Vol. 2, No. 39


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12 May 1997

Contrabass-list Digest Volume 97 : Issue 39

Today's Topics:

Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 01:22:01 -0600 (MDT)
From: Shouryu Nohe <jnohe@nmsu.edu>
To: Bass Peoples <contrabass-list@contrabass.com>
Subject: More on clarinets

Bob Baily inquired:

>The contra alto and contrabass clarinets I play have no vent
>keys for the altissimo register. What kinds do?

I don't have a clue what you're talking about. I have never played any sort of clarinet with a special 'vent' key for altissimo. Altissimo is nothing more than a squeek in tune, and should require any special keys. On Bb clarinet, all altissimo notes at attained with keys used throughout the chalameau and clarion registers. The Selmer, LeBlanc, and Buffet Bb Basses I've played on have had all the keys on a clarinet (and the Buffet even had an alternate Ab/Eb! Bonus!). Same with the contra altos. The Contra basses (LeBlanc Straights, at least) are often missing the chromatic F#1, and the trill Bb2 and B2 keys. If these are the keys you are referring to, then I don't know of any C-basses that have them...but I've seen numerous C-altos with them...

Now, if you're referring to the half hole vent on the F#1 key (Right hand first finger), I don't really know, because I don't look for it. I've only had to use it once on any bass part, specifically for the Bb Bass arrangement of Von Weber's Concertino for the Soprano Clarinet. At letter U (I think), a C#3 is played by the normal fingering on Bb clarinet (RK, T, R23, L12), however, on Bb bass you may use the half hole, effective cheating the C# by playing an F# with the register key...but in order to tune it correctly, the vent must be opened. I also have the understanding that the half hole is for lowering the sharper altissimo...so I think that's what you're referring to. If not, I'm an idiot.

>Is there any alto clarinet or lower such that the lowest note(coming
>through the bell) has as nice a tone as the rest of the chalumeau
>register? The rest of the register has notes with obvious
>odd-numbered-harmonic tone, yet the note through the bell sounds like
>the lowest note on an unresonant cello, almost irritating.

Well, I can't say for altos (I find them irritating altogether, and only play them when I'm REALLY bored), but as for Bb basses, don't play anything built in the '80s. There were no decent horns built then. The best of the crop was the model 33 by Selmer, which had horrendous tuning problems in the throat register and an inconsitant sound between the clarion and chalameau registers. However, the Buffet basses built during the '70s are quite nice, if they are kept in good condition. Recently, however, the bass market is very competetive, mainly between Selmer and Buffet, and so the instrument has improved vastly within the last three or four years. If you want a regular bass (dropping only to EEb), then the Selmer model 37 is perfect. The tuning is excellent, and both the chalameau and high registers have good sound. If you want to spend the money for the best horn, the go with the Buffet C bass. It's better

  1. because it goes LOWER!!!! and
  2. the pitch is a fraction more consistant and
  3. the tuning in the throat register is almost perfect.

Also, the mouthpiece, reed, and ligature will make a massive diff in sound consistency. Make sure you have a mouth piece that you can CONTROL. A lot of people go out and purchase a LeBlanc or a Bay right away, and although those produce a top notch sound, they require the utmost rock solid immovable controlled perfected embochure on the planet. If you're well experienced, get a Vandoren B45 (unlike their soprano mouthpieces, their bass mouthpieces are actually quite nice). If you're not so experienced, a JD Hite will serve you nicely for many many years. Also, when it comes to tone quality, Vandorens are the reed of choice, PERIOD. Go no higher than a 3, 3 and a half if it is EXCEPTIONALLY humid. 2 1/2 are usually perfect for the full range and good tone quality. A Bay ligature is good for all occasions, a Bonade is just as good (Bonade's for the bass are hard to find, compared to soprano.). A LaVoz ligature is okay...it's better than your stock lig, but for a couple bucks more, the Bonade is MUCH better.

>Why does Leblanc make an alto clarinet with a slightly curved neck and one
>with a straight neck?

It depends on how your embochure is most comfortable. The larger the mouthpiece, the more your embochure should resemble that of sax than clarient. This is evident with the progression of mouthpiece angles progressing from Bb Clar to Bass. However, some people are more comfortable playing the alto with the more vertical embochure, so both necks are available to support both players...not that any serious players in the world exist anymore ^_^.

