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Topic: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

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  1. #1

    Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    I've wondered for quite some time why it is on two woodwind instruments that are similar to each other like the Oboe and Clarinet, do you only ever hear vibrato on the Oboe and never on the Clarinet? Is there something about the design of the clarinet that prevents the clarinetist from being able to produce vibrato?

    -Elhardt

  2. #2

    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    Many clarinet players play with vibrato as well. Certainly in trad jazz it seems to be the norm - take a listen to recordings of Sidney Bechet if you can find them.

    Why the default state for orchestral clarinet playing seems to be without vibrato I don't know.

  3. #3

    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    I recall reading that the clarinettist for whom Brahms wrote his clarinet sonatas (I can't think of his name just now) played with a very warm vibrato.

    I think the non-vibrato style of playing is just a 20th century development. There's nothing about the clarinet that prevents vibrato, and I think some players recently have been incorporating it into their technique.
    Dan Powers
    www.danielpowers.info

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  4. #4

    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    Correct me if I'm wrong but - all orchestral woodwinds can produce the (to use synth terminology) tremolo but not vibrato? that is, volume fluctuations but not pitch fluctuations

  5. #5

    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    The instruments may LOOK similar, but they aren't.

    The oboe has two reeds. They are both in direct contact with the lips. The lips hold basically what is a tiny tube of reed material between them. It takes nearly no change in pressure to alter a note significantly. I remember being able to "gliss" quite a distance without moving a finger simply from lip pressure.

    The clarinet has a single reed. Around 6 times as wide as that of an oboe. Considerably thicker. It takes a bit more work to get a clarinet to vibrato. The lower lip is what is in contact with the reed. the embouchure is considerably larger.


    Saying "similar instruments" and comparing how they play, is almost like saying "the celesta and the church organ are similar instruments.. why can't the celesta play as loud?"

    Don't let the similarities of the basic principles fool you into thinking they work exactly the same way. Oboe and clarinet may be similar looking, and may both be "reed" instruments, but they are quite different. You need only look at how volume and tone density differ by range for each instrument. Or even look at the type of wave each one creates using an oscilloscope.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    The instruments may LOOK similar, but they aren't.

    The oboe has two reeds. They are both in direct contact with the lips. The lips hold basically what is a tiny tube of reed material between them. It takes nearly no change in pressure to alter a note significantly. I remember being able to "gliss" quite a distance without moving a finger simply from lip pressure.

    The clarinet has a single reed. Around 6 times as wide as that of an oboe. Considerably thicker. It takes a bit more work to get a clarinet to vibrato. The lower lip is what is in contact with the reed. the embouchure is considerably larger.


    Saying "similar instruments" and comparing how they play, is almost like saying "the celesta and the church organ are similar instruments.. why can't the celesta play as loud?"

    Don't let the similarities of the basic principles fool you into thinking they work exactly the same way. Oboe and clarinet may be similar looking, and may both be "reed" instruments, but they are quite different. You need only look at how volume and tone density differ by range for each instrument. Or even look at the type of wave each one creates using an oscilloscope.
    I couldn't have said it any better.
    Styxx

  7. #7

    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziraphal View Post
    Correct me if I'm wrong but - all orchestral woodwinds can produce the (to use synth terminology) tremolo but not vibrato? that is, volume fluctuations but not pitch fluctuations
    I'm no expert on reeds vibrato, but on the flute one produces both volume and pitch fluctuations by means of the diaphragm just like a singer would.
    Kind Regards

    Louis Dekker
    My Music Site

    Pour être grand, il faut avoir été petit.

  8. #8

    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    Well, I have a Masters performance degree on clarinet so, here is my humble opinion.

    The Clarinet sound has 2 different schools of thought with regard to classical clarinet tone. The French school which uses a lighter more delicate sound with a small hint of vibrato and the German school which has a darker more robust sound. Every player leans towards one or the other school (depending on their teachers) in their development. Mine happens to be more a German school sound.

    The traditional orchestral sound is also related to German or French in its sound quality (or so I was told). Vibrato was never taught as a clarinet technique during all my years of study. Tone quality was and in my case, my teachers did NOT want a vibrato or thin sound from me. Charles Brodie, a former clarinetist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, used a French school sound and had a little vibrato. Robert Marcellus, a former clarinetist with the Cleveland Orchestra, had a darker more German sound and no hint of vibrato. I grew up in the Cleveland area and even had some lessons with Mr. Marcellus.

    In Jazz (thanks mainly to Glen Miller and especially Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw) clarinetists used vibrato. This is especially due to the fact the clarinet was usually the doubled or extra instrument for a sax player who did use vibrato.

    So, if Brahms is German and the clarinetist he wrote for was German (Richard Muhlfeld, and he was) then why the vibrato in the clarinet sonatas by Brahms?

    Maybe this will shed some light on the reason. This is a quote from Wikipedia on the Clarinet Sonatas of Brahms:

    Mühlfeld originally joined the Meininger Hofkapelle as a violinist and changed to clarinet three years later. After Brahms wrote his String Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Opus 111, the composer decided to end his compositional career. But later listening to Mühlfeld perform Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F Minor and Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, his technique and sound quality inspired Brahms to start composing again. These two acquaintances rapidly began friendship causing the composer to write letters to a close friend, Clara Schumann, about the amazement of this clarinettist's playing. In appreciation of Mühlfeld's relationship to him, Brahms gave him a set of fine silver teaspoons with a monogram to the musician.
    You see Richard Muhfeld was an accomplished violinist and his ear and playing attitude included vibrato.

    Well, I hope this was interesting to those who read this.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  9. #9
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    Nice, Richard. I did enjoy the information you so kindly took the time to post. Although I studied music education and was required to learn most if not all the instruments of the orchestra (not master mind you except my primary), the only words I can say about the instrument is that IT WAS HARD ON THE embouchure! Boy, what a relief saxophone was after that beating! Flute? Well, never could get a sound out of the dang thing. Oboe? An instrument I adore yet unfortunately never had the chance to learn the technique of producing it's lovely sound.
    Styxx

  10. #10

    Re: Oboe vs Clarinet - Similar Instruments But No Vibrato, Why?

    Oboe? An instrument I adore yet unfortunately never had the chance to learn the technique of producing it's lovely sound.
    And you think clarinet is hard on the emboucher? The oboe rolls both lips and the back pressure is un-real! Talk about mouth muscles loing a grip!

    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

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