Klarinet Archive - Posting 000596.txt from 1999/05
Subj: Re: [kl]Hans Moennig's solution the Dark Clarinet Tone
Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 03:52:01 -0400
During my repair apprenticeship with W. Hans Moennig, I watched him
set up and tune over two hundred R-13, A and Bb clarinets to the standards
of Robert Marcellus. According to Mr. Moennig the A clarinet after his
professional Set up should play just as even and have resonance equal to that
of the Bb Clarinet. Since most players have not had the opportunity try an
authentic Moennig Clarinet, They just accept the inconsistent pitch and
timbre flaws of a new A as the norm.
It would take me three or four hours to write a detailed description
of Mr. Moennig's exact Set Up for the A clarinet so I will offer a brief
According to my notes and observations of Mr. Moennig's tuning system this is
his proven solution in refining the A clarinet.
There are several means of adjusting the pitch and timbre of notes on
woodwind instruments. To make a note Flatter the tone hole can be moved away
from the reed or mouthpiece. This can be done by applying tape in the upper
side of the tone hole closest to the mouthpiece. This technique also makes
the hole smaller and therefore adds friction to the air column. When a hole
is made too small the note becomes stuffier in timbre. When the same tone
hole is enlarged it will become more resonant. And if the hole is enlarged
on the upper side (closest to the mouthpiece) the pitch will become sharper.
These simple acoustical rules were used by Hans Moennig to Perfect the R-13
clarinet for some of the greatest players of the 20th Century.
Whenever Mr. Moennig set up a clarinet for Robert Marcellus or his
college students, the first thing that Mr. Moennig would do is lower all of
the tone holes by Two millimeters. He did not attained this feat with tape,
however. Mr. Moennig would add a 67 mm barrel to the clarinet and discard
the original 65 mm barrel, thus adding 2 mm to the top side of each tone
hole. Next he would shorten the bell by 2 mm on the lathe. This would in
essence move all the tone holes down the horn thus making all of the notes
play flatter while the original length of the clarinet remained the SAME.
Now that the notes were flatter, Mr. Moennig had the option to enlarge and
undercut them individually to obtain maximum resonance and achieve an even
uniformed scale in all registers. The Throat tone notes which were originally
sharp and stuffy were slightly undercut to improve the timbre. The thumb tube
was replaced with the shorter Moennig hour glass style to improve the throat
B flat and Sharp High A, B, and C. Next the left hand finger holes were
enlarged for more resonance and undercut for tuning of the registers. The
larger tone holes of the lower joint were increased 2 or 3 drill sizes and
undercut immensely. This step greatly enhanced the resonance and freedom of
the A clarinet and often clarinetist would not be able to distinguish the A
clarinet from the B flat in timbre. Mr. Moennig's goal was to remove
obstacles from the paths of woodwind players. By making the tone holes of
the A clarinet larger than the original smaller stuffier holes, Mr. Moennig
was able to make A clarinet playing easier than that of the B flat clarinet.
After the tone hole work was completed, Mr. Moennig would then
enlarge the upper choke of the bell to improve the pitch of the flat low E
and Enhance the resonance of the Full B and Throat B flat.
Unlike other Buffet dealers, when a famous player would come to Mr.
Moennig's shop to purchase a clarinet the customer was given 12 Moennig bells
to pick from. The bells had the same bore dimensions but varied quite a bit
in wood density and grain structure. Mr. Moennig would weigh each bell and
mark them accordingly. He said that bells could vary as much as 1.5 ounces
in weight. The lighter weight bells would always get picked first as they
had the darker warmer tones. Mr. Moennig said that choice wood came from the
center of the tree. This area is where the sap is and tends to have a grainy
appearance. Some of his customers would actually argue over who was going to
get the softer bell as they were a real premium. Other woods such and
Rosewood and Kingwood were preferred by Mr. Moennig for Making bells too. He
felt that since the bell was the last section to influence the sound, the
density of the wood was critical in filtering out destructive overtones and
achieving a dark resonant tone. Some players confuse resistance with a dark
tone but they are two different issues. Resistance is the interference of
response and a dark tone is the lack of upper partials in the harmonic
profile of the given tone. Mr. Moennig sought a free blowing clarinet with a
warm dark tone. The freedom was attained through the bore and tone holes
diameters and the dark tone was normally attained with the density of the
bell wood. I have a few Moennig soft wood bells available if anyone is
interested in trying them.
I hope this posting adds a little light on the confusing discussion
of tone and timbre. For more information on tuning and timbre problems of
clarinets, please E mail your street address to me. I will be more than
happy to send you a brochure on other Moennig solutions and innovations.
Affordable Music Co.
P. O. Box 4245
Virginia Beach, VA 23454
757-412-2160 fax 412-2158
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