Vol. 2, No. 54

An email list for discussion of bass and contrabass instruments of all kinds. To subscribe, send a message with "subscribe" in the subject line to contrabass-list-request@contrabass.com

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See the Archive for back issues.

23 July 1997

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm back! Pretty much, anyway... I returned to discover that my ISP reconfigured its email servers to reject any "relayed" email, which basically means that I can't send email over my CRL account from my office. Needless to say, that is how I usually distribute this list. So, you can expect a few glitches here and there until I get this straightened out.

Author: ROBERT HOWE <arehow@vgernet.net>
Date: 7/2/97 8:15 PM
Subject: Re: Contra Digest, #2:53; Selmer Contrabass clarinet

There has been musch discussion on this list of who makes what contra clarinets.

Selmer now makes a rosewood BBb contrabass clarinet to low C, model 41. It is the form of an exaggerated low C bass clarinet; off the mouthpiece, the leadpipe goes up a mile or so, comes down into rosewood upper and lower joints, then an enormous curved bell that you could launch a sailboat in. Current Selmer clarinet literature includes a photo; the picture in front of me as I type this is dated 1/92. 29 keys, 7 covered finger holes, 1.333" bore.

LeBlanc makes 4 contra clarinets. All are in metal. Model 350, EEb to low C, curved. Model 352, EEb to low Eb, straight (342 SP, one piece body, same horn). Model 340, curved metal BBb to low C. And, model 342, straight metal BBb to low Eb. All have 30mm (1.181") bores.

I do not have Buffet literature but French music store catalogues from 1991 list Buffet EEb and BBb contra clarinets.

Robert Howe

Author: ROBERT HOWE <arehow@vgernet.net>
Date: 7/2/97 8:16 PM
Subject: Re: Contra Digest, #2:53, & Contrabass clarinets

A couple points I left off the last Email. Selmer also makes model 26, EEb contrabass clarinet to low Eb in rosewood. I recently bought (and resold to another player) this instrument, serial #753, in grenadilla, to low E, circa 1938. Played WONDERFULLY. I only let it go because the other fellow records on odd instruments and he was calling me everyday to ask for it.

I erred in the Buffet business, the 2 French catalogues do NOT list Buffet contrabass clarinets in EEb or BBb.

Orsi, in Milano, made Eb contrabass Sax, various Sarrusophones, Reed contrabasses (I've one from 1880ish, they made me a new leadpipe for it in 1994), and metal contrabass clarinets in EEb and BBb thru the mid 1990s. They may have gone under since. The 1993 catalog (#193) does not give the clarinets' lowest notes.

Robert Howe

Author: Grant Green <gdgreen@contrabass.com>
Date: 7/3/97 6:01 PM
TO: contra-list@coollist.com at Internet
Subject: Another CD...

Just picked up a copy of "Dances & Orations" (1996, Music & Arts Programs of America, Inc., CD-923), a very nice disc of free jazz and cut-and-paste sampling. The musicians are Anthony Braxton (soprano and alto sax, flute, clarinet, contrabass clarinet); John Rapson (trombone, arrangements); Bobby Bradford (cornet); Bill Roper (tuba); Wayne Peet (piano, keyboards, sampling and sequencing); and Alex Cline (drums, percussion, overtone singing).

This disc is full of great avant garde jazz. Also good to hear Bobby Bradford again: he was the conductor of the jazz ensemble at Pomona College when I was there playing bari.

Sorry, no pictures of the contra. The liner photo of Anthony Braxton shows him playing soprano.


Author: dc@presto.ruhr.de (David Channing)
Date: 7/15/97 7:28 PM
Subject: Addition to contrabass discography

I have an addition to the contrabass discography on your web site:

Schorn Puntin Duo, "Elephants' Love Affair", 1995 New Classic Colours NCC 8002


This is a mixed mode CD with PC/Macintosh data on track 1. Highly recommended!


Author: "John J. Hensley" <jhensley@cisco.com>
Date: 7/15/97 7:29 PM
Subject: Bass trumpets, cimbassos, mouthpieces


I found a few nifty pages. Jim Self, an LA-based multi-instrumentalist (mostly tuba, it looks like), has a great page with all his musical toys on it:


Toward the bottom he mentions his custom F cimbasso, BBb cimbasso, contrabass trombone, and "Minick Super Bass Trombone." The BBb cimbasso and Super Bass are pictured - incredible.

