Instrument: E flat Clarinet

My name’s Jennifer Mclaren, and I am the Principal E-flat Clarinet player in the Philharmonia Orchestra. E-flat clarinet is sometimes.


My name’s Jennifer Mclaren, and I am the Principal
E-flat Clarinet player in the Philharmonia Orchestra. E-flat clarinet is sometimes known as the piccolo clarinet, and is effectively the piccolo of the clarinet family, which means it is a smaller instrument, as opposed to the normal clarinet, which is considerable larger, as you can see. This means that the instrument plays quite a lot higher than a normal clarinet, but also, in fact,
plays an awful lot louder than it. Like the normal clarinet, we use a reed which is a piece of cane
which has been specially cut. We attach that to the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece has a flat table with a hole in it, and we attach that with a ligature, which is this, typically made of either metal, leather, or even string. When attached, like this, when we blow down it, we make the reed vibrate, and that in turn makes the air column inside the instrument vibrate, which makes sound. And then we determine what pitch, what notes we want to play by moving our fingers up and down on the keys. (playing scales very quickly) (high-pitched note) That’s just about as high as I can get out of it. I first played the E-flat clarinet when I was in the National
Youth Orchestra of Scotland, because the chap that was playing
the E-flat clarinet got sick before the last concert. He had a nasty throat infection, and he couldn’t play, so I sightread the E-flat clarinet part to Ein Heldenleben, by Richard Strauss in the concert, which was quite scary. Although, to be honest, it’s not any easier now than it was then, which must have been, maybe 25 years ago, something like that, and I immediately liked it. It just seemed like great fun. And the other reason I ended up doing it was because I didn’t do piano
as a second study when I went to study. I studied at the Royal College of Music, and I managed to persuade them to let me do E-flat clarinet as a second study, which meant I had a lot of lessons on it, and much more than
I would normally have had. So, I really got stuck into it and really enjoyed playing it, and I think it probably
suits my personality. The E-flat clarinet, fingering-wise, the basic fingering pattern is exactly the same as it is
on the ordinary clarinet. Only thing with E-flat clarinets is, they’re not really,
none of them are really terribly well in tune, so, and that, of course,
if you’re going to be playing very, very high and very, very loud, is absolutely critical. I mean, it’s critical anyway, but you know, it can be very, very embarrassing if it’s not exactly right. So playing in tune is the key thing with E-flat clarinets. So, particularly on the high notes, we have a large range of different fingerings all for the same note, which we would use in different contexts, depending on who I’m playing with, or depending on the articulation, what note I’ve played before, what I’m playing afterwards, depending on the speeds of the passage of music, a whole load of variables. So that’s the most important thing in the E-flat clarinet. I tell my students that the most important thing about
playing the E-flat clarinet, the three most important things
about playing the E-flat clarinet, are pitch, pitch, and pitch. Anything after that
is definitely secondary. Yes, we try to make a nice sound on it, but it absolutely has to be in tune. So that is the most
difficult thing about it. Otherwise, playing-wise, despite the fact that
it’s a smaller instrument, in a lot of ways, it requires a lot more air to play it. I always think of that as being almost more similar to
playing the bass clarinet, strangely. So, you know, we do need to, I will always make sure that I’m sitting very well. I tend to take very,
very big breaths to play. That will help support the pitch, as well as of course giving
the volume that I need. When we tongue on the clarinet, we produce… most people think of it as a sort of tuh-tuh-tuh noise we produce on the reed, but it’s actually more like a d, duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh. (playing staccato scale) And the idea is to be able to control that so that we can control
the length of the note very, very precisely,
’cause it’s often very important that we are matching up with other people that are doing the same articulation. So, (playing staccato scale) staccato, going super short. To go something a little bit more long, (playing less staccato) to something that was a bit more towards the legato side, (playing detaché scale) then a very legato tonguing, (playing scale) To full legato, no tonguing at all. (playing legato scale) Occasionally, on the E-flat clarinet, we also have to flutter-tongue, which can be a bit tricky on the clarinet, but it goes like this, (playing flutter-tongued scale) which is pronouncing a (trilling sound) right on the reed. Actually, there are different
