Contrabass Digest

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list                           Sun, 15 Nov 1998           Volume 1 : Number 26

In this issue:


Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 11:30:14 EST
Subject: Re: TubaXmas, Sub-Freezing Performances

In a message dated 98-11-12 14:52:34 EST, you write:

>San Jose boasts TWO musical holiday aggregations.
>San Jose's Tuba Christmas happens Saturday, December 5.  Registration is at
>San Jose State U. (the music bldg) from 9-10AM, with rehearsal from
>10-12:30.  The  performances will be at Eastridge Mall, from 4-4:30 and
>5-5:30.  Tubas of all sizes are welcome, from BBb sousaphones to Eb alto
>horn.  Ophicleides, serpents, double-belled euphonia especially encouraged,
>along with any other conical-bore brass pitched lower than a trumpet.  This
>event brings out well over 100 players, and is worth hearing, even if you
>don't participate.
>San Jose's Saxophone Christmas happens Saturday, December 19.  Registration
>is at Monroe Middle School, 1055 South Monroe St., San Jose, from
>8:30-10AM, with rehearsal 10-12.  The first performance is at Christmas in
>the Park, downtown SJ at 2PM.  The second performance is at Eastridge Mall
>at 5:00PM.  Saxophones and *sarrusophones* of all sizes are welcome,
>especially if you have a size other than alto.  I've committed to bringing
>my Eb contrabass sarrusophone, and will probably also bring my sopranino
>sax.  I think Ray will be bringing his Eb contra sarrusophone as well.  If
>you're interested, please contact Ray Bernd, at
>, or 408-341-7000x5046, especially if you'd
>like to play one of the less-common horns.  This is the fifth annual SJ Sax

Just got my annual TubaChristmas schedule of U.S. events yesterday.
TubaChristmas is a fun event! Boston has had over 100 players for a couple of
years now. I'll be playing my Carl Fischer, NY/C.G. Conn 1890 helicon this
year in Boston and perhaps in Wickford, RI and Rockefeller Plaza in NY where I
understand they've had 200 or 300 players!! You can find out where the local
TubaChristmas is in your are by going to the web page of the Harvey Phillips
Foundation at: <>
I believe ABC News also has a short AVI movie of TubaChristmas in NYC, too!
BTW, you might try a combination of chemical hand-warmer packets and lock de-
icer spray on your valves if it gets really cold. It worked pretty well on New
Year's Eve here in Boston last year! I also recommend cleaning your valves
after the gig, as I have no idea how the de-icer will react with the metal,
though I assume it's okay, since locks are made of metal. I've discovered that
the valves will freeze up when they take in sub-freezing air through the holes
in the bottom valve caps, so the trick is to warm the air somehow. Trombone
slides are a MAJOR problem to keep from freezing. The easiest solution is to
play valve bone or baritone horn, but perhaps a custom slide enclosure....
SaxXmas sounds like an aural feast, too!! Does a clear plastic trashbag keep a
sax warm in below freezing temperatures?

Happy Holidays!!


Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 18:48:32 -0400
Subject: Re: TubaXmas, Sub-Freezing Performances

When are the Boston and Rockefeller Center Tuba Xmases?  I would love to hear one!

Robert Howe


Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 20:54:06 EST
Subject: Re:  Re: TubaXmas, Sub-Freezing Performances

In case no one noticed, the URL didn 't work as provided.  By trial and error,
I found that it would work if the "www." was deleted, making

There were directories of the Tuba Christmases organized several ways
including by state.  Boston and New York City were included, but I didn't see
one specifically for Rockefeller Center.  (That is in NYC, isn't it?)

Fred McKenzie


Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 02:08:24 CST
From: "Gregg Bailey" <>
Subject: What do I do??????

