2aMU4. Techniques for defining clarinet reed quality via computerized light transmission analysis.

Session: Tuesday Morning, May 14

Time: 9:30

Author: James M. Payne
Location: School of Music and Ctr. for Cognit. Sci., Ohio State Univ., 1866 College Rd., Columbus, OH 43210


A basic and well-recognized problem in clarinet and saxophone (single-reed) performance is maintaining consistency in high-quality generation and manipulation of tones. This generative process, involving reed, mouthpiece, and the player's embouchure, produces the instrumental ``voice'' of the performer and is fundamental to artistic communication. Playing skill and a well-designed mouthpiece cannot overcome the liability of poorly vibrating arundo donax, the natural material used in reed manufacture. Inconsis-tency in quality leads professionals to spend as much as $2500 per year on reeds and to perform on relatively few of those purchased. Highly skilled performers agree that the identification of fine performance reeds cannot be accomplished by visual inspection. Trial by playing is the customary means of determining quality and one must purchase reeds before these trials can be made. Even these carefully selected reeds degrade and become unplayable after approximately 10--20 h of performance. Computerized light transmission analysis (TRACOR) has proven to be of value in determining performance characteristics of clarinet reeds.

from ASA 131st Meeting, Indianapolis, May 1996