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 Low note intonation sharp
Author: lexxmexx 
Date:   2021-08-12 19:08

Hi everyone,

I have noticed that the low notes on the Bb clarinet tends to be sharp, especially the low A which is sharper than the rest. I would like to check if it this a common problem on the clarinet or is it just me?

Is there anyway to overcome this?

Thanks in advance

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2021-08-12 19:18


I have got three very different clarinets and I don't think any of my low notes have ever been individually a problem. With mine it's always the throat tones being individually a bit off, or else the whole instrument being generally either a bit sharp or a bit flat.

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: jdbassplayer 
Date:   2021-08-12 20:13

This is a common problem with large bore clarinet, what model is it? The solution is usually a large chamber mouthpiece, though this won't completely solve the problem.


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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: lexxmexx 
Date:   2021-08-12 20:35

This is a new Yamaha CSVR. Not sure if it is large or small bore though.

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: EricBlack 
Date:   2021-08-12 20:58

I had a similar issue when I was playing Yamaha CSGs. It has a different bore than your CSVR, but the low A was also quite sharp. I found the problem could be made better or worse by certain mouthpieces, but off the top of my head, I couldn't tell you what mouthpiece made it better.

In either case, my main fix for the note was "shading" it. To do this, you take your 3rd finger on your right hand, straighten it out against the roller (I believe that's the name for the long metal tube that allows the keys to move in unison) and vary its proximity to the tone hole. Just to clarify, you aren't actually covering the tone hole, but your finger does get pretty close. Experiment moving it closer and farther away to find the distance that allows you to play the note in tune. This method allows for a wide degree of intonation fluctuation and requires some practice, but it's adaptable to pretty much any chord when playing with others.

The alternative for people who want more consistent, reproducible results without needing to practice it quite so intensively, is to experiment with your pinky keys. Trying adding different pinky keys to your low A, (generally the F#/C# key is a good place to start) and see if that brings your pitch sufficiently down.

Both of these options will change the timbre of the note, but I think its a worthwhile trade to be able to play it in tune! I hope my descriptions make sense, let me know if they don't!

Post Edited (2021-08-12 20:59)

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: Ken Lagace 
Date:   2021-08-12 21:09

If E5 is also sharp, a bit of putty on the upper part of the hole will lower it. Tom Ridenout has a video on how to do this.

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2021-08-12 23:11

When I used hard reeds and "muscled" the embouchure (aka bite) this would be the result (particularly the low A for some reason). The more relaxed your embouchure can be (and the softer the reeds you can use) the more you'll find the pitch across the horn will even out. I also found centering pitch work around open G to be helpful, moving up and down from there while keeping things relaxed.

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

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2021-08-12 23:23

What's the upper register E like?


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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: lexxmexx 
Date:   2021-09-04 03:49

The upper E is in tune. I had tried it on 2 different clarinets and both have the same quirk. Is it coincidental that both clarinets have the same problem or it is actually me?

I have tried using the pinky F#/C# key and it brings the pitching back down to in tune.

If I play around low A range like slurring up and down from low B to G. The upper and lower notes are in tune and when it reaches A, the tuner meter will have a spike towards the right side. It can be as high as +30cents if I maintain the same embouchure or voicing. So I need to consciously voice down when hitting the low A but this only works when playing very slow passages or holding it as a long note.

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: vintschevski 
Date:   2021-09-04 04:42

I had the same problem. I put some blu-tack in the appropriate tone-hole, the pitch was brought down, and it's been fine for years now. I did the same on another clarinet (a C clarinet) with a sharp throat A and that worked a treat, too. Probably a tech could do something similar that would be more permanent and elegant.

