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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000787.txt from 2001/02

From: "Kevin Fay (LCA)" <>
Subj: RE: [kl] E flat soprano
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 15:33:14 -0500

Nancy ( wrote:

<<<It takes quite a bit of practice to develop an embouchure that is
"sturdy" enough to play up high on the eefer. For me personally my set-up
is a very close mouthpiece with a relatively hard reed (at least a
4/reg.Vandoren) . It took quite a while (3-4 months) of daily practice (90
min/day) to toughen up my face in order to use this set-up. When ever I am
laid up for some reason and don't continually practice, I lose some of that
strength. Maybe others on the list can give their scenarios. Keep at it
and all of a sudden, one day you will be playing and out will pop all the
right notes, right up to pitch.>>>

I think the biggest problem with the Eb is that people just don't play on it
enough. It's really not a horn you can yank out of the closet every other
year and expect to play with the same level of facility as the "normal" Bb
that you play every day. It is exactly the same situation as the flute
players in the row ahead of us; if you don't play piccolo every day, you're
not going to be much good at it.

I play a lot of Eb -- it's my usual part in a wind ensemble. Much to the
chagrin of my cats, I play it as much or more as his big brothers. Here are
some Eb tips that have worked for me:

* Get the best mouthpiece you can. For "normal" (Bb/A) playing, I am of
the opinion that the mouthpiece is a much more critical piece of equipment
than the clarinet (to paraphrase Stanley Hasty, the farther away from your
brain you get, the less important it is.) This goes *double* for Eb.
Several list members make great Eb mouthpieces -- the Greg Smith and Roger
Garrett specimens in my case both work well. The Hite is a more
mass-produced item that works OK. Selmers can be OK, but usually require
refacing. I have never been able to get an acceptable sound out of any
Vandoren Eb.

* Don't use Eb reeds -- get a pair of pruning shears, and cut down Bb reeds
to the right length from the butt. Many Eb mouthpieces are in fact designed
for this; at least for me, it makes most any Eb mouthpiece work better. You
won't have to go quite so stiff with the bigger reeds -- I use the same V-12
3-1/2s that I use on the bigger horns.

Strangely enough, with a good Eb mouthpiece, I find that these cut-down
reeds are not temperamental at all. While I continue to pick and choose on
the larger instrument, most any reed seems to work on the Eb.

* Buy Peter Hadcock's Eb excerpt book. Aside from having the cool excerpts
all in one place, there is a full part for Till Eulenspiegel written out for
Eb (instead of the usual transposition you'd have to do from the D clarinet
part). Best of all, there is a fantastic fingering chart with all of Mr.
Hadcock's inventive alternate fingerings, referred to where appropriate in
each excerpt. It's a terrific resource!

* Make a date with your tuner. The wee horn isn't just a small Bb; it has
it's own pitfalls. While it looks like the clarinet we all know and love,
the intonation characteristics are very different; chances are that you'll
end up using an entirely different set of fingerings for the altissimo

* You may find that a Chadash barrel will make an R-13 Eb more in tune,

* Don't play so LOUD! The Eb really has two settings -- "stun" and "kill."
If you're up in the stratosphere, there is no reason to horse the sound.
Even at modest volume levels, you *will* be heard. Better to have a nice
tone and be in tune than peel paint.

There's really only two redeeming features to the little sprout. First,
there's some really nifty parts written for it; it has a tasty tone color
that composers have put to good use. Second, it can be a whole bunch of

Best of luck!


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