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From: "Patrick.Scully"
Subject: Re: [CB] [CB Digest]  Making the World Safe for Contrabass Instruments with MIDI Files and Notation Software
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2002 04:19:38 -0800

Thanks, Leif, for the reminder about the low bass capabilities of the french horn.

I just joined a woodwind quintet that had a bassoon vacancy; I'll be playing the bassoon parts on my EEb contra alto clarinet (paperclip).  These parts give me lots of practice in the altissimo range (which fortunately speaks beautifully on my instrument), but take little advantage of my lowest octave.  Fortunately, my ensemble-mates are willing to give my
notation-software-charged arrangements a try.

I will certainly try writing low passages for the French Horn in these arrangements.  I can imagine that the contra clarinet and french horn might create some beautiful tonal textures together.

I concur with the feedback you got on your notation software issue:  your software is buggy.  I use Sibelius, which is expensive if you don't qualify for the educational discount, but a great bargain if you do.  For quite some time, I used the free download version (you should try this) which does not save anything to disk.  This was quite okay, though, as originally I was using the program as a do-it-yourself "Music Minus One".  That's right -- download a midi, arrange it to include the contrabass instrument part of your choice, then play along!  This capability is free of any cost whatsoever.  Along with that, you get most of the very formidable capabilities of Sibelius,  built upon its powerful internal model of the rules of music notation.

Of course, if you like what you hear, you'll want to save it to disk (or share with your woodwind quintet, as the case may be).  I wound up keeping my computer turned on with a bunch of arragements sitting in Sibelius. This was a signal to "get with the program".

By the way, the task you were involved in -- separating multiple parts written in a condensed form on one staff so that you get one voice per stave -- is automatic with Sibelius (and this works in the free download version).  For example, I can "explode" a four-part chord progression written for one hand of the piano on the treble staff into four distinct parts - say for flute, oboe, clarinet, and french horn.   The commercial version of the software will then make professional-quality printed parts for each musician.


> A while back I tried to use downloaded midi files for arranging. However
> I kept on running into the same problem. It occurs whenever any one Midi
> channel has more than 1 part. If one part is moving in eighth notes and
> the other is supposed to be holding a whole note, the whole note gets
> notated as single eighth note where it begin. I use a music notation
> program called Lime. Perhaps somebody knows a way around this? Or do I
> just need to get a better music program?


From: "Patrick.Scully"
Subject: Re: [CB] [CB Digest] Contrabass Clarinet Altissimo Fingerings and Setups
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2002 05:22:34 -0800


The altissimo on your Leblanc BBb contrabass clarinet is difficult, but,
with modified fingerings, a willingness to "lip" to improve intonation, and
a pretty stiff reed,  you will discover at least one -- and perhaps almost
two -- more octaves in your instrument's compass.

In my experience, the most difficult altissimo notes on either the EEb or
the BBb paperclip Leblancs are the D, D# and E above the staff.  The F
through C above that and beyond speak easily without special effort on
either instrument.  Overall, the altissimo is far more accessible and and
melodic on the EEb instrument (making it perfect for playing those bassoon

I have created my own fingerings for the D and E above the staff, for BBb
use (not needed on the EEb).  For the Eb above the staff, I overblow the
throat Ab.  For the D, I finger a chalumeau A, except I open the LH thumb F
key for venting.  The octave key is closed.  For the E, I overblow a clarion
G.  I open the long Eb vent to improve the intonation on both the Eb and the D.

Even with the special fingerings, harder reed, etc, you will need alot of
practice with the lower altissimo notes on the BBb paperclip contrabass
clarinet.    I don't achieve consistently clean tone quality on these notes
on my BBb.  On the EEb paperclip, I have the facility, range, and timbre of
the bass clarinet, only shifted about an octave lower (the EEb paperclip
reaches an octave below the low F on the bass clarinet).

In general, the overblown throat fingerings seem to be very good altissimo
fingerings on the Leblanc contras -- they work on higher partials as well,
and comprise my favorite fingerings for the triple high B and C.

My setups are, for the EEb, a Charles Fobes San Francisco contrabass
clarinet mouthpiece (appears to be based on the Selmer contrabass blank),
fairly soft reeds (Vandoren 2, Rico 3), and Rovner ligature.    For the BBb,
I use the Woodwind contrabass-contra alto mouthpiece that ships with the new
instruments, medium hard reeds (Vandoren 3, Rico 4), and Rovner ligature.
Also, both of the instruments discussed here are my primary
rehearsal/performance instruments and are kept in top playing condition.

