Advertising and Web Hosting on Woodwind.Org!

Klarinet Archive - Posting 000066.txt from 2001/04

From: "Lacy, Edwin" <>
Subj: [kl] RE: vibrato
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001 02:20:12 -0400

From: Daniel Leeson

> I'm sorry that you feel the way you do, not so much against the
> practice, but because you don't have any reason for your statement.

Dan (and others):

It happens that I like the paintings of William Turner better than those of
Picasso, but other than in a general way, it would be difficult to state a
well-defined line of reasoning that has led me to that stance, even though I
think I know a little about the technical aspects of the painting of each,
the aesthetic stance of each artist, etc.

In the standard clarinet repertoire, I usually prefer to hear the instument
played without vibrato, and I think my reasoning would be that I simply like
the sound of the clarinet better without vibrato. No doubt that is to a
large degree a matter of conditioning - that's the way the clarinet usually
sounded when I first heard the instrument played.

However, I think there is a physical phenomenon involved here. No matter
what type of vibrato the clarinetist might use, and no matter how it is
produced, whatever the player does to produce the vibrato causes some
changes in the overtone content or harmonic structure of the tone. This is
true in the case of all woodwind instruments, but the effect is more
profound in some of them than others. (At this point, without quite a bit
of research, I can't point you to any experimental studies that would
confirm that fact. However, I think this is referred to somewhere in the
writings of Arthur Benade. Also, my ears tell me that it is true, but this
is far from a reliable indicator of a scientific phenomenon.)

If the player chooses to use "intensity alteration" vibrato, there will be
periodic changes in the degree of intensity of the air supply to the
instrument. During those phases of the cycle when the pressure is
increased, there will be a greater number of overtones present in the sound,
and the higher overtones will be relatively more intense. The converse is
also true. Such changes in the harmonic structure are necessarily reflected
in the tone quality produced - in fact, that is the physical definition of
"tone quality."

If on the other hand the player uses "pitch alteration" vibrato, there will
be changes in the embouchure to periodically raise and/or lower the pitch.
As the pitch varies further and further from the natural resonance frequency
or cut-off frequency of the instrument for the particular pitch being
played, the number and intensity of overtones is attenuated.

As I mentioned, this is also true of the saxophone, oboe, flute and bassoon.
However, perhaps again due to conditioning, our ears are more likely to
accept the tone quality of the other instruments during the various phases
of the production of vibrato.

So, I am suggesting that there may be a physical reason why some might
prefer the tone of the clarinet without vibrato, even if the listener may
not be aware of all the physical attributes of the sound.

Ed Lacy
Dr. Edwin Lacy, Professor of Music
University of Evansville
1800 Lincoln Avenue
Evansville, IN 47722
telephone (812)479-2252; e-mail:

Unsubscribe from Klarinet, e-mail:
Subscribe to the Digest:
Additional commands:
Other problems:

     Copyright © Woodwind.Org, Inc. All Rights Reserved    Privacy Policy    Contact