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 Pitch tendencies?
Author: sinkdraiN 
Date:   2006-02-07 12:46

How long does it take your clarinet to warm up to pitch? When I take my clarinet out of the case and play I am about 20 cents low. By playing soft and by pinching I can get it up to about 5 cents low. After about 10-15 minutes the instrument warms up to pitch.

In an effort to lose the "sax player with a clarinet" title I am studying with an excellent clarinet teacher. In my first lesson he played my setup and confirmed that it plays 20 cents flat and suggested that I use my other barrel (2mm shorter than the stock).

I'm playing a show and notice that after about 10 minutes I have the barrel pulled out to where the stock barrel would be because bottom line E and below goes VERY sharp.

So the last show I used my stock barrel and the pitch was good. But during a private lesson last night I pulled out the clarinet to play with a tenor sax student of mine and I was dreadfully flat.

Is it normal for the pitch of a clarinet to move around so much from cold to warm? I experience nothing like that with my saxes or my flute or even my plastic bass clarinet. Is it the nature of clarinets or the nature of MY clarinet?

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Mike Clarinet 
Date:   2006-02-07 13:23

It is normal for a warm-up time to be needed. In my experience, clarinet takes longer to warm up than sax, but will stay in tune for longer once it gets there. If you are in a pit band and switching all the time, this means that once the clarinet is in tune it will just about stay there when you are playing sax, but the sax will not stay in tune when playing clarinet. This is not so bad because the sax warms up very quickly. The clarinet takes longer because wood is a poorer conductor of heat than metal, but once warm, will retain heat better. Also, wooden clarinets are sensitive to the moisture in your breath. When you start to play, the moisture is absorbed by the wood and it swells slightly.

You have also gone the dificult way round by learing sax first with the looser embouchure (sp?), then clarinet. Many "sax players with a clarinet" have or had problems playing clarinets in tune with a good tone because it took them a long time to adjust to the tighter clarinet embouchure. Conversely, many "clarinet players with a sax", including Yours Truly, tend to be quite sharp on sax, but generally learn to adjust quicker.

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Shorthand 
Date:   2006-02-07 14:51

The other thing that's happening is a phenomon unique to the clarinet called "big 12's". That is two notes one register apart (only distinguished in fingering by the register key) will often be more than a 12th apart (sometimes less). This is often worse for low E / and the corresponding B. As B is used more than E, it is farily normal in some clarinets to design the E a little flat to get the B closer to being in tune.

(Note: is this perhaps a consequence of equi-tempered tuning interfering with the harmonics? As discussed earlier, equi-temper is a geometric series designed around the 2 (octave) harmonic, but when you actually go up a register in the clarinet, its using the 3 harmonic instead.)

The phenomon is unique to clarinets (cylindrical bore), and i think it has to do with the velocity node at the open end and anti-node at the mouthpiece thing, but I don't quite understand it.

The physics of cold instruments being flat has to do with the speed of sound in air as it varies with temperature. Ovbiously a sax has much higher heat conductivity so it reaches equilibrium faster but cools almost instantly whereas a clarinet has significantly greater heat mass and insulates its inner air column much better.

Post Edited (2006-02-07 15:02)

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Brenda Siewert 
Date:   2006-02-07 15:14

It only takes a couple of minutes for mine to come up to pitch--if the room is a normal temperature. If the room is cold it takes longer. I do a few scales and a warm-up piece (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring) and I'm good to go.

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Shorthand 
Date:   2006-02-07 15:37

Note: I took a closer look at the equi-tempered issue and the resulting difference is a whopping 2 cents sharp when you take the lower 12th and multiply the frequency by 3.

Clearly there's more going on here than just that.

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2006-02-07 22:45

Dear Sink,

Much good advice here but I am keying in on two things that you said, first 20 cents is in my opinion far too low to start off.

The second is the issue of the "P" word.......pinching. I strongly advise against any physical effort conscious or otherwise that even remotely suggests that the reed is squeezed against the mouthpiece. The embouchure for clarinet is much closer to sax than most of us are willing to admit, save for the fact that the musculature of the face is drawn taught all around the orifice as opposed to left loose(er).

So my suggestion is to seek a short barrel (WAY shorter.... or try a Power Barrel from Dr. Henderson perhaps) and when the pitch seems high.....just UN-PINCH (with upper lip and more muscle support all around) !!!!

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

Post Edited (2006-02-07 22:46)

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Bassie 
Date:   2006-02-08 07:19

"... he played my setup and confirmed that it plays 20 cents flat and suggested that I use my other barrel ..."

