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What are some of the main differences between ebonite and wood clarinets vs. metal clarinets, besides their obvious material difference and shape difference?
 

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I have a Silver King Bb soprano clarinet, along with two Buffets in wood and a hard rubber Conn Albert System (plus another wood Albert System - a Buescher). They all sound like clarinets. Obviously, the Buffets are superior, but that very well could be the quality factor and not necessarily the material of which they are made.

Generally speaking,. most metal clarinets are of cheaper quality, mainly for student/school use in days gone by. But there are a few high-quality metal clarinets around (the Silver King for one and I recall an old Selmer Boehm System metal I saw years ago and it sounded fine). A friend of mine has a metal Albert System Bb soprano clarinet and you can't hear any differences in how it sounds when played next to a wooden version. DAVE
 

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Clarinetists argue about the difference materials make all the time, but I agree with Dave. Part of the perception is caused by the quality built in to various classes of instruments. There has never been a commercially produced professional clarinet in plastic (using the common usage of "plastic"). Buffet now makes the Greenline series, which are powdered grenadilla (sp?) wood held together with a resin.

Most of the metal clarinets ever produced were intended for young students and marching bands - they weren't very good. There are perhaps 4-6 notable exceptions. But it really boils down to this: In today's market, a manufacturer would probably lose his shirt trying to sell a "pro" clarinet for a "pro" price if it were made of anything except wood. The Greenline gets by for two reasons: 1) It's a Buffet; and 2) It's mostly wood (we'll pretend like the resin doesn't count.)
 

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I, too agree with Dave.

Fred wrote "The Greenline gets by for two reasons: 1) It's a Buffet; and 2) It's mostly wood (we'll pretend like the resin doesn't count.)"

I don't really think we can consider a Greenline to be wood. In powdering the wood and then presumably filling the few remaining air pockets in that dust with resin, Buffet has effectively destroyed almost every property of the timber that may have been relevant - grain structure and porosity. I suppose some of the properties of hardness and density have been retained.

What we have is an instrument made of resin, with a good deal of 'filler' in the mix. It behaves like a plastic. I very much doubt that it would make any difference to the final product and its tone if the dust were concrete, or cotton, or pumice, or olive seeds, or bone, etc.

IMHO it is a misrepresentation to consider that the Greenline material has much to do with timber. It is my belief that Buffet was having sufficient problems with using timber as a material for mass production, that they wanted to move on towards a professional plastic clarinet, the use of wood dust being a cunning ploy to get players used to the idea of plastic by allowing them to imagine that the Greenline was really basically still a wooden instrument. Buffet simply wanted to disassociate their material having the behaviour of plastic, from the student plastic instruments.

Watch out for a new model that is 100% 'advanced polymer material' (with a fancy name attached to it) without the dust, and with the same performance as the Greenline.
 

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I agree with you Gordon. However, I think the presence of the "wood" makes the medicine go down easier for some folks.
 

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I've got a Noblet metal clarinet that doesn't sound much different to a wooden one. I read a review of a new make of ebonite clarinet that is aimed at pros and apparently it is very good. I'm sure Dave is right, it has more to do with the quality of the instrument than what it's made of.
 

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Of course you could always go in entirely the opposite direction and take a look at the titanium pro-horns made by Hanson .I have one of their lower end clarinets(made in England) and and tried their intermediate( made to their spec, in Taiwan) saxes and they really are rather good.Hanson also make their own version of 'Greenline' which they call Eco-Wood.
 

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Re: To buy or not to buy a Klangbogen.

Is anybody on a clarinet board to ask to see what they say about a clarinet Klangbogen.
I asked a friend with a doctorate in clarinet performance from UNT about materials mattering and sound on Tuesday. He said that it had more to do with density and talked about his rubber bell and barrel. He then went on to say that all clarinetists are in agreement that various woods sounds different. He also said that if a plastic clarinet were made with the exact dimensions of a professional clarinet it would sound a lot more like the professional clarinet, but it would also be clear it was plastic. Then he closed by saying that people who say materials don't matter are just internet trolls and to ignore them. This conversation makes me want to see if there is a clarinet on the web and if a bunch of people cite acoustics and say different woods couldn't possibly sound different. Then see if anybody had dropped the clarinet Klangbogen and created mass hysteria and a 1,000+ thread.

Thinking about clarinet. Why do people even buy wood clarinets for a lot more money that can eventually crack? Shouldn't every clarinet be made of plastic since materials don't matter? :twisted:
 

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Your UNT friend certainly has some strong opinions. I think they're misguided, but then I have my opinions as well.
Metal and composite-body clarinets have been used by top players, classical and otherwise, over the years. There's a range of tone qualities in wood clarinets as well. I picked out my B flat R13 at ClarinetFest in 2014, tried 50-plus wood Buffets along with some Greenline R13's, and I found more range in the variety of tone quality in wood clarinets than I found between a typical wood Buffet and Greenline. From a standpoint of sound, I would've preferred a Greenline, but my wife plays a Greenline oboe bought from a major symphony player and has had problems with the material's durability (under the right circumstances, it actually WILL crack, and the tenons are quite weak), so I stuck with wood.
I won't venture a guess why people stick with wood. The quality of the wood nowadays isn't as good as it used to be, and some manufacturers aren't aging the wood properly anymore. Mouthpieces and reeds (and players) affect tone more than material the instrument is made of. The future of clarinets is non-wood. Don't expect that professional-quality instruments will be cheaper than wood, at least in the near future. The work necessary to make a fine instrument isn't cheap. Ridenour in particular makes great composite clarinets at a less-than-R13 price, but they cut corners, especially in the quality of their keywork.
 

