What Clarinet Did Aker Bilk Play

Aker Bilk: What Clarinet Did He Play?

Acker Bilk was an English clarinetist and vocalist known for his breathy, vibrato-rich, lower-register style, and distinctive appearance – of goatee, bowler hat, and striped waistcoat.

He was one of the most popular musicians of his time and his music continues to be celebrated by jazz enthusiasts worldwide.

One of the questions that often arises about Acker Bilk is what kind of clarinet he played.

Acker Bilk played a Boehm system clarinet. His tone was idiosyncratic and immediately identifiable.

He was known for his smooth playing and dapper stage presence, which made him a favorite among audiences.

Despite criticism of his commercial success with ballads and strings, Acker Bilk remains a celebrated figure in the world of music, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

What Clarinet Did Aker Bilk Play?

Acker Bilk was a renowned English clarinetist known for his breathy, vibrato-rich, lower-register style.

He played a Boehm system clarinet, which is a type of clarinet that features a complex key system that allows for greater range and flexibility in playing.

The Clarinet Model

While it is not clear exactly which model of Boehm system clarinet Acker Bilk played, it is likely that he used a professional-level instrument.

Some of the top clarinet brands for professionals include Buffet Crampon, Yamaha, and Selmer.

The Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece is a crucial component of any clarinet, as it greatly affects the tone and playability of the instrument. Acker Bilk’s idiosyncratic tone was largely due to his use of a custom mouthpiece that he had specially made to his own specifications.

Bilk’s mouthpiece was designed to produce a breathy, warm tone with a lot of vibrato. It was also likely a larger size than standard mouthpieces, which would have allowed him to produce a deeper, richer sound.

Overall, Acker Bilk’s choice of clarinet and mouthpiece played a significant role in shaping his unique sound and style. While there is no one “right” instrument or mouthpiece for every clarinetist, Bilk’s choice of a Boehm system clarinet and custom mouthpiece allowed him to create a sound that was all his own.

Acker Bilk: The Clarinetist

Early Life

Bernard Stanley Bilk, known as Acker Bilk, was born on January 28, 1929, in Pensford, Somerset, England. He grew up in a musical family and started playing the clarinet at the age of 14. He was inspired by the music of jazz clarinetist Leon Young and started playing with local bands in Bristol.

Military Service

In 1948, Acker Bilk joined the Royal Engineers and was stationed in Egypt. During his service, he continued to play the clarinet and formed a band with other soldiers. He acquired the nickname “Acker,” which is north Somerset slang for “friend.”

Jazz Career

After his discharge from the army in 1950, Acker Bilk returned to Bristol and started playing with local bands. He joined the Bristol Paramount Jazz Band in 1951 and played with them for several years. In the mid-1950s, he formed his own band, the Acker Bilk and His Paramount Jazz Band.

In 1960, Acker Bilk recorded his first album, “Jazz from the West Country,” with the Chris Barber Jazz Band. He became known for his breathy, vibrato-rich, lower-register style of playing the clarinet. His 1962 instrumental tune “Stranger on the Shore” became the UK’s biggest selling single of 1962 and made him an international star. He continued to record albums and perform throughout his career.

Acker Bilk was a traditional jazz clarinetist and was associated with the “trad jazz” movement in the UK. He played with other notable British jazz musicians, including Ken Colyer, Kenny Ball, and George Lewis. He also played with American jazz musicians such as Sonny Stitt, Mike Cotton, Campbell Burnap, and Wally Fawkes.


Acker Bilk passed away on November 2, 2014, at the age of 85 after battling throat cancer. He left behind a legacy as a talented clarinetist and vocalist who made a significant contribution to the jazz genre. He was also known for his poplar music, including ballads and strings, and had several hits in the UK charts. Acker Bilk was a British artist who influenced many jazz musicians and left a lasting impact on the music industry.

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