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Alto notes jump a 6th

#1
Normally I play bass clarinet but I've been playing alto clarinet in a clarinet choir for about a year and have tried 3 different brands: a Vito Resotone (plastic), a Buescher (plastic), and now a LeBlanc (wood) that's just been rebuilt. I just got a mouth piece from Roger Garret. As far as ease of playing it seemed the Buescher was best. The problem on the Vito and to some extent on the LeBlanc is when I play a low B or C in the clarino register (vent key open), if I'm not careful it wants to jump a 6th higher than the B or C I'm trying to hit . (The Buescher was better.) So if I have say a grace note on the high F in the chalumeau register (vent key closed) and jump to a C in the clarino register, it wants to go from an F to an A instead. Jumping to higher notes isn't a problem. It can still be an issue even if I start on the B or C instead of jumping to it but it's not as bad. There don't seem to be any leaks and different reeds may help but don't solve the problem. Is this normal? Is there an embrochure trick? I noticed that the bore on the Buescher was slightly larger than the Vito.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#2
First things first...

The most likely source for such behavior is a key that is leaking, either due to a mis-set, or damaged pad (easily correctable) or a crack in the body of the instrument (not so easy). Joint corks can leak as well, although this will be very obvious.

Play the offending note while someone presses on each closed key's pad cup. If the behavior disappears during this process, then there's your leak. Get the pad reset or replaced.

If that's not the problem, then we will start in on the mouthpieces and such.
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#3
Oh hell...

I just reread the original posting and discovered that I have rendered aid to an alto clarinet player.

This is the first time it has happened since 1966, when I took Lynn Biggings home from a practice - we ended up parking and necking for three hours. I got in trouble for that at home, but (all things considered) it was worth it.
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#5

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#6
other than the lack of a leak, and possible airstream things I've found the few Leblanc altos that I've worked on needed a good tweaking of the register system including the register pip vents. I've found the tone to be thin and uninspiring until after some opening of the pip vents. Then the tone became much more full and powerful. Of course, on has to be careful to not go too far otherwise weird things happen.

Did the Leblanc have these same issues before the "rebuild" ?
 

Carl H.

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#7

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#9
Since the user was using for his/her use a total of three useable instruments, the useful and logical place to start would be a leak. From there one could move to secondary areas like key height, mouthpieces and the like.

I wonder if there is the whistling that I have experienced on any number of harmony clarinet.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#12
The clarinet unlike the conical family of woodwinds produces only the odd numbered harmonics 1, 3, 5, and so on. The harmonic series produced when low F is played consists of the following notes:

F - 1st harmonic (fundamental)
C - 3rd harmonic (octave and a fifth)
A - 5th harmonic (2 octaves and a third)

When low F is fingered and the register key is opened, the sound wave is interrupted in such a way that the fundamental is weakened and the 3rd harmonic which is the next in the series takes over.

The player can also bring out that harmonic without the help of the register key by changing the shape of the tongue and/or throat and changing the speed and direction of the air stream.

What is happening when C (the 3rd harmonic) is being fingered and the A (5th harmonic) sounds in its place is that something that the player is doing or the clarinet is doing is encouraging that harmonic to take over.

The most likely suspect is a leak or a bumped key in the area near the bottom of the upper joint. Since it happens intermittently I would suspect bumping the side Eb/Bb or the sliver key by mistake when going to a C. Either one will cause the A to pop out quite easily.

The other variable could be "pilot error" in which the back of the tongue is high and the
"voicing" and the airstream favors the A over the C. A simple exercise to check would be to play the C with an "AH" shape inside the mouth and then increase the speed of the air and change to an "EE" and force the upper harmonic deliberately. Practicing this till you can go back and forth and play either one at will should allow you to be able to turn this effect on and off when you want to on a clarinet that is leak free and adjusted properly.
 
#13
Thanks for the replies even though there was some weird stuff in there :)

I'm not sure if the Leblanc was playable before the overhaul. I bought it after it was overhauled and there was a crack in the upper section that needed to be fixed. I assume he (Dalton Music in Keystone, SD) did a good job as I've seen his shop and he has equipment to detect very small leaks. He also does a lot of work on military instruments.

It could very well be operator error but like I said, there is one alto I can play well without encountering the problem using the same mouthpiece and reed. I consider myself an OK player but certainly not a great player. I've thought about the possibility of bumping a key but can duplicate the problem even when I've very careful. It's much easier to make happen when I do a slurred register jump and tonguing the offending note makes it less likely to happen.

I am interested in the comment about the vent hole. I actually played around with the vent. As an experiment I took a small piece of heat shrink tubing to extend the length of the vent tube slightly. Not a big difference there. I'm a bit hesitant to do anything that can't be undone like enlarging the vent hole.

The Roger Garrett mouth piece is definitely better in not causing the problem than the one that came with it which is a Selmer. When I compare the two, the Garrett is shorter by about a 10th of an inch.

I tried the AH EE idea but it doesn't seem to affect much. The safest thing I can do is not try to play a forte when I do the register jump.

I've always been told that alto clarinets are cantankerous animals and I would have thought this might be normal except for the fact that the Buescher didn't seem to have the problem. By the way, the Buescher had two open holes for the right hand whereas the LeBlanc is a plateau key system where no fingers actually cover holes.

I think what I'll do is bring it back to the guy who fixed it and show him the problem and see what he thinks.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#14
Thanks for the replies even though there was some weird stuff in there :)...
like post #3

I think what I'll do is bring it back to the guy who fixed it and show him the problem and see what he thinks.
Best solution, as he can actually look and touch it.
FWIW, if the vent is too big one solution (picked up from sax posting at various places) is to shrink the diameter of the vent as a test. And various things can be use include hosiery, which is essence reduces the diameter (I figured Terry would be interested in that, in relation to post #3).

or placing tape over the vent and poking a hole into it, albeit smaller than the existing one (for testing)

then if it plays better one has to basically change out the vent pip.
Of course if it needs to be enlarged than it is best to have a 2nd pip anyways. But i found experimentation in this area regards a fine touch and ear and feeling of the pressure differences in one mouth as this little hole can greatly affect the reed vibration.

ie, not for the faint at heart, or alto clarinet.

Good luck and don't pick up any alto clarinet players on the way home :p
 
#16
So with the hosiery method, do you put a piece of it over the vent hole right under where the pad would contact it?

(almost all clarinetists I know are nerds!)
 

tictactux

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#17
So with the hosiery method, do you put a piece of it over the vent hole right under where the pad would contact it?
Yes, basically you stretch a piece of stocking over the register pip so that its opening is obstructed by 3..4 threads.
(almost all clarinetists I know are nerds!)
Do I look like a nerd, eh?
 

SOTSDO

Old King Log
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#19
The stocking method is a simple one that avoids large scale (and sometimes drastic) modifications.

I'm still holding out for a leaking pad somewhere on the horn. You did say that two other horns worked, and with the same mouthpiece and reed combination. Letting ol' Occam shave your face here would indicate that the horn was the problem, not you, and the first thing to check for behavior like you described would be for a slight leak somewhere on the horn.

Once all of the closed pads above the note you are trying to play have been tested for a good seal (simply by having another player place slight pressure on each in turn and then trying to play the offending note), it's time to think about fiddling with the register system. And, usually when stuff involves the register key, it's best to involve a repairman experienced in such things.
 
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