I also found the corporate web-site for Amati, a Czech instrument-builder. Their professional line is the fairly well-known name Cerveny, and their catalog includes a 4 (rotor) valve F bass trombone:


On to my excerpts. You and Daryl Fletcher had a conversation about bass and contrabass trumpets, mouthpieces, and other things a while back. Reading on Jim Self's page about his Miraphone Bass Trumpet mouthpiece (the first I've ever heard of specifically for that instrument), spurred me to disgorge some trivia.

>The valves certainly do make a difference in the sound. Even instruments
>with rotary valves sound a little different than those with pistons. But
>slide, rotary, and piston trumpets are all trumpets. A large bored and a
>small bored trombone are both trombones. Trumpets and trombones both
>come in a variety of pitches, have the same shaped bell, and are both
>cylindrical. This is all very confusing.
Rotary trumpets tend to have a smaller initial bore than their piston-valved counterparts (about .445" for rotaries, .460" for pistons), but a more rapidly-flaring bell. The difference in tone is generally ascribed to this more conical bore, though they're also usually played with deeper mouthpieces. Further confusing the tonal difference between trumpets and trombones is that among jazz players, the bass trumpet is thought to have a more trombone-like sound than the valve trombone, which is thought to sound more like a baritone.
> > Do the mouthpieces differ?

>The Shilke mouthpiece brochure suggests that their model 40 trombone
>mouthpiece is good for bass trumpet and valve trombone, but I've never
>seen anything listed as just a bass trumpet mouthpiece.

With the exception of the Miraphone mouthpiece, I've never heard of a mouthpiece specifically for bass trumpet. However, I think most manufacturers make their valve trombone/bass trumpet mouthpiece recommendations on their assumptions about the players rather than the instruments. These horns are frequently considered doubler's instruments, usually a trumpet player dabbling in low brass, and a small mouthpiece is suggested to them to make the change less tramatic. Considering that your other brass instrument is the contrabass trumpet, you might be more comfortable with a larger trombone mouthpiece with an appropriately shallow cup for bass trumpet. Doug Yeo describes, on his web page, his bass trumpet mouthpiece as having the rim of a Schilke 60 (which is extremely large) with a custom cup and backbore. Of course, a larger mouthpiece makes the upper register more difficult, but I don't think you should feel locked in to those mouthpiece models manufacturers label as "appropriate" for bass trumpet.

John Hensley

If anyone is interested in a Heckelphone, I've just received the following description of one for sale. I don't know if the author wants his address widespread (e.g., published on the web), so I'm omitting contact details.

Anyone interested can let me know by email, and I'll send you the info.

>With regard to the Heckelphone, it is in virtually new conditioned, having
>been used only a few times since it was built in the early 1960's. It has
>been maintained in controlled humidity storage and tested periodically. It
>plays it's full range with ease and has no noticable need of repair of any
>kind. It is made of beautifully red stained maple with silver (plated?)
>keys. The key system is the same as a full conservatory oboe. It has two
>intercangeable bells of different designs and apparent tonalities. It comes
>complete with 3 bocals, case, case cover, factory supply of repair parts
>(pads and springs), as well as specific reedmaking tools. I am asking
>$20,000 (US) which is nearly half of its replacement cost and it is in no
>way inferior to a factory fresh instrument.

>If you are seriously looking for a perfect Heckelphone I encourage you to
>arrange to visit and inspect this instrument. You will not be disappointed.

Author: CalicoVW71@aol.com
Date: 7/15/97 7:45 PM

looking for drum corps contra instructor located in the southern california area. email me at: CalicoVW71

thanks a lot~

kristi martel

Author: Paul Lindemeyer <paulwl@gannett.infi.net>
Date: 7/15/97 7:45 PM
Subject: World's Largest Tuba: An Investigative Report

Bassomaniacs everywhere, rejoice. Carl Fischer's Music Store in New York still has the world's largest tuba. During a recent visit, I saw this impressive instrument for myself and took a few photos as well. Here's the story.

