Re (clarinet) service

Six months ago I took my clarinet for its first service in a very long time; there was a lot that needed doing. The primary reason was to get rid of a vzzzzt sound I could hear around about a high G. My acute clarinet hearing could hear this and it was consequently driving me nuts (the audience would probably never have known though).

A pretty penny later and the clarinet was a lot better but the little vibration was still there, just.

I eventually decided to try and figure out the problem myself. The problem was that I knew there was a problem, I just didn’t know the cause of the problem. If I’d know exactly what key or pad was causing all the angst I’d have just taken it back to the mechanic but one can’t go back and simply say “it’s still broken, fix it.”

So in order to self diagnose the issue I pulled my clarinet’s upper mechanism to pieces and proceeded to bung each tone hole with blu-tack until I isolated the problem.

I didn’t isolate the problem.



An attempt at figuring out where the vibration noise is coming from. Notice all the blu-tack.

What I did do was create an amazing mess on my bed (which is the next worst work space after carpet). I think in the process of dismantling the mechanism I had a pad get sliced by one of the flat springs, a result of spring forces blowing the mechanism apart. So not only did I fail to find the issue, I probably created another one.

Or, maybe that pad was already sliced and that was the issue all along?

Six months later and I’ve just handed the clarinet to the mechanic of my local concert band. As he said, sometimes its useful to use different mechanics because they tend to pick up on different things. At least I’ll get the sliced pad replaced, sliced enough to cause a vibration but not sliced enough to prevent a good seal (as the air pressure equipment demonstrated, all the pads were sealing fine).

String instruments supposedly get better with age (or maybe it’s because only the best ones don’t get thrown away). Perhaps that situation is only true because, unlike a clarinet, it’s not a mechanical instrument. As soon as moving parts with spring, levers and keys get involved, parts will eventually wear out. Perhaps my clarinet is actually starting to suffer that fate, it’s wearing out.

As the owner of the Music Education Centre said, people may love their classic muscle cars but they handle like crap. I’d say the same is true of an old clarinet lined up against the latest from Buffet , Le Blanc or Selma. It’s taking a lot of embouchure muscle to smooth out the vagaries of my Le Blanc but then I suppose that’s the difference between a NZ $2,300 Le Blanc of 1999 and a NZ $9,995 Buffet Tosca of 2016 (If I was pro, I’d look at getting one of those clarinets but as it stands, I’m a part timer).


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