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I have been quite curious recently about clarinet design, as I have a variety of clarinets here from different periods to experience the changes over history and brand. I found pointers to a lot of great archival information which I have collected and post here:

ARCHIVE POST BEGINS HERE
Author: Ken Shaw
Date:2001-12-07 14:23
Before I wrote my posting last April, I read everything I could find on the Buffet polycylindrical bore. I think it's clear that the R-13 bore is not a pure cone/reverse cone, but rather a "stepped cone" with areas that are cylinders of three sizes, with definite transitions in between. The differences are only a few thousandths of a millimeter, and the small amount of blending at the step points doesn't turn the overall shape into a cone.
On the other hand, the bore probably acts as a cone/reverse cone acoustically, although there are probably complexities caused by the stepping.
While I don't know this, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that, say, Hans Moennig or the Brannens do even more blending to make the bore closer to a pure cone shape.
However, the current Buffet R-13 models, as they come from the factory, definitely have a bore in the upper joint that's a series of cylinders of three sizes. The RC has cylinders of two sizes, and one poster has said that the R-13 A clarinet also has only two sizes.
The final shape is not a true cone or a true sequence of cylinders, though it's closer to a sequence. Geometry mavens undoubtedly have a name for it. Perhaps acousticians do, too. However, since Buffet calls it "polycylindrical," and the clarinet community uses that word to refer to the Buffet bore, my English major instincts say it's best to stick with the familiar word. It's a "term of art" -- a word given a particular meaning and used by specialists to say to other specialists something that would otherwise take a page or two of description.
Best regards.
Ken Shaw


Author: Ken Shaw Date: 2001-04-09 18:03
Darby asked about undercut toneholes, but the answer got bigger than that, so I'm posting it separately.
Until the early 1950s, French clarinets had a relatively large, cylindrical bore and cylindrical tone holes.
In the 1940s and early 1950s, the Buffet workman Robert Carre experimented with a bore that was smaller by several thousandths of an inch, which gave a more focused tone. He got further improvement when he made the bore gradually smaller by a few thousandths of an inch from the top of the upper joint to just below the left middle finger hole and then larger from there to the bottom of the upper joint. Rather than use tapered reamers, the design was made with a series of 3 cylindrical reamers. The smallest was run completely through, the next was run partly through from the top and bottom, and the largest was run a smaller distance from the top and the bottom. This produced the "polycylindrical" bore used in the Buffet R-13. The differences are tiny -- only a few thousandths of an inch -- and are blended into one another, so they're not visible to the naked eye.
The small, polycylindrical bore R-13 became the standard in the United States. It was not perfect. First, the tone quality of every clarinet varies from note to note -- some are resonant, some are dull. The more focused sound of the polycylindrical bore made this unevenness more noticeable. In particular, if the register key is the best size (small) and in the best spot (high) to produce the clarion register with the best intonation, the throat Bb became unusable. Thus the register vent on the R-13 was made larger and placed lower, which gave a relatively bad Bb, but one that was usable, at the expense of a clarion register that was sharp.
To even out the resonance of other notes and adjust clarion register intonation, it was necessary to undercut many of the toneholes. This is also called "fraising." It's used in most Buffet models, the Selmer Signature and 10G, the Leblanc Opus, Concerto and Infinite and many Yamaha models. Large bore models such as the older Selmers and Leblancs and the pre-R-13 Buffets do not need this, but it has to be "designed into" the smaller bore models to even out the resonance from one note to the next and bring the twelfths in tune.
The process is shown very well in the Yamaha link that Mark posted in response to Darby's query.
Clarinet customizers go much further, to make additional refinements in tone and intonation. First, they make non-cylindrical barrels, most of which are reverse-conical, getting smaller by a few thousandths of an inch from top to bottom. Both the Moennig and Chadash barrels supplied by Buffet have this reverse taper. Kalmen Opperman, who makes the best barrels I have ever played, puts a reverse cone about 2/3 of the way down the barrel and a regular cone on the bottom 1/3, creating a "wasp waist" bore. This procedure is extremely delicate and has to be done by hand in almost invisible increments, or it doesn't work at all.
Customizers also adjust the undercutting of toneholes. The undercut can be at different tapers and can be pointed "north" or "south" in the bore, which can adjust the intonation in one register without affecting the other register. Again, this is as much an art as a science and is custom work.
Finally, as Arthur Benade's experiments showed, tone quality is affected strongly by the sharpness of the rim of a tonehole where it meets the bore. Rounding this rim slightly makes a dramatic improvement in tone and response, but rounding it even a tiny bit too much can be disastrous. I think this, more than anything else, is the reason plastic clarinets (which naturally have a sharp rim) don't sound as good as wood clarinets. Both Charles Bay and Kalmen Opperman have customized plastic instruments (particularly bass and contrabass clarinets) to play at a professional level by doing this work.
The great repairman Hans Moennig did custom adjusting on many models of clarinet, including the large bore pre-R-13 instruments. A couple of years ago, Alvin Swiney, who was a Moennig apprentice, gave a great description of the incredible amount of work this takes. Read http://www.sneezy.org/Databases/Logs/1999/05/000596.txt. A clarinet put through this process is a completely different instrument from where it started. Anthony Gigliotti's Moennig-customized R-13 was the basis for the Selmer 10G model.
The Buffet RC and Festival models have a slightly different bore from the R-13. I have read that they use only 2 reamers instead of 3. Also, there are adjustments in the bore and tonehole placement, and particularly in the register vent size and placement, to even out the scale and improve intonation. Tom Ridenour's work on the Leblanc Infinite model produces similar results, and there are several variations on the same theory in the Yamaha line. Tom's work on the Leblanc Opus and Concerto is a more radical departure from the R-13, as is the design of the Selmer Signature. These instruments have a tone quality that is noticeably more even from note to note and are better in tune than the stock R-13. In my opinion, though, they sacrifice the tone quality of the R-13, particularly those that have been artist-tweaked to improve evenness and intonation. Many important players (Larry Combs, for example) disagree, but that Larry Combs doesn't play a "stock" Opus, either. No instrument without hand-customization work plays like the real thing.
Best regards.
Ken Shaw


