Contrabass Digest

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Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000 14:58:42 -0700
From: Grant Green
Subject: Re: [CB] Doubling

>    Also, i haven't had much experience with these kind of woodwind doubling
>parts, are they common.  As a bassoonist/saxophonist/clarinetist who recently
>started flute this gives me something to look foward to in the future, i love
>doubling.  Anyway, just thought i'd add my pointless comments.

Common in pit orchestras (e.g., for musicals), and to some extent in
jazz bands.  In "big band" arrangements, the alto and tenor players
are sometimes called upon to play flute and/or clarinet, and the bari
player often doubles bass clarinet (and sometimes flute or alto
flute) (or in my case, contrabass sarrusophone...).  Pit orchestras
are sometimes straight parts with no doubling (e.g., "The King and
I", if memory serves), but often call for quite a variety.  Exactly
*which* variety depends only on the combination of horns that the
composer (and/or arranger) wants, and how few players he can get away
with paying.  There are often 3-5 woodwind books, covering everything
from piccolo to contrabassoon.  Typical doubles are: flute/picc/Bb
clarinet/alto sax, oboe/English horn/tenor sax, bari sax/bassoon/bass
clarinet/flute, soprano sax/alto sax/clarinet/flute, and just about
every permutation.  The book with the highest number (e.g., book V)
typically has most of the low horns (often the bari sax/bass
clarinet/bassoon/etc. book), but low horns can turn up in any book:
you might be switching between piccolo and bass sax ;-)


Grant Green
Professional Fool ->

Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000 15:17:57 -0700
From: Grant Green
Subject: Re: [CB] Ab squeakers

>Only Selmer is currently making them.

I believe Leblanc fields an Ab sopranino, and I'd be surprised if the
Italian clarinet makers didn't make Abs too.  Ripamonti lists them on
its price list (, along
with Eb and Bb contras in palissander.  Orsi lists several models of
Ab clarinet, and a "G half-soprano" as well, at  (BTW, I
checked: they haven't put up any pages with sarrusophones or reed
contrabasses, but do have pages for the saxophones including bass and

>>easy to play?
>>>ridiculously high? im so excited!

Lowest note on the Ab is middle C, same as a flute or tenor recorder.
But considering that the Bb soprano gets down to the D below that,
its pretty high.  Of course, IMHO, even the Eb soprano goes entirely
too high... ;-)


Grant Green
Professional Fool ->

Date: Wed, 06 Dec 2000 19:04:01 -0500
From: jim & joyce
Subject: Re: [CB] [Contra Digest]

    It is not a metal clarinet.  What else does one really need to know.

    feeling ditzy
    jim lande


From: "Tom Izzo"
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000 20:27:02 -0600
Subject: Re: [CB] Odd bass clarinet in Boston

> Lelia's message reminds me to mention something I saw at Rod Baltimore's
> shop at 48th and Broadway this past weekend.  I was looking for a
> 40's-vintage Buescher Aristocrat baritone, but no luck on that.

> BTW, this is the place that, for years, had a contrabass sax on display.
> This is the sax that Lenny Pickett would occasionally play on SNL.

Yep, You could have had it for the "sale" price of a mere $35K.

> sax is gone.  It was sold to somebody who, according to Rod, made a lot
> of money in the trucking business.  It now resides in this guy's living
> room in San Francisco.

Too bad. But we all spend our money in our own fashion. If you're curious, I
have a picture on my website of me in Rod's place with that very same
Contra. (Just after the pic of me with my CB Trb.)
The pic was taken in Nov 96 when I was playing in NYC for a week.



From: "Merlin Williams"
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000 21:40:13 -0500
Subject: Re: [CB] [Contra Digest]

I've actually played the Octavin that's for sale.  It works!
It's kind of like playing just the boot joint of a bassoon.

Visit Merlin's Mouthpiece (
A member of the Duke Ellington Ring, the Sax Ring, and
the Single Reed Webring.


From: "Farfl's House"
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000 23:52:25 -0800
Subject: [CB] Please Talk Me Down.

I'm going to need some help here. Please, somebody, talk me down so that I
DON'T BUY AGAIN!!  *sob*....
You see, every once in awhile I get this awful hankering to learn the tuba.
Never mind that I tried to learn trombone and didn't get very far, and that
I had a small tuba here for awhile and didn't get too far on that,
either....never mind that I'm basically a percussionist who also plays EEb
contra alto clarinet and has owned a great bass sax in the past.
You see, every once in awhile I get this urge to get a Conn Jumbo
Sousaphone.  I think they are so damned beautiful and I can envision myself
sitting at the back of our local Klezmer Orchestra playing some of those
great Frailach bass lines.
I've seen a few of these Jumbos on eBay in the last little while, and it's
making me get the fever again.
Please help me. Somebody tell me something awful about those Jumbo Conns so
that I'll lose my craving for one.  Also, if they're supposed to be so
"rare" (or is that just an eBay catchphrase) then why have they been
appearing on eBay frequently lately?
Somebody....maybe Tuba Dave?.....please talk me down.
Or sell me a Jumbo. And give me lessons.


Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000 06:20:56 +0100
From: "Klaus Bjerre" <
Subject: Re: [CB] Please Talk Me Down.

>From: "Farfl's House"
Of course you should own a Conn Jumbo sousa. I would never buy myself, but I
am quite well excused.

I own the slightly smaller Conn 40K in its 1927 incarnation: Heavy like the
burden of Atlas, 4 valves, and a sound qualifying it as a top class tuba.

Foundation, foundation, foundation!

I have heard of 4 valved Conn jumbos, but never seen them illustrated.

However the 3 valve Conn Jumbo has a very relevant and enhancing quality:
The top bow of the 1st valve crook is a slide easily accessible by your left
hand, so low range intonation is quite adjustable.

Buy them all, so I do not get tempted! 33 brasses in a modest condonium
should not be squezzzzzzzzzzzed furtherly but yet a monster!

Really: these old, heavy, large Conns are soulcatchers defying any clichés
of sousas being badly wrapped bassbones on non-refined steroids.

Another cliché, that the large sousas sound like the pedal stops of huge
church organs is flattering. For the church organs!


Date: Wed, 06 Dec 2000 21:44:43 -0800
From: bitwise
Subject: Re: [CB] [Contra Digest]


What is the range of the octavin? I'm guessing it would be fairly
high-pitched (of course, I consider an alto clarinet to be 'high-
pitched'). There was a bass clarinet made in bassoon style -
similar to the octavin, but (obviously) lower in pitch.
I've been trying for years to obtain information on that instrument.

Does the sound of the octavin differ from that of clarinets?
Was there ever a complete family of octavins?
I notice the 'neck' is straight - how is this thing held?



From: "Tom Izzo"
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 06:34:29 -0600
Subject: Re: [CB] specializing

> >WW5 is for bsn. alone, and takes the instrument up to G atop the
> >treble staff--fortunately well hidden. I wonder if anyone has ever
> >actually played the note (a dotted 8th in allegro, approached from
> >well below, then descending scalewise).
> Ouch, i can play that note (And up to Bb on a good day) but i would never
> consider that within the normal range of the instrument.

Yes, the first Trombone part ascends to that same note in Act 1.
Highest written note for a Tenor Trombone.



Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 12:02:05 -0500 (EST)
From: Eric Mumpower
Subject: Re: [CB] [Contra Digest]

> There was a bass clarinet made in bassoon style -
> similar to the octavin, but (obviously) lower in pitch.

There is such an instrument in the Edinburgh University Collection of
Historic Musical Instruments. I was fortunate enough to be offered the
opportunity to examine this instrument. On inspection, the folded
construction of this bass clarinet actually makes a great deal of sense,
from the perspective of reducing and simplifying the low-range keywork.

This is, of course, located in a display case about ten feet to the left of
the contrabass serpent which was discussed here a few months ago.
( In fact, it was that
discussion which brought the EUCHMI to my attention, and brought me to
inquire into visiting there in the first place. There's also an alpenhorn
there (perhaps 10-12 feet in length), and a sousaphone, and a little plaque
in the display case behind the sousaphone politely requesting "Please do not
feed the sousaphone."

Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 10:51:46 -0800 (PST)
From: JJ McLallen
Subject: Re: [CB] [Contra Digest]


>JJ - It appears the problem is a bend in the left pinky E, but
>the structure of the pinky keys on Selmers is such that the
>local horn repair guy will have to straighten it.

Thank you for the update. I'm always glad to hear that I helped
someone out. It makes me feel good.

I'm thinking that the bent E-key was pressing down on the C#/G#
key under the left pinky. Not enough to make you sound a C# when
you hit it, but just enough to cause a "leak", which caused
squeakage in the lower part of the instrument.

I've noticed that a leak is often the cause of squeaks on notes
that are within the same overtone series. For example, your
"leak" on the C# key was causing squeaks at the F# a fifth
below. It seems as though a leak on one of the NODES of the
wavelength will cause a squeak on the root of the overtone

Anyone with firther info on this? Please tell me more.

JJ - the repair guy

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Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 14:08:34 EST
Subject: [CB] Reeds?

Does anyone know where I can get some contrabass reeds?  I like Marca reeds
but no one around here carries them anymore.



Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 11:29:20 -0700
From: Grant Green
Subject: Re: [CB] Reeds?

>Does anyone know where I can get some contrabass reeds?  I like Marca reeds
>but no one around here carries them anymore.

I get most of my reeds mail order from WW&BW.  There is also a list of retailers on ( that includes a number of reed distributors.



Grant Green
Professional Fool ->

From: "Jean Adler"
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2000 14:19:50 -0600
Subject: Re: [CB] Reeds?

I have a box of contra reeds for sale.  They are Charpen reeds from France.  I use them exclusively when I play bass clarinet.  I would call them a medium to medium hard.  I believe they are a 3 1/2.  Let me know if you are interested and we can discuss price, etc.

***End of Contrabass Digest***

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