Contrabass Digest

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list                           Sat, 25 Jul 1998           Volume 1 : Number 41

In this issue:


Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 23:51:34 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Re: Charles Fail's Contra

In a message dated 98-07-24 22:15:45 EDT, you write:

<< Charles Fail Music ( now has a Leblanc EEb
 contralto (straight, to low Eb) for $2000, and a Selmer USA BBb contrabass
 to low Eb for $1200 (this is a resonite instrument).>>


Check Russell's description again.  It's actually a contra ALTO.


p.s.  Any idea how "old" the WWBW Buffet bass is?  Low Eb or low C?  I'm
getting lazy in my old age and thought you might know.


Date: Sat, 25 Jul 1998 00:50:51 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Oskar Adler?

Greetings once again,
I have an old Oskar Adler bassoon that I want to unload.
Does anyone out there happen to know how much I could get for it?
Also, has anyone ever tried/have a Selmer Bundy resonite EEb cantralto
Are they responsive?
Do they project well?
Are they built well?

Yet, another topic.
When playing one of my lower register wind instruments, I experience a sort of
hallucination with digital displays (like the LCD(?) on VCR or alarm clock and
sometimes TV) It started several years ago when I started bass clarinet. I was
sitting in my room playing the bass clarinet in the lower register when I
noticed that when I hit certain notes while looking at my alarm clock, it
makes the lit display appear to wobble or wave. For a long time I dismissed it
as certain frequencies resonating something inside the clock, like perhaps
some sort of plastic film used as a filter or something. Anyway, then I went
to show somebody and she thought I was crazy. She obviously was not seeing the
same thing. I concluded then that it was something about resonating the fluid
in the eye or the retn or something else sight related. Is this common
knowledge or something that just happens to me?


Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 23:47:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Oskar Adler?

>Greetings once again,

>Yet, another topic.
>When playing one of my lower register wind instruments, I experience a
>sort of hallucination with digital displays (like the LCD(?) on VCR or alarm
>clock and sometimes TV) It started several years ago when I started bass
>clarinet. I was

This happens to me both when playing, and also when humming low notes and
looking at the computer monitor or TV screen.  I have attributed it to
the scan rate of the monitor being close to the wavelength of the note I
am playing, and in the case of an LED digital display, the refresh rate
is the same 60hz as your electric power.  Pedal notes on the tuba are
well  below that, and I imagine that the really low notes on your Low
Clarinets get down there as well.

Michael Grogg

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Date: Sat, 25 Jul 1998 01:25:49 -0400
From: "Gerald E. Corey" <>
Subject: responses to narrow bored low clarinets..boehm and other fingering improvements for bassoon

Hello low lovers.. I read with interest both the submission asking why
low clarinets do not have comparatively wider bores ... larger than the
bass clarinet, for example..such as large organ pipes do (whose
vibration we often physically feel as we sit near an organ emanating low
full tones).. and also the submission asking why bassoons do not just
copy the full conservatoire fingering system of the french oboe.
        1. When I first started attending the Eastman School of Music
in Rochester, NY, I could not join the already famed Eastman Wind
Ensemble as a member of the bassoon section (already filled) but I did
manage to play contrabass clarinet (a new metal Leblanc in perfect
condition); in that first year, 1954-55, I recorded H. Owen Reed's
excellent work for wind band, "La Fiesta Mexicana" with the Wind
Ensemble, under Frederick Fennell, and there were several very
satisfying solos for the contrabass clarinet. I felt that the sound and
resonance of this instrument was excellent and quite capable of
providing a full bass fundamental to the other woodwinds in the ensemble
at any time.
        On the topic of bassoon fingering systems.. I have a photograph of a
full boehm system bassoon made by the Heckel firm in Biebrich in the
early twenties for an American bassonist/doctor.. P.W. Gatz.. if I study
this photo carefully I can see the excellent addition of the duplication
keys for low F, F# and Ab for the left small finger (long keys going
down to the boot joint; also an excellent arrangement of keys for the
right fingers 1, 2, and 3.. as follows: the tone holes in the normal
Heckel positions, were covered with key cups with pads.. and the finger
touches were placed right beside them and resembled bass clarinet keys..
to play a B flat, one fingered <LH 1, 2, 3, * LT wh. key / RH 1 >
When the player took this fingering, the keys for C and B would both
descend and cover their holes and the low Bb tone hole cup with pad
would open to give the sound of B flat (just as a standard bassoon gives
it when we use <RH 1, 2, * RT B flat key>,, With such a key arrangement,
the very difficult Ab/Bb trill could be fingered very easily with a
standard basson fingered A flat and then the Bb with only RH 1 involved.
(on two other modern bassoons this can be arranged in a different way:
the Schreiber Prestige bassoon, top of that company's production, has a
mechanism with a sliding bar to engage or disengage its use.. when it is
in the "on" position.. the low G key is locked with the Bb key
mechanism, that is.. when the low G key is closed and the RT B flat key
is depressed, the B flat key with cup and pad remains CLOSED.. but
whenever the B flat key is pressed and the G key is raised, then the Bb
key with cup and pad OPENS.. thus, for the trill Ab/Bb, the player
fingers full A flat fingering and adds the RT Bb key.. each time the
player wants a B flat note he/she lifts the Ab and G keys with RH 3 and
little finger.. and this gives the standard Bb tone emanating from the
usual finger holes being covered and the Bb normal tone hole giving the
note (all other bassoons with Ab/Bb trill mechanisms that I have seen,
have an extra tone hole drilled to give the tone of the Bb from a
smaller tone hole.. and thus the sound of the Bb is rarely equally
beautiful to the standard Bb when it is fingered and played.
        This Schreiber Prestige mechanism can be used in many other linkages of
Bb and the note G or F or E or lower.. in rapid shakes, very difficul to
play with full fingering. This same G to Bb key linkage is offered by
Heckel, but it is better to order it when the bassoon is first
manufactured, because the cost of adding it to an already used bassoon
is very high indeed. I think this mechanism is a great step forward in
fingering many difficult passages.
        Getting back to the Gatz Heckel Boehm fingered bassoon, I noted that
every tone hole emitting a sound was designed by Heckel to be in the
normal acoustical position of that tone played on a standard Heckel
bassoon. Thus that particular Heckel/Boehm keyed bassoon DID have a
standard bassoon tone.. I asked the great Philadelphia repairman, W.
Hans Moennig about this Gatz bassoon, and he told me that he had
serviced the instrument a few times. The mechanism was very complex, he
pointed out, and thus was constantly going out of perfect articulation
adjustment.. Another drawback, thought Moennig was the added weight to
this bassoon with the extra keywork.
        Another key mechanism designed in Roumania by Prof.Georhge Cucurianu in
about 1970, is now available to be purchased and added to any fine
German system bassoon. The Cucurianu key system adds to the current key
number quite a few extra keys. Prof. Cucurianu lightened the weight of
his own Heckel when he added his design of keys -- by thinning the metal
of most of the other standard keys before adding his new designed ones.
The Cucurianu key set can be purchased for $1000 from the FOX
corporation in S. Whitley, Indiana. (I have one former adult student who
bought this set of keys and added it to his Puchner bassoon.. the
appearance and performance improving keys all worked successfully, and I
did not feel that the bassoon had taken on that much extra weight.
        I thought your correspondents interested in other key possibilities for
bassoon would be interested in these successful available key additions.
(Schreiber Prestige and from FOX the Cucurianu set of extra keys).
        On one occasion when visiting the home of William Waterhouse of London,
UK, I played on two of his most interesting bassoons, both are teneroons
made in the 19th century.. one by Savary of Paris.. with full french
keywork as on a modern french bassoon,, but very small. And the other
was a Marzoli-Boehm system teneroon, made also in Paris.. Even though
this Boehm system teneroon has keys which are more saxophone like in
their appearance I found that the tone of this tenerooon was not very
much different from the Savary. By the way, both of these teneroons
played much more naturally than small bassoons now being made by Guntram
Wolf, and Bernd Moosman.. I would hope that Bill Waterhouse could allow
these courageous makers to inspect his Savary tenoroon, for sure, and
maybe the Marzoli-Boehm as well.. so as to choose better positions and
sizes for the bore and tone holes of their small bassoons. In this way a
really fine modern tenoroon could easily be manufactured, and I would
welcome this with open arms. What a boon to teaching very young children
how to play a bassoon. Sincerely, Gerald Corey, Prin. Bassoon and
Heckelphonist, Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa.


Date: Sat, 25 Jul 1998 03:22:32 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Re: Contrabass Trombone, more than you want to know

In a message dated 98-07-24 21:01:46 EDT, you write:
> Could be another long digest today....
>  Just ran across another contrabass trombone page, this by Dick Tyack,
>  Bass/Contrabass Trombone with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
>  (  The image at the top
>  appears to be the "conventional" contrabass trombone in BBb.  Mr. Tyack,
>  however, apparently plays an EEb contrabass trombone, specially built to
>  his design, with a doubled slide the length of an alto trombone slide.
>  There's an image of it farther down his page.
I also came across that article recently, which is very well done.  Bill
Reichenbach, a studio musician in Los Angeles, also plays such a contrain EEb,
which was custom made for him by brass instrument builder guru Robb Stewart.
The nice thing about these is that tey avoid the very long positions found on
the "F" contras.

Though BBb is technically a "true" contrabass trombone, the most common key is
"F".  The BBb models really are a bit too big to play as well.  I play a
contrabass trombone pitched in "G" that was custom made by Larry Minick.  It
was made from many parts of a Holton bass trombone, and has a very long
neckpipe and huge bell throat to pitch the horn a minor third lower.  It still
uses a standard slide, and seems to be the longest length horn that can still
play well with the standard bass bone tubing diameters, hence his choice to
pitch the horn in this key.  I think at the time this was built, longer slide
tubes, and larger diameter tubing and valves were harder to come by than they
are now.  This horn has two in-line vaves, to pitch the horn in G, D, Eb, and
B in first position.

This Minick contra is different than the G-trombones used in the British brass
bands, in that they are just really long tenor trombones, while this one is
really much bigger than a bass trombone, just like the F and Eb contras.  This
one just doesn't have a long slide.

Jeff Reynolds, bass bonist in the LA Phil also plays a Minick contra in "G",
and likes it because the positions aren't as long as an "F" contra, and you
get 6 full usable positions with the standard slide.  This horn that I play
used to be owned by him.

This horn could be pitched in "F" if I added a custom slide that is bout 10"
longer, but I'm not sure it would play as well.  Very long cylindrical
instruments have problems of their own, and they might be complicated by the
smaller diameter of the tubing on this one.  And, it plays really well as is.

I see another use for the "G" contrabass trombone, and that is in some Wagner
passages where a Gb an octave below bass clef is required.  This note is
difficult to achieve on an "F" contrabass, as it is half a step above the
fundamental padal note of the instrument, but it is easily played in second
position on my "G" bone.

Actually, I wouldn't mind an "F" contra,due to its slighty larger size and
more tuba-like tone but I haven't seen any for sale, and this one was such a
bargain that I couldn't pass it up.  I might as well ask, is anyone selling an
"F" contrabass bone?  I might be interested.

Here's another picture of a contrabass trombone in F, built by Voigt:

Steve Ferguson


Date: Sat, 25 Jul 1998 18:48:51 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Amati contrabassoon

I have not personally played an Amati, but I was recently in contact with the
Contra player of the San Antonio Sym who was selling a pair of contras. The
one I could afford was sold. He indicated that he had played an Amati for
several months at one of his gigs and that it was a very reasonable playing
instruments, well worth the app. $4k of a new one. His opinion was it was a
good instrument for a doubler or enthusiastic amateur (such as myself). He
however opted for the $11k Mollenhauer and was putting his new Fox up for

David Huber
Grapevine, TX


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