Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

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    Hadamard's Avatar
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    Default Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    I recently acquired a full Boehm Selmer Centered Tone in need for some care.
    The clarinet has sit unused for a number of years but otherwise is not in bad shape. The most "disturbing" thing is that the barrel is not original and it's from a Series 10 clarinet (by the way: who, in Europe, is able to make a barrel with the correct bore diameter? Or where to buy it?)

    I was able to play some notes, after oiling the bore. No more than a couple of minutes to avoid cracking the instrument, but I found something quite strange.

    The S10 barrel is 67mm long, whereas most reports I can read on internet speak of very short barrels to reach a good intonation with the Centerer Tone (62mm is a dimension that's often cited). Nevertheless I had to pull it out around 5mm to play in tune. At that point the instrument was pretty much in tune throughout the registers...

    I refuse to think that it needs a 72mm barrel and I'm prone to think that the gap between the barrel and the upper joint compensated for the lack of volume in the narrow-bore barrel.
    Could it be possible?

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Ciao Hadamard, i too have a Selmer Centered Tone, but mine is not a full Boehm so perhaps this changes everyhing. The original barrel is 66mm and the instrument plays nicely in tune.
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    The taper of the S10 barrel (from a poly-cylindrical clarinet, as opposed to the cylindrical CT) may play a big part in this anomaly. A smaller internal volume in the barrel could flatten the instrument (if the difference is enough).
    I also wonder that if you have a lot of leaks all over the instrument that the pitch would go sharper?
    I've experienced this before in 2 of my own clarinets (played sharp before overhaul, but not enough to be able to make a firm statement about it.
    It might be worth contacting clarinets direct in the UK for info about barrel lengths and whether he has a spare he could sell you.

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    I would try to find an original barrel. I'm not certain but it may be similar or the same as a Series 9. The original is 66mm and has a slight reverse taper. Until I found an original for my Series 9, the intonation was a little funky. Experts please correct me if I'm incorrect here.
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Before you have an extra-lomng barrel made, I'd suggest having a tech go over the clarinet. If it has been unplayed for years, it's likely, at the very least, that pads aren't sealing, and the increased resistance will drive pitch up. Then, spend a month or so practicing on the horn. In addition to the barrel, your mouthpiece may be driving the pitch up. If the pitch is still quite high after a tech check and practice, there's a barrel maker who frequently comments on the Clarinet BBoard, Dr. Alan Segal, who would likely be willing to make a barrel of any sort for you. International postage for a barrel can't be that much.

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Based on my experience, a small bore barrel is going to mess up intonation on a series 9 or any large bore instrument a noticeable bit.
    A Backun is also going to mess it up intonationally, based on experience with a single one.
    My S9 is usually in tune with a 67 mm barrel + a bit of warming it up.
    It probably would be helpful for me to get a 66 or 65 mm one for when I need to play sharper, though.

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Also note that the Series 10 bore was smaller than the Centered Tone. If your clarinet was sitting around for years in a dry environment, wood shrinks. I wonder what the bore is now on yours?
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Sacks Of Phones View Post
    Also note that the Series 10 bore was smaller than the Centered Tone. If your clarinet was sitting around for years in a dry environment, wood shrinks. I wonder what the bore is now on yours?
    I don't have very fine instrument to measure the bore, but with a caliper I got 1,52 cm on the top of the instrument.
    The instrument is also unusually free blowing, with an incredible altissimo..

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Hadamard View Post
    I don't have very fine instrument to measure the bore, but with a caliper I got 1,52 cm on the top of the instrument.
    The instrument is also unusually free blowing, with an incredible altissimo..
    Any tenon rings loose? If not, it is probably OK. I would get the right barrel though
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Sacks Of Phones View Post
    Any tenon rings loose? If not, it is probably OK. I would get the right barrel though
    Tenon rings and bell's rings are firm.
    On the other hand the barrel's rings are loose... I guess that the scarcity of good ebony started long ago

    Time to get a barrel, then...

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Could it be a high pitch model ???

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Oric Muso View Post
    Could it be a high pitch model ???
    I'd rule it out: I've never seen an instrument sold in Italy that was high pitch... it was mostly an American need, as far as I know.

    Beside that, the scale of the instrument is pretty much spot on over the entire range, when I pull out he barrel.

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    What appears to be the original barrel on my CT is 66.5mm long, for what it's worth. Overall tuning is OK at A = 440hz although the notes C down to G in the low register are 10% to 20% sharp - apparently a typical characteristic of this model.

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    If you've got a mouthpiece/barrel/ligature/reed combination which plays in tune, then quit worrying, and thank your lucky stars.

    Dudes who disappear into the abyss which is the infinitely many combinations of mouthpiece, barrel, ligature & reed, in search of some sort of intonation nirvana, tend to never be seen again.

