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 Clarinet Key Design
Author: Ski 
Date:   2007-09-08 03:57

Wondering why the throat A and register keys are designed to be smooth in shape as opposed to having depressions into which the fingers can rest.

On my bass, for example, except for the LH F/thumb key, all of the plateau keys as well as the half-hole key are convex. When I play these keys there's a great sense of security in that my fingers fit into those slight depressions. But not so for the throat A and register key. For example, if I play throat D to A quickly, my index finger is prone to slide right up that smooth key! I sometimes wish that the A key had either an actual round key tacked onto the end of it, or, that the front of it was carved out to create a convex depression, to act as a "stop" for my finger and provide the same sense of security that I feel playing plateaus.

Now, to the soprano. Whle it doesn't have plateaus, there's still a sense of security in that fingers fit into rings. But of course the design of the A and register keys is the same as on the bass.

When I first played soprano and bass in grade school (age 12), playing the A and register keys felt "insecure" compared to playing the tone hole keys --- just as they do now that I'm revisiting these instruments after a 30+ year hiatus. To borrow Tom Ridenour's term, I feel a sense of "vertigo" when I play the A and register keys, but particularly the A.

So I'm just curious as to why these keys are designed to be smooth instead of having areas carved into them for a finger to fit securely.

(BTW, trill keys and pinky keys feel fine -- it's just the register and A keys that are problematic).

Post Edited (2007-09-09 01:13)

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 Re: Clarinet Key Design
Author: skygardener 
Date:   2007-09-08 05:04

the reason is that the keys before it were made that way, and the ones before that and before that, etc.
I am simply remaking all the keys on my clarinet that I don't like the feel of. For every 1 person that doesn't like the feel of those keys there are 9 people that would complain if they got anything different than they were use to.

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 Re: Clarinet Key Design
Author: kilo 
Date:   2007-09-08 11:37

Perhaps those keys deliberately designed that way so the index finger or thumb can slide on and off the key easily. Since the finger tip isn't directly covering a tone hole, secure precise placement isn't that critical. I often just roll my finger up and open the A key with the edge of my finger or activate the register key with the side of my thumb; having to place them in a depression might slow the fingering of the note following. I wonder if you could experiment by gluing a bit of cork as a stop — a tech recently did this for me on the low B of my tenor sax for similar reasons and I like the result.

Post Edited (2007-09-08 11:38)

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 Re: Clarinet Key Design
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2007-09-08 20:48

It's all about symmetry that has made clarinet keywork look how it does, and it's something that has been done since keywork was still in it's infancy (Baroque flutes, oboes and bassoons having symmetrical keys, though they weren't exactly ergonomic in design).

It's only recently the need for almost symmetrical key pieces (or aesthetically pleasing key pieces) has been challenged for ergonomically designed key pieces.

For example, Marigaux RS Symphonie and Forte clarinets have an assymetrical speaker key, and Ripamonti clarinets have an assymetric throat A key.


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 Re: Clarinet Key Design
Author: Ski 
Date:   2007-09-08 21:19

Thanks for your replies so far. Kilo, I very much like the idea of having a piece of cork added to the A key to act as a stop.

Sky, re modifying keys, I've been making plans to do this to my bass. I'm having the LH plateaus moved a little closer together as well as re-working the C# key and D# sliver key, all so that my LH doesn't have to splay out as far as it does now when playing LH notes. I've got further plans to modify other keys, but I'm going to start with those. I'd be curious to know what kinds of mods you're doing to your clarinet.

Chris, as an aside, I visited the Ripamonte website and saw a picture in their gallery of what looked like a giant golden bassoon. Maybe it was brass, but in any case, it looked awesome!

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 Re: Clarinet Key Design
Author: L. Omar Henderson 
Date:   2007-09-09 01:00

(Disclaimer - I am maker of the Forte' Bb and C clarinets)
We designed the "A" key and several other keys on Forte' clarinets to be more ergonomic. One caution that we received from teachers was not to make keys so different that a student would have to relearn fine motor skills when moving to the old fashioned standard keywork of other clarinets so the modifications were significant but not so much so that anyone used to playing a "regular" clarinet would have trouble. The reception for these changes has been gratifying.
L. Omar Henderson

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