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 Acker Bilk Sound
Author: bwilber 
Date:   2006-05-11 20:28

I found an old Acker Bilk recording with the song Stranger on the Shore at Goodwill the other day and am enjoying listening to it. I have the sheet music for it and am having fun trying to play along with it. When he gets to the higher notes, he sounds almost like he is playing on a trumpet but when he palys the lower notes, his sound is a lot like my clarinet but it has a sound that seems to me more metal sounding. I have read on the bboard that he played a Boosey & Hawkes 1010 clarinet. Is it that this particular clarinet has that distinctive of a sound or is it his skill? Pete Fountain also has such a distinctive sound to his playing and I wonder if a person bought one of his clarinets that has his name on it, that they could get that kind of sound out of the clarinet or is just many years of playing that produces that sound? Does anyone know if Acker Bilk still plays the Boosey and Hawkes Imperial today or has he changed clarinets? Thanks for any help with my questions.

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: GBK 
Date:   2006-05-11 21:12

Acker Bilk has a sound which has been discussed (almost) to death on this bulletin board.

There seems to be no middle ground to those that offer opinions on Acker Bilk. There are those that defend his playing and sound, while others can't stand listening to him for more than a few seconds.

His style and sound have less to do with his clarinet and more to do with his embouchure, mouthpiece/reed set up, physical characteristics and mental sound picture.

His instrument, while a large bore clarinet, would not inhibit Morales, Combs, Drucker, etc.. , given a brief time, from eventually sounding like themselves.

BTW - A search on Acker Bilk will yield many interesting threads...GBK

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: RussM 
Date:   2006-05-11 21:30

The player's body ( lungs, throat, mouth, nasal passages, lips, etc.) are all a part of the sound production system, so each player will get a somewhat different sound from the same equipment. I am playing a Leblanc Pete Fountain Model clarinet with a Woodwind Pete Fountain mouthpiece, and am getting a sound which is very reminicent of PF's, but not exactly the same. The goal is to find a sound that is pleasing to yourself. When you get those chills down your spine, you know you have found it.

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2006-05-11 21:33

Play with the reed on top, using a Rico # 1/2.

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2006-05-11 22:20

A recent programme (within the last 2-3 years) showed him playing on a Yamaha Custom clarinet - dunno which one though.

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: BobD 
Date:   2006-05-11 22:56

Perhaps Bob Wilber could help, Bonnie. Your web page is fantastic.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Monte 
Date:   2018-12-03 18:18


I Purchased recently this Clarinet from Auction.
Aka Signed the Bell and also supplied a letter of authenticity with it.
I can confirm that it is a Yamaha CX custom.
I have all the images should anyone be interested in viewing them

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Caroline Smale 
Date:   2018-12-04 03:05

Just for the record, Aker Bilk is sadly no longer with us. He passed away just over 4 years ago at age of 85.

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2018-12-04 17:27

He had a very "uniique" sound.

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Brian Peterson 
Date:   2018-12-04 20:01

I think he played a negative 5 Vandoren reed

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2018-12-05 01:30

A former boss used to marvel at how he made his sound and all without using any tricks or effects.

Former oboe finisher
Howarth of London
1998 - 2010

The opinions I express are my own.

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: neek 
Date:   2019-07-21 01:11

Vis-à-vis Acker's sound?? Apparently with his front teeth in his top pocket to?? Before anybody knocks their front teeth out?? I'm can't confirm that was the case for sure??

Vis-à-vis Acker's equipment. The last time I saw him live ( circa mid 80's maybe ) he was using a Buddy DeFranco #3 mouthpiece with a #2 Vandoren reed and a Yami pro model clari. Having said that! I just pulled the old program to nail the date and wouldn't ya know it there wasn't a date anywhere to be found on the program? The picture on the front cover of the program, the clari Acker's holding looks like a Boosey and Hawkes Symphony 1010. But maybe Yami's copied those horns??

The tip opening on the Buddy DeFranco piece was 1.47 mm or .058" thou which is the same as a Vadoren 5JB, probably similar to a Link 6* ish and a Brilahart Ebolin 6*??

On most of his early recordings he was using a Brilhart Tonalin probably a 6 or 6* His favorite clarinet was a Buffet R13 probably a 60s vintage.

FYI for those of you who don't know the difference, the tonalin's were white the ebolin's were black ( go figure ).

Acker was endorsing Yamahas and used one for a while but not sure what he was using up until he passed. Notwithstanding his sound, vib and style changed as he got older. Listen to the album he did with Danny Moss his playing is almost reminiscent of Pee Wee Russel's on that album?? The reality is that Acker would have sounded like Acker what ever equipment he was using cos the sound starts in your head not as a result of the equipment you use..

If you go to Acker's website you used to be able to contact him ( not anymore I doubt? RIP Acker Bilk ) there through his personal secretary and they were very good at answering these kinds of questions.

Over the years Acker used Buffets, Selmer series 9's and Yami's. Not sure if he ever used LeBlanc's or Boosey's. I don't recollect ever seeing pictures or film of him using LeBlanc or Boosey's. Notwithstanding the program I just pulled with what looked like a Boosey 1010??

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 Re: Acker Bilk Sound
Author: Arnoldstang 
Date:   2019-07-21 01:55

There are two obvious points to look at here. One is subtone and the other is vibrato.
For me subtone deals with the pressure you apply with your bottom lip on the reed . It might advisable to use a softer reed that vibrates easily to learn this technique. If you start with almost no pressure there will be lots of air escaping. Just increase this gradually until you have your normal embouchure. As a test (away from the instrument) you can put your first finger in your mouth.(rotate so the side of the finger is what you are biting).Teeth on top and lip over teeth on the bottom. I try for three different pressures. Light, medium and heavy. The light should be just touching the finger. Now try this with the clarinet. Play the low register first. As you play higher it might require going from light to medium pressure.
Of course the pitch tends to be on the low side but ignore that for now. It might require a slightly shorter barrel.
With a subtone approach the vibrato is naturally wider. Acker Bilk uses a jaw vibrato rather than diaphragm vibrato.
I believe the equipment Ackerman Bilk used is almost irrelevant. It had more to do with his approach.

Freelance woodwind performer

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