How To Find Your Perfect Instrument

Wolfgang Lohff holding a bass clarinet outfitted with his Silent Pads.

Wolfgang Lohff holding a bass clarinet outfitted with his Silent Pads.

A true artist, Wolfgang Lohff has spent years of dedicated work devoted to honing his skills at refurbishing clarinets. Having worked as a consultant for many well-known clarinet makers, Lohff has learned, literally, the ins and outs of the instrument and all its components. Lohff developed his own pad, called the Silent Pad, and utilizes innovative and effective methods of preventing cracks in new instruments and otherwise improving them, as well as adding years to the life of older instruments. Such world-class artists as Sabine Meyer are patrons of his work. With such an illustrious life of work already garnered by Lohff, there was much to be learned at this class.

Lohff began the class with a key point to which he referred throughout the course of the session: mechanically, the most important part of the clarinet is its bore. Virtually every other part of the clarinet can be adjusted, overhauled and refurbished once the instrument has been purchased, but the bore must be just right in order for a clarinet to produce the optimal sound for its player.

Lohff shared that many clarinet makers attempt to keep the actual process and measurements a secret, to this day. Nearly any professionally made clarinet—and bore circumference, for that matter—can be a successful choice for a clarinetist, provided it is the right match. Lohff does not have a preference for any major brand in this aspect, saying the best choice will be simply whichever instrument produces the sound most closely resembling that desired by the clarinetist.

When choosing a new clarinet, Lohff recommends a few tips to keep the variables at a minimum. He suggests picking a short, lyrical melody—possibly memorized—that the clarinetist enjoys playing. The individual trying clarinets should compare only two instruments at a time. Once he or she has determined between the first two instruments which more closely meets the requirements in sound, the “winner” should be compared to yet another clarinet. Even the ease of playing the instrument can be adjusted later; the key is only to find the clarinet with the best sound. Lohff warned that in the same way that we do not keep the tires from an old car when purchasing a new one, a clarinetist purchasing a new instrument should expect to also purchase a new mouthpiece and ligature. In the expert hands of Wolfgang Lohff and his team of technicians, there is no limit to what can be done to improve the function of a clarinet with a good sound.

Lohff ended the class with several tips and tricks for caring for clarinets as well as small do-it-yourself repairs. In the same way that the best food starts with the best ingredients, Wolfgang Lohff showed his audience that the key to excellence in playing the clarinet starts with an excellent instrument.

–Notes by Alaina Pritz
Alaina Pritz is a recent graduate from The University of Maryland and currently plays with The United State Air Force Band – Band of the Golden West.

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Filed under Day 3, lecture

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