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 Alto clarinets
Author: tucker 2017
Date:   2017-11-24 18:25

A band mate of mine has started playing alto clarinet. She's borrowing a Vito (not sure of the model) and is struggling with the instrument... some notes sound very flat, some very "airy", others just have a terrible sound. It's been checked out by the local tech who says there are no leaks etc. She's playing the C* mouthpiece that was in the case.

I know nothing about alto clarinets so I thought I'd turn to the "alto experts" here for some information.

She's interested in purchasing a good used alto.... any suggestions on what to look for or avoid?

Many thanks!

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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: johng 2017
Date:   2017-11-24 22:59

I guess I am an alto "...expert..." since I chose to play alto in our new clarinet choir in Portland, Oregon. I can understand how your band mate would be frustrated with one of the many poor altos out there in clarinet land. So, getting a better instrument would be ideal. If not, I was able to greatly improve my alto tone and intonation by buying a Clark Fobes San Francisco alto mouthpiece. When I bought my older Selmer alto, someone had done a fine job of repadding it so there were no leaks. BUT there were many problems with the corks being the wrong size, etc. By either increasing their size with tape, or filing them down I was able to fix many of the intonation issues. For example the throat tone Bb was very flat, and adjusting the cork on the linkage, made it possible to use the normal fingering.

As an arranger, I am very pleased to see more and more altos being played. With a good player and decent equipment it is a nice addition to the clarinet section sound and the range fits well for a complete sounding clarinet quartet for example.

All the best reeds

John Gibson

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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: Clarineteer 
Date:   2017-11-24 22:59

Best ones out there are hard to find Buffet Crampon pro alto clarinets from the 1960's. I have had Selmer Series 9 alto clarinets that experts said were the best ever made but the Buffet pro alto was superior in every way. They made 2 different models. The Radio Model and the Professional Model. Really no difference between the two.

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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: Chris_C 2017
Date:   2017-11-25 02:12

I've played alto for a long time (but not particulalrly well!). As well as leaks and pad clearances, the speaker mechanism can make all sorts of notes sound dodgy. My main suggestion is to try lots of different brands and strengths of reeds - not just alto clarinet reeds, but alto sax reeds too. I find the instrument to be extremely fussy, and a reed that plays well one week may be rubbish the next and fine the week afterwards...

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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: Steven Ocone 
Date:   2017-11-25 18:31

Maybe she needs a different repair tech. Vitos can have a few stuffy notes but she shouldn't have to struggle.

Steve Ocone

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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: marcia 
Date:   2017-11-27 10:20

I also play alto in a wind ensemble. I recently started using a Legere reed. I was astonished at the difference it made. Previously, whenever the instrument was slow to speak, or made a weird high pitched squeal, or was just difficult to play, I wondered if it was the instrument, or the reed, or the player. Once I used a Legere, I realised that at least some of the time it must have been the reed. Now with the Legere it speaks immediately almost all the time, is much easier to play, and rarely makes that horrible high pitched noise. Might be worth a try.


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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: Geronimo 
Date:   2017-12-01 00:37

See if you can get that instrument into a good repair shop. If there are any leaks or misaligned keys it can cause big issues that aren't the players fault.

I played a Vito alto clarinet in highschool for clarinet choir and it's a stuffy instrument. Not the best but manageable.

When I got into college I had a lot of playing opportunity on basset horn (pretty much an alto Clarinet from a bore size perspective) and decided to invest in some good equipment. At the recommendation of my professor I got a vandoren B40 alto Clarinet mouthpiece and a Légère reed. Really happy with my results. Even if you (or your friend) don't use Légère on soprano clarinet I would really recommend it for alto. I use a Légère standard cut alto sax reed, strength 3.

Hope this helps!

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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: Ebclarinet1 
Date:   2017-12-02 18:45

I have a Buffet Prestige alto and use a Grabner mouthpiece and Silvestein alto sax ligature. With that set up the Rico Royal alto clarinet reeds (strength of 3) work very well. I also use Vandoren V21 and Gonzalez alto sax reeds with success.

This horn has a glorious sound! When people hear it they are surprised sounds like this can come from an alto! I prefer its sound to my basset horn even. One thing about alto (or at least this alto) is that all the ranges have a similar sort of timbre which I find especially pleasing.

Hope that you have fun playing the alto. Some of the old band transcriptions have rather nice parts for it.

Eefer guy

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 Re: Alto clarinets
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2017-12-02 19:53

I have a hard-rubber Kohlert (badged as a Boosey & Hawkes "The Edgware") that is all the alto clarinet I'll ever need or want.

That said, I'd rather play bass clarinet any day of the week ;)

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