Vol. 1, No. 92

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-request@contrabass.com. To post, send your message to contrabass-list@contrabass.com.  See the Archive for back issues.
24 March 1997


THIS IS THE LAST MANUAL DIGEST! The automatic digest is now officially "up and running", and I am turning digest preparation over to it. To keep receiving the Contrabass Digest, please send your subscription request NOW to "contrabass-list-request@contrabass.com", with "subscribe" in the subject line. That's all it takes. We're (i.e., Scott and I) are still tweaking minor aspects of the digest (like putting lines in between the individual posts, and adding header/footer lines to the digests), so the appearance may improve over the next few weeks. BUT, the guts of the digest (e.g., the fact that it automatically collects all the posts and distributes them as a digest to all subscribers) is fully operational now. It even includes a Table of Contents for the posts in each digest!

Again, my thanks to Scott Hirsch for making the automatic digest possible, and for offering his considerable services to get the contrabass site going. BTW, if anyone is interesting in having their own web site as a virtual domain under "contrabass.com" Scott can give you the details.

From: rheald@hearst.com
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 97 10:36:45 EST
To: gdgreen@contrabass.com
Subject: Contrabass

Dear Grant, In response to my posting you wrote:

" Ah, the Renaissance rackett!...Some would probably say that they died out centuries ago due to their "unrefined" timbre, but they probably aren't any worse than many modern timbres."
I have a follow up question. I've also read about an instrument called a Baroque "ranket" that was similar to a rackett (9 parallel bores). I read that it had a bell on it. I would guess this would change the timbre (even overtones as well as odd, perhaps?) Have you ever seen and/or heard this instrument? Does it have a "nicer timbre". Not that there is anything wrong with the timbre of the rackett.

BTW. My old balalaika band, in addition to balalaikas, domras and fiddles, used everything from a rank of liquid filled tuned beer bottles to bagpipes, kazoos and sirens. Carpathian village music tends to use anything it can get its hands on. We had a lot of fun. I wish we had had a rackett back then.


Date: Wed, 19 Mar 1997 10:00:37 -0800
From: Grant Green <gdgreen@contrabass.com>
To: rheald@hearst.com
Cc: contrabass-list@contrabass.com
Subject: Re: Contrabass

At 10:36 AM 3/19/97 EST, you wrote:

> Dear Grant,
> In response to my posting you wrote:
> " Ah, the Renaissance rackett!...Some would probably say that they
> died out centuries ago due to their "unrefined" timbre, but they
> probably aren't any worse than many modern timbres."
> I have a follow up question. I've also read about an instrument called
> a Baroque "ranket" that was similar to a rackett (9 parallel bores). I
> read that it had a bell on it. I would guess this would change the
> timbre (even overtones as well as odd, perhaps?) Have you ever seen
> and/or heard this instrument? Does it have a "nicer timbre". Not that
> there is anything wrong with the timbre of the rackett.
The baroque ranket (also spelled rackett or rankett) is very similar to the Renaissance variety, but has a conical bore rather than a cylindrical bore. The consequences of that are In fact, the baroque ranket is often referred to (when it is referred to at all) as a "pocket bassoon." The timbre is "rounder", and less hollow and buzzy. Frankly, I like both timbres. Unfortunately, baroque ranketts seem to cost much more than the renaissance variety, possibly because it is more difficult to drill a bunch of parallel conical bores.

The difference in octaves is due to the stopped pipe acoustics, i.e., the same reason that a clarinet plays an octave lower than an oboe or flute of the same length: a cylindrical bore stopped at one end (the reed does that) sounds an octave lower than a conical bore stopped at one end (like an oboe) or a cylindrical bore open at both ends (like a flute).


Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 16:13:39 -0800
From: Grant Green <gdgreen@contrabass.com>
To: contrabass-list@contrabass.com
Subject: Red Hot Duets for Contrabassoon

I'll pass this along to the list: self-explanatory!


