workmanship.
>2. Every material in this world resonates at a slightly different frequency.
>Wood is denser than plastic, and therefore resonates more slowly. Slower
>frequency of resonation causes what is described as a "darker" sound. Metal
>resonates fastest of all.
>3. Thicker the walls, slower the resonation. ??? (This one's debatable).

Be careful about doubting this. If you believe that the different material
changes the resonance frequency, you pretty much have to concede that a
different thickness would also affect it. That's why there are some
thick-wall clarinets out there (eg. Selmer Recital).

>4. The smoothness of the bore has much to do with sound. On a wood clarinet
>there is the grain of the wood ever-present, while on plastic and metal the
>bore is smoother. Once again, these factors determine resonance
> There is what I know, maybe it will help you decide. Two things are for
>sure though, plastic is not as adversely affected by weather as wood is;
>and, wood, for whatever reason, seems to sound better (at least IMHO). I
>hope I got all my scientific terms right!!! :)
The only way to truly tell if the difference is material or
design/manufacture is to have two identically built (except for material)
clarinets, or preferable multiples of each type, to test. The easiest,
cheapest way would be with student-line clarinets. You could compare the
Selmer 1401 (aka Bundy 577) and the Selmer 100 (aka Selmer Signet), for
example. Do the test blind, or double-blind if possible (have someone hand
you the instrument while you are blindfolded or otherwise prevented from
seeing which it is) and have a third party (or parties) who do not know
which clarinet you are playing do the evaluation.

Bill Hausmann
451 Old Orchard Drive
Essexville, MI 48732
ICQ UIN 4862265

If you have to mic a saxophone, the rest of the band is too loud.

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