Vol. 2, No. 58


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.

25 August 1997

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry for the delay: I spent all last week 450 miles away from my computer (and the subscription list), and have to dash out in a minute to catch another flight. With any luck, we'll shortly resume "normalcy."

BTW, finally broke down and bought a tuba! It is an old H.N.White Eb, with 3 piston valves, bell-up, silver plate. A beautiful horn, but too big to take on the plane :-(

Subject: Replies
Author: Shouryu Nohe <jnohe@NMSU.Edu>
Date: 8/13/97 6:47 PM

>The Yamaha is very nice looking and is about $1,000
>cheaper than the Buffet, but I didn't get to try them out long enough to
>relly compare the two.

Play them both for a while and you'll discover one huge difference; one that will make you choose the Buffet. The tone quality and tuning is far more consistant throughout the whole horn than it is on the Yamaha (or the Selmer, for that matter). The throat register on the Buffet is fantastic; very little is needed to adjust it, if you should need to at all. Now, the regular Selmers (low Eb only), the 33 or 36 model, I think has an equally consistant sound to the Buffet Low C. However, Selmer's low C model has inconsistencies in tone and tuning when crossing the break.

>"Discernable" means that when one hears the tone, he/she can hum it in
>his/her vocal register? How can someone do that with anything below 20
>Hz? When the frequency is down to where one can hear the individual
>cycles/sec and count them, how can it possibly be discernable??
>Especially if the tone has no strong upper harmonic structure.

Not necessarily. I play the low clarinets all the time, and can't sing a lot of it because I'm a first tenor. It's not a matter of being able to sing the notes, but being able to discern them with your MIND'S EAR. One of the most important aspects of being able to play the altissimo range on clarinet requires that you do just that. Many of the notes (usually a fourth or a sixth apart) have the exact same fingering, and no change in embochure, and you literally have to hear what the note will sound like in your head to play the notes, to distinguish the C and G. Those notes are WAAAAAAY out of my voice range. But NOT out of my mind's range. Therefore, since my mind has heard it many times, it can hear it whenever it wants. I can take ANY melody and take it three octaves lower in my mind. It's mental training that makes it "discernable."

>Why doesn't the bass clarinet have the same type of clarion register?

It can. A good bass with the correct mouthpiece, ligature (big difference), and good reeds that HAVE BEEN PROPERLY broken in sounds identical to cellos and violas when I play. A Buffet with a Bay mouthpiece, Bonade or Bay lig, and a Vandoren of about 2-2 1/2 sounds beautiful...In fact, I performed von Weber's Concertino in Eb for Clarinet on that setup, and it sounded just like it should...as if it were a clarinet an octave lower. The thing with the bass is that the sound is REALLY dependent on the equipment...

>Can anyone tell me anything about an Artley bass clarinet? There's a
>music store in Las Vegas that sells them new for $900!

They're...okay. Not great. Middle range basses, to be honest. I'd only use them as student models. And besides, everyone knows that EVERYTHING is cheap in Vegas! (You're not supposed to be spending money on music instruments, you're supposed to be gambling! What's wrong with you? ^_^)


Subject: Re: Location of 17 Contrabasses
Author: LASaxCo@aol.com
Date: 8/14/97 7:23 AM


Thanks for your enthusiastic interest. L.A. Sax will be introducing in 1998 new Bass and Contrabass Saxophones. I don't have pricing yet, but expect the Bass to carry a Retail price of $17,000 and the Contrabass roughly $39,000.

No plans for a sub-contra but the idea intrigues us and it has been discussed several times.

By the way- the waiting time for either is anywhere from 3-12 months with 50% of retail non refundable deposit due when order is placed.

When it is more official, I will post more thorough details.

H Allan
L.A. Sax Company

Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 11:34:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: bj914@scn.org (John Micheal Bush)
Subject: sarrusophones

I know this is most likely a stupid question, but is it somehow possible to rent sarrusophones? I am becoming interested in the instrument but I can not find one, and could not afford one if i could. If anyone knows anyone in around Seattle, WA who rents sarrusophones, I would love to hear about it.


Jazz Cat and Aspiring Musician
One of Seattle Public Schools' up and coming alto player.
OK, not really, but he isn't too bad.

Date: Sat, 16 Aug 1997 22:41:20 -0700
From: dodicks <dodicks@ibm.net>
Reply-To: dodicks@ibm.net
Subject: Subscribe

Thirty-some years ago I sat right up against a low stage in a Chicago supper club. From my seat I could reach out and pat the bowl of a huge Saxophone. It was so big that it was supported from the floor by a one foot "spike". I was told it was a "Bass" Sax. I have found some information on both "Bass" and "Contrabase" Saxes on the Internet. I don't know for sure which one of the two I was listening to, but it put out a rich bass sound like I had never heard before or since.