Subj: Re: [kl]Hans Moennig's solution the Dark Clarinet Tone Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 03:52:01 -0400
During my repair apprenticeship with W. Hans Moennig, I watched him set up and tune over two hundred R-13, A and Bb clarinets to the standards of Robert Marcellus. According to Mr. Moennig the A clarinet after his professional Set up should play just as even and have resonance equal to that of the Bb Clarinet. Since most players have not had the opportunity try an authentic Moennig Clarinet, They just accept the inconsistent pitch and timbre flaws of a new A as the norm.
It would take me three or four hours to write a detailed description of Mr. Moennig's exact Set Up for the A clarinet so I will offer a brief description instead.
According to my notes and observations of Mr. Moennig's tuning system this is his proven solution in refining the A clarinet.There are several means of adjusting the pitch and timbre of notes on woodwind instruments. To make a note Flatter the tone hole can be moved away from the reed or mouthpiece. This can be done by applying tape in the upper side of the tone hole closest to the mouthpiece. This technique also makes the hole smaller and therefore adds friction to the air column. When a hole is made too small the note becomes stuffier in timbre. When the same tone hole is enlarged it will become more resonant. And if the hole is enlarged on the upper side (closest to the mouthpiece) the pitch will become sharper. These simple acoustical rules were used by Hans Moennig to Perfect the R-13 clarinet for some of the greatest players of the 20th Century. Whenever Mr. Moennig set up a clarinet for Robert Marcellus or his college students, the first thing that Mr. Moennig would do is lower all of the tone holes by Two millimeters. He did not attained this feat with tape, however. Mr. Moennig would add a 67 mm barrel to the clarinet and discard the original 65 mm barrel, thus adding 2 mm to the top side of each tone hole. Next he would shorten the bell by 2 mm on the lathe. This would in essence move all the tone holes down the horn thus making all of the notes play flatter while the original length of the clarinet remained the SAME. Now that the notes were flatter, Mr. Moennig had the option to enlarge and undercut them individually to obtain maximum resonance and achieve an even uniformed scale in all registers. The Throat tone notes which were originally sharp and stuffy were slightly undercut to improve the timbre. The thumb tube was replaced with the shorter Moennig hour glass style to improve the throat B flat and Sharp High A, B, and C. Next the left hand finger holes were enlarged for more resonance and undercut for tuning of the registers. The larger tone holes of the lower joint were increased 2 or 3 drill sizes and undercut immensely. This step greatly enhanced the resonance and freedom of the A clarinet and often clarinetist would not be able to distinguish the A clarinet from the B flat in timbre. Mr. Moennig's goal was to remove obstacles from the paths of woodwind players. By making the tone holes of the A clarinet larger than the original smaller stuffier holes, Mr. Moennig was able to make A clarinet playing easier than that of the B flat clarinet. After the tone hole work was completed, Mr. Moennig would then enlarge the upper choke of the bell to improve the pitch of the flat low E and Enhance the resonance of the Full B and Throat B flat.
Unlike other Buffet dealers, when a famous player would come to Mr. Moennig's shop to purchase a clarinet the customer was given 12 Moennig bells to pick from. The bells had the same bore dimensions but varied quite a bit in wood density and grain structure. Mr. Moennig would weigh each bell and mark them accordingly. He said that bells could vary as much as 1.5 ounces in weight. The lighter weight bells would always get picked first as they had the darker warmer tones. Mr. Moennig said that choice wood came from the center of the tree. This area is where the sap is and tends to have a grainy appearance. Some of his customers would actually argue over who was going to get the softer bell as they were a real premium. Other woods such and Rosewood and Kingwood were preferred by Mr. Moennig for Making bells too. He felt that since the bell was the last section to influence the sound, the density of the wood was critical in filtering out destructive overtones and achieving a dark resonant tone. Some players confuse resistance with a dark tone but they are two different issues. Resistance is the interference of response and a dark tone is the lack of upper partials in the harmonic profile of the given tone. Mr. Moennig sought a free blowing clarinet with a warm dark tone. The freedom was attained through the bore and tone holes diameters and the dark tone was normally attained with the density of the bell wood. I have a few Moennig soft wood bells available if anyone is interested in trying them.
I hope this posting adds a little light on the confusing discussion of tone and timbre. For more information on tuning and timbre problems of clarinets, please E mail your street address to me. I will be more than happy to send you a brochure on other Moennig solutions and innovations.
Thank you,
Alvin Swiney
Affordable Music Co.
P. O. Box 4245
Virginia Beach, VA 23454
757-412-2160 fax 412-2158
E-mail [email protected]


