If you’re looking to learn how to tune a clarinet, this article will show you everything you need to know! Don’t miss out on this essential skill – click now to learn more.
What Exactly Is Tuning?
Tuning is the process of fine-tuning an instrument’s embouchure, oral cavity, posture, or air support for it to perform in tune. In addition, it is the matching of musical pitches to a reference. In the United States, the reference pitch is A=440Hz.
If the concert pitch A above middle C is in tune, it vibrates at 440 vibrations per second. In the United States, ensembles tune to A=440Hz. The unit of measurement used to determine how flat or sharp an instrument is is cents. The higher the cents amount, the more out of tune the instrument is.
Clarinet Tuning Is Influenced By A Variety Of Factors
Tuning and Intonation Temperature Affecting Factors
The pitch will be crisper if the temperature is warm. The pitch will be flatter if the temperature is lower. Warm-up your clarinet by blowing warm air into it before playing.
It’s best not to play on a cold instrument immediately because the wood may crack. Warm up the clarinet with body heat and warm air.
If you’ve ever used a tuner to practice long tones, you’ve probably observed that long tones with a louder dynamic are lower in pitch than long tones with a soft dynamic. The pitch will be flatter if the dynamics are louder. The pitch will be crisper if the dynamics are softer.
When tuning, use a mezzo-forte dynamic for the tuning note. “Don’t play louder than your neighbor,” my college band teacher usually said.
When tuning, especially in an ensemble, it’s critical to pay attention to yourself and the rest of your section and the rest of the ensemble.
Strength of Reeds
The flatter the reed, the softer it is. Harder reeds are sharper and more challenging to play. It’s critical to pick reeds that have a pleasing tone and good intonation. I advocate obtaining somewhat too harsh reeds because there are techniques to soften them significantly.
Embouchure and air support are also improved with harder reeds. See my post, The Best Vandoren Reeds For You, to discover more about the many types of Vandoren reeds.
Resonance Fingerings/Alternate Fingerings
Some notes may be out of tune by nature. Alternate and resonant fingerings can assist with this.
Experiment with pressing more keys down to reduce the pitch if the notes are naturally sharp.
Experiment with opening more keys to raising the pitch if the notes are naturally flat.
However, ensure you’re not hitting or opening keys that will radically modify the note. You should also pay attention to the acoustic quality of the new fingerings. Yes, the sound is in tune, but is it too dull or too bright?
The baffle and the chamber are the two parts of the mouthpiece that have the largest impact on tuning. Taking material out of the baffle, for example, lowers the pitch of throat tones. Additionally, the elimination of material expands the chamber.
Different mouthpieces have different tunings. Traditional Vandoren clarinet mouthpieces, for example, are tuned to A=442Hz, while Vandoren Series 13 mouthpieces are tuned to A=440Hz.
Even though mouthpieces are tuned to A=440Hz/442Hz, this does not guarantee that your sound will always be in tune.
Always use a tuner to test a mouthpiece before purchasing it. You want a mouthpiece that produces good sound and has consistent intonation. Buying a mouthpiece with good sound but bad intonation will be a waste of money. You could also experiment with different clarinet reeds while using the mouthpiece.
Some clarinetists may find that they need to pull their barrels out too far to be in tune. This can result in excessively flat throat tones. Tuning rings and a longer barrel are the two options.
Tuning rings are hard, O-shaped rings that fit into the bore at the bottom of the clarinet’s barrel. The tuning rings take up space in the air, resulting in higher-pitched throat tones. Tuning rings are something I’ve never used before. Before purchasing adjusting rings, I recommend speaking with either your band director or a clarinet expert.
Lowering the pitch will be easier with a longer barrel. The sound will be sharper the shorter the barrel is. The sound will be lower the more extended the barrel is. The majority of barrels in the United States are 65mm-66mm in diameter. Buying a new barrel to aid with tuning might be a costly endeavor.
I propose consulting your band director, a private tutor, or a clarinet specialist. After that, I propose going to a music store where you may try out some barrels. As a result, I recommend having a professional there to assist you with the process.
