Contrabass Digest

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list                           Mon, 16 Nov 1998           Volume 1 : Number 27

In this issue:


Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 11:24:19 +0100
From: "Lownotes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: What do I do??????

That's a lot of questions, desire and frustration in one letter.
To give some reactions:
I also encountered tuning problems one a Contra-Bass Leblanc. I restored and
played a straight model 342 low Eb with one vent key.
It sounded ok to me, up to top stave G. Above that tuning was unusable
high. I never played a paperclipmodel with two register vents so I am
anxious to know if that plays more in tune and has a bigger usable
reach. For comparison; the contra-alto from Selmer Bundy was much easier to
play even up to high D two lines above stave. I like to play low but without
losing too much high.
At the moment I play Noblet low Eb Bass-clarinet with one register vent and
that plays great. It's quit possible to play four octaves on this instrument
and all notes are quit even and open sounding. But I miss the double Eb/Ab
lever and a tuneable neck and ! low C, C# and D of course. So,to solve these
shortcomings I will buy a professional low C instrument in near future.
You asked something about contra bass flute. I play together with somebody
who plays all the flutes and a ContraBass flute was specially made for him.
It is formed like a triangle with one very extended part. The diameter is
incredible, something like 5 inches and it is made of plastic material, the
same as connected to the drain of toilets. All the body parts are for sale
in do-it-yourself company. After that the builder glued the toneholes one it
like on the old Martin Saxophones. The keys are super-handmade, very
beautiful. The sound is really very soft because there is no counterpressure
so silence ore amplification is needed. The flute is as big as the player
himself. Very impressive.
Back to clarinet. A very informative URL is
I think he is the best source for questions on the bigger clarinets.

Greetings, I hope you'll get your ideal instrument soon.


Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 06:50:52 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Groover <>
Subject: Re: What do I do??????

Well Gregg, if you don't have money, you still have your hands -
so why don't you talk to your director about learning to do some of the
needed repairs yourself?  He might be delighted once he realizes you're
serious about doing it right, and you can get a lot of helpful advice
from this mailing list and from the woodwind newsgroups.

Similarly, if you don't like the director's added parts, why don't you
write some yourself?  You'll learn a lot, and have more fun too.

Robert Groover  PGP key on request
Member ECS, AVS, OSA, Senior Member IEEE, Reg.Pat.Atty.
       "All men by nature desire knowledge"


Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 12:53:01 -0400
Cc: Virginia Benade <>
Subject: Re: What do I do??????

Virginia Benade has a nice low C bass clarinet for sale, and very
reasonably priced.  You might call her up.

Robert Howe


Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 13:26:24 EST
Subject: Re: What do I do??????

Well, this EMail is a mammoth to answer, but I will.

>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.

Not many families have $4600 to spend, either. You should try to get a used
instrument. Just because it would be used, doesn't mean that is is bad. Some
of the best instruments are the vintage ones.

>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.

Band directors love the brasses, so get over it. What is your high school's
budget? My band can spend $30,000 this year, and we aren't even getting
everything we want.

>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.

This is definitely an unfounded complaint. Instruments don't play themselves,
you know. Do you believe the principle bassist of the NY Philharmonic wouldn't make
All-State if he played on a Selmer Bundy? I don't think so. And let me tell
you one thing; last year at the Florida All-State Convention, the first four
saxes all had student models; the first chair had a Bundy 2! And the last
chair had a Selmer Super Action 80 Series, and the fifth had a Selmer Mark 6,
both highly regarded professional saxophones.

>     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!!!

If they are really as bad as you claim, ask your band director to get them
overhauled. The low clarinets are so very important in today's arrangements
and compositions, and your band director should be jumping to get them fixed.

>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

How long have you been playing the bass clarinet? Not soprano, or anything
else, just the bass. Be truthful, because I seriously doubt you can outgrow an
instrument in one year, especially with one as much difficulty as the
clarinet. If your ability is so great, like you say it is, you should learn to
adapt to your instrument. I play on a Yamaha student model alto, and have made
third chair sax for All-State and All-County (the 1st and 2nd were from my
county), gotten superiors and every solo I've done yet, including a grade 5
one! So, just remember it is your skill that drives you're instrument, not the
other way around. Now if the instrument is physically broken, then that is a
major problem, but otherwise; you're just complaining. I also own a Yamaha
student bass clarinet, and I love it! It has a great sound and plays easy. And
with a Vandoren B45 mouthpiece and Rovner ligature, it is even better! My
advice: get a better ligature, better mouthpiece, better reeds, and get the
horn fixed.

>     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?

Well, after playing a student Yamaha, I would swear to their low C model.

>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

Hey, be happy you have a Bb contra, I have an Eb contra and would love the
chance to play a BBb, broken or not! So before you complain on what you don't
have, take a look around on what you have and enjoy it. And before you
"decide" what you want to make State on, be sure you have the ability to make it.

>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.

You appreciate them? Hark! You already have two contras, and one to low D! Do
you seem grateful? Heck no! My school doesn't have one Bb contra, and that is
the instrument I want to play the most! Be happy you have access to them.

>     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!
>     -Gregg

I don't support greedy people, Gregg, and that is what you are. Look at what
you have; the ability to make All-State and two contras to choose from! I wish
I was that good on the bass or contra, and I also wish I had just the *chance*
to play a Bb contra! Good luck, though.

 -Eb Alto sax
 -Bb Bass clarinet
 -EEb Contralto clarinet


Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 13:57:17 EST
Subject: Re:  What do I do??????

i also have a low c instrument (Yamaha bass clarinet model 62) for sale at a
reasonable price, but instruments come in time.



Date: Sun, 15 Nov 1998 18:33:19 -0800 (PST)
From: Michael Famulare <>
Subject: Gregg Bailey, I feel your pain!

I'm an All-State bass clarinetist in New York and I know what it is
like to be hurt by a poor instrument.  I got a 99 out of 100 on my
audition only because my left thumb pad leaked and affected my tone!
I was crushed.  Also, I have found that contras never sound as good.
They are just ugly, fickle instruments.  On the one my school has, the
only good notes are low A-F. It hurts.  I would love to have a nice
Buffet Low-C Bass Clarinet.  At Area-Allstate band last year, the girl
I beat for first chair had a really nice rosewood Selmer, but she did
not appreciate it.  Oh well, maybe someday...
>From Gregg Bailey,
> 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.

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