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 Resonance
Author: BobD 
Date:   2013-11-16 16:07

The subject of resonance has been occupying my thoughts in recent days. Part of this is due to the continuing argument about whether wood or plastic clarinets result in different sound. Part of it is due to my belief that the player's aural structure, teeth, bone structure etc etc affect the sound produced. There are those who maintain that the material the clarinet is made from doesn't make a difference but then we have the subject of the hardware used to complicate matters. I do have the feeling that what some players experience is due to resonance but I can't explain it. I feel rather strongly about this because of the simple fact that people have different sounding voices.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Resonance
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2013-11-16 16:50

The opinions on both sides of this are based for the most part, as yours are, on "feelings" and "beliefs." There have been reported lab experiments that generally point to a lack of acoustical influence of the material if all else is controlled for, but those studies don't ever seem to have convinced "believers" who have "strong feelings" that the results are either wrong or misleading because of the experimental conditions used to control the other variables.

This subject will probably always remain in the domain of "belief" and "strong feeling" until players with those attitudes come up with their own non-anecdotal lab experiments to support what they intuit to be the case.

But I am a little confused by what you wrote. Are you saying that a player's *perception* of a difference in sound between wood and plastic is somehow a function of his internal conduction of the sound not through the air? Or that there is some interaction among all those player characteristics and the material of the instrument that results in an audible difference of sound that may not occur when the same player or an artificial (non-human) blower/embouchure assembly is used for each instrument in an experimental setting? What exactly are you suggesting is being affected by the player's physical uniqueness that connects with the issue of the influence of material on an instrument's sound?

Karl

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 Re: Resonance
Author: TAS 
Date:   2013-11-16 19:06

We need to remember that playing the clarinet is an art, not a science.

There is no way on earth I would trade my one owner 1963 R-13 in great playing condition, still, for another clarinet. It has never "worn out", although I do have two other very good clarinets that are used for mundane work.

Also, the strength of workmanship in fine (wood) clarinets is apparent. A Ford and a Rolls Royce will get you to the same destination, but......

TAS

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 Re: Resonance
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2013-11-16 21:38

It's not only the type of material, it's the density and thickness of the instrument. A plastic clarinet is not as thick as a wood clarinet, does not have undercutting and does not have the same bore structure so it's very difficult to give a definite answer. I believe the material a clarinet is made of does make a difference but in the hands of a pro a plastic clarinet will sound pretty good tone wise though I believe a wood clarinet will sound richer, fuller and warmer.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Resonance
Author: acermak 
Date:   2013-11-17 06:46

Why couldn't an experiment be devised where a clarinet player is given some material to play and a wooden clarinet then the player would switch his mpc to a plastic clarinet and a recorder could record the sounds waves produced by the 2 instruments. Since the player's embouchure wouldn't change and the mouthpiece and reed wouldn't change, I would think what you'd be measuring in the delta between the 2 recordings would be the instrument itself.

I have a plastic B12 I play all the time (tonal exercises at lunch, mainly). I don't notice it being different when I play it. The clarinet I practice material on is a C13 (wood, also Buffet). I don't notice it being different either when I play it. But if I play the C13 for an hour or so, and then switch to the B12 (using same mpc and reed), I can hear the difference. The C13 has a different mix of resonating frequencies.

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 Re: Resonance
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2013-11-17 13:51

acermak wrote:

> Since the player's embouchure wouldn't change and
> the mouthpiece and reed wouldn't change, I would think what
> you'd be measuring in the delta between the 2 recordings would
> be the instrument itself.
>

Sure, but not between the two materials. The two instruments themselves will be too different to compare the materials meaningfully. Dimensions of everything from bore size and shape, through tone hole size, undercutting and wall thickness to pad material, construction and installation have too much influence to make this kind of off-hand comparison useful.

What you'd probably need to do is have a series of simple clarinet-like instruments custom made for the project - no keys or other complicating (and result-confounding) variables added - to be played with a clarinet mouthpiece (or an oboe reed - this isn't really a question that's limited to clarinets) and made in exactly the same way to identical dimensions. And of course, the sound envelopes produced would need to be measured by very accurate equipment, certainly not human ears.

