Vol. 1, No. 32

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Vol. 1, No. 32

13 August 1996

From: A Myers
Subject: Ophicleide
Date: Tue, 13 Aug 96 16:38:57 BST

Grant Green asked (12.8.96) about the fingering of the 9-key Bflat ophicleide. The chart for the standard fingering is

L0: C.
L1: A.
L2: B.
L3: C sharp.
R0: D.
R1: A flat.
R2: G.
R3: F.
R4: E flat.

To obtain F sharp or E below the bass clef, cross-fingering is needed and works OK. 11-key ophicleides have separate keys for these notes (they are not needed for any other notes) but then two fingers (R3 and R4) have two keys each to operate. All the keys on keyed bugles and ophicleides are closed-standing except the big one near the bell which gives the lowest note - on the Bflat ophicleide, this is A.

L4 is only used on 12-key ophicleides, which are rare.

If you think the ophicleide fingering is tricky, try the serpent !

Why is the serpent trickier ? Well, the ophicleide has a semblance of order since the notes you get without pressing anything approximate to a harmonic series, and as you open up the keys from the bell you ascend a chromatic scale. With the serpent, this doesn't obtain. Because the holes are so small, the fingering for any given note will probably not also serve for the same note an octave higher. All serpents ever made (it is said) have different fingerings; ophicleides are of standard design.

Arnold Myers

Mr Arnold Myers,
Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments,
Reid Concert Hall, Bristo Square, EDINBURGH EH8 9AG, Scotland
Web URL: http://www.music.ed.ac.uk/euchmi/

As I suspected....

Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 09:58:15 -0700 (PDT)
From: Philip Neuman
Subject: ophicleide

The ophicleide I have is a French 9 key Bb made about 1835-40. There is no maker's name. The 8 higher keys are closed, so without doing anything it plays the Bb harmonic series. The key closest to the bell is normally open; when it's closed it plays the notes of the A series. The keys on old fingering charts are numbered with 1 being closest to the bell and 9 closest to the mouthpiece. It is possible to play every chromatic in the lowest octave, but some keys are used in combination to accomplish this. The basic fingering for the first octave is AA=1, BBb=0, BB=2, C=23, C#=234, D=5, Eb=56, E=57, F=7, F#=78, G=8, Ab=9. At first it seems strange that one would open more keys to produce a lower note (i.e., F=7 and E=57) but there is a change in resistance that makes the lower note easier to produce. On certain notes the pitch is as stable as a valved brass inst., but others one has to work at it a bit.

I play ophicleide occasionally in our brass band, Pioneer Brass, and have played it with a number of orchestras, including Philharmonia Baroque & Sunriver festival. We are having a little ophicleide renaissance here in Oregon; I know of 5 players in our immediate area.

Phil Neuman

Re: Ophicleides

From the fingering description, it seems to me that the mindset required to play ophicleide is much more "brass" than "woodwind". The fingerings sound much more like valve combinations than standard woodwind fingerings. Let's see: if I translate Phil's fingers into a format like a woodwind chart (using Al's key map), we'd have

Note    LH   RH
     0123|01234  (*=pressed, o="open")
A o*oo|ooooo
Bb        oooo|ooooo
B oo*o|ooooo
C *o*o|ooooo
C#        *o**|ooooo
D oooo|*oooo
D#        oooo|*ooo*
E oooo|*oo*o
F oooo|ooo*o
F#        oooo|ooo**
G oooo|oo*oo
G#        oooo|o*ooo

for the fundamental series (and the first overtone series, I assume), enough to drive even bassoonists mad ;-)


re: Subsax!

I've finally gotten around to compressing the subsax.* images (this is the sub-contrabass sax mentioned previously). I've already uploaded the images, which you can download directly, or you can wait for the links in the archive version of the digest. The SUBSAX.FIF file is still huge, (somewhere around 340K), and may not download as an image if CRL hasn't yet adjusted their webserver daemon. If you have the Fractal Image viewer (and the patience to download the file), this will still provide you with the highest resolution look at the beast. You can download the file to your disk without viewing it, typically by clicking the RIGHT mouse button on the link, and selecting "Save location", "save file" or whatever your choice is at that point. I've also posted SUBSAX2.JPG and SUBSAX.GIF , which are reduced-size images, weighing in at around 45K and 69K, respectively.




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