Tuning requires time and effort. Because so many aspects go into tuning on the clarinet, it is one of the most challenging talents to master. I didn’t start tuning until I was a member of the top ensemble in my junior year of college. In my opinion, tuning exercises should be a part of your everyday practice routine.
The tuning exercises that my clarinet section would do at the beginning of each sectional are listed below. When I practiced alone, I would execute a variation of these exercises. I’ll offer both group and individual practice instructions.
Major and Minor Group Chord Construction
First and foremost, it is critical to recognize that a significant chord’s third and fifth notes are not entirely in tune. The third and fifth should be a few cents flat and a few cents sharp, respectively. As a result, only the person playing the root needs to utilize a tuner.
It is better if the group sits or stands in a circle for this activity. To begin, one participant selects a note. The person to their right will play a fifth above the note of the person to their right. Person two, for example, would play a G above if person one was playing a C.
Person two’s fifth must be adjusted to the root. Person two should be listening to the root and hearing what the fifth should sound like while it is being sustained. They then introduce the fifth, which is tuned as closely as possible to the root.
You’ll hear waves if the fifth is out of tune with the root. The waves will be quite quick if the fifth is too sharp. The waves will be slow if the fifth is too flat. Make any necessary adjustments to bring the tone into tune. You won’t hear any more waves once it’s in tune, and the two pitches will merge beautifully.
The person to the left of person one will play the third once the root and fifth have been tuned. Person three, in this example, would play an E above the root C. Waves can be heard if the third is out of tune, just like the root and fifth. The individual who played the third will now play a fresh root once the chord is in tune.
When practicing alone, you can undertake this practice. You’ll be playing intervals rather than chords. Look for a website or program that will play a continuous note for you.
A drone is another name for this. This is a feature that most tuning apps will include. Choose a note at random for the tuner to sustain. Play a third, fifth, or octave above the root once it has been sustained.
Keep an ear out for waves that signal an out-of-tune pitch. Try the practice with a different note as the root after your interval is in tune.
Pass The Note
This exercise can also be done in a circle while sitting or standing. One individual will choose a note to play in this practice. Person one, for example, chooses to play a B. They’ll choose someone else to play the note with once they’ve decided on a note.
Both clarinetists will play the note at the same time. You’ll hear waves if the two notes are out of tune. Both clarinetists should make adjustments to bring the two tones into tune. Move on to the following individual after the pitches are in tune.
This activity also necessitates the use of a drone. You’ll choose a note to sustain and then play it on your clarinet. Make the necessary modifications to bring your note into harmony with the drone. Choose another note once that one is in tune.
Kimberly Cole Luevano of the the University of North Texas shows how to tune a drone in this video. She starts by adjusting the drone to a concert Bb. She plays the C right above the Bb because the clarinet is a transposing instrument.
She notices that she is keen as she maintains the pitch. To lower the pitch, she pulls out between the top and bottom joints. The following pitch is a concert F, the open G on the clarinet. She finds she is flat for this pitch. She pulls her barrel in more, sharpening the pitch.
The directions for both group and individual practice are the same for this activity.
One person at a time is allowed to go, and everyone must play the same note. This exercise requires the use of a tuner. You’ll keep playing a note, say a B until it’s in tune. Make modifications if it’s out of tune.
Move your oral cavity to make the pitch as flat as possible once the B is in tune. After flattening the pitch, raise your oral cavity to bring it back into tune. Next, raise your oral cavity as high as possible to achieve the highest pitch possible.
After you’ve sharpened the pitch, move your oral cavity back down to bring it back into tune. Throughout the activity, take deep breaths as needed. Any note can be used for this practice.
How To Tune A Clarinet For Beginners
When tuning a clarinet, there are a few actions to do and a few nuances to remember.
This step-by-step method will help you achieve perfect intonation every time.
It’s also worth noting that these instructions apply to any clarinet.
Step 1: Warm up
All instruments are affected by temperature, which causes them to shrink and expand.
