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 Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: McDonalds Eater 
Date:   2021-03-05 20:57

Hi everyone, I would like to open a discussion to talk about the terminology we use to describe clarinet sound. Often times we use various terms like "focus" and "ring" to describe sound; yet sometimes I don't really know what to listen for or how those terms sound in clarinet playing.

Here is a list of terms most commonly used to describe clarinet sound with MY definitions. I should note: these definitions are how I hear them and how I would interpret them. By no means am I saying that these are "the correct way" to define them or something. At the end of the day, everything is subjective.

- Dark: Lacking/Dampening overtones, especially the higher ones.

- Bright: Rich abundance of overtones, lows, mids, and highs.

- Focused: Centered, not spread sound. When someone says "focus the sound" I interpret that as making the sound clearer and more defined. I like think of this as a camera lens focusing the shot. The more focused, the more defined/clearer the picture.

- Ring: To be honest, I've never had a clue what this means or sounds like, so if someone can
define it for me or tell me a clarinet player that has a lot of ring, that would be great.

- Resonance: Pretty much same thing with ring. I've seen some people use this term in regards to overtones; others use this term for echo/reverberation. Can't put my finger on it in regards to what it sounds like or what it is.

- Centered: For me, interchangeable with focus.

- Depth: For this I also have no clue.

- Dense: A lot of core in the sound. Sounds heavy (but in a good way). For me, players with "big" sounds also have dense sounds.

- Rich: Has a strong core with lots of color. No airiness, stuffiness, or anything else getting in the way of clarinet sound. Crystal clear.

- Mellow: Smooth, silky, chocolatey sound.

- Dull/Hollow: Lacking color or core. Sounds dead.

- Big/Small: The size of the sound and how it takes up the space. This honestly depends on where the player is situated (whether that be a small conference room or a concert hall). I've heard players with massive sounds up close sound small in the concert hall. I've also heard players who sound "cute" up close but in the hall sound like they are floating above the orchestra/band or that their sound is coming from everywhere.

Feel free to add a term I didn't include or how you would describe certain terms. Also feel free to agree/disagree; no wrong answers here! At the end of the day we all perceive things differently; my version of dark might not be the same as your version of dark. Oh and if some of you can define the terms that I have no idea on, that would be great! :)

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2021-03-05 22:35

>> - Ring:

I will just throw this out as an idea.

We all know (I hope) that a clarinet sound basically has stronger odd overtones. It is also known that Harold Wright could hear the 12th, the first strong overtone. I also have students who can hear the 12th and when they tell me they hear it in a specific note, I hear it as 'ringing', as I have always identified as a nice sound.
Using 'spectrum analysis' software such as the "Spectroid" app for smart phones, or Audacity for editing WAV files, I can see in some of Harold Wright notes that the 12th is even stronger than the root!


So, I assume that a ringing clarinet sound is one that has at least a strong first overtone.

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-03-05 22:52

McDonalds Eater wrote:

> Hi everyone, I would like to open a discussion to talk about
> the terminology we use to describe clarinet sound.

> Here is a list of terms most commonly used to describe clarinet
> sound with MY definitions. I should note: these definitions are
> how I hear them and how I would interpret them. By no means am
> I saying that these are "the correct way" to define them or
> something. At the end of the day, everything is subjective.
>

Communication can only take place when participants in a conversation share an understanding of the terms - vocabulary - they're using. If only two people are talking to each other, only they need to agree on what their words mean. If conversations and discussions involve a fairly small group of people, say, a particular teacher and his or her students, or some other group with shared experiences and exposures, it's still possible for them to develop the kind of intra-group understanding that can allow meaningful communication.

When you talk about "terminology we use to describe clarinet sound" you've vastly complicated the process. Who are "we?" is one important question. Your definitions will probably find lots of agreement and more of "us" may understand some of the terms in the same way you define them and disagree about others. The problem always is that, since we don't always know how others are using their terms, we don't know what they mean by them. Communication is not reliable without that kind of shared agreement on basic terms.

