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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000118.txt from 2010/11

From: Diego Casadei <>
Subj: Re: [kl] RES: Orchestral Pitch
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2010 17:08:32 -0500

Dear Richard,

I must have expressed myself very badly :-( My A and B-flat clarinets
are manifactured by the Patricola brothers and they belong to the class
of professional instruments. They are _designed_ to play in tune at 442
Hz, and most players do so by adopting the 65 mm Patricola barrel (who
produce barrels in the range 63-68 mm). With my B40 embochure, it
happens that I need to use the 66 mm barrel to play at 442 Hz.

Above, the only relevant thing is that the Patricola clarinets are
designed to play at 442 Hz (I could say the same of Buffet models). I
can certainly use shorter or longer barrels and play with rings, but
nothing will change the position of the tone holes. This implies that,
for example, if I increase the barrel portion to lower the pitch to play
in tune at 440 Hz when emitting the all-closed central B tune (a natural
A at 440 Hz), the lower portion of the instrument will be better in tune
than the higher portion, which will tend to sound flat.

The reason is that a fixed length increase, say 1 mm, means a larger
_relative_ increase for holes which are nearer the mouthpiece compared
to the bottom holes.

For this reason, if a band wants to play at 439 Hz the best choice (if
possible) is to purchase instruments built to be in tune at that
frequency. Buying a clarinet tuned at 442 Hz and playing it at 439 Hz
means destroying the relations between different tones.

If you have ever had experience in playing together with a piano with
rather flat tuning (it occurred several times in my life), then you know
how difficult is to obtain a decent tuning over the full range of the

Best regards,

Richard D Bush wrote:
> Dear Diego,
> The fact that your clarinets have 66mm barrels, in and of itself,
> means very little to the overall pitch of your instruments. I know
> that most student model clarinets made today also have 66mm barrels.
> What you may not know is that the manufacturers cut one to two
> millimeters from the top end of the upper joint. The mouthpiece, its
> bore where it joins the barrel, its internal displacement also affect
> the tuning of the instrument.
> Have you ever tried using tuning rings to lengthen a clarinet's
> length? This is a common problem with most student model clarinets. I
> find that even when adding tuning rings to student model clarinets,
> the opening heights of the throat tone keys (top ring key for open G,
> the G#key and the A key) need to be changed to get the throat tones in
> tune with the rest of the instrument.
> Additionally, few manufacturers are careful about establishing a
> correct key opening for the Bb/register key on their instruments.
> Usually, the register keys are allowed to open way too much. This
> causes the upper of the second register, and those notes just over the
> register break (B natural and C) to play much sharper than they should.
> Yours truly,
> Richard Bush
> On Nov 11, 2010, at 2:38 AM, Diego Casadei wrote:
> wrote:
>> Band directors: Try an experiment. Tune your bands to 439 for one
>> month. I bet you never go back.
> Not with modern instruments. My clarinets play in tune, when they are
> cold, at 442 Hz with a 66 mm barrel (the "normal" size is 65 mm for
> them). As soon as they warm up, I need to add roughly another
> millimeter.
> I can play at 440 Hz, but start feeling unbalance between "throat" tunes
> and "all closed" notes. Indeed, whatever we do with the barrel, the
> holes stay in the same place. Hence, for me 440 Hz is a problem. Going
> down will only make the situation worst.
> Hence, if you want people to play more relaxed also in the acute ranges,
> you really need to provide them with different instruments.
> BTW, having 442 Hz as reference is also a problem for singers, so that I
> really don't understand why we moved up to this reference. Apart from
> the fact that shortening an instrument is much more difficult than
> adjusting the positioning of the barrel, so that the producers prefer to
> stay on (their) safe side.
> Cheers,
> Diego


Diego Casadei
Physics Department, CERN
New York University bld. 32, S-A19
4 Washington Place 1211 Geneve 23
New York, NY 10003 Mailbox J28310
USA Switzerland
office: +1-212-998-7675 office: +41-22-767-6809
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