techniques for doing that. Some people will (trills) right on the reed, which is what I do. Some people can roll their tongue on the hard palate, and some people do like, a slightly nasty thing at the back of their throat, (hacking) like that, which just gives you a sore throat, to be honest. But, yeah, so I (trills) right on the end of the reed. In the orchestra, E-flat clarinet plays a lot of quite spiky, kind of aggressive music. It’s often very, very loud. A lot of short notes,
a lot of very high notes. So, we actually tongue quite hard on the E-flat clarinet. We tongue harder on the E-flat clarinet than we do on the normal clarinet,
by and large. It can take it, and it really needs it
to get the character. One particular example is the Fifth Movement of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Witches’ Sabbath, so obviously it’s all, you know, kind of supernatural, witches, needs a bit of nastiness and menace to it. So we like to play this
very, very strongly. (playing Fifth Movement of
Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique) So that was Berlioz’s
Symphonie Fantastique, probably the first orchestral piece that had the E-flat clarinet in it. Other composers that have written
a lot of E-flat parts have been Mahler, Strauss, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Ravel. Prokofiev. These are probably the main ones. But certainly, nowadays,
it’s quite a lot of stuff, with the more modern music, more contemporary music using E-flat clarinet, because it has such a particular sound, piercing sound. So it’s all really about the colour of it, and also the particular kind of cheeky, spiky, slightly aggressive nature of the instrument. We do occasionally get to play the odd, nice little legato tune, There’s nice solos, a nice solo in Ravel’s Bolero, But there’s not too much of that, and by and large, most of the music that I play on the E-flat clarinet is loud. Possibly 90 to 95 percent of it
forte, fortissimo. So, it’s a pretty much full-on, it’s a full-on job. We do quite a lot of sitting around waiting for the big moment, but when we play, we play and it’s full-throttle all the way. On of the intonation problems on clarinet in general is that it’s inclined to go quite sharp quite quickly when it warms up. So that we’ll then adjust the intonation, using the barrel like that, pull it out to make it longer, and push it in to make it shorter again, to bring it back if it’s gone a bit flat. One of the problems playing in the orchestra
is that the clarinet, because of its very particular acoustics, is that it behaves in a slightly opposite way to the other woodwind instruments. So, when the clarinet
is playing very quietly it tends to go a little bit sharp, and when it’s playing very loudly it’s inclined to go a little bit flat. By and large that is the opposite of all
the other woodwind instruments, so we have to accommodate that. I mean everybody of course, by the time
they’re playing professionally, is very adept at adjusting for that, but that’s one
of the very specific difficulties of the clarinet within the orchestra. Strangely the E-flat clarinet doesn’t always obey
those particular rules, and sometimes, playing
very high and very loudly, it can actually be a little bit easier to get the pitch up playing loudly than it is to play it very quietly, and that’s actually because, playing a very high note very quietly on the E-flat clarinet, it is quite difficult to support the pitch well enough to get it up, to get it up to the right level. So that is, that’s that little oddity, just of the E-flat clarinet. Due to the nature of the music
written for the E-flat clarinet, i.e. that it’s very high and very loud, it also tends to be very, very exposed, so if you get it wrong, everybody is going to know about it. So it does require
a certain kind of approach, and perhaps a certain kind of personality to go for it. It’s basically take no prisoners, and be confident. You need to have a lot of confidence that you’re going to
absolutely hit that top G right on the nose, because, if you don’t, it’s not gonna sound very good. – [Narrator] If you’ve enjoyed learning about the instruments in the orchestra, why not try our iPad app, The Orchestra, featuring Esa Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Fully interactive video playback lets you view the orchestra
from all angles, and the revolutionary BeatMap shows you who is playing when. Follow along with synchronised scores, hear the inside scoop
in audio commentaries, and get a 360-degree view
of all the instruments. Available for download in the App Store on iTunes.

