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Tuning a clarinet can be tricky business that should be emphasized and taught early on to beginner students. Playing in tune is an essential skill needed, especially when playing in different musical settings. An out of tune clarinet can sound bad when performing with other instruments and can ruin your musical experience. The following is a guide to how to tune a clarinet and why it’s important.

Use your body heat. If you have been walking outside in cold temperatures, immediately playing your clarinet can cause your clarinet to crack because you need to give your instrument time to adjust to indoor temperatures. Before playing, be sure to warm the top and bottom joints of the clarinet using your body heat by placing the top joint under your arm. You can also repeat this process with the bottom joint and the other parts of the clarinet. This allows the clarinet to gradually adapt to the environment to where you are playing.

Warm-up the instrument. Temperature plays a strong part in clarinet tuning. If your clarinet has been sitting on its stand or outside of its case for a long time, it naturally cools down. This temperature change causes the barrel and other parts of the clarinet to constrict. You can start your warm-up by playing chromatic long tones throughout the range of the instrument from the chalumeau to the altissimo. It is important to tune the clarinet after you have played it. If you do not properly warm-up the instrument, it is likely the clarinet will go out of tune again, in the middle of your playing.

Blow warm air through the instrument. It is important to blow warm air through your instrument after long periods of not playing. Even after properly warming up the clarinet, if the clarinet has not been played continuously, the instrument becomes cold and flat. Blow warm air through the instrument using the fingering for the note low ‘e’ so that the air can travel through the entire instrument. By doing so, you increase the temperature of the instrument, so it does not play flat.

Use a tuner. There are many ways that you can use a chromatic tuner to not only check your tuning, but also to help you train your ear. When your instrument is properly warmed up, check the intonation with a chromatic tuner. In this way, you will be able to accurately determine the tendencies of the instrument.

A good exercise for working towards good intonation is to play a scale slowly (about 60 beats per minute) and a drone playing the tonic note of the scale you selected. This type of exercise will not only help you work on intonation but will also train your ears to listen to the different intervallic relationships between each of the notes.

If you are wanting to buy an instrument, finding a clarinet that has a beautiful sound and plays in tune is extremely important. While trying instruments, make sure to note on a separate piece of paper if there are some notes that are not in tune. This will help to determine if you need to make additional adjustments to the instrument. You can purchase a chromatic tuner at your local music store or online here.

Adjust the Barrel. It is important to be patient, precise, and readjust as needed. If you are purchasing a new clarinet, there are stock barrels that come with the instrument. It is always good to explore other kinds of barrels and sizes that fit with your way of playing so that you are able to achieve a great sound, but also to play in tune. While each brand has their own customized barrels, you can always contact your local music store or manufacturer to see if they can send you options to try. You can find also find out more about customized barrels here.

Scales. After you’ve adjusted the barrel, you can test the instrument’s sound and intonation through all of the registers by playing a few scales with a chromatic tuner. This will help you become more familiar with your instrument’s tendencies from the lowest to highest note.

Adjust as needed. Even though you have already completed all the necessary steps to play in tune, flexibility is something very important to learn and teach to students early on when playing clarinet. When performing with other musicians, it is important to adapt your tuning quickly. Advanced players can adapt quickly to their surroundings because they have had more experience performing.

Find a Teacher. If you need help tuning your clarinet, contact your local music store or a professional musician in your area. They will be able to help guide you through the previously mentioned steps to help you play in tune and improve your clarinet playing.

Intonation and pitch are factors which musicians of all skill levels must constantly work towards. Through proper practice, and utilizing the information in this guide, you will progress towards achieving beautiful intonation on the clarinet!