The clarinet barrel is one of the most overlooked parts on the instrument. This is the part of the clarinet that joins the mouthpiece and the body of the instrument together. It can be overwhelming to choose the right clarinet barrel since there are many manufacturers who produce them. Here are several factors that play a role in selecting a clarinet barrel that works for you.
Material. Many student-level barrels are made out of plastic and considered the least expensive option. The advantage to having a plastic barrel is that it stays consistent through varying temperatures unlike wooden barrels. If you are looking to have something that makes it so that you are able to achieve a better sound quality, it would be best to consider purchasing a wooden barrel.
The barrel that you select should match the material that the rest of your instrument is constructed from. There are many choices that you can select from, as wooden barrels can be made from a variety of types of wood that produce different sounds.
There are barrels that have different sound characteristics that can range from bright and dark sounds. Wooden barrels tend to be made out of harder woods that are more resistant to warping such Central American cocobolo, African blackwood, or Asian ebony to name a few. The type of material that you choose determines the cost of the barrel.
The bore lining can be made out of vulcanized rubber, synthetic, or other material. It is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation to find a clarinet barrel that has the correct bore dimension, the mouthpiece exit bore, and the barrel length for your instrument.
Shape. When purchasing a clarinet barrel, there are many different shapes to pick from. There are clarinet barrels that are conical, cylindrical, and reverse tapered. There is also a ‘fatboy’ barrel that is made out of more wood. Since this model of barrels are thicker, it produces a warmer and fuller sound due to the density of wood.
Sound. What kind of sound do you want to achieve? Are you wanting to have a brighter or darker sound? Are you looking for something that helps you achieve a homogenous sound through all registers? Having a clear idea about what kind of sound that you want to achieve is important, especially when selecting a clarinet barrel for your instrument. There are clarinet barrels with an open bore that produce a fuller sound, whereas smaller bores tend to produce a smaller and thinner sound. Some barrels absorb sound frequencies that produce a darker tone on the clarinet.
Intonation. The clarinet barrel is one of the most important parts of the clarinet that play a big role in controlling intonation. First, it is important to consider the accepted tuning pitch of where you are. In the United States, many professional orchestras and ensembles tune to 440, except a select few that tune to 442, like most European orchestras. Knowing the tuning tendency of where you are plays a role in narrowing down your choices and determining what barrel size you need for tuning.
Cost. Depending on the material it is made out of, this can affect your number of choices. More expensive options include custom made barrels created especially for your mouthpiece and instrument. For customized barrels, the price can vary depending on the materials that you decide to use along with any other requested customizations.
When selecting a clarinet barrel, it is important to make sure that it works with the mouthpiece and the instrument to produce the optimum result during performance. Professional players are known for trying different kinds of barrels to compare when purchasing a clarinet barrel. If you are unsure of how to select clarinet barrels, it is always useful to contact one of the professionals in your local area or your private teacher to help you in your selection. It is always good to have a second opinion while trying multiple barrels.
Check with your local music store to see if you can try multiple barrels. If it is not possible due to the current sanitary restrictions in your state, you can also request to test multiple barrels online and have them sent to your home. It is recommended that you check the return policy and warranty before doing so as some online companies can have a strict return-policy. GetSerio currently has fatboy barrels on sale priced at $150 made from well-aged grenadilla wood that produces a warmer and fuller sound. These barrels are interchangeable for either Bb or A clarinet and available with either a silver or gold design. The sizes that they are available in 64, 65, and 66mm lengths.