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Tuning and Voicing Your Clarinet

What is Tuning and Voicing?

It is sometimes possible for your technician to customize your instrument to your specific tuning preferences. We refer to this as “Tuning”.

It is often possible to change the sonority of specific notes, and we refer to this as “Voicing”. Adjectives such as resonant, bright, stuffy, buzzy, or dead to describe the voicing of a particular note. It is important that you use descriptive words that your technician can understand and quantify it for him or her, especially if you are not present for the tuning or voicing session.

Tuning and Voicing go hand in hand, because many of the techniques we use to improve the sonority will also affect the pitch. It is important to know the voicing characteristics of a note while tuning it so that we don’t exacerbate undesirable characteristics further while attempting tuning.

Setting Realistic Expectations:

It helps to have realistic expectations and to go in with your “wish list” prepared. I like it when my clients have a form filled out that shows the tuning relationships between registers. Keep in mind that often times the relationship between notes within a scale is more important than achieving “just intonation” according to a tuner.

How does Tuning and Voicing Work?

Most often intonation adjustments affect two notes, the fundamental and the overblown twelfth. The approach your technician takes to improve intonation discrepancies depends on the relationship between the fundamental and the upper partial, since we can make different modifications that will affect the fundamental more than the upper partial and vise-versa.

When determining the tuning tendencies of a particular instrument it is important to try the instrument with equipment that is familiar to you. If you are using a clarinet mouthpiece that is new to you it might be wise to wait a bit before tuning your instrument to suit it. The same goes for reeds and barrels. While barrels will affect the tone quality of the entire instrument, the length of it tends to affect the notes closest to it, meaning that the throat tones and upper left hand notes are more likely to come into tune with barrels of differing lengths.

It is common for clarinetists to add fingers to open tone holes to improve the tuning and voicing of the instrument on their own, especially for throat tones and left hand fingerings. It is important to work this out in advance also so that further tuning and voicing does not affect your preferred fingerings.

Come Prepared to your Tuning and Voicing Appointment:

Here is a link to the form we like clients to fill in at home and bring to their tuning appointment:

Printable Clarinet Tuning and Voicing Survey

Work in Stages:

Be prepared to continue tuning and voicing your instrument at future sessions. You may find that the adjustments you initially requested are not ideal, or maybe your needs have changed. No worries, we can revise it!

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Specializing in the sales and repair of Professional Oboes, Clarinets, and Bassoons since 2004.