You've defined your usage, but it's really too cumbersome for each of us to try to define every term we use in a discussion just to be able to use those terms meaningfully. And even the way we define the terms may be ambiguous. For example, your own list includes "focused" and "centered" in each others' definitions. I've never heard chocolate make a sound, so I have no idea at all what a "chocolatey sound" could be. "Ring" is something you really have to have experienced aurally, and IMO live, because it's the first thing in my experience that the recording process cancels out, so although I have a clear idea of what it means to me, I don't think I could describe it to you in a meaningful way.

People can (and do) use the terms you've listed and many others, but always at the risk of being misunderstood. Fortunately, clarinet discussions don't generally involve anything life-threatening or vital to world order and peace. And if you really want to know what a mouthpiece or instrument does or what a particular player sounds like, you always have the option of judging for yourself, bypassing anyone else's description. So, I suppose the bottom line is that if you use descriptive terms (or at least ones that are not intrinsically properties of sound but are appropriated from other senses than our hearing), you accept the possibility of not being understood by your target audience. Certainly not a prohibition, just a caution.

Karl

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2021-03-06 00:06

Fruity - that's how I describe a Selmer Series 10S.

Chris.

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Hugues Fardao 
Date:   2021-03-06 02:01

@McDonalds Eater , I totaly agree with those :

- Dark: Lacking/Dampening overtones, especially the higher ones.

- Bright: Rich abundance of overtones, lows, mids, and highs.

- Focused: Centered, not spread sound.

- Centered: For me, interchangeable with focus.

- Dense: A lot of core in the sound. Sounds heavy (but in a good way). For me, players with "big" sounds also have dense sounds.

- Rich: Has a strong core with lots of color. No airiness, stuffiness, or anything else getting in the way of clarinet sound. Crystal clear.

- Mellow: Smooth, silky, chocolatey sound.

- Dull/Hollow: Lacking color or core. Sounds dead.



Reply To Message
 
 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-03-06 02:19

These are good descriptions. Must admit I have only given much thought to wanting a "dark" sound. I have heard some who play with that mellow silky, etc. sound. One guy, a sax player in a concert band I played in, took a clarinet solo when we played a swing tune. He sounded like Goodman. He had played with Goodman back then (Aaron Sachs).

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-03-06 03:11

Tom H wrote:

> These are good descriptions. Must admit I have only given much
> thought to wanting a "dark" sound. I have heard some who play
> with that mellow silky, etc. sound. One guy, a sax player in a
> concert band I played in, took a clarinet solo when we played a
> swing tune. He sounded like Goodman. He had played with Goodman
> back then (Aaron Sachs).
>

But there's the problem in a nutshell. You can say that the guy "sounded like Goodman," and anyone who ever heard Benny Goodman would have an idea of what you mean. But I for one am lost when you describe that sound as "mellow, silky, etc." (you left out "chocolatey"), since I have always heard Goodman's sound as colorful and lean with lots of fast vibrato. We may well have the same sound in mind, or we may be referencing different exemplars, but our descriptors are almost diametrically opposed, or at least very different. For me, your description better fits Artie Shaw, who is hard to confuse with Goodman when compared directly.

You can't say either of us is wrong, but in a serious(?) discussion we wouldn't be communicating very clearly.

Karl

Reply To Message
 
 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-03-06 04:44

Keep in mind, by way of an example of how difficult this can be, that Anthony Gigliotti, whose tone concept has been described by some here as the brightest they'd ever heard, actually described his own sound as a cross between the lightness and flexibility of French playing and the **darkness** of the German school.

Karl

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-03-06 07:03

Also I would refrain from getting too caught up in terminology unless you have a live sound frame of reference for a particular player/teacher. Recorded sound, particularly clarinet is NOT a reliable way to evaluate sound.......unless you are referring back to a concept with which you are already familiar in a live setting. Marcellus and Drucker for example had this incredible "surround sound" sort of depth when you heard them live that no recording can reproduce.





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



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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-03-06 07:38

One of the "ringiest" tones I ever heard was Don Montanaro's in the Philadelphia Orchestra. But I mostly heard it in Verizon Hall late in his career. I don't hear it on recordings that he made as Acting Principal.