The horn is one of, I believe, 3 such tubas made and holds the title of "world's largest brass instrument" in the Guinness Book of Records. It is about 7 1/2 feet tall and, according to Guinness, packs 39 feet of tubing.

These instruments were apparently made by the C.G. Conn Co., one of them for Sousa's Band in about 1896. One turned up in a Conn ad in Metronome Magazine in November, 1935, being played for a newsreel camera crew.

Back when Fischer's was a full-service music and instrument dealer, the big horn was given pride of place over the door. Today the store is kind of a drab place, consisting mostly of file cabinets of sheet music. The tuba lurks along the north wall, sitting on its 40" bell. For all its size, it is so inconspicuous I practically backed into it.

The horn is in a state of benign neglect. The raw brass has turned a deep brown shade, but the engraving "Carl Fischer, New-York" is still readable in ornate print several inches high. There's no sign of a mouthpiece. There are deep wrinkles in the bell, and one of the three jumbo-sized pistons is missing a button. But even in this sad condition, the horn is quite a spectacular sight and well worth dropping in on when you visit New York.

The Carl Fischer employee I talked to guessed the horn weighed "500 pounds," but I was able to push it back and forth around the floor a little and rock it on its bell. So we decided it was probably a lot lighter. He said it hadn't been played in anyone's memory, although someone had blown into the leadpipe to clean out the horn a few years ago.

The store doesn't seem to care much for the tuba. It strikes me that a little persuasion from the right people might convince them to donate it to a music museum or similar institution.

I would be glad to send scans of my photos and the Conn ad to anyone interested.


Paul Lindemeyer (paulwl@gannett.infi.net)

At your local bookseller from William Morrow & Co.

Author: Opusnandy@aol.com
Date: 7/15/97 7:45 PM
Subject: Re: Contra Digest #2 53

What a suprise to see my name mentioned in the Digest! I've been checking out the Digest for about a month now, but only recently became a subscriber. Steve Marcus mentioned me and my newly acquired Eb Contra Sarrusaphone. I am a bassoonist/contrabassoonist/saxophonist (with a little time on the bass rankett in my college early music ensemble) with a lifelong interest in musical instruments, especially the unusual ones! This probably explains my Masters in orchestration.

Along with the Sarrusaphone I also purchased a wonderful Hecklephone. I have fallen in love with this instrument. It uses a bassoon reed (with a litle work done to it) so I use the embochure that I am most familliar with. I also am having a fairly easy time remembering my oboe fingerings from college music ed classes, although I have found that clarinet-like fingerings work best in the upper register (written hi C6 to F#6). According to the Heckle chart provided at the Contrabass Maniac, the instrument was made c. 1920. I had no idea only 118 hecklephones have ever been made! This makes me want to hold onto it even more! The instrument has a luscious sound, especially in the bottom register, that doesn't really thin out on top like an english horn can. It is even more beautiful just to look at. No instrument I have ever seen has keywork like this!

I do have a question for the sarrus players out there. My Conn Eb contra plays extremely flat on the low B and Bb; I can almost get away with playing a low A using the Bb fingering (great for doubling modern bari sax parts at the octave!). Is this a common problem for sarrusaphones? The rest of the instrument has good intonation. Would a different bocal solve the problem?

I have more to add (including a GREAT list of companies that still produce some very rare instruments) but my entry is already very long. So I'll post some more later on. I enjoy being part of the Digest!

Jon C

Jon, if you ever get tired of the heckelphone, I can find it a good home ;-)


Author: Beau Jenkins <susanj@ponyexpress.net>
Date: 7/18/97 9:21 AM
Subject: Sarrusophones


My name is Beau Jenkins. I'm a high school Bari sax player from midwest USA. I was wondering were a person can get a Sarrusophone. I'd like a EEb CBass Sax...But I don't think I'll EVER have enough money. May I presume from your article that the EEb Sarrusophone is more common, and therefore I might be able to sell my house for one someday???

Where can you get a Sarrusophone? Does Conn still make them? (I'm guessing probably not). How much did you pay for yours? What is one worth?

I just joined the Digest Club. It's a REALLY great idea...I can't wait for my first issue.

