Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fake Clarinet

The photo at right is from a painting by my colleague Bruce Frazier. I love the vibrant colors he uses and how he distorts the clarinet to make it look like it is alive.
I want to share an experience yesterday that really affected me:
Something was fishy the moment she handed me the clarinet: it looked like a clarinet, but it didn't feel like a clarinet. The metal keys bent too easily, and the pads had this rounded look like they were all bloated. The barrel seemed almost too tight for the upper joint - a common problem for wooden clarinets, but not synthetics like this. I slipped my mouthpiece on the clarinet and blew into it. It sounded the opposite of roundness, like edgy cardboard; and I had to press hard to get the lower pads to begin to seal. The chromatic scale was just an approximation, and not in the usual Boehm way. The 12th from low E to B was literally a 12.5! I won't reveal the brand name, and I don't remember it anyway. 
What a tragedy for a student to use one of these instruments thinking that he or she is actually playing a clarinet. Imagine the crazy changes to one's embouchure and technique one would have to do to make this instrument sound acceptable within a school band. A young clarinetist must feel horrible about himself or herself as a musician, since the instrument makes it impossible to match the normal sounds of students playing on “real” clarinets. These instruments should be outlawed, and the people selling them to young musicians and their unsuspecting parents should go to jail. It's hard enough to play with the right embouchure, air support, finger position, and have a good reed. A fake clarinet just kills the whole dream of music-making.