You've said you trust his skill, so go with the shorter barrel. There remains the problem of playing in tune with the rest of the band. I can think of two things you might not be used to:

(a) The clarinet warms up at a different speed to metal instruments.
(b) The change with ambient temperature is different to other instruments. Inside a clarinet, the air stays warm even on the coldest day. If it's getting slowly hotter in the theatre (for example), you might find yourself going flat relative to the brass.

There's nothing wrong with pulling out.

Post Edited (2006-02-08 12:00)

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: BobD 
Date:   2006-02-08 11:15

I recently encountered a situation where the player's mouthpiece was significantly unbalanced and this resulted in playing flat. A balanced mp corrected the problem.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: sinkdraiN 
Date:   2006-02-08 13:28

Why would a clarinet be made 20 cents flat? Can they lower in pitch with age?

Post Edited (2006-02-08 13:34)

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Bassie 
Date:   2006-02-08 13:55

sinkdraiN -

What clarinet have you got? (and where'd the second barrel come from?)

Not all clarinets are built to exactly the same tuning. A=440Hz and A=442Hz, for example. Play those together and you're looking at a very nasty clash. They're about a tenth of a semitone apart (by my maths).

Mouthpiece, reed and technique all affect the centre frequency of the instrument - but I keep returning to your point that your teacher observed the same flatness, so I'm tempted to discount them.

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: sinkdraiN 
Date:   2006-02-08 14:45

I play a Leblanc LL. Made in the 70s. Pitch is not an issue on other clarinets for me. This LL plays flat for my instructor and I...and I definately trust this guy's observation.

My LL has a remarkably even scale. There are no significant sharp or flat notes. The whole instrument is just 20 cents flat with that barrel (less when it warms up). My A is an R13 and is in tune with the original barrel only that instrument is not nearly as even pitch-wise with itself as my LL. My 64mm barrel pulled slightly puts the who thing in tune.

I'm curious about this. Do you think my LL was flat right out of the factory or is it possible to have a clarinet lower in pitch as it ages. Would years of pulling a swab through it actually widen the bore enough to lower the pitch? I bought it used about 4 years ago.

...oh yeah, my second barrel is one of those deg accubores, not the one that looks like an accordian but the eddie daniels moennig round sound. I may eventually have my stock barrel taken down 2mm. I should probably wait until my embouchure settles with the new stuff my instructor is having me do.

Post Edited (2006-02-08 14:50)

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Bassie 
Date:   2006-02-08 15:01

Are you sure the LL has its original stock barrel?

I don't see how swabbing it could change things.

Think I'll have to refer you to some of the real experts on this board to find out why else a 70's LL might be 20 cents flat... :-)

Just to check: presumably, your teacher tried his mouthpiece on your instrument to confirm the flatness?

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: sinkdraiN 
Date:   2006-02-08 15:14

Yea, he played my whole setup (my mouthpiece/reed/horn) and with his mouthpiece.

I use a B40 and thought that maybe the open tip was the problem but all the mouthpieces I own (Hite premiere, morgan, larry combs, etc...) play at the same pitch according to my tuner.

I like the resonance of my original barrel much better but not at the expense of playing under the pitch.

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2006-02-08 16:32

I've recently changed from a Vandoren 5RV Lyre which played sharp using my stock (Selmer) 67 and 68 mm barrels - but I'm now using a Vandoren 13 series M15 which I'm having to work much harder to get up to pitch - but last night I tried a 66mm barrel and I was sharp, so I bunged the stock 67mm one back on and that did the trick.

Prior to this I was practicing with a tuner using both 67 and 68mm barrels to strengthen my embouchure and experiment by adjusting to see which embouchure worked best and up to pitch (and which was slightly sharp as well, as my philosophy is it's better to be slightly sharp than dreadfully flat - you can always flatten a note, and it's much easier to flatten a note than it is to sharpen one).

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2006-02-09 00:41

Dear Sink,

Something weird is going on here. In my experience the Hites play almost ten cents flatter than the Woodwind brand mouthpieces such as the Combs. The pitch of a mouthpiece has far more to due with the internal dimensions - the size of the tone chamber (more volume=lower pitch). The tip opening is merely a comfort issue, your style of playing, the reed strength you use etc, etc.

The 13 series mouthpieces are marketed as a match with R13 horns or more to the point "American Pitch." I have yet to be able to play one of these mouthpieces to pitch and I've been an American for longer than I can remember - avoid these at all costs!!!

I'm stumped.

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

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 Re: Pitch tendencies?
Author: seafaris 
Date:   2006-02-09 04:48

I have two Leblanc LL's one made in the 80's and one in 2000. They both play slightly flat. I went to a 64 mm barrel and that with more air support has solved the problem. I use a free blowing mouthpiece (Fobes 4L)

I usually read threads about the LL and quite a few posters have commented that they play evenly but slightly flat.


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