Beau Jenkins
susanj@ponyexpress.net (my mom's address)

Author: Grant Green <gdgreen@contrabass.com>
Date: 7/18/97 9:27 AM
TO: susanj@ponyexpress.net at Internet
Subject: Re: Sarrusophones

At 10:17 AM 10/12/95 -0500, you wrote:


>My name is Beau Jenkins. I'm a high school Bari sax player from midwest
>USA. I was wondering were a person can get a Sarrusophone. I'd like a
>EEb CBass Sax...But I don't think I'll EVER have enough money. May I
>presume from your article that the EEb Sarrusophone is more common, and
>therefore I might be able to sell my house for one someday???

Yes, I think the contrabass sarrusophone (at least in Eb) is more common than the contrabass sax. It is certainly more portable! If I remember correctly, Paul Cohen has estimated that about 40 contrabass saxes have been built (total).
>Where can you get a Sarrusophone? Does Conn still make them? (I'm
>guessing probably not). How much did you pay for yours? What is one
Conn no longer makes them, although you can still buy one from Orsi (Milan, Italy). Orsi will make anything on request. You can sometimes find them at schools: I've heard that old high schools (particularly in the South) occassionally have them gathering dust in their instrument lockers, and are often willing to sell them off. Otherwise, you have to keep your ears open for collectors and estate sales. I post notices on the digest whenever I hear of one available. As for prices, I've seen them offered for anything from a few hundred dollars to around $5K, depending on condition and variety. The Eb contra appears to be the most common variety (it was the only size ever manufactured in the US), with Bb bass the next most common. Everything else (BBb contra, C contra, Eb bari, Bb tenor, etc.) appear to be much less common, although you still sometimes see Orsi sopranos offered for sale. The average sale price for an Eb contra seems to be around $2.5-3.5K.
>I just joined the Digest Club. It's a REALLY great idea...I can't wait
>for my first issue.

>Beau Jenkins
>susanj@ponyexpress.net (my mom's address)

Welcome aboard!


Author: Hans Mons <Hans.Mons@IAEhv.nl>
Date: 7/20/97 5:53 PM
Subject: Woodwind Suppliers list

Hi Grant,

I have an addition for your renaissance woodwind suppliers list.

This spring John Hanchet moved his "main residence" to the UK. Although he is most of the time in England now, he kept his old address in Germany.

John's addresses are:

John Hanchet 
1 Roxley Close 
Norwich NR7 0QH 
Phone&Fax: +44 1603 437324
John Hanchet 
Beckumsfeld 4 
45259 Essen 
Phone&Fax: +49 201 463901
Hans Mons

Thanks, Hans. I'll make the revisions.

Author: Opusnandy@aol.com
Date: 7/20/97 5:52 PM
Subject: Contra manufactures

This is kind off a long letter, but it should interest all on the contrabass list. I got this info from a German magazine dedicated to musical instruments (I forget its name, I've had this for a while). In one issue they published a list of EVERY manufacturer of modern musical instruments in the world as well as their complete lines. My German is only so-so, but to the best of my translating abilities, here is where you can find the low instrument of your choice!