In the end, there would still be other reasons for players to choose one material over the other no matter what the result of such an experiment were. The experiment I've described would only confirm or eliminate one of them.

Karl

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 Re: Resonance
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2013-11-17 15:36

Acoustically a clarinet is a standing-wave generator. What we musicians call "resonance" is a measure of the efficiency with which our "power input" (wind volume and pressure) is converted to the production of a musical tone with a narrow bandwidth ("focused"/"compact" tone) and adequate volume output. The combination of a narrow-bandwidth tone at the desired frequency (pitch), with an acoustically pleasing set of overtones (enough to give color to the tone but without robbing the fundamental of too much energy) and volume, is what we'd consider good resonance.

You can look at the "transmission line" of player, mouthpiece, reed, barrel/neck, instrument body and bell as a series of acoustical impedances which need to all be well-matched, at every desired pitch, to create the sound and volume we're looking for. There are many factors involved, so it's unrealistic to expect any one parameter or characteristic (e.g. body material, barrel taper, register tube location/size, etc.) to provide the entire solution or even a major part.

My personal experience (noted many times over many years of messing with all sorts of clarinets) is that body material by itself has little or no audible effect on the playing qualities of the overall instrument. This is a controversial topic and it's not my intention to stir it up again.

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 Re: Resonance
Author: rtmyth 
Date:   2013-11-17 15:47

Complex subject, no doubt. And, the ear gets involved. It's response is not linear. The air and the surroundings also have an effect. etc, etc, .

richard smith

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 Re: Resonance
Author: NBeaty 
Date:   2013-11-17 23:42

If the material of a mouthpiece has an affect on the sound (which it does), then it stands to reason that the instrument's material matters as well.

Other variables are at play, since it's near impossible to get a plastic clarinet that has the same design as a professional level wood instrument.


To me, the "the audience can't tell the difference" (whether it be clarinet players or others) argument is weak. It's essentially saying that if you can slip one past people, it's all the same. The keywork, tuning, pads, bore size and shape, barrel type, etc. all have an impact on our INTERACTION with the clarinet. If you play for people and they say they can't tell the difference, good job. Now decide on what sounds the best, tunes the best, focuses the best, resonates the best, responds the best....etc. If a plastic clarinet is really put through its paces, I don't think most players would choose it over a high quality wood instrument.

While I'm very doubtful that any pro would use a plastic horn, the ones I know who have used one just want to make a point that the player matters most (helps break people out of paralysis by analysis). James Cambell has been doing this at IU, but I'm not sure if he still is.

I have yet to meet any professional or college student for that matter, choose a plastic horn as their primary because it was the best they found.

Yes, a plastic horn works, so does a Civic. But if driving is your profession, you'd probably choose a Porsche. Fortunately for us, clarinets are relatively cheap!

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 Re: Resonance
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2013-11-17 23:47

And of course my overly used refrain is that it is how well we use our air that affects resonance the most. If you produce a swift, concentrated stream of air ALL THE TIME, your sound will be resonant ALL THE TIME.

The check on whether you are doing this correctly is if you can feel the clarinet vibrate under your fingers. If not, you are NOT using your air stream correctly.



................Paul Aviles



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 Re: Resonance
Author: rtmyth 
Date:   2013-11-18 14:29

I notice some sellers apply the words plastic and ebonite to the same material. Are they different materials? I know ABS is generally said to be a plastic. How about ebonite?

richard smith

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 Re: Resonance
Author: Ursa 
Date:   2013-11-18 15:11

Ebonite properly refers to hard rubber, which is not a plastic.

I own and perform with two ebonite clarinets, and have owned a third. In my experience, it's a good material to make clarinets from, but perhaps not ideal. There are no worries about cracking as with wooden instruments, but there are concerns about the instruments warping if exposed to direct sunlight outdoors on a hot day, as well as the possibility of discolouration.