Karl

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-03-06 09:05

kdk, No argument here. Excellent point.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2021-03-06 23:36

Here's my list, which is not intended to disparage any attempt at proper definitions. I don't think terms are meaningless. That said, I offer the following from an amateur perspective:

Dark: A foggy night in Frisco.
Bright: Nails on a chalkboard, pins in the ear.
Focused: Everyone can hear you, for better or worse.
Ring: Comes back at ya.
Resonance: Feeel the sound.
Centered: This is what you want when you don't have it.
Depth: A mystical quality from California, sometimes associated with the consumption of "natural products".
Dense: The more expensive your clarinet is, the more dense the tone.
Rich: Impossible to play, but sounds amazing.
Mellow: Nostalgic.
Dull: Probably leaking somewhere...
Hollow: Pejorative term for large bore, used by players of modern horns.
Big: Complimentary term for large bore, used by players of vintage horns.
Small: How you actually sound ... unless you're really good.

- Matthew Simington


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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2021-03-07 17:23

It's all in the mind and ear of the listener.
1- Good=good sound
2- Not good= not a good sound
3- Pretty or beautiful=my preference (this is what I taught)
4-Ugly=don't like it.

Short and sweet. :-)

ESP eddiesclarinet.com

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2021-03-07 20:12

I think the OP's intent is great.

I also think that comments on the absence of objectivity regarding the meaning of words that describe sound, as mentioned by posters like Karl and Ed are just as valid.

Ideally, I think such a project is approached by making an inventory of clarinet sounds, ideally from well known players and, say, segments of Youtube videos, and seeing if consensus, or at least definitions that we all don't agree upon but accept, can be formulated to say, for example:

'ok, if you listen to this segment of Leister between the 1 and 2 minute mark in this piece, that, IMHO, is one chocolate/dark/bright etc. example of clarinet sound.'

Of course sticking such audio segments up against devices that can single out overtones, to see if objective science can correlate a particular clarinet sound with a particular arrangement of harmonics, might get passed the subjectivity of people describing sound...a highly opinionated tasks that at least is one step closer to concrete definitions that mere words.



Post Edited (2021-03-07 20:13)

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: EbClarinet 
Date:   2021-03-08 18:32

I think this is a good time 2 ask about a chart. I just don't know how to phrase what I'm looking 4 2 Google it. I want 2 know exactly what is the clarion, chalmeu and those registers.

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/mbtldsongministry/

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2021-03-08 19:18

https://youtube.com/results?search_query=virtual+clarinet+academy+registers+of+the+clarinet >

Rucha in The Registers of the Clarinet video explains and illustrates the division of the clarinet range into registers.

Using the nomenclature in the video, the Chalumeau is from E1 to Bb2 (a four-note subset of the chalumeau, G, Ab, A, and Bb, is often called the "throat tone register")

Clarion is B2 to C3

Altissimo is C#3 and above.

Chalumeau comprises all the notes at the base level (without the register key).

Clarion covers many of the same fingerings (E1 to F2) but with the register key open (which overblows the Chalumeau notes by an interval of a twelfth).

Altissimo uses cross fingerings and air pressure to emerge as the third register.

This division of the clarinet range into three registers was already well established in 1843, when the first edition of the Klose method for clarinet appeared (J. Meissonier, Paris). On page one, the registers and their ranges are described--the "chalumeau," the "clarion" and the "aigue" (high, acute, altissimo).



Post Edited (2021-03-08 21:46)

Reply To Message
 
 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2021-03-08 19:47

The original 'Chalumeau' clarinet had no register key, therefore it the name is used for the low register.

The original 'Clarion' was a medieval trumpet with clear, shrill tones, which is what the Chalumeau sounded like when a register key was added.

The Altissimo, or third register is anything above the clarion.

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2021-03-09 00:12

I think that the OP and other definitions are great.

We use particular words is because they correspond to what we hear. Everyone knows what "bright" and "dark" are.

The reason it can be confusing is that sound is complicated. Sometimes we are listening to different parts of the sound, or listening in a different way. Sometimes we actually hear something different (live, onstage, at the back of the auditorium, recorded, old poppy LP vs. remastered digital, etc.) That doesn't mean that the terms are inherently confusing. It just means that our ability to perceive and communicate is limited. It's in the nature of language to be more or less accurate, more or less vague, more or less objective, and more or less subjective. Some terms are more precise than others.