Bass Flutes:
Altus K.H.S. (Taiwan), Amati (Russia), Armstrong (USA), Artley (USA), Blessing (USA), Boosey & Hawkes (England), China National Light Industrial Products (China), Dixon (Taiwan), Grassi (Italy), Philipp Hammig (Germany), Hieber (also known as Robert Jaeger)(Germany), Iwao (Japan), JFM (Israel), Keilwerth (Germany), King (USA), Leblanc (France), Lederner (Germany), Jack Leff (The French version of Buffet Crampon)(France), Mateki (Japan), Miyazawa (Japan), Gerbrueder Moennig (Germany), Conrad Mollenhauer (Germany), Richard Mueller (Germany), Muramatsu (Japan), Orsi (Italy), Rampone & Cazzani (Italy), Sankyo (Japan), Selmer (France(Not USA)), Syrinx (Japan or Germany), Takumi Laiko (Japan), and Yamaha (Japan)
ContraAlto Flute in G:
Hieber (Germany)
Contrabass (Octobass) Flutes:
Hieber (Germany), Jack Leff (France)
Sub-ContraAlto Flute in G:
Hieber (Germany)
Sub-Contrabass Flute:
Hieber (Germany)
Bass (Baritone) Oboes:
Loree (France), Marigaux (France), Rigoutat (France), Wolf (Germany)
Heckel (Germany)
Contrabassoons with low A extensions:
Heckel (Germany), Schreiber (Germany)
Contrabassoon with low Ab (!) extension:
Moosmann (Germany)
Contrabass di Ancia:
Orsi (Italy)
Sarrusaphones (does not specify which sizes):
Orsi (Italy)
Saxorussaphones (Rothphones)(again, no sizes specified):
Orsi (Italy)
ContraAlto Clarinets in Eb:
Buescher (USA), Buffet (France), Holton (USA), Leblanc (France), Orsi (Italy), Ripamonti (Italy), Selmer (France)
Contrabass Clarinets in Bb:
Buffet (France), Holton (USA), Leblanc (France), Orsi (Italy), Selmer (France)
Other non-contra clarinets of interest:
Basset Clarinets in A: Hammerschmidt (Germany), Leblanc (France), Ripamonti (Italy). G Mezzo-Soprano Clarinets: Hammerschmidt (Germany), Orsi (Italy). Basset Horns: Buffet (France), Hammerschmidt (Germany), Leblanc (France), G. Mollenhauer (Germany), Puechner (Germany), Ripamonti (Italy), Selmer (France), Wolf (Germany). Ab Piccolo Clarinets: DeBastiani (Italy), Leblanc (France), Orsi (Italy), Rampone & Cazzani (Italy), Ripamonti (Italy), H. Wurlitzer (Germany)
Bass Saxophones:
Borgani (Italy), Keilwerth (Germany), Orsi (Italy), Selmer (France(not USA))
Contrabass Saxophone (!):
Orsi (Italy)
Alto Trumpets (in Eb and/or F):
Bach (USA), Josef Dotzauer (Germany), Finke (Germany), Thein (Germany)(also offers a model in Eb/D)
Bass Trumpets in C:
Adaci (Germany), Alexander Gebr. (Germany), Ganter (Germany), Holton (USA), Miraphone (Germany), J. Monke (Germany), Thein (Germany)
Bass Trumpets in Bb:
Adaci (Germany), Alexander Gebr. (Germany), Bach (USA), Blaeserspezialist (Germany), Blasom (Netherlands), Boehm & Meinl (Germany), DeBastiani (Italy), Josef Dotzauer (Germany), Ganter (Germany), Getzen (USA), Holton (USA), Molter (Germany)(also offers a 4-valve model), Orsi (Italy), Selmer (France)
Wagner Tubas:
Alexander Gebr. (Germany), Finke (Germany), Ganter (Germany), Kalison (Italy), Miraphone (Germany), J. Monke (Germany), Otto (Germany), Paxman (England)
Contrabass Trombones:
Fluegel (Taiwan), Miraphone (Germany), Molter (Germany), Thein (Germany), Voigt (Germany), Orsi (Italy), J. Monke (Germany), Rudolf Meinl (Germany), Finke (Germany), Adaci (Germany), Alexander Gebr. (Germany)
Cimbassos (or is it "Cimbassi"?):
Alexander Gebr. (Germany), Gronitz (Germany), Laetzsch (Germany), Rudolf Meinl (Germany), J. Monke (Germany)
Boehm & Meinl (Germany)(models in Eb and Bb)
I hope this helps anyoneone wondering "where can I get one of those?".

Until next time,

Jon C.

Thanks! This will make a great resource, and a good addition.

And we can add Emerson (USA) to the list of bass flute makers.

Date: Thu, 17 Jul 1997 18:24:10 -0400
From: Jim Lande <lande@erols.com>
Reply-To: lande@erols.com

I am thinking about getting a contra base clarinet -- for no good reason, I don't play classical music, mostly play blues. I already have a fairly beat up Vito contra-alto. After going through your fantastic web site, I concluded 1) you don't need much of a reason to buy a fun horn and 2) you may have some very valuable insights.

