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 What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2021-05-10 23:59

... and not always for the best.

I had someone bring their Selmer Privilege Bb over to me as they're finding the full fingering for altissimo F ( C#/G#| xxx) very wild compared to the short fingering - it either overblows to another note completely or is unstable and windy, changing between an E and F.

They had no problem when they tried my St. Louis which is one of the few clarinets I have with a standard C#/G# key as my others have articulated ones so I can't use the full fingering for altissimo F (or the Bb above it, but I do use another fingering for that note).

Then today I had a look to see why altissimo F should be that unstable and it was scooping and bending for me as well, when my St. Louis was rock solid. The only significant difference between them was the fact the Privilege has an aftermarket bell with a very narrow throat and a distinct choke between the lower joint bore taper and the narrower diameter of the bell.

I put a couple of my Selmer bells on the Privilege and that cured the unstable altissimo F - the Selmer bells have a much wider throat and far less of a choke where the bore taper in the lower joint tenon meets the base of the socket.

So before you buy a fancy aftermarket bell, try it and make sure EVERY note responds well - it's surprising how much of a difference they will make and it isn't always for the best if they prevent you using certain fingerings or cause tuning problems.


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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: ruben 
Date:   2021-05-11 09:57

Thank you for this very interesting post, Chris. It is true, a bell does have an effect on the altissimo register. Maybe you yourself should design a bell.

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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2021-05-11 17:45

One design doesn't suit all.

I wonder if drilling a vent hole in it will cure this problem? Although I'm not prepared to try that on what is an expensive aftermarket bell.


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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: Ed 
Date:   2021-05-11 17:54

Good to know. Sometimes we fuss with all kinds of things and end up down a slippery slope where we create more problems than we solve.

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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-05-11 19:53

Chris, does the culprit bell cause a similar problem if you put it on the St. Louis or on another clarinet? Is it the bell's design or a mismatch between the bell and the Privilege?


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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: ruben 
Date:   2021-05-11 20:13

Chris: I have found that drilling a hole in a barrel is as delicate an operation as brain surgery; which I have never tried on a human being. The hole in the bell-as opposed to a hole in the head-can really mess up the pressure waves. We have taken an old bell and tried experiments with drilling holes in different places, at different angles and of varying sizes. When it doesn't work -and it usually doesn't- we just plug the hole up and try again; trial and error and serendipity. A propos of nothing, what do you think of the Selmer St. Louis? It has never seemed to catch on.

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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2021-05-11 23:06

The aftermarket bell had the same effect on my St.Louis as the Privilege when I tried the altissimo F with the full fingering. It also made some of the altissimo notes flat compared to the stock bell.

And that wasn't just my findings as I also had the luck of a professional clarinettist try it out with all the different combinations and he drew exactly the same conclusion.


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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: Philip Caron 
Date:   2021-05-13 13:45

This discussion prompted me to try playing without a bell. Wow. Pitch and timbre were affected all over the place, almost chaotically.

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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: JTJC 
Date:   2021-05-13 17:15

I don’t understand ruben’s comment about not being able to get a hole in a bell to work. I’ve seen many C clarinets that come with a hole in the bell, so it does work. Is the problem that with those C clarinets the hole was part of the design whereas with ruben’s experiment the hole wasn’t part of the original design. I have heard of people putting a hole in a bell to improve some aspect of the instrument, so that seems to work, but perhaps fir specific issues. I’m confused.

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 Re: What A Difference A Bell Makes ...
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2021-05-13 17:44

I was sent a set of St.Louis clarinets as a straight swap for my 1962 Buffet Eb clarinet. They don't have all the extra keywork I have on my older Selmers as things like forked Eb/Bb and articulated C#/G# have long since been discontinued. I haven't played them much - they are playable but will need overhauling and also because of the lack of the extra keywork which I use a lot. They have a compact sound like a 10S I once had.

One thing I don't like on more recent Selmers is how they spring the throat G# key with the needle spring in the threaded pillar which isn't only a pain to remove or refit, but it's biased in such a way it will turn the pillar anticlockwise and that's also a pain when refitting the G# key with the spring engaged before the screw is fitted. Whoever had that idea clearly has no idea and Selmer are still running with it - they should've fitted an anchored pillar and then it doesn't matter which direction the spring is biased.


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