"Bright/Dark" are fairly objective. The more bright or the more dark, the more objective they are. The treble reeds on an organ are bright, the lowest pipe is dark. Sounds in the middle are less objective. A piano may be "bright" or "dark", but mostly by comparison with other pianos, not trumpets. Someone may call something "bright" that is plainly very "dark", but that's the speaker's fault, not the words.

"Chocolatey" is a figure of speech. When one says "chocolatey" (if one is inclined to do so), the intention is to be poetic, or affective. The point is not to accurately describe the physical qualities of the sound, but to relate a personal experience or feeling about a sound. Other people may share that experience or feeling, but it's more personal than objective. "Smooth" would be more objective. I could say that a performance sounds "lemony", and some people might understand what I was saying, but no one says "lemony". I imagine cymbals or piccolos might sound "lemony". LOL I've never thought a clarinet sounded particularly "chocolatey", even if I might know what it means (sorta - I've also never understood the "liquorice stick" thing...I think the same dude that wrote "Calamazoo" came up with that one.)

Advertising complicates the issue. If it's in an ad, or even a YouTube review, it's immediately suspect. Advertising language has polluted normal language. Advertising language usually does not communicate real meaning, but is intended to make you feel a certain way so that you buy stuff. "Just enough brightness to make a statement, dark enough to blend in when you need to. Round with a solid core." Like my painter boss said, "Everyone wants subtle drama."

- Matthew Simington


Post Edited (2021-03-09 00:17)

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-03-09 01:51

Well............



It does depend on HOW you hear different examples of clarinet.



I recall someone describing to me Karl Leister's sound as dark and Gervaise de Peyer's sound as bright and I nearly got into a brawl over that. Of course those two styles/sounds are quite different, I don't think bright or dark is even relevant when discussing such disparate sounds.


Maybe it might work to say "I want to be brighter (or darker)." In other words it may work if you are adding or subtracting from an existing, known sound, maybe.





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



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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-03-09 02:08

Matt74 wrote:

> We use particular words is because they correspond to what we
> hear. Everyone knows what "bright" and "dark" are.
>

Sorry, nope. I really don't know what they mean.

> The reason it can be confusing is that sound is complicated.

The reason it can be confusing is that almost all the words people use to describe sound are actually meant to describe visual effects - the effect of light and (literal) color. For better or for worse we've appropriated them for describing sound, but we don't all use the same translations.

> "Chocolatey" is a figure of speech.

It's a taste.

> I've also never understood the
> "liquorice stick" thing

I think "liquorice stick" describes the clarinet's appearance (a long, black hollow object).

Karl

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 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2021-03-09 10:23

Quote:

I think "liquorice stick" describes the clarinet's appearance (a long, black hollow object).


A pro saxophone player I know refers to the clarinet as, "The Ol' Misery Stick."

As per the light, dark, bright, round, etc... as stated before, I find the terms entirely useless in conversation (or in reading here on the board). Though, perhaps I'd be able to follow easier if we were all hearing the same thing at the same time and having a conversation, "My, how round that sound is" might have more meaning while being directly addressed during live performance? Even then, I wouldn't expect a similar conversation elsewhere in the hall to use the same descriptors...but at least each person would be clear in understanding within their own group (even if not in agreement).

However, for those who feel they know/understand what they're talking about here on the bboard - have at it. I just shrug my shoulders and read on down.

After one performance, I had two separate individuals come up and tell me my sound was "like dark chocolate." I took it to be an insult and was pretty down about it. Later, I was told that it was supposed to be a great compliment. <shrug>

Why not just say, "You get a nice sound out of that instrument!" or "I love your sound!" ;^)>>>

Fuzzy

Reply To Message
 
 Re: Clarinet Sound Terminology
Author: AndyW 
Date:   2021-03-09 11:46

I note that Google also gives translation of “aigue” as
“sharp, keen, shrill, severe, piercing and squeaky”,
which does rather sound like me trying to play altissimo, sadly...
-A-

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