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 How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: rgoldem 
Date:   2019-11-05 23:33

I understand that the Eb lever is not really essential for people who plays concert music. You can always rehearse a piece before playing it in order to avoid digitation problems. However this does not seem to be true for improvisation and sight-reading since you don’t really have time to prepare yourself beforehand. Can anyone more experienced clarify this matter?



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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: Jordan Selburn 
Date:   2019-11-06 01:51

Are you referring to the left hand pinky Eb/Ab key, the one not found on every clarinet?

If so, I have found it very useful for exactly the reason you mention. That key can be a helpful "bail out" option when playing unfamiliar music (whether sight-reading or just not sufficiently practiced) and you find yourself on the "wrong side" with your pinkies.

There are also pieces that would be very challenging without such an option. One example is Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements - the bass clarinet has a fairly rapid low passage that virtually requires a left hand Eb/Ab key. It includes low Fb-Db-F-Ab-Fb-Ab-F : since the Db (just below the staff, the highest note in the passage) must be played with the left pinky, the Ab must also. The alternative is to slide from the F to the Ab with the right pinky; possible, I guess, but vastly more difficult.

Jordan

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-11-06 03:25

rgoldem wrote:

> I understand that the Eb lever is not really essential for
> people who plays concert music. You can always rehearse a piece
> before playing it in order to avoid digitation problems.
> However this does not seem to be true for improvisation and
> sight-reading since you don’t really have time to prepare
> yourself beforehand.

I think the bottom line is that, regardless of what kind of music you play or whether it's written or improvised, if you accustom yourself to having the LH Ab/Eb, it can make some combinations easier. If you don't have the key, you learn to manage without it, as pretty much all clarinetists did in the fairly recent past. Whether you're improvising or reading, you can slide, you can switch sides mid-note, you can cover a jump between keys with articulation. It's a technical issue, not one of the instrument's mechanism.

Karl

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: Ed 
Date:   2019-11-06 06:03

I have never had the LH Eb and am just used to playing without it. When I used to regularly play bass clarinet which had the key I would often find that I did not use it since I was not accustomed to working around it.

It would depend on what you get used to.

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: rgoldem 
Date:   2019-11-06 15:02

Well, it seems that the left hand Eb is useful but not really a big deal. It is mostly a matter of getting used to have or not have it.

However, there is one specific movement that I don’t get. How do you possibly slide from a right hand natural B to an Eb on a 17 key clarinet? The fact that you should have first played the natural B with the left hand does not help once you missed it. This is a situation that can easily happen when you are sight-reading or improvising and then you are in a street without exit.



Post Edited (2019-11-06 15:12)

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: Mojo 
Date:   2019-11-06 17:09

Is it possible to learn to sight read ahead to see that a B-Eb is coming up?

MojoMP.com
Mojo Mouthpiece Work LLC
MojoMouthpieceWork@yahoo.com

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: Dibbs 
Date:   2019-11-06 18:12

rgoldem wrote:
>
> However, there is one specific movement that I don’t get. How
> do you possibly slide from a right hand natural B to an Eb on a
> 17 key clarinet?
>

You swap over to the left one mid note.

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-11-06 18:36

rgoldem wrote:

> How
> do you possibly slide from a right hand natural B to an Eb on a
> 17 key clarinet? The fact that you should have first played the
> natural B with the left hand does not help once you missed it.
> This is a situation that can easily happen when you are
> sight-reading or improvising and then you are in a street
> without exit.
>

Well, you don't slide from RH B to RH Eb, although if you cover the connection by articulating the notes, you can jump. If you're actually caught sight-reading this and end up on RH B and the note speed is not very fast, you can try during the B to switch to the LH B key.

But more to the point - that's why you don't perform at sight. You should before a performance have first prepared the part and then rehearsed it with whatever ensemble you're performing with (if you're playing in an ensemble). Being caught that way should only happen the very first time you read through a piece, not in a performance. After the first time through you'll know that it's coming - if you're conscientious about it, you'll have marked it, maybe with an "L" over the B to remind yourself.

If you're improvising, you always have choices to make in real time. If you end up on a RH B, don't play Eb after it, or tongue it. Most of the time you'll be playing some kind of chord or scale pattern, and if you're fluent with scales and arpeggios, you'll probably use a convenient fingering out of habit.