I have tried the Lablanc 340 'paperclip' and had some problems getting it to play. David Hite suggested that I get a Selmer EEb mouthpeice before I try the 340 again. On the clarinet site, someone is selling a pre-1970, two piece Leblanc model 340. He is asking $2500 sans case. It sounds like you have one of each model 340. My recollection from highschool (also pre-18970) was that the 2 piece base clarinet needed much repair and was always out of whack. So

  1. Is the modern paperclip 340 easier to play, sturdier, etc. Does it sound better.
  2. My wife thinks the EEb is already pretty low. She alleges that the BBb will be inaudible and merely make the floor shake. How do you think the BBb would mix with blues, old timey, jazz, etc
  3. My current choices are a new 340 (around $5500), the used straight 340 (around $2500) or a new Vito (around $2000). Any recommendations or thoughts on the market price for used horns? How does one shop for these thing? (And where did you get the sarrusophones, for that matter?)
  4. I have already ordered a Selmar EEb mouthpiece. Hite recommends refacing it to accept baritone sax reeds. Is this my best option for either the contraalto or the contrabase?
thankyou for your time and for your site -- I plan to spend a lot more time poking around and listening to the clips.

Jim Lande

From: susanj@ponyexpress.net
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 1997 19:26:31 +0000
Subject: Re: Sarrusophones

> Conn no longer makes them, although you *can* still buy one from Orsi
> (Milan, Italy). Orsi will make *anything* on request.
Has anyone got an estimate on a EEb Bass sax from them? Is there a way to talk to them over the net, or does a person need to call long-distance information? I'm sorry, I'd probably get all the answers by reading the old digests that you took the time to catalog, but my brain is on vacation until august. : *)

I can't seen to download the WAV files from your web site, but it's probably just my browser. If the BBb CBass Sarrusophone can be adapted to Alto sax mouthpiece and reed, do you suppose there'd be a way to make a tenor or Bari mouthpiece and reed work on the EEb CBass? I'd like to have the most Saxophone like sound possible if I ever found one. I guess any further inqueries on my part should be posted to the digest. If you want to toss this message and your reply into the digest, you're more than welcome to. I just thought maybe everyone there already heard all there is to say about the CBass Sarrusophone.


Beau Jenkins

Date: Tue, 22 Jul 1997 14:51:59 -0300
subject: Re: contrabass
from: hclsmith@tallships.istar.ca (Hume Smith)
organization: North End TTA Fans and Reed Organ Repairers

> At 10:50 AM 7/19/97 -0300, you wrote:

> >do you have any interest in pipe organs? (how many times have you been
> > asked? :) or do they seem like cheating to you?

> Sure! We even have a pipe organ expert on the list.

just wondered, because there weren't any organs listed on your page.
> Anything capable of
> playing a 32' C *has* to be worthwhile...
i remember there somewhere being an organ with 2 256' stops... see if your pipe organ person knows which one it is. i don't think it's got a web page.

in looking for big-organ pages, i found one for the sydney australia town hall (not the opera house) which the author claims is the only one with a full-length 64' reed stop. <URL: http://pentium.wcbi.com/organs/sydney/ > it has some photos... their scale is hard to tell.


Hume Smith <URL: mailto:hclsmith@tallships.istar.ca >
<URL: http://dess.tallships.istar.ca/%7Ehclsmith/ >

To hell with the information age, I want a wisdom age. - Bill Maxim

Me, playing a subcontrabass recorder.Report from WASBE:
As you may recall, I went with the San Jose Wind Symphony to the WASBE (World Association of Symphonic Band Ensembles) in Schladming Austria recently. We were one of only a few US bands there, and I think the only group in the entire festival with a woman conducting (she did a great job too). The band flew into Zurich, CH, and then went by bus (two busses, actually: 41 band members and I don't know how many spouses/SOs and kids) to Igls, AT (just outside Innsbruch). After a night in Igls, we boarded the bus again, and drove to Schladming AT. Rehearse, concert, sightsee: a grueling schedule ;-). Yamaha contributed a huge trumpet to the festivities. For those without web access, let's just say that you could easily fit your entire head within the mouthpiece (and no, it isn't really made to play).

After our concert, we had a day in Salzburg: sort of a Mozart pilgrimage. Then, it was back on the busses, and a trip to Davos CH. We stayed in Davos Saturday night, and played a joint concert with the Coastal Communities Concert Band (San Diego, CA area) on Sunday, and Monday went back to Zurich. I managed to find a music store in Zurich that had a subcontrabass recorder on display, which they let me try out. Its a Kung, and stood taller than I do (if I remember right). My wife caught the moment on film: See for yourself! 



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