[N.B.  Mr. Fobes recommends his mouthpiece only for the BBb Leblanc
contrabass clarinets, but I have found it far better on the EEb instrument.
The Fobes piece definitely improves tone quality on the EEb (the clarion is
hard to distinguish from the chalumeau of the Bb clarinet!), but doesn't
have this effect on the BBb (at least for me).  Setups are highly
individual, though, and I suspect even more so on the contras, where the
player's own anatomy (throat opening) is a important variable.]


> Now the low notes on my BBb paperclip are superb, but I do wish I had an
> altissimo register - I can't get above D (register key only, plus the odd
> key here or there, perhaps). Should I be able to get higher? any tips?

From: MVinquist
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2002 10:09:44 EST
Subject: [CB] Contrabass Clarinet -- Altissimo Fingerings

John Kilpatrick says:

>Now the low notes on my BBb paperclip are superb, but I do wish I had an
altissimo register - I can't get above D (register key only, plus the odd key
here or there, perhaps). Should I be able to get higher? any tips?<

The Leblanc contra and mouthpiece are designed to favor the low register. Altissimo notes are simply a stunt.  You bring a contra to the dance to play contra, not piccolo.

Nevertheless, there are possibilities.  The Norwegian bass clarinet virtuoso Terje Lerstad has an excellent site at
<>.  Go to the "Altissimo Register Fingerings for Bass Clarinet" page at
<>, which gives a general discussion and has further links, including one to a contrabass fingering chart at <>.

This chart assumes an instrument with all four trill keys for the right index finger (e.g., the Selmer Eb contra).  The Leblanc contras have only the lowest key, so some of these fingerings aren't possible.  However, contra altissimo fingerings are peculiar to each instrument, and you have to figure them out anyway.  The chart should be a good starter, though.

The Dutch bass virtuoso Henri Bok has a site at <>, where he shows excerpts from his method book with bass clarinet altissimo fingerings.  Some of these should work on contra, though of course you're missing the altissimo vent for the left index finger.

When Steve Fox restored my Selmer Eb contra, we had an extensive discussion about installing an English-horn-style split-key altissimo vent.  I also suggested a simple key opened by a palm touch (as on a saxophone).  Eventually we decided not to do it, though I may get around to it.  On your Leblanc, there would also be the problem of doing the work in metal.  I'd work with the Lerstad fingerings first, before doing metal surgery.

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

Date: Sun, 03 Mar 2002 11:33:05 -0600
From: Jim Quist
Subject: Re: [CB] Contrabass Clarinet -- Altissimo Fingerings

> Altissimo notes are simply a stunt.  You bring a contra to the dance to play
> contra, not piccolo.

That sounds very limiting.  Altissimo notes on a contra may seem like barking
up the wrong tree, but maybe that's the tree John wants to bark up.



Subject: Re: [CB] Contrabass Clarinet -- Altissimo Fingerings
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2002 23:14:34 +0100

Thank you, I am flattered that any american have seen my article. (These times you should be glad that bin Bush has not seen your web-site).  As I prefer the simplest address, try for fingeing contras (this word is certainly notized by CIA)

One correction: Altissimo fingerings are not a stunt, only practice, practice and still more practice.  I played 6 octaves on contrabass in 1978, but it took some time to find out the fingerings. (I have played (for fun, of course) Vivaldis C major piccolo concerto on contrabass clarinet, with the last passages ending on the right pitch (which is 2 octaves + a ninth above the "high" C),

Sorry, I don't mean to be arrogant, but it takes some time!! But you can get free my fingerings and just start practicing.

By the way, my LP from 1987 is finally out on CD!  And there is one extra piece on it: My "Toccata for contrabass clarinet solo" was never edited or used on the 1989 LP, because the producer did not beleive in the contrabass clarinet and not in my piece. Because of this, the piece does not use 6 1/2 octaves, but only 5 1/2 octave, because the producer nearly made a nervous breakdown on me in 1987.  In concert, I will play 6 3/4 octave (64 foot A to 1/4 foot F (sounding)).  Read more about the CD, which is a HEMERA cd with number HCD-2942 on

Yours sincerely
Terje Lerstad

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