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-09-04 06:53

I'm wondering if you find anything else in the low register especially sharp or just A. Most Boehm clarinets - I only limit it because I don't know if it's true with other systems - are actually flat on the bell notes (E3 and F3). I've always felt I had to bring the pitch of A3 (the one you asked about) and B3 down (or use the sliver key fingering, which is much better in tune), but G, G#, and Bb are good on all of my clarinets. Since I play Selmer 10G and you're playing a Yamaha, I suppose we can eliminate this as a brand-specific issue.


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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: Musix4me 
Date:   2021-09-08 16:53

I wanted to chime in and agree with Karl. My Buffet R13 Prestige has the same issue as did my former teacher's Buffet R13.

kdk wrote:

> Since I play Selmer 10G and you're playing a Yamaha, I suppose we can
> eliminate this as a brand-specific issue.
> Karl

...referring to the low A tending to be slightly sharp.

As others have mentioned, I also sometimes add the low F# key or bend it down with the ring finger hovering closely over the low G.

Robert Moody

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2021-09-12 02:38

I could be wrong, but I suspect that some of the perceived sharpness in the long notes is actually flatness in the throat tones. The mouthpiece plays flat and affects the notes closer to it than the long notes. When you tune low C or open G (which may actually flat) the long notes get sharp. The notes least affected by the mouthpiece are long E/B.

I think this is especially likely because when you play low it is easy to relax the embouchure and throat to bring out the lower partials and broaden the sound. When you do that you can drop the pitch very easily.

I also find that for me, mouthpieces tend to make the throat tones flat.

- Matthew Simington

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: LFabian 
Date:   2021-09-12 17:29

The Behn abs bell with the hole in it solved this problem.

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2021-09-13 02:03

Matt74 wrote:

> I also find that for me, mouthpieces tend to make the throat
> tones flat.

Certainly some mouthpieces make the throat notes flat. Pitch goes down as you increase the air volume of the vibrating column. It doesn't matter, as I understand the basic acoustics, whether you increase the volume by lengthening the bore or by widening it. Mouthpieces that have very large chambers, often created by scooping out the baffle to "darken" the tone, without changing anything to compensate for the increased space can cause flatness. And the flatness most affects the shorter tube notes (throat notes and sometimes a little lower).

You can start with the Series 13 Vandorens as examples. What other mouthpieces do you have in mind that cause this same kind of flatness?


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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: Matt74 
Date:   2021-09-15 10:06

Karl, I think that the mouthpiece has to match the player and the horn.

I have a M13 mouthpiece that's pretty much impossible to play. I don't know if something is wrong with it, but all it does is squeak, so I haven't really tested the intonation. All I know is that I can't play that one.

One combination that was absolutely impossible to play was a new Brilhart Ebolin (3?) on an R13. That was a complete disaster. It was really impossible to play it was so out. It was like somebody moved all the tone holes. Maybe they work on big bore horns.

My Genussa GE was much better in tune on my R13 than my B45. The Genussa has a smaller bore. It may not be just that, but it's definitely smaller. It was then that I started to realize how much difference it made. After I looked at Ernst Ferron's book, and started fooling around with the pieces I had (mostly found in cases) I realized that my intonation could be radically different depending on the mouthpiece. Then I found out that's why everyone buys tapered barrels - it's because the mouthpieces don't match the horns. It's not because the horns are all out.

I haven't played much since I sold my R13, but the B45 works well on my Noblet D/N. The Gennusa doesn't work so great.

I can't remember which it was, but an old worn out Riffault N4 played nearly perfect on either my Vito or Noblet. It was just dead center. I was going to try to find a good one. I still have it in case I want to get it refaced, but that would probably change the intonation.

Fobes Debut plays great on older Vitos (and I assume new ones).

It's probably somewhat different depending on the person - but I doubt that anyone could play that same Brilhart on a similar R13.

- Matthew Simington

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 Re: Low note intonation sharp
Author: lexxmexx 
Date:   2021-10-22 16:49

I'm using a M30 standard mouthpiece, so I guess I need to tune to 442hz. I will have to see if I can get hold of anothet mouthpiece to see if it makes any difference.

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