Vol. 1, No. 31

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| Contrabass-L: a list for discussion of contrabass *anything*|
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Vol. 1, No. 31

12 August 1996

Date: Sat, 10 Aug 1996 19:59:38 -0400
From: PaulWalto@aol.com
Subject: Re: Contrabass Sax Questions

mickeyr@usit.net writes:

<<does the contrabass sax require a stand to be played?>>

You bet! A bass sax weighs only 20 lb. and you definitely need a stand to play one for any length of time. Otherwise, the weight will constantly be shifting, your thumbs will get stiff and sore from choking up on the horn, and the edges of the reed will wear grooves into your lower lip!

<<How much does one weigh? Also, what are the diameters of the largest pads on one? From the pictures I've seen, they look small compared to the diameter of the bell.>>

A press kit sent me by The Nuclear Whales Sax Orchestra indicates that the Buffet contra stands 6'8" tall, weighs 45 lb., and has a 17" bell. The Orsi contra, which I've played, seems to be shorter and of more slender bore than the Buffet, with a lot less bell flare.

Don't know about pads--Paul C. surely would.

Paul Lindemeyer

Author: "Paul S. Johnson" <john0058@gold.tc.umn.edu>
Date: 8/11/96 1:33 PM
Subject: Contrabass-L No. 30

>The contrabass sax has been on a stand in every picture I've ever seen.
>I don't even want to think about hanging one of those around my neck!
>As for the weight, perhaps Paul Cohen can advise...

There is a picture in the bass sax edition of Saxophone Journal (Jan/Feb 1990) of a contrabass saxophone strapped around the neck of bandleader Glen Gray. Giving Atlas a run for his money, no doubt.

Paul S. Johnson

Author: drumming man <lederman@inforamp.net>
Date: 8/11/96 1:30 PM
Subject: Re:Ophelia's Cleats?

>Just out of curiosity, how did you figure out the fingerings for the bass
>and contra sarrusophones? Are they anything like fingerings for other

Just in case you're interested, Grant, while I was on tour in Vancouver once, I purchased a '20s bass clarinet exercise book. In small print it also says ("....& for sarrusophones") Inside is a Rubanks-type of fingering chart for sarrusophones!!!!!

Paul Cohen is also selling his old ophicleide. We *think* its a Bb bass:
>Paul said he's played it about twice. I suspect it would drive my wife
>over the edge, though...

I'm not familiar with this instrument, this "Ophelia's Cleats"....what is it? Some type of Shakespearean golf shoes???

I'd love to see the fingering chart. Is it something you could scan in and send? Or would you prefer a snail address?

The ophicleide is best thought of as a cross between a baritone (or euphonium) and a bass sax. It is shaped something like the contrabass sarrusophone on my web page (although often the ophi bell tilts forward, like a baritone), and has large padded keys, and a brass-style mouthpiece. They were built in Bb and C (with alto forms in Eb and F, higher than the standard "bass" version), with 9 or 8 feet of bore for the bass versions. They were popular in the mid-1800's, and were the standard brass-family bass in orchestras (along with serpents and bucin) until supplanted by tubas (when valves were developed).

My understanding (which is only marginally informed) is that they have around 9-12 keys, and that the keys are arranged to operate whichever tone hole is closest: i.e., the fingering is not orderly like most modern woodwinds (say, RH1 might open the lowest tone hole, while the next tone hole might be opened by LH3). Perhaps Phil would elaborate on the fingerings? The horn is designed so that you can play the entire brass overtone series on the horn with all keys closed (rooted on Bb below the bass clef), and the next series by opening the next tone hole (e.g., the B natural series), and so on. Instruments with only 9 keys were "missing" a few notes between the top of the fundamental scale and the start of the first overtone series. (I bet they played them anyway!)


End Contrabass-L No. 31

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