    Unless you go looking for them in the locked-down ward of the psychiatric hospital.

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    If you do decide to go the route of a custom barrel, I have two CTs (one an enhanced Boehm but no Eb and the other ordinary). I have carefully measured the barrels and they are identical. I can supply those measurements if you PM me.
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    After reading this post, I have a suggestion that others have not mentioned. Turn the clarinet into a lamp for about ten dollars of supplies at the local hardware, wax the body and keys up, and sell it on eBay for about $300.00, then buy a newer, better clarinet. Instruments that have sat for long periods of time without all their original parts tend to be money pits that never play well once "finished." I think once you spend a hundred dollars or more on getting the clarinet re-padded, another 100 on a new barrel, and then say another 100 on a new mouthpiece, you are three hundred in for an instrument that you more than likely will be replacing in a year or 18 months. For $500.00, you could get a much better clarinet without the headaches of this closet find. Turn it in a lamp, sell it, make a profit, and get a newer clarinet that you won't worry will crack, or play in tune, or fall apart.
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by jmathesonjr View Post
    and get a newer clarinet that you won't worry will crack, or play in tune, or fall apart.
    So you think newer clarinets won't crack? I disagree. You think all new clarinets play in tune? I disagree. What makes you think old clarinets will fall apart because it's old?
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by jmathesonjr View Post
    After reading this post, I have a suggestion that others have not mentioned. Turn the clarinet into a lamp for about ten dollars of supplies at the local hardware, wax the body and keys up, and sell it on eBay for about $300.00, then buy a newer, better clarinet. Instruments that have sat for long periods of time without all their original parts tend to be money pits that never play well once "finished." I think once you spend a hundred dollars or more on getting the clarinet re-padded, another 100 on a new barrel, and then say another 100 on a new mouthpiece, you are three hundred in for an instrument that you more than likely will be replacing in a year or 18 months. For $500.00, you could get a much better clarinet without the headaches of this closet find. Turn it in a lamp, sell it, make a profit, and get a newer clarinet that you won't worry will crack, or play in tune, or fall apart.
    I both agree and disagree with this...yes, my Centered Tones are a little 'squirrely' cause they're old (hey...they were both made in my birth year!). However, the playing experience is unique, and they are fully capable of being loud enough to play in a big band without working too hard. Both have original, uncracked barrels (one has a replacement bell), but the bodies are solid and well-fitted. The keywork is showing it's age, but tight and functional.

    On the other end of the gamut, I have a Series 9 which is well-used, but well-maintained and plays as well as any new clarinet I have experience. I like the keywork layout/spacing better than any new Selmer or Buffet I have played (some of the new Leblancs are nice). If I were to buy another clarinet, it would be a modern, intermediate composite clarinet like a Leblanc Alpha or Bliss, or maybe even a Yamaha student clarinet. This would mainly be to keep the other ones out of harm's way (and the sun).
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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by jmathesonjr View Post
    After reading this post, I have a suggestion that others have not mentioned. Turn the clarinet into a lamp for about ten dollars of supplies at the local hardware, wax the body and keys up, and sell it on eBay for about $300.00, then buy a newer, better clarinet. Instruments that have sat for long periods of time without all their original parts tend to be money pits that never play well once "finished." I think once you spend a hundred dollars or more on getting the clarinet re-padded, another 100 on a new barrel, and then say another 100 on a new mouthpiece, you are three hundred in for an instrument that you more than likely will be replacing in a year or 18 months. For $500.00, you could get a much better clarinet without the headaches of this closet find. Turn it in a lamp, sell it, make a profit, and get a newer clarinet that you won't worry will crack, or play in tune, or fall apart.
    I have never understood the appeal people see in a Clarinet lamp...
    However I agree with what Sacks of Phones said. Any Clarinet can crack, and none always play in tune. (And falling apart is generally fixed with new cork for that matter.)
    I'm rather satisfied with my Selmer Series 9, although it's made about 15 years later than this one being discussed, and has its original barrel. (although I would like another shorter one at times.)
    What Clarinet are you thinking would play much better than this one for $500? (Ironically you can get another Selmer for that price, with a barrel.)

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    Default Re: Intonation on Selmer Centered Tone

    wow.....
    i really don't think so....
    i was sure it was an english/european thing,just there were a few USA makers of saxophones(not sure about clarinets),that made HP instruments for that english/european market....

    then again,its just my thoughts ,not gospel....

    also usually HP saxes had HP or # or something written on them...(again,not usre about clarinets)....
    cheers,philip
    Quote Originally Posted by Hadamard View Post
    I'd rule it out: I've never seen an instrument sold in Italy that was high pitch... it was mostly an American need, as far as I know.
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