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Alto Clarinet tone advice

Hi, I've lurked here on and off but this is my first post. I am originally a Bb clarinet player, but I've been playing Eb alto clarinet in a community band for the last few years and I'd like to improve my sound. I'm playing a used Vito with what I believe is the original mouthpiece; when I bought the instrument I had it repadded and cleaned up and that's about it. It's fun to play but it sounds and feels stuffy around the register change and in the clarion register. So what do you think would be most cost effective? New mouthpiece? Buy a bunch of different reeds to try out? (I'm currently bouncing between Vandoren Eb alto clarinet reeds and V12 alto sax reeds.) Buy a better horn? Don't spend any money and just practice long tones? Go back to Bb and forget any of this ever happened? (Ha ha)

Any advice and info would help. Thanks!
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Most cost effective would be to make sure the horn is in good mechanical condition. No reason to do anything else until you've done that. Or, if possible, grab another alto clarinet and see if you have the same problem. If so, you've eliminated the clarinet as the problem.
 
Or, if possible, grab another alto clarinet and see if you have the same problem.
^^^easier said than done^^^
on a serious note: If the horn is tight (no leaks) it could be a mouthpiece/reed issue.
I have no experience with alto clarinets however I play bass clarinet in a professional orchestra.
FWIW: I use #4 V12's on my Bb clarinet, however, I use #2.5 Vandoren Java (green box) Tenor Sax reeds on my Bass Clarinet.
I have always found Van Doren bass clarinet reeds to be stuffy. The Java reeds are a bit brighter-sounding (which is good IMO for lower pitched clars - not "edgeey" sounding but definitely not dark sounding)....
also
you could try going with a softer reed......
 

Gandalfe

Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
Administrator
Another cheap fix that worked for a student of mine was to try some different mouthpieces (like the Fobes Debut at $60) until you find one you prefer. There are used ones that are very nice on eBay at times too. YMMV. If you suspect it is the instrument you can often find a really good player to playtest the instrument. Good luck!
 
Oh, if only Terry were here for the obligatory alto clarinet joke!
If memory serves, he'd suggest that the tonal issues would be resolved with a permanent fix when used in conjunction with the interior chambers of a wood-chipper in operation. It was likely the only sound ever to come from an Alto Clarinet that he truly enjoyed.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
The crackling of an alto clarinet over an open flame ...

For Joanie, Terry was a clarinet content expert here. He passed away a few years back, but he was not fond of the alto clarinet. I think that started because the alto clarinet he had to play at some point was an open hole instrument, like your standard Bb soprano clarinet. His opinion is actually backed up by a lot of things, including the fact that there is almost zero music written specifically for the alto clarinet -- the alto clarinet almost always is doubling something -- and even really good players don't get that great of tone from the instrument. While I'll agree with that, if you are happy playing the alto clarinet, I'm happy for you. My goal is to try to get more folks to play musical instruments. I just happen to be a (former) woodwind player, so I encourage playing woodwinds.

I do note that I did skip a step; sorry about that. If your instructor or a good player has the same problem, it's mechanical and it needs repair. If not, go from least expensive to most expensive. Reposition your ligature. Try some different reeds. Maybe start with different strengths then different manufacturers. Try a different ligature. Try some other mouthpieces.
 
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