>I was surprised to see Leblanc's preference of clarinet choir
>in a band of 90-100; the brochure says that in a band of 90-100 members,
>the following clarinet instrumentation would be very practical and in
>good balance:

In this case, LeBlanc doesn't know what it's talking about. Trust me on this. I play all the clarinets, and I've played in Ensembles of every size. The clarinets should NEVER take up more than a third of the band, and even a 1/3 is a bit too many.

> 2 High Ab clarinets (optional)--(since Leblanc is the only
> manufacturer of the instrument, are there any parts written for
> it?)

Never seen a part for it in my life. But they do exist. They wouldn't make the things if there weren't already parts somewhere....

>2 high Eb soprano clarinets

falls out of chair laughing

>At least 10 1st Bb soprano clarinets
>8 2nd Bb soprano clarinets
>8 3rd Bb soprano clarinets

Ummm...no...3rds should equal or outnumber the 2nds, who should most definitely outnumber the 1sts, including the separate solo part (often found in foreign music "Solo Bb Clar," etc.) Always. Period. That's how it works best. If it didn't work best, Grainger wouldn't have set it up that way. (Grainger was the 'inventor' of the wind ensemble.)

>6 Eb alto clarinets

Some one is on drugs here...

>6 Bb bass clarinets

While this is a good concept, in a 100 person band, 3 is good, 4 is plenty. I do like the idea, but more than likely, from every band director across the globe, you'll hear, "Bass clarinets, shut up! Just get out of the way!"

>2 Eb contra-alto clarinets

Ah. This is actually acceptable in most wind ensembles of 50-60 members.

>4 Bb contra-bass clarinets

Like the Bb basses, a good concept, but impractical by society's standards. (By the standards of us on the list, 10 would be practical.) Besides, I want to know what music organization will pay for four C-basses.

>The above proportions will also work very well for the clarinet
>choir as a unit.

Except for the ordering of parts on the Bb's, yes.

>Because having a contra alto, contrabass, and lower clarinets playing
>notes other than doubling octaves with each other would produce gross
>difference tones, do all parts just double in these registers?

No, actually, in choir pieces, the C-alto and C-bass parts are different from each other. Not vastly, but they are different, and have their own functions. Bb Bass parts here (like in band music as well) often functions as a separate entity, only doubling with C-alto/basses occasionally.

Sorry this was soooo huge!


Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 09:24:03 EST
From: "Daryl Fletcher" <daryl@www.walker.public.lib.ga.us>
To: contrabass-list@contrabass.com
Subject: Re: Rarity of Use of Some Instruments

I suppose that if many of the instruments we discuss here weren't so unusual, we might not have quite as much fun playing them and listening to them.


Daryl Fletcher


Date: Wed, 07 May 1997 16:18:34 +0200
From: Carl Kleinsteuber <carl@tip.nl>
To: contrabass-list@contrabass.com
Subject: Re: contrabass-list Digest V97 #37

Hiya Grant:

Re: The "correct" contrabass trumpet mouthpiece; I ended up using a Mirafone F/Eb mouthpiece (yep, that's what the model's name is.) Real shallow.


Carl Kleinsteuber

"Carl's Home-Built Tuba Page"

Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 17:13:16 -0400 (EDT)
From: WilPryde@aol.com
To: contrabass-list@contrabass.com
Subject: Re: contrabass-list Digest V97 #38

Hey,I have a question to the Brass people out their,I am a Tuba player,but I also do Sousaphone for Marching Band,why doesn't any of the "Big-Companys" make a Sousaphone with 4 valves?just wondering..............

Date: Thu, 08 May 97 09:23:00 BST
From: Francis Firth <Francis.Firth@uce.ac.uk>
To: "'contrabass-l'" <contrabass-list@contrabass.com>
Subject: Bass Oboe - New Disc


Here are the details of a new CD for the discography under the heading Bass Oboe I have ordered the Cd but it hasn't yet arrived so I cannot as yet give a review. However, Inside is for Bass Oboe and Tape and lasts about 13 minutes and, unlike the Bass Oboe piece on The Charmer CD, is an original composition for Bass Oboe not an arrangement of another piece. It is available via Candian Music Centre.



Lawrence Cherney (bass oboe/hautbois basse), David Garfinkle (counter-tenor/haute-contre), Marcel van Neer (tenor/tenor), Randy Raine-Reusch (asian instruments/instruments asiatique), electroacoustic music/musique electroacoustique.

CSR-CD 9601 $20.98

End of contrabass-list Digest V97 Issue #39

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