Subj: [kl] Re: [K] Robert Marcellus And The Long B? Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 22:56:48 -0500
The Problem you describe with the inconsistent timbre of the long B has plagued clarinetists for many years! My first encounter with the stuffy B came in 1977. Robert Marcellus sent a Graduate student to Hans Moennig's shop to have his new R-13 Clarinets set up. Although the instruments had been picked from 20 clarinets, much custom work was still needed.
When Mr. Moennig and I arrived to work that cold winter's morning, The Northwestern Student was standing outside of the repair shop trembling in the freezing Philadelphia Wind. Mr. Moennig asked him, "How long have you been out here in this cold weather?" The Student replied, "For 2 Hours." He had flown into Philly the night before and slept at the train station. He know that by getting an early start on the clarinet work, Mr. Moennig would have enough time to do the complete "Marcellus Set Up" on both the A and Bb clarinets. The student was prepared to stay the whole week if necessary.
Mr. Moennig picked up the Bb bell and measured it. He then looked at the student and said, "So you are having trouble with your long B?" The student, in total shock, replied, "Wow! How did you know that when I never even told you what was wrong?" Mr. Moennig smiled and said, "Because I'm Moennig, the repairman of Bob Marcellus." At that point, I asked Mr. Moennig to please explain to me what he had discovered in the bell to form that conclusion. He told me to open up the safe and bring him the box labeled "McLane" and I did. He removed an old bell, stuck it on the graduate student's horn and the instrument came to life. When the student tried the bell, he became ecstatic and offered lots of money for it. Mr. Moennig said, "My dear boy, over the years many offers have been made to buy this bell but I can't sell it, as it is my prototype. But don't panic, before you go back to Chicago, we will find the right bell for you and your teacher."
At that point Mr. Moennig pulled out his bore templates and made a comparative study of the two bells. He said, "Look at the small throat of this new bell compared to the one used by Ralph McLane. There lies the problem. The top of the bell is too small and is of the wrong taper. However, If we enlarge the bell too much the long B will become shrill and sharp. So now, we must enlarge the bell at the correct pressure nodes to make the necessary timbre adjustment. What one is striving for here, is to make the long B fit within the scale and not stick out like a sore thumb." At that point Mr. Moennig placed the bell on the lathe and reamed, sanded and polished the bore to the proper dimensions. After the student tested the modified bell, He was really please with the acoustical improvements. Next Mr. Moennig changed the register tube to add a little more brilliance to the long B. The Hour glass shaped Moennig tube not only improved the long B, but enhanced the timbre and response of the throat Bb as well.
After several days of intense tuning, Mr. Moennig finally finished the "Marcellus Set Up." Perplexed by the Amount of money that the Northwestern student and spent flying to Philly, Renting a Hotel Room, and having hired Mr. Moennig for several days, I asked the player why he did not take his horn to the famous woodwind repairman in Evanston? It certainly would have been a lot closer and cheaper i.e. a $2 bus ride. He said, "Because Mr. Marcellus was really concerned about the long B and wanted my clarinets to play as well as the instruments that he had used during his playing career with the Cleveland Orchestra."
When the student got ready to pay his repair bill for several days worth of extensive tuning, he asked Mr. Moennig, "Well, How much do I owe you for your wonderful work?" Mr. Moennig smiled and said, " Ahhh just give me what Marcellus charges for a one hour lesson." There is hope for a stuffy Long B!
Good Luck, Alvin Swiney


