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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000791.txt from 1999/06

Date: Sat, 26 Jun 1999 23:45:57 -0400

In a message dated 6/26/99 7:22:42 PM EST, writes:

<< I have never played a blown out horn. Perhaps, like Harold Wright and
Heinrich Baermann I'm too "insensitive" to have experienced it.

A.S. The Clarinets that I am referring to are not the ones under the 100,000
series as Harold Wright Played. I thought I had explained that on some of
the earlier postings. If you look at my comments in context, you will find
that I was responding to a question regarding the life expectancy of newer
clarinets. My comments on the short life of clarinets is due to today's wood
being unstable and immature.

I am,
however, a professional machinist who has measured countless clarinet
bores. Like the young pitcher in Bull Durham, "they're all over the
place!" They can be undersize from their specifications by as much as
.003" or oversize by as much as .002". They are virtually always out of
round. Clarinet manufacturers are either really sloppy or wood simply
changes over time. I suspect the latter is the more likely.

A.S. Yes clarinets wood can be out of round as it springs a lot during the
reaming process. the softer grain tears while the harder grains cut. It is
not a big problem if the entire clarinet expands of contract a few .001ths
of an inch. However, if the top few inches of the upper joint changes
excessively, due to greater moisture exposure, in relationship to the lower
joint. The instrument will play out tune with itself. Such as wide 12ths.

You can run a flap hone with 400 grit paper at 1,000 RPM for 60 seconds in
the bore of a clarinet joint and not be able to measure a diameter
increase. [You will, however, make it nice and shiny.] How a cloth swab
could ever enlarge a clarinet bore is beyond me.

A.S. You are right. Cloth swabs don't change the bore through wear but they
do change tone holes drastically. When the bore contracts so does the wall of
the clarinet. When the wall of the instrument contacts the tone holes get
smaller. When the tone holes get smaller the pitch gets flatter and stuffier.
Lets talk about the swab! The swab is used to clean the BORE!
Right? The swab never makes contact with the tone hole wall or undercutting.
Usually when a clarinetist has finished playing, they must blow the water
from the tone holes or used a pipe cleaner. The pipe cleaner only gets the
cylinder clean but the undercutting is left untouched. As the swab is pulled
though the bore, lint or fibers from the tight swab will build up in the
bottom section of the tone holes, especially with cotton swabs.( I recommend
silk swabs as they shed less). This fiber build up acts as a filter. As
saliva and condensation runs down the bore of the horn, this fiber filter
sucks it right into the tone hole.
Next the Moisture dries and leaves natural minerals like calcium in
the fiber filter. Over a period of time the a crusty plaque will form in the
tone made of lint, fibers and calcium. This Build up is very similar in
appearance to calcius or dental plaque. Eventually this plaque will decrease
the tone hole volume and occlude the undercutting thus making the clarinet
play in a "blown out" manner. Each month I remove a tablespoon of plaque
from or local symphony clarinetist's instrument.
Chronic water gurgles are also a sign of fiber build up or tone hole
plaque. I originally discovered tone hole plaque while doing medical studies
on clarinets. I was X-raying some of the clarinets that I inherited from my
Repair teacher W. Hans Moennig. These white rings kept appearing at the apex
of the undercutting with a resolution very similar to human bone. It was
quite confusing to me because I could not find foreign material via the bore
or tone hole cylinder. I used a proctoscope to view the undercutting and
there it was Big as Day, a I.5 mm protrusion into the air path. At that
point I design a cleaning tool that matched the tone hole profile. The tool
was designed to reach the hidden section of the undercutting that the swab
never cleans. After carefully removing the old plaque build up from the tone
holes the instrument was much more resonant.
In addition to improving the pitch and timbre, Removing swab and
fiber plaque can also reduce wood cracks though tone holes. Such cracks are
very common on the top joint side B and Bb trillers, throat A, and the Left
hand G# hole. If you have a new clarinet, now is the time to clean the plaque
from the tone holes. I will be glad to mail you information on the cleaning
tool and how to use it, if you don't already have it. Just send me your
street address as I don't have a scanner yet.
I hope this posting will help clarinetist better understand the age
old problem of pitch change due to tone hole plaque and Not Bore Blow Out.

Good Luck,

Alvin Swiney

Affordable Music Co.

P.O. Box 4245

Virginia Beach, VA 23454

757-412-2160 fax 412-2158

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