>Author: Bradbsn@aol.com
>Date: 3/20/97 6:23 AM
>Subject: Bradford Bentley
>Regarding your comments on the Erb 6 Red hot duets for Contrabassoons I played
>one of the parts & my name is Bradford Buckley not Bradford Bentley. I do
>appreciate your efforts to list contra bassoon disc's. You might be interested
>to know that the piece was written for Greg and myself by Donald Erb and
>recorded in St. Louis MO at Powell Symphony hall the day after we performed it
>on a chamber music concert.
>Bradford Buckley
>E mail Bradbsn@aol.com

From: KUUP84A@prodigy.com (MR MARK A TRINKO)
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 18:47:20, -0500
Subject: Contrabassoon/Sarrusophone doubling

-- [ From: Mark Trinko * EMC.Ver #2.5.3 ] --

The other night the Cinncinnati Symphony played in Las Vegas and there were 3 bassoons and a contra-bassoon. The contrabassoonist (Frank Heinz ) played the first piece "Something Espagnole" with four movements alternating between the contrabassoon and the sarrusophone. He had a gold colored shiny new looking sarrusophone that the audience liked a lot more than the contra-bassoon. This concert focused on the bassoons and contra. It was the climax of the Doublereedarama at UNLV that day!

Author: Grant Green <gdgreen@contrabass.com> at Internet
Date: 3/22/97 2:05 PM
Subject: Re: Contra instruments on airplane

Hi Mark,

To subscribe to the new digest, send a message to "contrabass-list-request@contrabass.com" with the word "subscribe" in the Subject line. To post to the list, simply send the message to "contrabass-list@contrabass.com".

The addresses seem a little unwieldy, so we may come up with some shortcuts, but that's it for now.


At 12:19 AM 3/22/97 -0500, you wrote:

>-- [ From: Mark Trinko * EMC.Ver #2.5.3 ] --
>Let's talk about transporting your contr-whatever on the plane to the
>contra-fest in January 1998 to Las vegas.
>Since I used to work for America Wet and am now a travel agent, guess I
>can give you advice as best as anyone.
>Last year when we coordinated a special rate on America West I got them
>to waive the excess baggage charge. I will probably negotiate the same
>deal with them again. It will be in the registration package we hand
>out in Evanston.
>Don't check your instrument at the ticket counter or on the curb! Hand
>carry it to the gate. From this point you have 2 choices. GATE CHECK
>it and watch the rampers hand carry it to the belly of the plane. If
>you do this, buy extra insurance for $1.00/hundred up to the maximum.
>Other choice is to purchase what they call a baggage seat. This will
>allow your instrument to travel strapped into the seat next to you on
>the plane. Some carriers charge 1/2 price for baggage seats.
>For those of you who need additional help in thee preparations, you can
>call me at 800-270-2616.
>By the way, Grant, I am sorry but accidentally deleted the last digest
>that had the new instructions for this list. Could you send it to me
>again please?

Grant Green
Just filling in on sarrusophone.......

Author: "Stephen Del Rea" <srea@uaex.edu>
Date: 3/21/97 11:30 AM
Subject: Contrabass-L (Racketts)

I was intrigued by the mention of Racketts. Here is some information I found during an internet search for "rackett". What do you think about it as a serious musical instrument? Can it do a full chromatic scale? Is it worth the investment? While we're at it, what is the best lowest reed instrument (full and deep, preferrably single reed) for concert performances (with or without written parts)?

Racketts by Keith Loraine

These instruments are patterned after drawings by Praetorius. Keith is an excellent musician as well as instrument builder and has designed these instruments with the right combination of bore, voicing, and reed to be a true musicians instrument.