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Re: To buy or not to buy a Klangbogen.

Is anybody on a clarinet board to ask to see what they say about a clarinet Klangbogen.
I asked a friend with a doctorate in clarinet performance from UNT about materials mattering and sound on Tuesday. He said that it had more to do with density and talked about his rubber bell and barrel. He then went on to say that all clarinetists are in agreement that various woods sounds different. He also said that if a plastic clarinet were made with the exact dimensions of a professional clarinet it would sound a lot more like the professional clarinet, but it would also be clear it was plastic. Then he closed by saying that people who say materials don't matter are just internet trolls and to ignore them. This conversation makes me want to see if there is a clarinet on the web and if a bunch of people cite acoustics and say different woods couldn't possibly sound different. Then see if anybody had dropped the clarinet Klangbogen and created mass hysteria and a 1,000+ thread.

Thinking about clarinet. Why do people even buy wood clarinets for a lot more money that can eventually crack? Shouldn't every clarinet be made of plastic since materials don't matter? :twisted:
There's the good ol' Clarinet BBoard, where you'd probably get similar answers from similar people (I think I recognize a few of you from both places).

I personally would love for my next clarinet to be non-wood, but I'm happy with my wooden R13 and Selmer 33 bass at this point in time. If I were to buy a modern bass clarinet now, as much as I love Selmers, I would probably start out by seeing if any of the newer non-wood options would work for me.
 

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I didn’t post a question to a fourteen year old thread. A mod just moved my post because they thought it might be better elsewhere.

Seems legit...
 

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Re: To buy or not to buy a Klangbogen.

Thinking about clarinet. Why do people even buy wood clarinets for a lot more money that can eventually crack? Shouldn't every clarinet be made of plastic since materials don't matter? :twisted:
I have wood (cocobolo and grenadilla), metal and plastic clarinets. The plastic one is a student instrument, so a comparison with the others is unfair. The other three all sound very good, quite similar to each other and I can easily play them in tune. I believe the biggest difference is the weight and how they feel in your hands.

Besides, metal does not crack either and looks awesome. Why not make all clarinets from metal? :)
 

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Well, one physically plausible mechanism for differences would be the sound absorption coefficient of the wood (or other material) used.

I imagined that most, or all, hard, smooth, non-porous surfaces would reflect sound very similarly. Turns out, this is an incorrect assumption, at least for higher frequencies.

The sound absorption coefficient of wood is quite significant once the sound frequency goes above 1000 Hz. Studies on wood acoustics found of the order of 5...15% sound absorption (higher frequencies get absorbed more, and, for me counterintuitively, denser woods absorb more as well). Here is one such study: https://www.researchgate.net/public...y_of_wood_acoustic_absorption_characteristics

So a clarinet instrument made of more absorbing material may well, I think, play and sound differently from a metal clarinet. I'd guess the effect could be compared to having or not having resos on saxophone pads.
 

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And here is an example study of acoustic properties of some polymer composites. Again, fairly flat behavior up to 1000 Hz or so, then a strong increase of sound absorption of the higher frequencies... depending on the exact composition.

https://www.jvejournals.com/article/10765/pdf

So, if BC would claim they did actual research to match their "Greenline" material acoustically to some sort of wood, then I have no reason to doubt it.
 

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Yet a wooden flute head of modern design apparently plays very similarly to a metal flute head of similar design quality.
 

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This article by Tom Ridenour is a great read.

https://www.ridenourclarinetproducts.com/the-grenadilla-myth.html

He certainly thinks material makes a difference acoustically, but argues that grenadilla is in favor simply because it was the best material available back in the day. Tom knows his stuff.
A great deal of musical instrument design is tradition-based.

In 1700 (when the clarinet and/or its ancestors were being developed) the only real way to make something like a clarinet was to use a fine grained hard wood. I can guarantee that if injection molding and high strength thermoset resins had been available then, they would have been used.

Theobald Boehm was considered ground-breaking for his enthusiastic use of metal in flutes as well as his bore, tone hole, and mechanism designs. Since his time, metal has swept all other materials before it in flute design, yet clarinets hvae stubbornly remained wooden (with nods to plastic and metal). I think that's because by the 1850s when Boehm started his experiments, the clarinet was already established. Once a tradition gets established, people will make up all kinds of reasons for following it, which were not contemplated when the thing was developed in the first place.

When Sax developed the saxophone, there was obviously no practical way to make bass saxophones (the original intent of the saxophone) out of wood, and of course plastic still didn't exist. The most immediately available material, which is easily formed, soldered, machined, and worked, is sheet brass for the body and brass bar stock and castings for the keywork. If he had had high strength aluminum alloys and TIG welding available, he might well have used these for saxophone mechanism.

I can see no reason why a clarinet made of plastic couldn't duplicate the best characteristics of a good wooden clarinet. Because the manufacturing processes are different, and the resulting finish and dimensions of the interior are slightly different, there might have to be some adjustment. Personally, if I were interested in getting a clarinet, I would rather have a high quality instrument made of plastic ("resin" for those who are afraid of the "P" word) than wood, just because a high quality plastic material will be more durable and stable. I'm not sure whether professional quality clarinets of plastic exist (other than the aforementioned Buffet Greenline which I suspect compromises the plastic material by using an organic filler).
 
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