How to Tune a Clarinet: Step-by-Step Instructions
Playing the clarinet is not only difficult as it is, but the player must occasionally schedule tuning otherwise known as intonation. It takes much more than aiming for the green light on the tuner. The more you play the clarinet, your breath warms it as well as rising air temperatures, it gains a higher pitch, and the sound will not be what you expect.
Source: Yamaha Music London
Over the years, I have found that the best way to get good sound from your clarinet is by warming it first. However, tuning a clarinet is a complex science and you must take into account a variety of variables specific to your instrument.
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to ‘How to tune a clarinet’ since you must listen attentively and make carefully calculated tweaks to achieve the right intonation. In this blog post, we will look at the various ways that you can tune a clarinet.
How to Tune a Clarinet
Whether you play the clarinet alone or part of a band, tuning a clarinet can be confusing and challenging at first, but it gets easier as you develop a musical ear. However, it takes several tuning tries before you can get it right. For beginners, it is best if you had a tuner to help you note when the clarinet is in tune.
Length of the Tube
Essentially, when tuning a clarinet, all you do is change the length of the tube (the clarinet’s body) to match your reference. A longer tube produces a flatter sound while a shorter tube produces a sharper sound.
If the clarinet is making a sharp sound, pulling out the tube corrects the sound. On the other hand, if you are getting a flat or low sound, push in will correct the pitch.
Most musicians and music teachers adjust the length of the tube between the upper joint and the barrel. However, I have found that you can also achieve similar results by making adjustments between the lower and upper joint, or between the bell and the lower joint.
With that said, one of the most common mistakes I see with beginners is that they tend to pull out or push in too far. In such an instance, there could be a problem with the clarinet. The only solution to this would be to replace the mouthpiece or barrel.
Constant Adjusting of the Length
While adjusting the length of the tube is the easiest and most common way of tuning a clarinet, avoid adjusting it for every note that is out of tune. It is impractical and this affects the intonation of other notes that were in tune.
However, when playing in a band, keep an active ear for the notes and make adjustments as you go to match their sound as closely as possible.
Tuning Notes on a Clarinet
While each player might have a personal favorite note that they play when tuning their clarinet, some notes are much easier to tune than others are. I find that top-line F, an open G, or a low C is the best for tuning a clarinet.
However, the preferences change between music teachers and players. For starters, ensure that you have a trustworthy tuner, and then play two or three comfortable notes.
An important thing to remember is that it is next to impossible to have an instrument that is perfectly in tune. Some clarinets are more out of tune than others are and the notes might change depending on the model and make of the clarinet.
Tuning With a Group
If you are part of a band or a music class, you should consider getting your clarinet in tune with the rest of the group. I always ensure that my students tune their instruments together before each practice session and before any recital.
Most groups play a concert “C” or “G,” but whichever note your group plays, you will be required to transpose a half note below the played note. This means that if the group is playing concert ‘C,’ you should tune your clarinet to a D.
Source: The Vault Music Arts
Play the Lower Octave
When tuning with a band or group, you should start by playing the lowest octave on your clarinet. This will help you determine whether your low octave is in-tune by focusing on the sound of your clarinet with respect to the sound made by the other band members.
Play a Sharper Octave
In most scenarios, the band or group plays the tuning note twice. The second time is for you to check the tuning of the higher octave of your instrument. While the band is playing the second time, play the high octave of note D.
Factors That Affect the Tuning Of a Clarinet
You must keep the following factors that affect the tuning of a clarinet in mind to ensure that you have a properly tuned instrument:
In cold temperatures, the clarinet gives off flatter or low notes, while warm temperatures make it produce higher or sharper notes.
You need to invest in a clarinet that is of good quality. However,clarinets made from reed is too hard will make it difficult to play and it gives off sharper or higher notes. On the other hand, a clarinet made with too soft reed will give off flatter or lower notes.
The barrel on your clarinet will determine the sound it makes. That is, the shorter the barrel, the sharper the sound, while a longer barrel gives off a lower sound.
You will get a lower pitch if you have your fingers too close to the tone holes. For this reason, be mindful of the finger height while playing the clarinet.
The pressure on the embouchure will determine the pitch of the sound coming from your clarinet. If it is too tight, then you will have a sharper sound, and if it is too loose, the sound will be flatter.
Different mouthpieces are tuned differently, and for this reason, you should choose your equipment based on your tuning tendencies and preferences.
Tuning a clarinet can be challenging for beginners, but you will eventually get the hang of it. By following the directions above and practice, you will be able to make your clarinet sound the way you want. However, you should always have a tuner that will help you know when you have hit the right note.