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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000454.txt from 2004/10

From: Tony Pay <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Air flow
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 18:31:55 -0400

On 15 Oct, Adam Michlin <> wrote:

> I am really curious to know how the sound generation works without the reed
> striking something (and will understand if I have to wait until you return
> for an answer)? Stay tuned!

Essentially, the point is that the clarinet 'sounds' when a standing wave is
set up in the body of the instrument. And *that* occurs when the vibration
of the reed becomes coupled with the reflected pressure wave returning from
the first open hole, so that a steady state is achieved, with the vibration
of the reed being essentially dominated by the tube. And that coupling
doesn't require the reed to close against the facing, because you can get a
variation in pressure produced by the vibrating reed without that happening.

> > I believe the way to think about this is to divorce the notion of a
> > staccato sequence from the notion of beginning a note.
> But what is staccato if not a quickly stopped and started note? My
> experience is most people who have trouble with staccato have trouble
> starting their notes, in general. Often fixing their starts can fix their
> staccato. Staccato problems are merely more obvious because if you start
> the note late.. well.. there is no note.

Absolutely. But, the start of each note in a staccato sequence is achieved
by the air pressure behind the reed. The note starts when you 'stop
stopping' it.
> > Beginning a note can be achieved quite successfully in most cases without
> > the tongue. It can be more immediate if you use maximum support. But
> > the greatest immediacy is achieved by using the tongue to 'clean up' the
> > attack.
> At this point is difficult to continue without clarinets in our hands, but
> I will try. I will agree you can begin a note without the tongue, but I'd
> be curious to see you play reasonably fast staccato notes in sequence
> without the tongue.

Again, it's just that the tongue only *stops* the note. You can't start the
next one till you've stopped the previous one, obviously. But the next one
starts when you stop stopping the reed's vibration.

> Remember, my overriding goal was to explain why Bonade's method of
> staccato works so well and yet is so misunderstood.

Perhaps I don't have a full characterisation of Bonade's method. All you
told me was that he said you can move your fingers on 'early' without
disadvantage, so that the clarinet tube is already prepared for the next
moment the tongue releases the reed. But that's obvious.

> My gut feeling about your last sentence is that it is akin to 3 left turns
> instead of a right turn. That is, it works, but isn't necessarily the most
> efficient way to do things. Why not just "attack" cleanly, rather than
> using the tongue to compensate for an unclean "attack"? I will understand
> if you feel this is a dead end without use of clarinets.

All I meant was, that you can get a 'hAaaa' attack by just blowing, and an
'aAaa' attack by using support. If you want an 'Aaaa' attack, you may need
to use the tongue, but that's just to stop the reed vibrating until the
pressure reaches its maximum -- which it does very quickly.

You need to understand how support works to see the truth of what I'm saying
there, perhaps:

> > > At this point, I must digress for a bit on articulation syllables. If
> > > you look at the 19th century French (admittedly Flute)
> >
> >...and I have to say, that's the difference...
> I see, we can learn nothing from the Flute world? It's a good thing I
> haven't gone into what I've learned in studying percussion and brass
> pedagogy! In all seriousness, the physics of a playing any vibrating
> instrument are pretty much universal. The physiology of blowing any wind
> instrument is just about as universal.

It's just that flutes don't have a reed, and therefore have to stop the
airstream to stop the note. We don't have to do that, so all the metaphors

> > It's worthwhile to understand the difference that the tongue position may
> > make in staccato. But that's not to do with the action of the tongue on
> > the reed -- it's to do with the quality of sound generated by the mouth
> > cavity when the tongue leaves the reed.
> It would seem to more correct to call it a combination of both factors. The
> quality of sound is very relevant to the sound quality of the staccato
> note, but the tongue is equally relevant to the quality of start and stop
> of the note.

Yes. But the constraints on the tongue action required to stop the reed
vibrating are essentially simple ones, compared with the ones required to
produce an appropriate sound.

As I say in the article, it's rather like stopping a pendulum neatly, and
letting it go neatly.

> > > To correctly start a note is as simple as putting the tongue on reed,
> > > applying pressure on the reed to insure it will strike the mouthpiece,
> > > increasing the air pressure on the mouthpiece opening and then, ever so
> > > naturally, saying "Teh" (or your preferred articulation syllable). Not
> > > "TTTTTTeh" (this works so much better when I'm speaking instead of
> > > typing). Just the tongue leaving the reed as if you were saying "Teh".
> > >
> > > This still takes practice, but is infinitely easier to learn to control
> > > because the you no longer have to synchronize the air with the tongue.
> > > Engineers on the list may recognize this principle as being similar to
> > > the problems of race conditions in digital circuits. The principle is
> > > simple, you only want to have one variable changing at a time,
> > > otherwise life gets really complicated.
> >As you have probably worked out, I find all of the above misleading.
> I do not understand. Do you not agree with what I have written, or am I
> being unclear?

I don't agree the reed has to strike the mouthpiece, and I don't agree that
there is a problem synchronising the air with the tongue. Rather, I begin
the note as a diaphragm release, and clean up the attack if necessary.

> > I find it particularly worthwhile to notice how the reed/instrument
> > responds to different tongue actions that stop notes, according to what
> > register you're playing in.
> >
> > No-one told me this -- it was something I discovered for myself. Again,
> > see the (rather long) article I quoted in the URL above.
> I have read your article and will have to get back to you when I've had a
> chance to play through your ideas. My initial thoughts are I do not change
> what I do from register to register, but I will explore the possibility
> that I am wrong.
> > You can use a great variety of 'ending note' techniques, involving the
> > tongue, or not. None of them is wrong, or right. Only the results are
> > wrong or right.
> In the greater scheme of things, there is no right or wrong (post-modernist
> deconstructionist clarinet pedagogy, woohoo!).

No, for god's sake. I disagree with all that as much as you, if not more.
But, you have to say, do whatever works.

> I am merely trying to explain the symptoms and solutions to common
> problems. If people want to play with a drunken double tonguing sound, more
> power to them.

I don't think I'm advocating that.

> > > See? Playing the clarinet is easy. Just learn how to stop and start
> > > your notes. Consistently.
> >
> > Yup, that's it.
> Is this where we're supposed to shake hands and each drink a warm beer?
> See, I'm not a totally ignorant American. Just mostly!

I'm buying, when we meet:-)

_________ Tony Pay
|ony:-) 79 Southmoor Rd
| |ay Oxford OX2 6RE
tel/fax 01865 553339

... A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

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