[Dixielandjazz] Clarinet Mikes

LARRY'S Signs and Large Format Printing sign.guy at charter.net
Wed Nov 24 10:35:25 PST 2004

In the best of all worlds clarinet players or anyone else wouldn't need mikes.  Centuries ago the recorder flute was popular and they formed them into choirs etc.  It's a lovely instrument.  The bass recorder plays almost at a whisper.  At one time people actually listened to music.  I can imagine what it must have been like to listen to a recorder choir without the hum of the lighting, sounds from the street, bus boys rattling dishes and the cell phones and so on.

At one time music was enjoyed by people in fairly small groups in fairly small rooms that tended to be very live because people didn't have the carpeting and stuff we do. Large groups of people and carpeting act like sound absorbers.  Very few rooms are designed for sound distribution.  A few years ago I performed at the Mormon Tabernacle and it's designed so that a person can speak from the lectern and be heard anywhere in the place.  Kind of like an inverted bath tub.  Not so anywhere else.

I went to an event several years ago and had lunch with the grandkids and there was a Dixie band playing.  A friend who is a really good clarinet player was in it.  When I first walked in I thought there was no clarinet in the band.  You couldn't hear him 25 ft away.  You could hear everyone else but not the clarinet player.  Those lush sounds that the clarinet is capable of in the low register just can't be heard in the audience unless they are being very quiet.  Clarinet in the upper register is capable of cutting through but it does lose some of its beauty.   Unfortunately Dixie isn't always performed in a nice concert venue.  Most of the time, at least around here, it's for picnics, fairs and conventions.

I personally think that amplification helps the clarinet player.  He can concentrate on the music and not have to worry about if he's being heard and pumping out sound at the limits of the horn.

I like the sound of non amped instruments played by good musicians and I like playing in groups that are listening to each other.  Unfortunately we aren't employed in the chamber music industry.

Since string bass was mentioned by someone I'll add that too.  There is nothing better than string bass played by a good player.  The problem with string bass is that many players just simply play out of tune and don't have the strength in their hands to draw the sound out of them. That wasn't true 50 years ago.   My horror is when I see some guy coming in with a fretless electric.  That way they can make their bad playing louder.  I prefer if a bass must be amped that it be with a guitar bass and I don't like guitar bass very much. They generally are better in tune in the hands of the less than expert player.  I do play with one band where the guy uses one of those uprights that are made for amplification and he really is good and it sounds just fine.  He also has top of the line equipment.

Each year here in St. Louis there is a dinner concert in memory of Jerry Cherry.  ("Jam for Jerry")  Jerry was a premier musician who died several years back.  At this concert the best musicians perform and scholarships are awarded to young bass players.  At the concert each one of the recipients perform.   What a treat.  It seems that the acoustic string bass isn't a dieing instrument.  The audience is about 80% pro musicians and their wives and they listen.  You could hear a pin drop and you could even hear the clarinet player in the Trad band that performed.  I wish all events were like that.

We climb inside the music and make it a part of us but the listening public just doesn't.

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