• Why Do Young Clarinet Players Play Flat?

    This is a guest post from Rheuben Allen, taken from his site with permission.

    Why do young clarinet players play flat?

    Elementary school and middle school students who choose to play the clarinet often have an issue playing in tune. But they’re not necessarily to blame.

    The manufacturers of many student clarinets sell instruments with barrels that are simply too long for the beginning player. So if you, or your child, are playing a clarinet straight out of the case and are having an issue with pitch, the solution might be simpler than you think.

    Young students who are just starting to produce sound on their instruments but have not yet developed a good embouchure are better off using a shorter barrel at the beginning. By using a longer barrel, they can actually develop a few bad habits that will be harder to change later on down the line. These habits can include biting the reed or tightening the bottom lip in order to get the pitch up.

    In result, these bad habits cause the tone to become thin and affect the response of the instrument. Students then struggle to play unnecessarily.

    The majority of student clarinets come with a 65mm or 66mm barrel. These barrel lengths usually require a thicker reed (3.5 to 5 strength) to get the pitch up to where it needs to be and many young students aren’t yet ready for a hard reed.

    Because students aren’t yet ready for harder reeds, the better option would be to use either a 64mm or 63mm barrel so that they have the opportunity to develop a more relaxed embouchure. This will allow them to more easily produce a better tone and they will be more comfortable playing. It will make their experience that much more enjoyable!

    September 9, 2015 • Music and Career Advice • Views: 2554

  • An Introduction to the Clarinet by Rheuben Allen

    Hi everyone. This is Rheuben. Today I’m going to introduce you to the clarinet.

    The clarinet is a member of the woodwind family and is unique among the woodwinds. Most woodwinds over blow what we call an octave. When you finger a “d” and push the register key, you get a “d.” The clarinet is unique. It over blows a 12th. So when you finger a low “g” and push the register key, you get a “d.”

    So on the clarinet, you never use the same fingering twice for a note. That makes it completely unique amongst the woodwind instruments.

    Now the clarinet comes in a case, and when you open the case, you’ll see there’s a lot of pieces in it. So we’ll start with the bottom of the clarinet, it’s called the bell. This is the bell section [shows piece]. The next piece is called the lower joint. Now when the instrument is new, they come with corks underneath some of the keys to keep the keys down to keep them safe in travel. So you take a pair of tweezers and pull out the little corks. Now all the keys on this joint wiggle.

    The next piece is called the upper joint. This is the top part of the clarinet. Again, it has a bunch of little corks in it we have to take out so it will play.

    The next piece is the barrel. Now the barrel of the clarinet is very important and it comes in many different lengths. And the reason for the different lengths are because when a person plays, everyone has their own embouchure (that’s the shape of your mouth when you play) and has their own mouthpiece and the barrels come in short, about 62 mm to 67 mm in length. And so different barrels will produce different sounds, but that’s for another talk.

    Then we go to the mouthpiece. Now this clarinet comes with a mouthpiece reed and everything all put together, so we’ll take it apart and show you all the different pieces.

    We have the cap which is used to protect the reed and mouthpiece when you’re not playing the instrument. We have the ligature which is what hold the reed on the clarinet mouthpiece. We have the actual mouthpiece and, of course, the reed.

    Now the first thing I’m going to do, is I’m going to put the instrument together and while I’m doing that, I’m going to soak the reed so that you can play the reed. You must soak it and get it wet. Just put it in your mouth and soak it.

    While I’m doing that I’m going to open this. It’s cork grease. Now to put the instrument together, the clarinet has a lot of course between the connecting pieces. So you have to put a little grease on your finger, run it around the cork and make sure the cork is greased. Then you put the pieces together.

    Now when you put the barrel on the lower joint, you wrap your hand gently around the bottom two keys so that you don’t bend them and you put on the bell section.

    Then for the upper joint, the side where the keys extend beyond the cork, that goes into the lower joint so you have to put a little cork grease on the cork. When you put this piece on, it’s very important that your fingers go around and close the key that lifts the bridge key (demonstrates) so that you can’t bend it when you put it together. Close this down, hold it, and then you attach it to the lower joint so you don’t bump into the bridge key. You line it up so that this part (demonstrates) is even in the middle.

    The next thing you put on would be the barrel (puts cork grease on top of upper joint and then places barrel on clarinet). Then, the next thing you put on will be the mouthpiece (puts cork grease on cork on mouthpiece).

    Now, as you look down the back of the clarinet, you will see that the thumb rest, the octave key and the mouthpiece need to be straight in line.

    Okay, now that you have the reed wet, you put the ligature on the mouthpiece. You take the reed and you slip it underneath the ligature and line it up even with the mouthpiece. The tip should be lined up with the top of the mouthpiece. You pull the ligature down and tighten the screws. Once that’s done, you’re ready to play.

    The clarinet, like I said, over blows a 12th, so when you finger a note, like you finger a “c” (the first three fingers on your left hand pressed down), when you push this register key, it becomes a “g.” It’s not a “c” any longer, it’s a “g.” So this makes it completely unique.

    Now this works the same as any woodwind instrument (other than flute), it has a reed. You put your bottom lip over your bottom teeth. (Points to mouth) This is called your embouchure. The top of your mouthpiece goes in your mouth (demonstrates and plays) and that’s how you produce a note.