100 thoughts on “Instrument: E flat Clarinet”

  1. I started to play clarinet on German system Clarinet. It's a lot more difficult tot get it in pitch and of course the mouthpiece is smaller than a french clarinet. The sound is also more direct. Eb is even more difficult and more direct soundwise. It is never easy. But for me it was like comming home.

  2. Don't let its size fool you.  This instrument is a lovable monster.  I played it in college in a clarinet choir, along with a few other students, and they constantly had to tell the Eb clarinets to play softer.

  3. Our band has a sopranino Saxophone which is even smaller than that, I have never seen anyone play it and I don't think I ever will.

  4. This "Instrument" series of videos is amazing! Thank you very much for taking the time to produce these. It is the best introduction to the orchestral instruments out there in my opinion (as far as engaging videos go).

  5. That's a pretty sound — it's high, but not strident or annoying like most high-pitched instruments.  Very warm and smokey.

  6. Maybe you would like to hear the instrument in my piece for Eb Clarinet and Symphonic Band, "Divertimento Requintado".
    https://www.youtube.com/user/pbkoval

  7. Him is there any way to find out what clarinet she is using? It's not a Tosca like her Bb and I can't even see a buffet logo. Thanks

  8. I am a aspiring violist and is love to play for the philaharmonia! I love watching you guys play and it continues to keep my musical fire alive! Thank you!

  9. There needs to be more E-flat masterclasses like this. Too many lesser experienced musicians treat this instrument as more of a noise maker or squeak toy of sorts, rather than the upper extension of the clarinet register and a bonfire and beautifully effective soprano instrument. Magnificent insight. Thanks for posting this!

  10. Jennifer is a great clarinetist and a fun person. I am a clarinetist and just learn the exclusive technique of prrrrrrasfsgdfgwer . I love the versions of the London orchestra works but did not know well made ​​video for apps! Thanks and congratulations to all great musicians!

  11. Hello, I have just started playing the E flat clarinet, and I have a very airy sound on the clarinet. What should I do to get the air out of the way? Thanks 
    -Casey

  12. Are you needing any Saxophone or Baritone players? Because I love the Philaharmonia! And those instruments I havent seen yet!

  13. + amanda perryman she is probadly scottish. since she say "seund" instead of sound. and that is scottish but i am not sure if irish people say that aswell

  14. i play a tin clarinet – a small clarinet with a tin whisle's body it's in B flat same to an E flat clarinet

  15. Get involved in our #popupplanets! We want to see you playing your favourite extract of Holst's The Planets and you have a chance to win a pair of tickets to our concert in London on Saturday 1 Oct: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UY29P2CW1o

  16. Our Wind Ensemble is playing a gorgeous Hazo piece- Arabesque, and we're bringing in an Eb Clarinet for it. I love the sound and how beautiful it'll be with the piece. Thank you for these videos, they really help!

  17. Musicians often talk about 't' and 'd' tonguing, without knowing their phonetics. A 't' in English is just a 'd' with no sound from the vocal cords, so as far as wind instruments go, they are identical.

  18. NEW INSTRUMENT FILMS: Hi everyone! We’re about to embark on making some new instrument films and we want to hear from you! What instruments do you want to see covered? Reply within the next week! Thanks for watching!

  19. I'm considering playing the Eb clarinet in my high school marching band (as well as the regular band class) and I have a few questions…
    -Would an Eb clarinet "fit" in a marching band?
    -Is there a lot a music written for the Eb clarinet?
    -How easy would it be to play this instrument coming from the alto sax.?
    -How long would you say it takes to "master" the instrument (If there is a limit at all)?
    Please respond if you know any answers! 🙂

  20. Qué belleza de instrumento, y también, qué belleza de voz, de mujer y su acento.
    Gracias por compartir.
    Thank you for sharing.

  21. We have a new instrument film – EUPHONIUM – coming out on 23 Feb 2018 – make sure you subscribe to be the first to see it! TRAILER: https://youtu.be/U1nNyGLD170

  22. So if you play Eb Clarinet before Alto Clarinet you can learn Alto Clarinet to Contra Alto to Contra Bass,am I correct?

  23. I've got to say, this is not one of my favourite instruments. It works well in roles like the Berlioz example, where it's supposed to be grotesque, but like a lot of extreme instruments (piccolo, various percussion), sparse use is probably best. Maybe if there were more examples in orchestral literature where it wasn't so squeaky and intentionally irritating, it would have a better image. I'm surprised the Philharmonia actually has an E-flat specialist; I figured these were just played by B-flat clarinetists.

  24. Jennifer McLaren Thank You For your demonstration on the E Flat Clarinet You Have Such a Postive Attitude Thanks for your Passion Patience and Preservence

  25. I first played Eb clarinet in summer school bands in my teens, I was provided with a school-owned instrument that was horribly out of tune with itself. The director would stop in rehearsals and tell me "you're out of tune!" At first I just thought "but the instrument is out of tune! What am I supposed to do?!" Finally, I decided to figure out how to compensate, noting what notes were flat, lipping those up, which were sharp, lipping those down. After two weeks, the director stopped in rehearsal and said to me, surprised, "you're in tune…!" And the same thing happened the following two summers…! It taught me an invaluable lesson: constantly listening to my pitch and compensating as needed. Years later, I was able to buy my own Eb, which fortunately turned out to be in tune, hurrah!

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