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Help - Scoring for clarinet

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Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby fabiolcati » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:22 pm

Dear friends,
I need an advice for scoring my clarinet concerto.
What key signature / range is best to have a Bb clarinet sound clear and full at Allegro speed?
Thank you for your help.
Fabio
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby pcartwright » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:50 pm

I used to play clarinet in a student concert band back in the day (I wasn't very good, though), but I recommend setting the key to something comfortable for the instrument (especially if you're going to have a lively and quick piece). Since most clarinets are tuned to Bb, I recommend Bb as a key; of course, this will be written in the key of C on paper and will only sound Bb due to the instrument's transposition. There are clarinets tuned to A and Eb, so you need to be clear about which clarinet the player should use (especially if you are writing an accompaniment for another instrument).

You may want to check out this site as well (http://www.musicarrangers.com/star-theory/p21.htm). The site includes information and a few tables that may be useful in selecting other keys if Bb doesn’t work.
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby fabiolcati » Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:34 pm

Do you need an answer?
Ask Philip first!
Thank you my friend.
Fabio
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby composer » Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:48 am

The clarinet is pretty versatile and can likely handle almost anything that the composer throws at it, however, there are some things to consider.

The instrument has several distinct registers - chalumeau , throat, clarion and altissimo.

The chalumeau(E3 to F4) is the lowest. No issues with anything here, a clarinet can easily enter ppppp. It's the darkest register with an idiomatic tone.

The throat register(G4 to B-Flat 4) is weakest. There are fingering issues and intonation challenges. It's certainly not unusable, but it's well advised to write with care there. Constant solo passages in the throat register requires steady good intonation and complex fingering. Going over 'the break' occurs in this area, and it means that the player needs to go from using 1- 2 fingers on the instrument to all 10, from one note to the next. Any decent player can do this with ease, but it's still the weakest part of the instrument. Some trills in this area are dicey intonation wise.

(The instrument overblows at the 12th and not the octave like most woodwinds. It can make large leaps for the most part. Octave leaps though are harder in places than leaps that simply require the player to keep all fingers intact and add the register key to overblow at the 12th.)

The clarion register(B4 to C6) has no real issues. The sound is bright. The higher one plays here, the harder it is to enter and to play quietly, but any decent player has mastered this issue.

Once the instrument is asked to play above C6, there is yet another 'break', and playing into the altissimo register requires advanced skills. Fingerings are awkward, the instrument is challenged to play quietly here, and starting a note in this register can be difficult. I wouldn't write anything higher than G6(these are all written b.t.w) for the soloist, unless you are sure that the player can handle it.

Fast articulated passages, especially high ones are challenging for the instrument. Most players don't double or triple tongue. If the tempo is fast and there alot of staccato notes in a row, it's challenging. The instrument can indeed handle complex tonguing, but its ill advised to articulate everything. If you have written a fast passage, some of it could be articulated, some of it could be slurred. The clarinet has no issues with slurred passages(no tongue) and can easily play fast sections across the entire range of the instrument(altissimo excepted) in this manner.

If you want clear, fast and articulated use either the clarion register or the chalumeau registers -- avoid the throat and altissimo.

The clarinet b.t.w. can play multiphonics and quarter tones, but again, an excellent player is required here.

Other than that, the clarinet player can likely handle anything you throw its way. I'd be happy to look at your concerto from a player's perspective once you are done and provide feedback as to its playability.

Hope this helps!
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby fabiolcati » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:33 am

composer wrote:The clarinet [...`] can likely handle almost anything that the composer throws at it

Instead, what Composer thrown to me left me soundless! :D
Very comprehensive.
Thank you
Fabio
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby pcartwright » Wed Aug 25, 2010 1:36 pm

Good info, composer; how well do you think clarinet samples (notion's included) emulate the kind of tone difference that occurs across the clarinet's range?
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby composer » Wed Aug 25, 2010 2:39 pm

The clarinet sample for Notion2 is quite good. The clarinet sample(and all samples) in N3 are very poor and to my ears practically unusable. Take a listen to the saxophones with the new Jazz kit - they sound like kazoos. Literally.

The trick,if you use N2 samples,is to litter the score with hairpins. Lots of dynamics to emulate the airstream makes the N2 samples quite realistic. I'd use external libraries with N3, but there are so many problems with the N3 engine, it wouldn't be worth investing money in external sound libraries as N3's faults(no dynamics for one) would still be present.
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby fabiolcati » Wed Aug 25, 2010 3:55 pm

Useful suggestion.
I'm already used to "litter" my scores with hairpins, but yours a good reminder.
it wouldn't be worth investing money in external sound libraries as N3's faults(no dynamics for one) would still be present

Do you men also supported libraries such as Miroslav and GPO?

In the next future I wish to try to write rules for Yellowtools Woodwinds at least to respond to hairpins.
Be ready to be overwhelmed by silly requests. These on clarinet will fade at comparison :)

And now for something completely different.
One of you mentioned I must write in a key that will be comfortable not only for the soloist but also for accompanists.
In this case the clarinet will be suppertd by regular string orchestra.
Any suggestion?

Regards
Fabio
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby pcartwright » Wed Aug 25, 2010 4:08 pm

composer wrote:I'd use external libraries with N3, but there are so many problems with the N3 engine, it wouldn't be worth investing money in external sound libraries as N3's faults(no dynamics for one) would still be present.


I'm a little confused by this. Notion3 responds to dynamic instructions (and the four libraries supported by Notion3 have rules to include dynamic instructions - still waiting to write custom instrument rules for other libraries, though); are you talking about automatic variance in dynamics or libraries that aren't supported by Notion?
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Re: Help - Scoring for clarinet

Postby composer » Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:03 pm

Keywise.....there's no real problems. Clarinets are transposing instruments, and are used to playing with sharps, or flats. Anything with up to 2 sharps to 2 flats(concert) is quite doable. Beyond that(especially #s), you are asking for a lot from the soloist. For example, concert D(2 sharps) would mean E major(4 sharps) for the soloist. Keep in mind that you can always write for the A clarinet here. In this case, the A clarinet would be pitched in F Major..a simple key. However, the clarinet is quite versatile. If you get into problems with the key, look to see if an B-Flat / A clarinet is an alternative. Even in a concerto, it is fine to ask the soloist to switch between both instruments. It's not commonly done, but possible.

Cheers.
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