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Author Topic: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)  (Read 1358 times)

Offline Windsong

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HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« on: January 26, 2017, 07:23:03 PM »
It is often difficult to tell, in an on-line auction format, just what one is viewing.  We all know the basics, and most of us have attuned our eye to differentiate between subtle key differences among clarinets, but there are times when, despite our knowledge, we remain uncertain as to precisely what we've just purchased until it arrives.  Ofttimes, sellers know very little about the instruments they possess, and rarely provide high quality photos in abundance.  Using the total length of a clarinet is generally a good baseline, but is in no way entirely definitive--especially for clarinets from the early 20th century or before, where bell length and the length of the bottom joint past that last tone hole could vary significantly--both non-critical dimensions. 
I have found the best measurement to ask for from a seller is NOT the overall length from barrel to bell, but, in fact, the measurement from the top of the barrel to the DEAD CENTRE of the first left hand index finger tone hole (F#).  Because key and pitch are scientific, measurements will nearly always be the same within no more than a 1/8" discrepancy for a specified pitch, (regardless of bore diameter and tone hole size, within "reason", I believe).  One can then take the reported measurement, and compare it with clarinets of known key and pitch, and know what is being viewed before making a costly purchase.  The above recommended measurement is an arbitrary measurement, of course, but it's extremely consistent.  Using this as a guidline, it should then become quite clear if one is dealing with something outside the spectrum like 405-435 hertz (unusual, but extant--especially 432-435hz, prior to WWII) or super high pitch like 460+.


I'll attempt to cover the key of C, as I have several of them to compare, whereas I own no key of A clarinets, and only LP (440-442hz) Bb clarinets.  A mathematician with an interest in woodwinds would be the best person for this job, as he or she could develop a scientific graph, based upon sonic standards without needing the actual instruments to do so.  Alas, I am not that fellow, but I can provide the following (AMMENDED):

430-432hz = 6 1/8", approx*
440-442hz = 5 15/16", approx*
450-454hz = 5 3/8"-5 3/4", approx*

Notable discrepancies are often found among antique manufacturers' non-standardized products (see 450-454hz, as I have personally recorded that 3/8" discrepancy over on 4hz), as pitch and consistency is also affected by factors other than just length.  Variances in placement of some of the tone holes, tone hole diameter and mouthpiece table length are just a few of the primary factors that can skew the accuracy of the above reference regarding pitch.

*(Approximations are typically,  but not always, within 1/8" [3mm] of the median. This covers slight variations or inaccuracies in the manufacturing process or a builder's preference, albeit perhaps erroneous.)

If others would be interested in filling in HP and LP key-of-A and Bb soprano clarinets (and perhaps Eb, too), we might be able to have a sticky thread we could use as a long standing resource.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 06:41:34 PM by Windsong »
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Offline philpedler

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Re: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2017, 05:55:30 AM »
I thiink it is a great idea to have a sticky thread for this sticky problem.

Years ago I found these measurements that I keep handy:

These are modern pitch clarinets, measured assembled but without the mouthpiece:
Bb     23 3/8 inches        595 mm
A       24 15/16 inches   633 mm
C       20   inches             510 mm

All these are approximate. Many clarinets can have a short barrel, so the measurements can vary at least 3 mm. But when you have something a half inch too short, you've got a HP (high pitch) clarinet.


Offline Windsong

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Re: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2017, 09:20:29 PM »
Excellent, Phil!

Of the many LP Bb clarinets I own (A=440-442) from 1920-on,  all (French, American, English, and grenadilla, resonite and hard rubber) measure as follows from top of barrel to the dead centre LH index finger tone hole:

7"--7 1/4" 
(178mm-184mm)
Median measurement = 7 1/8" (181mm--with a 3mm shift in either direction, precisely as you stated)

(These measurements were taken with each clarinet's respective original barrel,  regardless of the length--another testament that barrel tuning is just as important to offset minor discrepancies in manufacturing processes among different brands, as to adjusting pitch for ambient temperature, etc)
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2017, 04:07:06 PM »
I just let go of an HP Buffet.. sorry!
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2017, 12:48:47 PM »
So here's some approximate measurements for this HP Bb Buffet.
It was at my dad's house when it was sold, and there was an interested party requesting measurements.  They're not exact as he measured with a tape measure to inches, but it's something:


New message to: takisaggelakos
For lower section: from the metal ring to where the cork begins - 9 inches. From the base of the cork to the end of the tenon - 3/4 inch.

For the top section: from end to end excluding tenons, 6 3/4 inches. The tenon with cork is 3/4 inch. The tenon with worn out cork is about 5/8 inch.

The barrel is 2 3/8 inches from metal ring to metal ring.

The mouthpiece is 2 3/4 inches from tip of mouthpiece to the base of the tenon. The mouthpiece tenon is 5/8 inch.

The bell is 4 inches from the metal ring to the end of the wood just past the metal ring on the big side (the wood extends just a bit past the end ring). The inside diameter at the large end of the bell is 2 1/4 inches. The outside diameter at the large end of the bell is 3 1/16 inches.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2017, 12:10:50 PM »
Approx measurements from a Henri Frenier HP C, courtesy of my father and his trusty tape measure.

barrel
 - end to end 1 3/4"
 - small end outside diameter 1 1/16"
 - small end inside dia 15/16"
 - big end outside dia 1 1/8 "
 - big end inside dia 15/16"
 - dia of opening about halfway down the barrel 10/16"  (5/8")

bell
 - length 4 15/16"
 - large end
    - metal end outside dia 2 13/16"
    - wood inside metal rim inside dia 1 15/16"
 - small end
    - outside dia 1 3/16"
    - inside dia 1 1/16

Lower section
-  metal end to end of wood tenon 8 3/4"
 - metal end to beginning of wood tenon 7 15/16"
 - metal end outside dia 1 1/16"
 - metal end wood dia 14/16
 - wood end outside dia before tenon 1 1/16"
 - tenon outside dia 14/16" (7/8")
 - tenon inside dia 13/16"

Upper section
 - tenon end to tenon end 7 3/8"
 - end to end excluding tenons 6 1/16"
 - shaft outside dia 1 2/16" (1 1/8")
 - tenon outside dia 13/16"
 - tenon inside dia 9/16"
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages

Offline Windsong

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Re: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2017, 04:36:39 PM »
That's great Dave.  Thanks for that.
Think you can persuade him to take the measurement from the top of the barrel to the dead centre LH index tone hole?
 :)
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: HP or LP, and what key? (A buyer's guide)
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2017, 05:10:18 PM »
That's great Dave.  Thanks for that.
Think you can persuade him to take the measurement from the top of the barrel to the dead centre LH index tone hole?
 :)
Actually it just sold today so I asked him to take measurements before boxing it up and away.  I'll make sure to remember that measurement in the future.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages