Contrabass Digest

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list                           Mon, 27 Jul 1998           Volume 1 : Number 43

In this issue:


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 01:52:04, -0500
Subject: Contra-fest video


I have just looked at the master you sent.  My God, you are a video
genius.  You have captured every aspect of the contra-fest.  Anyone who
watches it will instantly want to register for the next one I am sure.
I love the intro fades and audio fades that you did.

I hope to have the copies made within a week and finally get them out to
everyone.  For sure, you should come to Madison in August 1999 and video
the Contra-fest.  After everyone gets a look at what you did this time,
the entire world will be scrambling to get their hands on the next one.
It occurs to me that your video techniques could be a tremendous
marketing tool for the contra-bassoon throughout the world.  Anyone
(even non-musicians) have to appreciate what you show.

Rave, Rave, Rave........................

Everyone else, if you did not send in your $25 for a copy of this, you
must info me immediately and send check today to:

Las Vegas Sundowners Lions Club
724 Straight St
Las Vegas, NV 89110



Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 01:53:05 CDT
From: "Gregg Bailey" <>
Subject: Many-a-reply!!

You know, I have had the last 5 digests in my inbox, and I noticed that
once I posted my email, the mass was at 31 K, then the next one jumped
up to 40 K, then the next 2 severely dropped to 16 K, and the latest one
was 11 K.  I'm gonna stir things up again!!

Mr. Hanson,
        Hey--I know a Matt Hanson that goes to my school!

>In response to your section on low clarinet bore size being to small, I
>must in general disagree.
>Granted, The Leblanc BBb contra has a bore size that is probably a
>little too narrow for most players' harmonic taste, but I have found
>that their Eb contra bore is actually TOO big, as it is the same as the
>BBb contra's. I feel that the bore of their Eb needs to be reduced about
>as much as people think the BBb contra bore needs to be expanded.

        How can a bore be too large?  Doesn't it just increase the
fundamental's power?

>Selmer's BBb Contrabass clarinet bore is 1.333", pretty big compared to
>the Leblanc BBb contra's 1.182" bore.
>The Selmer has an incredible sound, but can sometimes, for some people,
>be a bit more sloppy and hard to handle technique-wise compared to the
>Leblanc. Fundamentally, the Selmer rocks!

        I've never gotten the privalege to play on one.  Just the crappy old
metal ones.  I was finally somewhere that has one at band camp this
summer, and they wouldn't let me play it--I had to play the old
Leblanc!!  This was for the big clarinet choir.  However, I noticed that
the 2 contra alto clarinet players got to play on the 2 selmer rosewood
contra altos!

>Other than extending the low range, plating, and the obvious switch to
>automatic register keys, Leblanc really hasn't changed much on their
>contras at all since their introduction in the middle of this century.

        At school, I have to play on the kind that has the 2 separate register
keys.  Of course, everything I play on it I take down an octave just
because I can!

>It is probably safe to assume that the BBb contra's smaller bore size
>has something to do with the initial concern for air support.

        Well, I have NO problem holding out the lowest note at ff!

>We must
>also remember that these intsruments' invention and patent by Leblanc
>were experimental and very revolutionary for that time.

        So THAT'S why orchestral music doesn't include it.  Too bad that it was
invented so late.

        Is there an overall best brand of bass clarinet?

>I'm not too sure Selmer's countless efforts at modifications and total
>redesign are all good.
>I'm not too fond of the very bright sound of the 35 bass.

        Did you know you can order it as a rosewood model on special request?
It supposedly has a mellower tone.

>If you are unsatisfied with the bore size of one brand, try another :)

        I sure wish I could.  However, I can't even get to play on a brand new
bass clarinet, much less contra!  Our band program is probably one of
the wealthiest anywhere, but the director is a sax player, so we low
clarinet players get to fight the old horns.  He tried to get 3 new bass
clarinets for this year, but that fell through; we're CERTAINLY not
going to acquire a new Selmer contra!  Man I wish I had gotten to play
on the one at band camp!  And after our clarinet choir performance, the
various directors were telling me how focused and in-tune I was on the
thing.  I just kept thinking, "Yeah, if you had only let me play on the
        By the way, is that selmer contra yours??

Mr. Marcus,

>Written in it is an extended CCC (the C below
>the lowest C on the piano).

        Ok.  Now I've gotta ask something.  Some sources notate that note (16
Hz) to be CCCC, others like you notate it as CCC, and the guinness book
of world records notates it as C[sub]11.  What gives?  I believe it to be 4 C's.


>Most CC tubas are 16' long, and BBb tubas are approx 18' long.

        Well, when I say 32' CCCC, I'm accounting for the valve tubing, too.

>a 32' tuba would be huge.

        I didn't realize that valve tubing is not accounted for.
        In the guinness book of world records, the largest guitar, harp,
harmonica, etc... are documented, and older issues show pictures, yet
nothing is said about their musical ranges.  Has anybody found out?
        A book I have shows a picture of a tuba that contains "34 feet" of
tubing, the guinness states the one that has 39 feet, and another book I
have says that the largest tuba in the world has 45 feet of tubing.  The
one with 34' must be a Bb instrument; the one with 39' must be in Ab or
something, and the one with 45' must be in F, having an open fundamenal
of FFFFF (12 Hz), and if it has 4 valves, then it'd have an absolute
fundamental of GGGGGG (somewhere between 4 and 8 Hz).  Does anyone have
any more info on this 45' tuba?  It's not Mr. Young's, is it??

Mr. Hanson,

>>I know that the oboe and bassoon are actually 2 different
>>families of instruments, because they were developed seperately, but
>>they basically have the same relationship as do the extreme clarinets.

>Double reeds are grouped together because of the fact that they have two
>reeds, not because they sound the same, which they don't.

        That's right.  The oboe sounds more solid, while the bassoon sounds
drier.  'Course, that's similar to the way I described the relationship
between the Bb clarinet and the low clarinets!
        Why isn't there a double reed cylindrical instrument in the band?  It'd
have to be like a modern cromorne/krummhorn, but better looking.

>As far as your curiosity about the small bore size of reed end of a
>bassoon, it works.

        Oh, I just meant the overall narrow flare of the conicality of the
bore.  And I don't have a problem with that.

>I don't know where you got the idea that if you increase the bore size
>the instrument will sound better. This idea is useful in improving some
>instruments, but not all.

        Increasing the bore gives it more power, more fundamental, and less
high overtones.  This is how I'd prefer it.

>Low clarinets sound the way they do in the
>low register because they are low... as all low woodwind instruments
>begin to sound this way at the bottom of the range. It is a matter of
>the nature of sound and depth, not bore size.

        Let's see--how do I explain it.  Ok.  The Bb clarinet's lowest notes
are very solid, thick, and have oomph.  Low notes of contrabass
clarinets (like I say, I've had no experience with a selmer) sound
incredibly thin, with no oomph.  Being an organist has caused me to
compare the oomph of pipes of the same pitch.

Mr. Green,

>Brass instruments work on the natural overtone series.  From the
>fundamental, the next partial is an octave higher - a big gap.  For
>illustration, let's say you have a Bb instrument whose fundamental pitch is
>the Bb below the bass clef.  The second partial is the 2nd line BC Bb.  If
>you have one valve (e.g., the whole-step first valve), you can also play
>the Ab (1st space BC) - still leaving quite a gap from the fundamental,

        Oh, I see.  So the fundamental of the tube without valves is thought of
as the lowest note, and the valves are added to play the notes in
between it and its 2nd harmonic.  I understood that, but I didn't
realize that the fundamentals of the valve combinations are considered
to be just an inevitable extra.

 With an "F" 4th valve, you can play
>the F below BC with just valve 4,

        Oh!  Well, I played baritone horn once, and it had 4 valves.  On it,
the 4th valve only lowered the tone a major third, so lowest b natural
was impossible.  I didn't realize that it's supposed to lower it a

>There!  Well, almost: unless you
>have a compensating tuba,

        I KNEW there was a catch!!  :)

>Manufacturers thus have a trade-off, between having an
>instrument that plays easily in tune in the lowest (least-used) octave, and
>one that they can sell at a competitive price.

        Why not both?  Then they'd sell ALOT of tubas, and be ahead in the long
run, and everybody would be happy, even us!

>You can change the ratio of higher partials to lower partials a little by
>changing the mpc and using a softer reed.  Or finding a wider-bore
>instrument.  Like a sarrusophone ;-)

        What's the difference between a sarrusophone and a reed contrabass?

>A tenoroon does not sound like an English horn, despite having
>the same register.

        Here's how I understand it.  The oboe and the bassoon are 2 octaves
apart (The bassoon plays down to contrabass Bb, and the oboe plays down
to tenor Bb).  The tenoroon is half an octave higher than the bassoon,
and the english horn is half an octave lower than the oboe, thus these 2
are 1 octave apart, right?  I have heard of an octave bassoon.  This
would have the same range as the bass oboe.

>Most of the fingerings seem more logical than, for example, on
>the oboe where you go from A to Bb by adding RH1, and from B to C again by
>adding RH1.

        Hmm.  I'll have to learn to play these double reed instruments!
        How, generically speaking, is the harmonic structure altered by
changing a single-reed instrument into a double reed one?

>Actually, someone tried making a Boehm system bassoon, and found out why.
>The small tone holes drilled at oblique angles were replaced with large
>tone holes placed at the "acoustically correct" positions, operated by
>keywork.  The result just didn't sound like a bassoon.  A large part of the
>bassoon's unique timbre derives from the long, oblique tone holes.

        How does that alter the sound?  I would think it would be similar to
pointing the bell of a contra clarinet different directions.

>Emerson makes a vertical flute, where the embouchure plate is essentially
>centered over the body of the flute (when the head is in place).

        Well, but does it look like a T-flute?  I'm talking about just having
the lip plate taper down into the cylindrical tube.

>Yes, a bend in the tube has the effect of making the bore "seem" larger at
>that point.


There's also a subtle difference in timbre, which you can
>sometimes hear by comparing a standard trumpet with a "pocket" trumpet: the
>pocket trumpet has twice as many bends, and tends to have a somewhat
>stuffier sound.  Trombones, on the other hand....

        What about Tubae?  :]
Has anyone ever constructed a
*pocket* tuba?????  I'd take one!!

        -Gregg Bailey

Get Your Private, Free Email at


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 03:07:31 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Pitch Notation (was Many-a-reply!!)

In a message dated 7/27/98 12:53:22 AM, Gregg Bailey wrote:

<<Mr. Marcus,

>Written in it is an extended CCC (the C below
>the lowest C on the piano).

        Ok.  Now I've gotta ask something.  Some sources notate that note (16
Hz) to be CCCC, others like you notate it as CCC, and the guinness book
of world records notates it as C[sub]11.  What gives?  I believe it to
be 4 C's.>>

Although there is some disagreement as to the standardization of octave/note
notation off the staff, the TUBA Journal uses the following pitch notation in
its reviews of new scores and recordings:

Kindest regards,
Steve Marcus (


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 9:59:35 +0000
Subject: Forwarding a Message from Doug Yeo (re A

Dear all,
Tom Izzo asked me to forward the following to the list on behalf of Doug Yeo:
"On Friday, July 31, the contrabass "anaconda" serpent "George"
(commissioned by the Late Phil Palmer and his wife Connie) will be played
in a chamber music concert in Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood (the summer
festival home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra).  At 6:00 PM, members of
the Boston Symphony Orchestra will give a chamber music "Prelude" concert
which is free to anyone having a ticket for the evening BSO concert (Robert
Spano, conducting, Bernstein Sym 2, Beethoven Sym 7).  The chamber music
concert will consist of original "Harmoniemusik" for 2 oboes, 2 clarinets,
2 horns, 2 bassoons and serpent played by members of the Boston Symphony
Orchestra including serpentist (and bass trombonist)  Douglas Yeo.  The
program will consist of the Haydn 3 English Military Marches, Hummel
Partita in E flat, Krommer Harmonie in E flat, op 79 and the Andantino from
Beethoven's 7th Symphony in an arrangement sanctioned by Beethoven.  The
anaconda serpent will be played on the Beethoven.  For further information,
visit the Boston Symphony web site at <>.  To see photos of Doug
with the contrabass serpent, which has been graciously loaned by Connie
Palmer for this performance, visit Doug's web site article on his
presentation on serpents at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts at
Francis Firth


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 09:31:48 CDT
From: "Stephen Del Rea" <>
To: (Contrabass-list)
Subject: PC Band

>  I have been keeping up on computer games, I know that modern
> programming can work miracles, or at least beat me at chess and risk.
> But has anyone ever trained his PC to improvise?  would it even be that
> difficult?  It is all based on mathematical intervals.  Could a computer
> improvise based on a number of rules concerning riffs and chord
> substitution and progression, with the use of random number generators?

I don't know anything about it, but there's "Band In A Box"
that fills in various instruments and styles given a series
of chords in your selection.  See
Does anyone have any experience with this program that they
could share with us?

Stephen Rea <>
University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 11:42:28 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Re:  PC Band

George Lewis the trombonist, David Rosenbloom at Cal Arts and many others have
develped an interactive improvising program which responds to one or more
improvisors that play in the non conventional song form areas. The results are
quite amazing when you are actually playing with it.


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 11:41:26 -0700
From: Grant Green <>
Subject: Re: Oskar Adler?

At 12:50 AM 7/25/98 EDT, you wrote:
>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?

Well, the way to tell is to see if only the display blurs, or if objects
next to the display also blur.  If everything blurs, its your eyes.  If
only CRTs, LEDs, etc., blur, then its the displays.

I've noticed it too, especially when playing with Band in a Box, and
similar programs while playing a low instrument.  I'm pretty sure its a
matter of the low pitches causing the display tube to vibrate.  When I was
in high school, I could cause the TV picture to blur, to the great
annoyance of my sisters....


Grant D. Green             Just filling in on sarrusophone
Contrabass email list:   


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 11:51:08 -0700
From: Grant Green <>
Subject: Re: Contrabass orchestra

At 12:11 PM 7/26/98 -0500, Mark wrote:
>The orchestra composition will include:
>16 contrabassoons
>8 bassoons
>8 contrabass clarinets
* Bass clarinet is a nice horn: why not have 2 or 3, and perhaps a few
contraltos while we're at it.

>16 English Horns
* There are bass oboes, too....

>8 oboe D'Amore
>8 oboe
8 oboes might be overkill - I'd exchange a 5 of them for bass oboes, and
one for an Eb mussette

>4 sarrusaphones
Only 4?  How about

Could use a few saxophones, too:

>2 Heckelphones
>2 Ophilicides
>8 contra-trombones

>4 regular trombones
>8 bass flutes
>4 flutes

>2 picolos
One is plenty for any ensemble

>1 violin
>1 viola
>1 cello
I don't think they have a chance - I'd stick with the wind ensemble format.

>2 string bass
>1 keyboard
>4 percussionists
>2 bass tuba
>4 tubas
BBb/CC contrabass tubas, perhaps a few euphoniums...

>2 cornets
>2 trumpets
Bass trumpets and contrabass trumpets
French horns have a nice low range, and if we could add a few bass horns...

A pleasant fantasy, but your first step would be to notify the National
Geological Survey of the audition and rehearsal schedules....


Grant D. Green             Just filling in on sarrusophone
Contrabass email list:   


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 16:49:17 EDT
From: <>
Subject: Re:  list V1 #42

<<Good point!  Several soprano saxes now come with both a straight neck and a
curved neck, which produce noticeably different timbres.  Can anyone
comment on the difference in timbre between curved alto and tenor saxes and
the straight altos and tenors now available?  Did anyone ever hear the
straight bari being played?>>

        There is a noticeable difference in timbre between straight and curved altos
and tenors.  I have a Buescher straight and curved alto from the 1920s, both
made in the same year (and both silver plated).  With similar mouthpiece, the
straight one is far more pungent and nasal compared to the curved one.  My
modern straight tenor exhibits similar characteristics, though I have not made
the same type of specific comparison.  One of my grad students did an
experiement with straight and curved soprano saxophones (Bueschers), analyzing
the acoustical spectrum of each note of each horn.  We found that there is a
measurable extra set/ and/or strength of partials in the straight instrument
missing from the curved.  These partials added to the brightness or nasal
quality of the tone.  For whatever reasons, the curvatures, mostly in the
neck, but not insignificant in the bell (based on similar experiments with the
Buescher "tipped bell" soprano) filter out those partials.
        I have heard the straight baritone in a terrific Vitaphone short from the
early 1930s.  No question that it is a baritone, with a robust and vital
sound.  And, considering that the player had to set up on a small stool, it
was remarkably agile!
        I demonstrate some of the timbres of these instruments; the straight alto,
straight and curved sopranos, high and low pitch instruments, plus the mighty
contrabass, in my CD, Vintage Saxophones Revisited.
Paul Cohen


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 18:26:39 -0700 (PDT)
From: Michael Famulare <>
Subject: Bundy Resonite Contralto

> Also, has anyone ever tried/have a Selmer Bundy resonite EEb cantralto
> clarinet?
> Are they responsive?
> Do they project well?
> Are they built well?

     I have played on two different resonite contraltos from Bundy,
and I have found that they perform quite poorly.  The low range is
decent with the best pitches being B, A, and G.  Once you hit the
throat tones all sound focus is lost and it worsens in the higher
ranges.  As far as response is concerned, the sound is often slow to
leave the instrument from first attack.  It takes considerable work to
hit a hard downbeat without delay.  The keywork is also weak.  Keys
bend easily because of the soft metal.  However, if there is a
positive, they do project well, especially in the lowest octave.
Unfortunately, this is not to my advantage in my chamber ensemble.
This is a prime example of "You get what you pay for."

Get your free address at


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 21:37:24 -0400
From: (Jim Katz)
To: <>
Subject: Mark T's grand orchestra

What, no digeridoos?


Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 21:06:23 -0500
From: Matthew Hanson <>
Subject: Re: Bundy Resonite Contralto

> Also, has anyone ever tried/have a Selmer Bundy resonite EEb cantralto
> clarinet?
> Are they responsive?
> Do they project well?
> Are they built well?

Who originally asked these questions?
I have my own experiences, which in some ways differ extremely from the
recent post. The person who asked these questions (or anyone who REALLY
wants to know), can email me privately for a thorough comparison of the
Selmer Bundy Eb Contra and its counterparts.
This instrument has some great characterisics. ESPECIALLY for the price.
Matthew Hanson


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