Rackett Kits

Builds an excellent quality instrument. Building a Rackett is an excellent way to unravel the mysteries of these fascinating renaissance instruments. The body is made so that all the bores are impervious to moisture, the main hazard of rackett playing. To locate and drill the fingerholes which penetrate the bore, a template is provided with special provisions to ensure that the drill enters in the right place and at the right angle. Easy to build taking 10-20 hours. Lark In The Morning PO Box 1176 Mendocino, CA 95460 USA
LarkInfo: (707) 964-3762
Mail Order (707) 964-5569
Fax (707) 964-1979
email larkinam@larkinam.com
Mendocino Retail Showroom:(707) 937-LARK
Seattle Retail Showroom:(206) 623-3440
100 Page Lark Catalog send $3.00 in the US, $6.00 elsewhere.
Lark In The Morning PO Box 1176, Mendocino, CA 95460 USA

Messages about Racketts:

  1. I'm a bassoonist (play with the Shreveport Symphony and direct the Baroque Artists of Shreveport - a chamber music group). I've not had a lot of experience in historical winds (except recorders) since I left grad school. The only wind instrument to ever defeat me was the rackett. With two tone holes for the forefingers and the most illogical fingering system I've ever seen, I never made much headway in it. (It's the only wind instrument I couldn't at least play a major scale within a few minutes -- and I've even once had someone throw an Egyptian folk instrument with a natural reed mechanism just to see if I could figure out what it is.) At any rate, get a good fingering chart before you begin.
  2. Well, since all the bassoonists on the list seem to be confessing, I may as well go along. I have also tried to play the rackett, and have been able to conclude only that the instrument is aptly named, since I could discern no difference in pitches when I attempted the deed. I did derive great pleasure from the cornamuse (I must be a sado-massochist), which is also double-reeded, although with a completely covered reed. I thought the shawm also had a nice sound to it. If you try a cornamuse, just remember to blow until your brain comes out your nose.
  3. Early Music Shop (Bradford, U.K. or Brookline, Massachusetts) make a fine kit for a bass rackett in FF. I made one and it works fine. Several friends have had success also. You will need a drill press, but the job is not difficult.
  4. Try "The Early Music Shop" (New England or the old one). There is a fellow in Norther California (Petaluma) named Keith Lorraine who makes racketts (very nice ones too) and shawms. Good supplies for reeds and ready made reeds as well.
  5. In my opinion a tenor or bass kortholt or a rackett would be a better choice. They're softer than the dulcian and blends admirably with a 'great consort' of recorders. The kortholt has has a good 1 1/2 octave range - the rackett somewhat less.
  6. Forget the rackett. It's fun and a great sight gag, but the curtal's the serious instrument. Not just for Renaissance band but for Schutz, some Spanish baroque works, and others who actually wrote for theses instruments.
  7. > - Basset rackett: interesting sound and my first foray into

  8. > uncapped double reeds; not too pricy used
    > - Bass rackett: ditto, with a lower low end than previously
    > available, but also a lower high end Early Music Shop (Bradford, U.K.; Brookline, Massachusetts) has a good F rackett kit. By now there may be other sizes. The F rackett plays an octave below the bass krummhorn.
  9. The concert was great fun. Everyone was looking forward to the Baroque rackett and it did not disappoint. It gave wonderful bottom support. The playing position was very uncomfortable looking. He had his left foot on top of his sideways right shoe to lift up his left knee high enough to balance the rackett on top. I thought he would have been better off with one of the little foot stools that classical guitarists use. [I still cannot appreciate crumhorns]
  10. I built a rackett myself according to a description in the book mentioned above (The title is btw The Amateur Woodwind Instrument Maker.). The instructions are a bit short, but the relevant measurements - bore dimensions and fingerhole placings - are all there. With the rackett, however, there is some trouble because the fingerholes often have to be drilled at awkward angles to move them within convenient reach of the fingers. Robinson leaves out specific information on this. I was mostly successful with the rackett project, taking into account that it was the first instrument I built. The lowest note became F# instead of F, which makes the instrument unsuitable for many bass parts. Nevertheless it's a good-sounding instrument which I use frequently.
Stephen Rea <srea@uaex.edu> --- DBPACK xBase Packer and Maintenance Utility for Windows Shareware:
--- ftp://lenti.med.umn.edu/pub/halfdan/foxpro/incoming/dbpack4.zip
--- Gold'N Years Retirement Funds Projections and Payments Shareware:
--- ftp://www.simtel.com/pub/simtelnet/msdos/finance/goldnyr4.zip

End Contrabass-L No. 92


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