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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000747.txt from 2000/07

From: (William Wright)
Subj: Re: [kl] The role of the reed
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 11:33:51 -0400

<><> Neil=A0Leupold wrote:
For many developing players, simply grasping the notion that the
vibrating reed is entirely responsible for the production of sound can
have a profound impact on subsequent conceptualization

A beginner such as myself probably shouldn't attempt to argue with
experienced players. But my novice opinion is that the concept above is
entirely incorrect and would lead a student entirely in the wrong
I am reading, as best as I can, Benade's bigger book right now, and
the entire section about the physics of woodwind instruments emphasizes
over and over and over (and over) again that the reed's motion and the
shape of the total air cavity often affect pitch and tone color in
opposite ways.... and thank goodness they do, or the clarinet would be
even more unstable than it already is.
The best analogy that I can think of right now is how our muscles
are built -- in opposing pairs. The reason that we can extend our arm
slowly (rather than throwing it out to full extension) is that some
muscles are capable of pulling in each direction and we can balance the
tensions against each other in order to achieve gradual motion and fine
motor control.
So while it's true that face muscles control the reed, they also
control the shape of the air column, and a student should (must?) be
kept aware of this fact, not blinded to it.
As an extension of this basic concept, Benade's book -- and I would
imagine other books do the same -- discusses at length (and immediately,
beginning in the first chapter or two) how the shape of even the tiny
cavities of the tone holes themselves affect the way manner in which the
total air column vibrates and how they influence the reed's motion as
Of course, once the instrument is built, the effect of 'tone hole
cavities' is fixed. But this is not true of the cavity that is the
player's mouth! And (IMO) the student must not be misdirected away from
this central concept.
As one last illustration, why does it make a difference which
mouthpiece you play? Because the mouthpiece bends the reed in a certain
way? Absolutely not. Mouthpiece affects tone and pitch because the
shape of the mouthpiece's cavity sets up internal pressures that deliver
energy in a certain recipe to the reed (as well as to the rest of the
air column).

Cheers (and no offense intended),

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