When I got home from that trip I went to a local music store and told them I wanted to buy a "Bass Sax". "You don't want to do that" I was told. "They are too big and too expensive. You would be much happier with this nice "Tenor" model I have here." Between procrastination and other pressures, I never did acquire a "Bass" Sax.

Retired now in seemingly good health but approaching my 75th birthday, I am beginning to look back at my life to see what desires were never fullfilled. One of those desires is certainly to again hear sound like that produced by the huge Sax in Chicago. Basically I need someone who knows what is available to recommend to me one or more CDs that feature the sound I am craving.

In order to reproduce mostly Organ music (and mostly Virgil Fox) I did many years ago set up a Marantz Mod.10 preamp driving a McIntosh 240 feeding a pair of Paul Klipsch's big corner horn speakers. If that can't do justice to giant Saxophones, I'll add a subwoffer. Probably will anyway.

Thanks for your attention.


Date: Sun, 17 Aug 1997 22:43:46 -0400 (EDT)
From: Nils6457@aol.com
Subject: purchase help

Hello there,

Lurker here, coming out of the shadows.

I think I'm just going to live on macaroni & cheese for a few years, bite the bullet, and finally just buy a damn contrabass clarinet so I can join the club in pursuit of the LOW. I'm interested in a BBb, not a contralto; what is your advice about a good starting instrument--wood vs. metal, and curved metal vs. straight? What's a reasonable price range for each?

Thanks so much for any help you can give...I might be selling an old silver-plted bari sax toward this purchase; I'll let the list know if I do!


Nils Bernstein

Return-Path: <JolivetDVM@aol.com>
Mon, 18 Aug 1997 09:42:10 +0100
Subject: sarruophones, etc.

Just an update on my sarrusophone restoration - the major work is completed and the instrument has been plated. Unfortunately, it got stuck in the UPS strike so it is now in limbo. When it gets back I'll figure out how to get some on-line photos of it.

Quite awhile ago Francis Firth sent out a message about the contrabassoon concerto by Schmidtbach - according to the bassoon bibliography by Bodo Koenigsbeck it was self-published in Hannover in 1835. His reference is Jansen and Jansen has no location cited at all. Checking for other compositions by Schmidtbach, I discovered that his only publisher was Oertel whose address in Koenigsbeck is listed as: Louis Oertel, Postfach 100, D-3006 Burgwedel 1. According to Koenigsbeck a letter to that address was neither returned or acknowledged. It's hard to imagine that this publisher is still around, but a dedicated sleuth who spoke German and lived in Europe could perhaps track something down. It's too bad that Jansen died before anyone could ask him how he found out about the contra concerto in the first place. I wonder if his widow is still alive and has all his research materials. The only person I can think of off-hand who could possibly help with all of this is William Waterhouse. Does Francis know him personally?

Lastly, I thought I would mention that the University of Washington ( Seattle, WA) owns a Bosendorfer piano (spelling?) which has an extended range a full major sixth below subcontra A ie. C an octave below the contrabassoon's bottom C!!!!

More later, Michel Jolivet

Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 23:23:10 -0400 (EDT)
From: Nils6457@aol.com
Subject: Re: purchase help

Thanks for the good info--checking wiih the schools is a great idea...except I'm in NYC and they'll probably be suspicious and mean! What about the straight metal LeBlancs? (It says on your page that they make them...)


>> My experience has been with the curved metal Leblanc BBb contra. As far as
>> I can tell, there are probably more of them around than any other. If
>> you're looking for a second-hand contra, odds are that most (if not all)
>> the horns you find will be curved metal Leblancs. >>

>> The good news is that these are good horns. The better news is that they
>> seem to be less expensive than the wooden horns (although not as cheap as
>> the resin Vito). You can typically find an old curved metal BBb Leblanc
>> the range of $1.5-3.5K, with ~$3.5K being what most of the online music
>> stores will charge, and $1-2K being what many individuals may sell for. I
>> think Charles Fail often prices his horns toward the middle of that range,
>> but last I checked they had only Eb contra-altos. >>

>> If you want to go hunting, I'd first try the pawnshops and music stores in
>> your immediate area. Then, try the high schools, junior colleges, and
>> colleges/universities - any educational facility that has or once had a
>> band program. Often, as the programs decline, many instruments end up
>> being relegated to the closets and lockers, and the schools are only too
>> happy to quit storing them.

