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 amplifying the Clarinet
Author: Tom Puwalski 
Date:   2004-12-16 15:20

recently had the pleasure of doing a week of teaching and performing in Vancouver, BC. During my visit I had the pleasure of going to the shop of clarinet guru, Morrie Backun. I have had most of my clarinets worked on by Morrie, so I knew I was in for a treat. I had my Bass, Eb, C, SEVs and Rcs and my flute sent up a few days before, and I have to say these instruments got the royal treatment. Much has been written on this list by me and others about the impeccable work that happens up in Vancouver, so I’m not going to wax poetic about the Bass bore sleeve and all the cool adjustments that he made.

But there is one thing that has been addressed on this a few times before, amplifying the clarinet. I was up in Vancouver to perform with the senior band at St. George’s school; this is private boy’s school with an amazing music program. The auditorium is being renovated, so the concert was move to the gym. This band has over 100 members so I knew I was going to use my mic rig for this show. For the past 7years or so I’ve been using an AKG 419 clip on mic for my main set up. This is a small clip on mic that sounds really nice. I would clip it on the edge of the bell and aim the small mic head up over the holes. This sounded pretty good, but not optimum because it wasn’t high enough on the clarinet. But with a slight bit of compression, it was pretty even in response from the low notes to high. I’ve have tried the AMT mic system, though a little more consistent in volume, it didn’t sound as nice, and because it used 2 mics, it was hard to put on a stand and not usable between more than one instrument on the gig.

Well, the Morrie and Dan at Backum musical came up with a major improvement to my gig rig. Firstly, they made a solid silver ring and post that mounts just above the bell. On this post is a silver plate that the mic clips on to. The mic on this post falls just about at the middle of the clarinet. This gets even better, Morrie then made a Zebra wood bell that has a very vibrant sound on the bell notes, this works with the silver mic post to add some volume to the notes that are far away from the mic. I used this on the concert and it sounded wonderful. Yesterday I was sitting in my basement playing with the mic rig and started looking at the meters on my sound system. When I used the pre-Backum set up, mic clipped on bell, there was over a 25-30 db difference between some of the notes. With the new mic post and bell, the gain looks to be within 5-10 db difference between the loudest notes and the quietest. The Zebra wood bell boosted the gain on the low E-F and B-C. In my opinion this is the absolutely best way I’ve found to amplify my clarinet. So far the comments I’ve received on this set up is that it sounds like me only louder. If anyone wants to see some photos of this rig email me and I’ll send you some J pegs.

Tom Puwalski, former principal clarinetist with the US Army Field Band, author of “The Clarinetists Guide to Klezmer” and clarinetist with Lox& Vodka

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 Topics Author  Date
 amplifying the Clarinet  new
Tom Puwalski 2004-12-16 15:20 
 Re: amplifying the Clarinet  new
Ralph Katz 2004-12-20 17:22 
 Re: amplifying the Clarinet  new
buedsma 2005-01-01 17:17 
 Re: amplifying the Clarinet  new
Jim Harper 2005-01-07 19:13 

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