    When you get ready to quit playing, you put the cap back on the mouthpiece and that way the mouthpiece and reed are protected.

    Now to take the instrument apart, you remove the cap, take off the ligature and reed. Then you remove the mouthpiece. Essentially you do the same thing you did to set up but backwards. Take off the barrel, put it in the case.

    Make sure that when you take it apart, you press down those same keys so you don’t bend the bridge key. Remove the upper joint. Lay it in the case. Close the bottom two keys with your hand and remove the bell. Put that in the case. Put the bottom joint back in the case.

    Put the cap back on the ligature and mouthpiece and put that back in the case. Usually you have something to put the reed in to protect it in the case, I don’t have that at the moment, so you don’t just lay it in the case like I’m doing right now, but that’s that. You close up your cork grease and put it in the case. Close the case and you’re ready to travel.

    The clarinet is very light, very small and very easy to get around with. And that’s the introduction to the clarinet. Thank you so much.

    November 17, 2014 • Lessons • Views: 2446

  • Review of the Buffet B12 Clarinet

    When I began to double on clarinet, I needed an affordable and playable horn. By chance, I stumbled upon a used Buffet B12 clarinet, and I am so glad that I was able to start out on such a great instrument.

    I had a few issues with pitch on the instrument. For me, the standard barrel was too long and so I had the tendency to play flat. I ended up buying a few shorter barrels and I haven’t had any issues with it since.

    The clarinet was made from plastic instead of wood and so I was quite happy I didn’t have to deal with the care or inconsistencies that I’ve been told exist with wood clarinets. And, because it was a student clarinet, it was made for a beginning clarinet player, like myself, so the function of each button was clear and it eased the time I spent learning the instrument.

    I’d like to eventually move to a professional wood clarinet, but for now I’m quite happy with the Buffet B12. I think it’s a great start for clarinet doublers or for those taking up their first instrument.

    If you play clarinet, have you tried the B12? What do you think? What do you play?

    Get the Buffet B12 Student Clarinet on Amazon

    January 2, 2013 • Reviews • Views: 2421

  • Review of the BG France Duo Ligature

    To start out, I want to let you know that I have been playing the same setup on my alto for several years now. Even when I’ve changed my mouthpiece, reeds or ligature, I have always tended to go back to my Beechler mouthpiece, Rico Plasticover Reeds and Ishimori ligature. No matter how much I may have enjoyed different products, I’ve always ended up being more comfortable with my sound and performance on the equipment I’ve been using for most of my music career.

    Recently, however, I came across a ligature that has given me reason to change my setup – and I am more than happy that I’ve made the switch!

    BG France’s new ligature, the “Duo Ligature” is hands down the best ligature I have had to opportunity to play for either jazz and classical setups. At first, I was skeptical. When Franck Bichon played me the demonstration videos for the ligature, I thought it was too good to be true. There was no way the ligature would do all the things the video claimed it would, but I have been of fan of BG France products for some time, and so, I decided to give the ligature a try.

    For those of you unfamiliar with the ligature, the description of the Duo Ligature on the BG web site offers the following:

    • FITS ON Bb Clar + ALTO SAX + ALTO SAX Jazz

    I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant because of my experience with my then current ligature (the Ishimori) which constantly slipped. It had minimal reed touch points like the Duo ligature, but each time I adjusted my mouthpiece, the ligature would move, and in result, my reed would shift out of place. I was constantly readjusting the placement of my ligature and reed, but I dealt with it because I was content with how it played and sounded. Little did I know that I could have better response and sound from a ligature without the hassle.

    The first time I played with Duo ligature was during a practice session. I noticed a difference immediately and couldn’t wait to use it during a performance later that week. The result during the performance was identical – I was able to play with less resistance, greater ease and I was elated with the result. Unlike most equipment changes I’ve made, I never reverted back to my older setup. I still play the BG Duo Ligature and I recommend it to anyone looking for a way to open up their sound and facilitate playing for either saxophone or clarinet.

    Visit the BG France web site to learn more about the Duo Ligature.


    September 2, 2012 • Reviews • Views: 5075

  • Repairing a Crack in a Clarinet

    Clarinet Repair Tips from Rheuben AllenThis article is part of a series of repair articles written Rheuben Allen.

    There are a number of reasons that the wood of your clarinet may crack and if it happens, there are two different methods you can use when repairing that meddlesome crack in your instrument.

    Keep in mind that it is always safest to bring your clarinet to a professional repair person who has the training and experience to repair the crack, but if you are unable to do so, here is how you can fix it yourself.

    The first way to repair a crack in the wood of your clarinet is to pin the crack. The second is to use carbon fiber and epoxy to repair it. The second method is the easiest to complete, and seems to be the most preferred means of repairing a crack.

    The reason the second method is the most popular is because carbon fiber and epoxy vibrate the same as wood. Therefore it should not have any effect on the tone color or response of the clarinet.

    To fill the crack:

    First, one or two grooves are cut around the clarinet. The crack is then filled with epoxy and the two grooves are filled with the carbon fiber and epoxy. The filled grooves then need to be cut level with the wood of the instrument and polished to match the wood. If the job is done well, it is hard to tell the clarinet has been banded.

    This article has been taken with permission from Rheuben Allen‘s website.

    August 30, 2012 • Repair Tips • Views: 2512