The clarinet will most likely cool down in the case and warm up when played, which will undoubtedly affect the intonation.
Warming up is essential for ensuring that your clarinet plays in tune because if you try to tune it before warming up, you’ll have to adjust it again.
Warm your clarinet by playing through typical warm-up exercises, such as a few scales and long tones.
Step 2: Take your tuner out of the cabinet.
Get out the tuner and figure out where you stand.
Play a few notes to see if you’re primarily in tune or playing flat, sharp, or in between.
Adjust your embouchure as needed to bring the notes closer to the proper tuning.
It’s also crucial to check many notes to determine whether the problem is with one or two letters or the entire instrument.
Open G through Bb notes on the clarinet are typically sharper than the rest of the notes, so don’t rely on them purely for tuning purposes.
You can’t skip over them because they’ll be out of tune.
Tuning on middle C, open G, Bb, and high G is usually recommended.
This will give you a decent sense of how your clarinet should be tuned.
(If you don’t have a tuner, I recommend this one for clarinet players.)
Step 3: Retune the Throat Tones
Because throat tones have a propensity to be sharp, it’s a good idea to check all of them before assuming the clarinet is in tune.
The chromatic range of the throat tones in open G to Bb.
Place your right-hand fingers down to reduce the pitch if the open G remains sharper than the rest of the notes.
You may have to conduct some trial and error to find the right combination for optimal tuning.
Step 4: Make Barrel Adjustments
If your clarinet is consistently sharp, you’ll need to pull the barrel out.
Push the barrel in if it’s consistently playing flat.
All barrel adjustments should be minimal because correct tuning shouldn’t take long.
As you try to tune the instrument, move it slowly and experiment with the tuner to find the best position.
Step 5: Experiment with some scales
Once you feel the clarinet is more in tune, go over a few scales to ensure it’s thoroughly warmed up.
The chromatic scale is also a fantastic choice because it will examine your entire clarinet range and double-check all problematic notes.
Make sure you pay special attention to each note of the scales and compare them to the chromatic tuner.
You may ultimately learn to tune by ear, but double-checking with a chromatic tuner is always a good idea.
Step 6: Make any necessary changes.
You should fully warm up the clarinet at this time and understand how the present tune sounds.
It should be pretty close, but a few more tiny tweaks may be necessary to finish your tune.
You’ll be ready to play after making minor adjustments to your embouchure and barrel position.
How To Clean Clarinet Mouthpiece?
You may easily clean the mouthpiece using ordinary dish soap, warm water, a small brush (sold at the music store), or a tiny toothbrush (baby size). At the very least once every week, clean the mouthpiece.
The rest of the clarinet SHOULD NOT BE WASHED IN WATER because doing so may cause the pads that cover the tone holes to become damaged.
Why Is The Clarinet Playing So Flat?
You are either playing too high (sharp) or too low (flat) when you are out of tune (flat). The term “cents” refers to the measurement unit that indicates whether you are flat or sharp. The greater the degree you are out of tune, the greater the cents.
For instance, a pitch that is 20 cents sharp is considered higher (or more out of tune) than a pitch that is 10 cents sharp.
Where Exactly Do I Make The Adjustments To Get My Clarinet In Tune?
Make adjustments to the barrel. A barrel component connects the mouthpiece and the clarinet’s body. If the pitch of your clarinet is off, you can correct it by shifting the instrument’s barrel. If your tuner tells you that your clarinet is already too sharp, you can raise the pitch by pulling the barrel out to make it longer.
How Long Does The Lifespan Of A Clarinet Reed Typically Run?
Whether you play your instrument once a week or once a month, a decent rule is that you should replace your reed every two to four weeks. If you practice for several hours each day, you should probably replace your reeds more regularly than you would otherwise.
It’s possible that certain reeds won’t survive as long as others, and every single reed has a slightly different sound.
When it comes to tuning, learning, tweaking, and getting better are never-ending processes! Maintain a patient disposition, listen carefully, and practice daily. Fidlar hope you found this article useful, and let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below!