I bought a C clarinet 10 years ago that had a LH Ab/Eb. But I had been playing without one for 50+ years and found it more trouble than it was worth to use it. In addition, it made it harder for me to locate the other LH lever keys - the Eb key kept (from my point of view) getting in the way. So I confess that I took the key off (it still lies in a desk drawer).

Now, what I'd find more useful (I think, depending on where it ended up on the clarinet) would be an alternate RH C#/G#. It is possible in a pinch to play G#5(Ab5) with TR XXO|XXO, but that's a little unstable, muffled and out of tune - only good in fast passages. I suppose it would have to be operated by the RH index finger, like the side keys on a standard 17-key Boehm clarinet, which might, like the LH Ab/Eb, be more awkward than it's worth if you're used to working without it.

Karl

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2019-11-06 20:50

I never had the extra lever. If I buy a clarinet with one, I take it off.


You can slide down AND up from L hand B to C. That takes care of a lot of it. Don't forget how many situation you can use the slide DOWN down from R hand Eb to Db (very handy).


Once you get used to all the alternates and slides it comes as naturally as a C maj. scale. You don't have to practice the specifics!



.........Paul Aviles



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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: TomS 
Date:   2019-11-06 21:16

Full Boehm for everyone, including low E-flat! Nothing like a tone hole that goes thru the center joint ...

Did not the Pete Fountain clarinet have all the Buck Rogers extras?

The inexpensive Backun Alpha with the aux A-flat/E-flat seems to be a good idea for someone that would like to practice the use of the new key. No need to spend $5K and up to experiment. And the Alpha, with some personal adjustments and IMHO, better pads, plays pretty well.

Many players, that have tried the A-flat/E-flat don't like it ... Mitchell Laurie commented: "that extra key gets in the way"

Tom

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: Luuk 2017
Date:   2019-11-07 13:26

Reading the reactions to the OP question, the LH Eb appears to be of no value or even a pain in the (insert favorite body part here).

I have to say that I'm really lucky with it, and would run into fingering trouble several times a year without it. And yes, I do prepare.

Of course, I'm only an amateur...

Regards,

Luuk
Philips Symphonic Band
The Netherlands

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: Hank Lehrer 2017
Date:   2019-11-07 18:00

I use the LH Eb/Ab a lot on bass clarinet. With the low Eb only on the RH, it is a must as for some reason, that progression comes up often in the literature one of my wind ensembles.

Recently, in Janacek's Sinfonietta, I had a repeated 16th note pattern of Low Eb, Ab, Db, back down to Ab to Low Eb.

HRL

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2019-11-07 18:15

Luuk wrote:

> Reading the reactions to the OP question, the LH Eb appears to
> be of no value or even a pain in the (insert favorite body part
> here).
>
> I have to say that I'm really lucky with it, and would run into
> fingering trouble several times a year without it. And yes, I
> do prepare.

Well, the point (or at least my point) isn't really that it's useless. Yes, I found it a "pain in the (insert...)" - because I had to overcome too much earlier learning and habit. It was a solution to problems I had long ago learned to solve in other ways.

I'm sure that there are players, either younger or more flexible than I am, who use and even cherish that extra key. I'm sure there are keys on a standard 17-key 6-ring Boehm clarinet that at one time weren't there, but that I couldn't easily play without. I've used those 17 keys for 60 years and would need to relearn some patterns to get along without any of them.

The OP's original question was "How essential...for improv or sight-reading?" The consensus answer is that, however convenient some players find it, it isn't **essential** and, that it's convenience doesn't really depend on what kind of playing you're doing.

Karl

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: rgoldem 
Date:   2019-11-07 23:32

Thank you all. This thread was very informative.



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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: dorjepismo 2017
Date:   2019-11-08 21:06

Certainly agree with Karl's observation that it isn't essential. Whether it's a pain in the backside depends a lot on how well it's designed, as well as pinky length. I recently obtained new horns where it is well-designed--I have never hit it unintentionally, but can hit it intentionally without ever pulling another finger off the tone hole--and have used it in performances in maybe three or four places where it causes the line to flow better.

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 Re: How essential is the Eb lever for improvisation or sight-reading?
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2019-11-10 05:53

I have one on all my clarinets...I find it so useful, I wouldn’t own a clarinet without it

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