Subj: [kl] Re: moenning technical info Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 21:17:37 -0400
In a message dated 4/22/99 9:54:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time, [email protected] writes:
<< 1. How much did the Marcellus, Wright, McLane's and McGenness R-13 specs differ?
2. Were there any specs that remained common? These players all had very different approaches to clarinet tone production (e. g Wright double lip), but in each case was uniquely beautiful...
3. Did Moenning experiment with bells, e.g., shape, internal dimensions, mass, etc.
4. UN related, but maybe you can answer this....why did the register vent key wrap around the upper joint early in the century, but move to the back of the joint actuated by a straight key later??? acoustical consideration? mechanical consideration??
I swear I can get a better throat Bb out of my Carl Fisher/Buffet double stamp A from the 1920's than out of my 80xxx R-13Bb...
regards, steve
>>
Thanks for the E mail. The clarinet prototypes varied in many ways. Each player had his own set up and tone concepts. The McLane clarinet had a much larger bore and excessive amount of undercutting 1930 era. Marcellus used a much longer barrel which allowed Moennig to open the tone hole cylinders more.This played a large part in the mystic of the great Marcellus tone. The Wright clarinet had a slightly smaller barrel which gave him more flexibility. The McGennis set up was very similar to McLane's clarinet dimensions. Yes, the Moennig bell was also available to great players of the 20th century. He copied the bore dimensions of the different prototypes and gave the customer a choice depending on there school of playing. The Moennng bell helped the resonance of the entire horn and brought up the flat low register of today's A clarinets. The bell also improved the timbre of the throat Bb immensely. I have the Moennig bells in stock if you would like to try one. The wrap around octave vent was designed to prevent water from getting into the hole.
Because of the clumsy key, the pad was very difficult to keep in adjustment and seated properly. The shorter back register key was much lighter and durable. And the smaller diameter, longer, back register vent allowed for better 12th intervals especially on the SHARP High A, B and C of most newer clarinets.
If you would like a catalog of Moennig products, please send me your address.
Thank you,
Alvin Swiney


