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 "C" key Clarinet
Author: Garry Kline 
Date:   1999-09-03 15:29

My daughter is in band and plays B-flat clarinet.
I play piano, Trying to buy a used (inexpensive) key of 'C' clarinet, so we can play together.

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 RE: "C" key Clarinet
Author: Garry Kline 
Date:   1999-09-03 15:37

I forgot to finish it. Is this a good idea or not?

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 RE: "C" key Clarinet
Author: Don Poulsen 
Date:   1999-09-03 16:13

If you are trying to play her clarinet music or she is trying to play your piano music, you should try transposing the music. A better suggestion would be to but some pieces from your local music store for (b-flat) clarinet with piano accompaniment. In this case, the music will be in the proper keys for both instruments.

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 RE: "C" key Clarinet
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-09-03 17:25

Garry Kline wrote:
My daughter is in band and plays B-flat clarinet.
I play piano, Trying to buy a used (inexpensive) key of 'C' clarinet, so we can play together.... Is this a good idea or not?

Garry -

New clarinets in C are available, but not cheap. The top models from Buffet, Leblanc and Selmer are actually more expensive than equivalent the Bb instruments, because the number made is small. The plastic Noblet has an excellent reputation and is used by many professional players. However, there is usually a backlog of orders, and the street cost is over $1,000.

Used instruments are also rare, once again due to the small number made, though I was lucky and found a wonderful Buffet from 1928.

All modern C clarinets use the same mouthpiece as a Bb, though some of the custom mouthpiece makers will provide one optimized for the C instrument.

As to whether should get one for your daughter, there are arguments for and against. Classical period composers often wrote for the C clarinet, but that seems to have been based on the need to avoid extreme key signatures, due to the small number of keys on the classical instrument, rather than for the particular tone color of the C instrument. Thus when your daughter starts playing in orchestras, she will regularly come across clarinet parts written in C. Having an instrument in C will of course make this easy. However, transposing up a step is not difficult, and every professional is expected to be able to do it with complete facility. Even if she owns a C clarinet, her college teacher will insist that she learn to transpose, if only because conductors will demand it, and she will need to match tone colors with the other clarinetists playing on Bb instruments.

Having a C clarinet will of course make it easy for your daughter to play along with your piano. But learning to transpose, even for an intermediate player, is very useful and will prepare her for playing all kinds of music regardless of the original notation, when she plays for fun with other people.

The C clarinet has a very bright sound, halfway between the Bb and Eb instruments. I think that's why the Bb instrument came to be the predominant one when the modern key systems were developed and a single instrument could be played easily in almost any key. The C is just too bright to match well with the other orchestral winds. On the other hand, some composers (Berlioz, Mahler, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky, for example) call for the C instrument exactly for its particular color. That's probably not a concern for your daughter right now, but the C clarinet is not easy to play with a nice sound. It screams and wails much more easily than the Bb, so it's not the best instrument for beginners.

I use my C clarinet a lot to play baroque music, since it can be played very lightly and match with harpsichords and recorders. On the other hand, I transpose on Bb just as often, and I would feel limited if I were not able to do it.

If your daughter has talent, learning to transpose will not be very difficult for her. On the other hand, if it really gives her trouble, and you have a spare $1,000 or so, get her the Noblet. Or maybe get yourself an electronic piano that can be set to play a step lower. :-)

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: "C" key Clarinet
Author: Bonnie 
Date:   1999-09-03 19:04

Another possibility might be the Lyons Clarinet, which has recently been discussed on Klarinet. You can do a search of the Klarinet archives for more information.

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 RE: "C" key Clarinet
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   1999-09-03 19:08

Excellent discussion, Ken, it well describes my experience and views. After all, the Bb clar [and others] is/are best described as a "transposing instrument", also for music in A and F. Don

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 RE: "C" key Clarinet
Author: Garry Kline 
Date:   1999-09-03 21:12

Thanks Don P, Ken S, Bonnie and Don B. I really thought that I would not get any response. I printed it off and this will be our dinner discussion. thanks alot.
From Fairfax, Virginia
Garry Kline

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