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 Mpc for German Bb vs. A clarinet
Author: Bill 
Date:   2020-04-03 02:23

I have what might be a "vintage" German clarinet mouthpiece marked "O Nurnberger Markneukirchen '/s." and below that just an "A." I'm testing it with a (freshly overhauled) 1950s F. A. Uebel Bb clarinet. The tuning is not so good (quite flat).

My question is this: Given the fact that the mpc is marked "A," I wonder if German system requires a different mpc for an A clarinet. Unless "A" stands for "Awful" or "A quality" or something else.

I'm teaching myself German system and it's awfully difficult. I know it takes time for the fingers to land in new places, and I'm extremely mindful of finger placement (I've gotten damn good with the forked B/F). The difficulties are more than those of fingering. The clarinets (I have two Uebel Bbs; the other is from 1985) just don't ... seem to want to play. Some notes (throat A) are dreadful; others (C above the staff) are too beautiful for words. F#/C# is hard to finger (I can't figure out roller keys ... they're just decoration as far as I'm concerned). Stuffy and resistant. But with an addictive, plangent sound.

Oh well. Thanks. Any German system players -- I could use some encouragement. Thanks!

Bill Fogle
Ellsworth, Maine
(formerly Washington, DC)

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 Re: Mpc for German Bb vs. A clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-04-03 03:57

Speaking of circa 1985 (the Karajan Berlin Philharmonic and many if not most major German/Austrian orchestras), the pitch was A=445 in Germany. That was not just a little "pushing in" with the barrel, but rather a major global shift from where we currently play in the US, A=440. To clarify this point, Karl Leister had to have two differently pitched sets of clarinets so that when traveling to non-Germanic countries he would need to use his A=440 set of clarinets.

So my first thought is that perhaps you are already playing German "A" clarinets!

As for the mouthpieces (again from my circa 1985 experience) just like us, you use the same mouthpiece and just switch the clarinet (or include the barrel.......just like we do). Perhaps the "A" designation on the mouthpiece has to do with a certain model in that manufacturer's line (I doubt if it refers to "A Frame" because all German mouthpieces should be so (looking up inside the walls of the tone chamber angle out steeply toward the baffle as opposed to straight up and down like most of ours which are called "H" frame).

Lastly, if it might help, if there is NO connection point between the throat "A" key and the "G#" key, then you must RELEASE the "G#" while sounding the note "A," or it will be far too sharp.

For me one of the biggest hurdles was the constant slide required between throat "Eb" and "F."

Crazy system

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

Post Edited (2020-04-03 04:07)

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 Re: Mpc for German Bb vs. A clarinet
Author: MichaelW 2017
Date:   2020-04-03 16:54

" The tuning is not so good (quite flat)": Was it better with a different mouthpiece? My vintage Uebels (and a Neidhardt) from the 1930ties and 50ties are tuned in A=435.

Rolling right pinky C-D# (F-G#) I find quite convenient. With F# (C#) I had difficulties in the beginning and often used the left pinky trill instead. On some instruments it is a bit stuffy, but quite good on others. Now I twist the lower joint a little to the right (clockwise) so I can reach the F#/C# key more easily.

Usually German A and Bb clarinets are used with the same mouthpiece; but maybe Otto Nürnberger in his day might have handled it differently. Why not ask his grandson, Herr Sämann: ?

As you can't always use ringfinger Eb, I also find sliding between throat Eb and F a bit inconvenient.

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 Re: Mpc for German Bb vs. A clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-04-03 18:31

Thank you for the information regarding the "low tuning." Yet another aspect of more modern or historically current trends of tuning of which I was not aware.


To check the tuning for accuracy across the instrument internally, change the frequency setting on your Korg (or similar device) to A=435 and then go through your normal tuning process.

Unfortunately most instruments are not adaptable up or down when the difference is 5 cents or more. When I ordered my Wurlitzers in the '80s, I ordered them at A=445. My intent was to follow up with a move to Germany that never happened. In the case of the circa 1984 Wurlitzer 100Cs, they were flexible enough to use professionally with the longest barrels pulled out quite substantially. More recently I played a 2012 made Uebel Oehler that more typically became untenably pitched (throat notes flatter and longer tube notes sharper). I assume (without having done it) that you'd have the opposite situation if you were able to customize super short barrels for "flat" instruments.........but it would be interesting to hear the result if you tried.

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

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 Re: Mpc for German Bb vs. A clarinet
Author: MichaelW 2017
Date:   2020-04-04 20:24

Thank you for the suggestion. I'd like to start a project to make or modify and measure one or two shorter barrels for the Uebels when I'll be through with some others. Michael

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