First of all I understand that most people's first (and very reasonable) place to look to improve intonation is at the technique of the player: embouchure quality and technique, air support, maybe quality of reed, etc. I have been following this advice for a couple of years now and it hasn't improved the general flatness of most pitches, especially "throat" pitches I think they're called.
For some background, I mostly play brass instruments with some traditional jazz bands, and have been working for a few years on the clarinet to "bring it out of the closet" eventually. I mostly play clarinet with myself for practice and this feels comfortable. But when I play with a backing track, or at jams with others, it is obvious that I have to play much sharper than I do in my own practice without a pitch reference, and I am constantly "lipping up" every pitch to try to be in tune, often "breaking" entirely when playing with others. I can lip up some pitches to be in tune, but nearly half of them, no matter what I do, cannot get any sharper without breaking/squeaking.
At this point I'm convinced that, though I may not have perfect technique, that there is something mechanical at work that cannot be overcome with technique alone. I think the instrument is just playing flat for whatever reason(s). Having done some research it seems a good number of things can affect pitch, from mouthpiece, barrel, and the tapers of things.
I don't live in a big city, and I don't think there's any place in my area where I can go in and try out different mouthpieces and barrels to try to figure out what might help. Nor is there anyone that works on clarinets in my area that I know of who I could speak with.
As far as specs go, I'm playing a
- Buffet Crampon R13 Bb
- B 660 barrel (66mm)
- Vandoren B40 mouthpiece
- All reeds I've tried have no effect on the issue
I've most recently considered buying a 65mm or 64mm barrel to see if this would help, but I understand that this does not affect all notes equally. And the barrels are not cheap ($170-190).
I'm wondering what you smart folks would recommend I do, check, or consider.
--- UPDATE ---
As for the actual pitch, I've confirmed with a tuner that most notes in what seems to me to be the most free-blowing resonant focused tone are between 10 and 30 cents flat. This is less towards the bottom of the instrument with more holes covered.
I've uploaded a video to youtube trying to demonstrate the issue. Bear in mind that I'm not trying to get the greatest constant tone here. I'm trying to demonstrate the tone quality at a lower pitch compared to the choked deadened quality that results from trying to play at the proper pitch. It also demonstrates that the sharpest I can manage to play on most notes, is still under proper pitch, and I couldn't play sharp on purpose if I wanted to. It also demonstrates that the flat effect is worse with fewer holes covered, and is progressively more accurate with more holes covered. In the higher register the cracking is a result of trying to play "up" or lip up the pitch to be more accurate and it is very tense and pretty awful to play and hear. When the horn has its most resonnant natural tone, it's quite flat.
Also please be kind, I'm not an expert. Just trying to figure out why my sound comes out 10-30 cents below proper pitch.