What do people like me do???  I want to play a Buffet Prestige low C
bass clarinet soooooo bad, though I would settle for anything of
*professional* quality.  My family doesn't have that kind of money.  The
band does, but my band director put the possibility of buying 3 new bass
clarinets at #2 on this year's priority list, and only #1 could be
accomplished:  getting the marching baritones overhauled.  Now, granted,
the baritones DO look better, but give me a break.  I could have an
excellent shot at FIRST CHAIR in the TEXAS ALL STATE BAND this year if I
were playing a good bass clarinet (or contra), and those baritones are
just for marching season.
     My whole situation is VERY frustrating.  I am so incredibly
enthusiastic about playing bass and contra clarinets, yet all the ones I
have access to SUCK THE BIG ONE!  They were entry-level or intermediate
horns to begin with, and they aren't much better half a century later!!!
I am so extremely inhibited; I can't show off my true potential because
the basses and contras I have access to are so bad for what I need them
to be able to do.  I was fine with them in beginning band, but I'm
BEYOND that.  I made 6th chair in the first band at All State last year,
and everybody else above me had virtually brand new professional bass
clarinets, most notably Buffet.  Yes, I am pleased with having made the
first band at all, but now my goal is 1st chair, and I don't see how I
can possibly reach that goal on these crappy horns.  And it's not just
that.  They're frustrating to play in everyday use.  It's very
     So, which is better:  a Leblanc 340 contra, or a Selmer (Paris)?
Also, is the general consensus that the new Buffet Prestige Low C bass
is the best out there?  I want to know about Adolphe Sax's "revised"
bass clarinet that was supposedly completely straight.
     I still haven't decided which I want to go to State on:  the bass
clarinet or either of the 2 Leblanc BBb metal contras (one straight, low
Eb, the other looped, low D w/ 2 vent keys).  My true passion, I guess,
is the contra, but the bass seems to play less horrible than the
contras.  Also, the contra seems to be neglected part-wise.  Apparently,
parts have to be handwritten out half the time for them.  What's the
point?  I wouldn't think that these handwritten parts would be fun!
I've noticed that when the director or somebody makes up a part, it's
usually such that the entire thing could be played down an octave,
especially if it's a low C instrument.  What's the fun in that?  You've
got this long instrument that sounds cool in the low range, and you have
to play in a higher octave which the bass clarinet could play in its low
     I like the idea of playing a BBb contra best, but I'll probably end
up going on the bass since it seems to not play as bad as the contras.
Ho-hum.  :(   I must sound like I feel sorry for myself.  I DO!!  All
these other schools have nice basses and contras, and the players don't
appreciate them.  I of ALL PEOPLE would appreciate them, and I have no
access to such critters.  I can only imagine in my head what
professional basses and contras sound like.
     With both of the contras, I have the same exact tuning problem:
the upper end of the instrumetn (low register, of course, from open G up
to throat Bb)is extremely sharp with the neck all the way in, while the
low end is in tune, with the exception of the lowest notes, which are
flat.  When I pull the neck out to where the open G is in tune, the low
end is extremely flat, with the very lowest notes being extremely flat.
To be in tune as best as possible, I have to have the neck all the way
in, and lip the upper notes (open g to throat Bb)WAY down, which sounds
horrible, and I also don't have time to think about that when playing.
I also had this problem when playing a newer Leblanc BBb contra at band
camp.  So that's 3 seperate Leblanc BBb contras, all with the same exact
tuning problem.  What's the deal?  It's very embarassing in the
     Why can smaller clarinets get away with only one vent hole?
     Has anyone had experience with a bassett clarinet?  Those seem so
neat to me.  Why are there A clarinets when bassett clarinets are the
same thing but with the extension?
     Why is the Bb clarinet polycylindrical while low clarinets are
strictly cylindrical?
          Does anybody know why Buffet doesn't make a BBb contra?  I
suspect that they will eventually, and that it will be the best ever!
     I talked to a representative of (I think) Emerson flute company at
the State convention last year, and she said that they were going to
design a contrabass flute.  Anybody know more?
     Supposedly a band nerd is defined as someone who owns their own
alto clarinet.  Hey!  I like the alto clarinet!
     Yes, Steve Rea, I AM jealous of your bass clarinet.  The vent hole
in the bell is a great idea!  I've always hated the foghornish tone of
the Eb on all the basses I've played.  Same for Bb clarinet.  All notes
sound nice except for low E.  So, why wouldn't they include a mechanism
for closing the hole on the bell for a low B?  I was already thinking
that if I had my way about it, basses and contras would have a low b key
directly to the left of the C and C# thumb keys.  This configuration
would be exactly the same as the 3 thumb keys on a Yamaha bass, except
the 3 keys would of course be for C#, C, and B rather than D, C#, C.
     Why aren't Bb's made with low C extensions?  Also, why doesn't a Bb
have seperate pads for throat Bb versus the register vent like a bass
does?  If it's due to both needing to be at the same place lengthwise on
the tube, then the arm for the vent key would just bend back down for
the vent pad to be at the same level as the Bb pad.  Throat Bb would
then sound good with the normal fingering!!!
     Has anyone ever played on a Selmer rosewood bass clarinet?  What's
it like?
     I'm glad I have all of y'all's support!

>>MikeC (A lurker who loves seismic music and is blessed with a daughter who
>>plays Bass, Contra-bass and Contra-alto clarinets.  When she wants to get my
>>goat, she threatens to buy a piccolo.)

     Hey!  I bought a piccolo from a pawn shop!

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