If I could get a PVC clarinet built to the same high standards as a wooden or ebonite clarinet, I would be overjoyed. Having a collection of wooden, ebonite, metal-lined ebonite, metal, ABS, and PVC clarinets, I find that a PVC-bodied instrument is easily the next best thing to a wooden clarinet in terms of sonic possibilities and overall playability.

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 Re: Resonance
Author: BobD 
Date:   2013-11-18 18:28

Ursa: In my opinion Ebonite and hard rubber are plastics. Ebonite is only partially hard rubber. I also like them as used for clarinets. ABS might be considered for a plastic clarinet also, in addition to one or more of the pvc formulations.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Resonance
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2013-11-18 20:18

Ebonite is a brand name for hard rubber
Remarkably it contains 30 to 40 % sulphur. (highly vulcanized) so it's fairly obvious why you can't have silver plated keys on a Clarinet made of Ebonite.
Hardly any plastic materials if any are incorporated in the formula.

Skyfacer

Post Edited (2013-11-18 20:21)

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 Re: Resonance
Author: BobD 
Date:   2013-11-18 22:05

Barry: Rubber is a plastic. Ebonite may contain fillers of unspecified identity. Therefore Ebonite is not a brand name for hard rubber.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Resonance
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2013-11-18 22:09

Hi Bob, We'll have to agree to totally disagree in this.

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 Re: Resonance
Author: Barry Vincent 
Date:   2013-11-18 22:18

The far more interesting question concerning Ebonite for me is what's its origin. The rubber tree or is it mostly nowadays from a petroleum product.
I'm inclined to think that most rubber , for example , for motor vehicle tyres is a petroleum product. There just wouldn't be enough rubber trees to supply the demand.
Is this also the case with the Ebonite of Clarinets , or is this from the rubber tree in South East Asia as Tom Ridenour suggests.*

* "Hard Rubber is Natural" (see his "The Grenadilla Myth")

Skyfacer

Post Edited (2013-11-18 22:36)

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 Re: Resonance
Author: gkern 
Date:   2013-11-18 22:35

From Wikipedia - Merriam has similar definition:

Ebonite was a brand name for very hard rubber first obtained by Charles Goodyear by vulcanizing rubber for prolonged periods. It is about 30% to 40% sulfur. Its name comes from its intended use as an artificial substitute for ebony wood. The material is known generically as hard rubber and has formerly been called "vulcanite",[1] although that name now refers to the mineral vulcanite.

End of discussion!

Gary K

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 Re: Resonance
Author: cyclopathic 
Date:   2013-11-19 03:07

@Ed
>I believe the material a clarinet is made of does make a difference but in the hands of a pro a plastic clarinet will sound pretty good tone wise though I believe a wood clarinet will sound richer, fuller and warmer.

had opportunity to play with 2 clarinets from the same mfg; one wood with HR bell and another HR with bakelite bell/barrel and metal lined top joint. Both only a few #s apart, same set of keys, interchangeable bells/joints/barrels.

Horns are so much alike you can take keys and put on another and works, randomly pick joints, barrels and it works no adjustment need. There is definitely difference in sound; mainly due to top joint. Not sure is it solely due material, pads or how well it sealed. Or slight variations in bore.

and yes, as master says wood had more complex and warmer sound.. less projection too

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 Re: Resonance
Author: BobD 
Date:   2013-11-19 15:26

Barry: I've sent you a private email for what it's worth.......

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Resonance
Author: BobD 
Date:   2013-11-19 15:38

Simply put: The person who believes the material, per se, makes a difference may be experiencing a resonance phenomenon related to his head, or the hardware or something else. An unrecognized loose bell ring is a rudimentary example. Some people even claim to get radio reception from their teeth fillings.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Resonance
Author: rtmyth 
Date:   2013-11-19 17:51

Thanks for the comments; they resonate with me.

richard smith

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 Re: Resonance
Author: BobD 
Date:   2013-11-20 12:12

"Oops there goes another rubber tree plant".......(a fire ant got it)

Bob Draznik

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