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list                           Tue, 23 Jun 1998           Volume 1 : Number 10

In this issue:


Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 10:42:11 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Re: Charles Fail Music

In a message dated 98-06-22 22:40:29 EDT, Russell Fail in a forwarded message

< We  have literally hundreds of satisfied customers who have  told us on many
occassions how happy they were with both the quality of instruments they
purchased and with the high level of service they recieved.>>

In late 1996 I bought not one -- but TWO -- contrabass clarinets from Charles
Fail.  The first horn was a somewhat newer straight Leblanc Model 342 to low
Eb which was shipped from Marietta, Georgia to Los Angeles.  It arrived in
perfect condition, played wonderfully, and I did several concerts with the
Claremont (California) Symphonic Winds and Caltech/Occidental College Concert

Then Russell called and said they'd found a Leblanc paperclip Model 340 to low
C and was I interested.  He would give me my full price less shipping in trade
for the paperclip horn.  When the somewhat older paperclip arrived, it was in
the same essentially perfect condition -- more packing material than clarinet,
all keys wedged shut wooden shims, etc.  Althought it was a bit more open than
the straight horn, the tonal differences were mininal.  Rather than ship the
straight horn back to Russell, I put the word out on KLARINET and the local
Los Angeles area.

I sold the straight contra to Dr. Charles Bay who was going to use it as his
personal instrument in a clarinet choir in which he also played his personally
modified (undercut tone holes, reworked linkages, etc.) Selmer Bundy contra
alto.  Bottom line, Charles Bay was VERY impressed with the restoration that
Charles Fail had done on the horn and bought it on the spot.  End of sermon.
End of endorsement.

Don Gross
La Canada, California

p.s.  The Leblanc contras have a timbre that takes some time to get used to.
I much prefer the quality of the sound from my Selmer Bundy contra alto.  It
actually sounds like a bass clarinet. Those folks who play a lot of contrabass
know what I'm talking about. It's really not a "pretty" sound.  For my taste,
the Leblanc metal contra alto has that same "metallic" timbre which I why I
stick with my Bundy for contra alto work.  I have heard the straight plastic
VITO contrabass horn when the St. Olaf  College wind ensemble was in Los
Angeles a few years ago. The sound is lovely.  However, I really don't want to
carry a stool around with me, and that LONG, one-piece case is a nightmare.
Plus if you ever want to sell a contrabass, the studio folks and the other
pros (at least in Los Angeles) need the low C and the convenience of rapid
horn changes that the paperclip model allows.


Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 10:02:19 -0700
From: "S.K. Pasisozis" <>
Subject: Contras.....

Have there been any attempts to make a straight or paperclip contrabass or
contraalto--down to low C of plastic?

I should think that such would be much more stable than the wood LowC model
Auch a big piece of wood would expand and contract, as it gives off and
receives moisture, thus playing hell with the keywork.

And it would not have the "hard metalic sound".

Anyone, comments?


Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 10:34:41 -0700
From: Grant Green <>
Subject: Re: Contras.....

At 10:02 AM 6/23/98 -0700, you wrote:
>Have there been any attempts to make a straight or paperclip contrabass or
>contraalto--down to low C of plastic?

Actually, I recall Chip Owen saying that they (Fox) haven't yet found a
plastic that they can use for contrabassoon that simultaneously satisfies
their requirements for (a) sound quality and (b) coefficient of expansion.
Although plastics generally aren't susceptible to moisture, they are
susceptible to thermal expansion and contraction.  Apparently, the plastics
that sound good change *more* than wood does with temperature.

I suspect that the timbre is due to the bore diameter, more than the
material the instrument is made from.  The Leblanc EEb and BBb contras have
the same diameter bore - probably fine for the EEb, possibly too narrow for
the BBb.  I don't know the Bundy diameter off hand, but I recall that the
Selmer BBb contra has a bore something like 0.4" wider than the Leblanc,
which would tilt the timbre in the direction of more fundamental and less
higher overtones (=mellower tone).

>I should think that such would be much more stable than the wood LowC model
>Auch a big piece of wood would expand and contract, as it gives off and
>receives moisture, thus playing hell with the keywork.
>And it would not have the "hard metalic sound".
>Anyone, comments?

I think the "metallic sound" is probably the result of a lot of higher
overtones in the timbre.  While this means you put as much sound energy
into the fundamental, it does mean that the voice stands out a bit more.
The higher overtones help the ear to find the fundamental, which may be
buried under a tuba or three...  It probably makes a difference what sort
of ensemble you're playing with.  If you're playing solo, you may prefer a
rounder tone than when playing with a large band.  E.g., I have two
favorite mpcs for bari sax: a mellow Otto Link 7* metal, for solo/small
ensemble/recording, and a buzzy, almost obnoxious metal RIA 7* for playing
in a big band (e.g., 5 saxes, 4/5 trombones, 4/5 trumpets, rhythm section).
 When I'm going to be heard by myself, the Otto Link provides the type of
sax timbre I like to hear.  When holding down the low voice with a bass
trombone, the RIA allows me to (a) be heard, and (b) to blend with the bass
bone.  In the SJWS, I find that the reedy tone blends well with bari sax
(which is usually playing the same line an octave higher): together we tend
to sound more like a contrabass sax.

And now, back to work....


Grant D. Green             Just filling in on sarrusophone
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