From: Frank D Diaz <frank.d.diaz@wdc.com>
To: "'contrabass-list@contrabass.com'" <contrabass-list@contrabass.com>
Subject: Contrabass Clarinet Info
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 09:21:15 -0700

Hi all ! It seems to me that there is a lot of confusion as to what kind of Contra clarinets are out there. I have 13 years experience repairing and restoring woodwinds in the San Francisco Bay area and I've been playing clarinet for 22 years. Sorry this is so long, but I'd like to share this information with those who will appreciate it. Here's what I've found in my travels:

SELMER: EEb Contra-Alto
to low Eb, Rosewood. Older models are made of grenadilla or Rosewood and go down to low E only. None have a half-hole for playing above high C. I have a 1938 Selmer catalog advertising a grenadilla model to low E.
BBb Contrabass:
I played one at San Francisco State University (don't bug them to see or borrow it. They were very picky as to who laid hands on it). It's "normal" range without using harmonics was low C to the C# above the staff. It was made of rosewood and had no half-hole. It had all the same trill keys as a normal Bb clarinet. It had an articulated G# key as well as an alternate Ab/Eb, and double Low D and Low C keys (and a few others). I remember it was very difficult to hold and was very sensitive to going out of regulation. The tone holes for throat G#, A, A#/Bb, the B trill key and the C trill key were all on a metal section upwards from the mouthpiece. Additionally, Low C, C# and maybe D were actually on the upwards portion of the bell, the horn being built in the form of a large bass clarinet. The bell itself was mostly cylindrical up to the flair. So yes, there were linkages on both ends of the instrument connecting these parallel tubes similar to the Leblanc model.
BUNDY: EEb Contra-Alto
to low Eb, black plastic. Many schools own these. They have the side F# keys as well as the B and C trill keys. They do not have a half hole.
I've come across 1 EEb Contra-Alto. It was made of grenadilla wood and went down to low Eb. It had all trill keys and IT DID HAVE A HALF HOLE for notes above high C. I didn't try it, but my co-worker who repaired it said that it took a BASS CLARINET mouthpiece, not a Contra mouthpiece.
As for as I can tell, all Leblanc Contra's do not have the side F# key nor the top 2 trill keys or a half-hole.
EEb Contra-Alto, metal, straight to low Eb. (I've seen several)
EEb Contra-Alto, metal, curved to low C. I've only seen this in their catalog.
BBb Contrabass, metal, straight to low Eb. You need a tall chair to play it.
BBb Contrabass, metal, curved to low C. Best I can tell, Leblanc added the low C to the Contra-Alto first back in the 60's. At this time the BBb went down to low D only. The low C was added later. Early models were silver plated with a sand blast finish (as opposed to nickel plated with a smooth finish), had 2 separate manual octave keys (not automatic) and they came apart in the center and fit into a real small case. I've come across 2 like this. Modern horns still come apart, but are held together with a screw.
EEEb Octo-Contra-Alto and BBBb Octo-Contrabass:
Leblanc told me that they offered these for sale in their catalog for many years in the 60's and early 70's, but that they never received an order for one. They have a range to low D. The only ones made all belong to Leblanc, I think. There are no instruments larger than this. The Guinness Book refers to the BBBb as a sub-contrabass clarinet. A 1959 issue of the Galpin Society Journal indicates that the BBBb existed since at least the 1950's. However, a 1971 issue of a magazine (Woodwind World ? I can't remember) shows Leon Leblanc playing the EEEb. The article says that the EEEb was new at that time. So I guess the BBBb came first.
VITO/HOLTON: EEb Contra-Alto
to low Eb, black plastic and BBb Contrabass to low Eb, black plastic. Vito's and Holton's are essentially the same instrument with a different name on them (does anyone know otherwise?) None that I've seen have the side F# key nor the B or C trill key or a half-hole.
I've got a 1967 Linton catalog advertising a straight metal EEb Contra-Alto and a Straight BBb Contrabass. It doesn't say what their lowest note is, but looks like low E or Eb. The instruments are Boehm system except that it looks like the pinkie keys for E/B,F/C,F#/C#, and Ab/Eb are arranged like those on an Albert System clarinet so that they would be easier to repair. I've never seen one of these instruments in use.

Every Leblanc I've ever worked on was in poor condition and had many leaks. Repairers typically use saxophone, bassoon or bass clarinet pads in these horns and then bend the keys everywhere because most shops do not stock the special Leblanc Contra pads. They have a hard backing on them and the skin is tight. These pads are held in their cups typically without shellac by a screw/washer assembly like that of a flute. Unfortunately, the pads can spin around a bit. The shop I worked in usually put a dab of shellac on the back of the pads which gave much better results. Be prepared to spend lots of $$$ if you want a Leblanc repaired properly.

I hope this information helps !!

Date: Mon, 25 Aug 1997 01:20:19 +0000
From: Paul Cohen <PaulC135@AOL.com>
Subject: Cohen's Contrabass in picture

For another picture of my contrabass, try this address: http://members.aol.com/TWinter896/solobio.html

Paul Cohen

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