Subj: [kl] Re: klarinet Digest 30 Jul 1999 08:15:01 -0000 Issue 1608 Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 09:47:21 -0400
In a message dated 30/07/99 03:13:27 Central Daylight Time, [email protected] writes:
<< I'm looking to buy a new clarinet. My main requirements are that it should be:
1)free blowing 2)play in tune 3)have a lyrical quality.
Does anyone have an opinion on the Buffet Vintage R13?
In a message dated 4/30/99 8:56:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time, [email protected] writes:
<< In a message to Francois Kloc from Alvin Swiney, Mr. Swiney states "However, according to Hans Moennig, the original design of the 22,000 series R-13 Buffet that Ralph McLane used did play in tune from the factory without extensive set up work." The 22,000 series Buffets were made in the 1936-37
period.
Buffet internet site advises:
The Buffet R-13 clarinet has been manufactured for nearly 40 years and its tradition of quality is unsurpassed. Like all successful products, the R-13 has gone through its share of changes, but the original R-13 of the 1950's still represents the benchmark in the manufacture of quality professional clarinets. With this in mind, Buffet created (or recreated) the R-13 Vintage clarinet, based on the specifications of the original R-13.
Francois Kloc or Alvin Swiney or anyone?
Note: I'm aware the first and best option is to go out and play them myself. However, I have only been able to locate one in Sydney. Not a very satisfactory sample size to form an opinion. Therefore, the choice ends up being between the 5 clarinets in the store which is usually one each of an R13, maybe a R13 greenline, RC, Prestige and a Festival.
cheers David Pegrem Sydney Australia
>> Dear David,
For the playing experience with the R13 Vintage I will leave that to players on the list who tried the Vintage and may have different opinion wich will help you in a way I am sure. When Buffet decided to design the Vintage it was bases on the requests and comments North American players made to Rene Lesieux when he came in the states 4 years ago do a tour. When he get back to the factory with is notes he decided to design a clarinet based on the specifications players gave to him. Most of those players plays or played an early made R13 (1950') and wanted to have the feeling of those early series put into a new designed instrument. it is what Rene did the Vintage bore design is based on the R13 of course with the entry cone reduced the cylinder are 14.62mm instead of 14.64mm (R13,RC,Festival,Prestiges) we moved the twelves register tube !1 mm higher and put a bell 1 mm longer wich balance the twelves nicely. C#/G# tone hole position is 1 mm higher,A/Ab tone holes design is more cylindrical @-----.
The over all of this instrument is I think a more focused and centered sound with a warm tone. I leave the more professional players than me give you their opinion.
Musically Yours
Francois Kloc Woodwind Product Specialist Boosey & Hawkes Musical Instruments Inc.
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This is very interesting and valuable information to have in one place. I enjoyed reading it. Just one small request: could you edit so it is not at all italics? I find italics hard to read.
 

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This is very interesting and valuable information to have in one place. I enjoyed reading it. Just one small request: could you edit so it is not at all italics? I find italics hard to read.
done
 

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Fascinating stuff. As a Buffet owner, I always had a general idea of what "polycylindrical" meant, but I'd never encountered these details before. And the tales of Moennig and Marcellus are great.
 

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I remember a long thread of posts (somewhere online) about large bore clarinets. Evidently, manufacturers did a lot of testing and figured out that the smaller bore type which we use nowadays had inherently better intonation than the large bore instruments like Benny Goodman used.
 
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