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3D Printing the Key to a Bass Clarinet


Playing music as part of a group typically requires that not only are all of the instruments tuned to each other, but also that the musicians play in a specific key. For some musicians, like pianists and percussionists, this is not terribly difficult as their instruments are easy to play in any key. At the other end of the spectrum would be the diatonic harmonica, which is physically capable of playing in a single key only. Other orchestral instruments, on the other hand, are typically made for a specific key but can transpose into other keys with some effort. But, if you have 3D printed your instrument like this bass clarinet from [Jared], then you can build it to be in whichever key you’d like.

The bass clarinet is typically an instrument that comes in the key of B flat, but [Jered] wanted one that was a minor third lower. Building a traditional clarinet is not exactly the easiest process, so he turned to his 3D printer. In order to get the instrument working with the plastic parts, he had to make a lot of the levers and keys much larger than the metal versions on a standard instrument, and he made a number of design changes to some of the ways the keys are pressed. Most of his changes simply revert back to clarinet designs from the past, and it’s interesting to see how simpler designs from earlier time periods lend themselves to additive manufacturing.

While [Jared] claims that the two instruments have slightly different tones, our amateur ears have a hard time discerning the difference. He does use a standard clarinet bell but other than that it’s impressive how similar the 3D printed version sounds to the genuine article. As to why it’s keyed differently than the standard, [Jared] points out that it’s just interesting to try new things, and his 3D printer lets him do that. We’d be happy to have another instrument in our 3D printed orchestra, too.

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