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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000808.txt from 2001/02

From: "Franklin Kercher" <>
Subj: Re: [kl] materials for contra-bass clarinet
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 00:05:39 -0500

-----Original Message-----
Date: Tuesday, February 20, 2001 6:44 PM
Subject: [kl] materials for contra-bass clarinet

>Scott Stevens asked for tips on his Leblanc BBb contra.
I would like to add that I have gone to the LaVoz med. soft bari sax
reed for my EEb contra fitted with a Selmer C MPc. This reed is about 1mm
wider than the VanDoren reed and seals nicely on the contra MPc.
>Scott -
>I have a "paperclip" Leblanc BBb (to low C) and spent a lot of time
>it to play reliably.
>The most important thing to do is get the pads properly seated and the
>register vent mechanism working properly. Most of the pads are held in
>screws and small resonators, and, like flute pads, the seating is done by
>inserting semi-circular paper shims. It's really a job for a saxophone
>specialist, or perhaps a flute specialist, who is used to working with this
>design. Clark Fobes told me that when he used to overhaul these beasts,
>would remove the screw posts and float in kid pads on shellac, in the
>standard clarinet/bass clarinet style. The register vent mechanism is
>insanely complicated, since it opens three holes -- a special hole for
>Bb as well as the standard low- and high-clarion holes.
>The older instruments often have a lot of slop in the action. They're a
>problem to get adjusted right, but some free play is tolerable on the
>notes of the low C model, since you don't use them often.
>If you have the "paperclip" model and don't need the low notes, you can
>sometimes improve the response by removing the final piece (for low Db and
>low C), and putting the bell on the end of the next joint, or by leaving
>the bell completely. However, taking off that piece and putting it back on
>always creates the risk of flexing the ascending pieces and throwing the
>adjustment out. I therefore leave mine on.
>Handle the instrument very gently. I always pick it up using the two
>horizontal cross-braces. Lay it down on an old blanket doubled over a
>of times, and with the left little finger keys pointing up.
>The floor peg wing nut is hard to get tight. I got some rubber tubing at a
>surgical supply store and cut pieces about 3/8" long to fit over the ears
>the nut. (Moisten the inside of the rubber tube with saliva to slide it
> If you have a deep chair, you can make the instrument steadier by
>the peg very short and resting it on the chair between your legs.
>When you assemble the instrument, always put the mouthpiece into the neck
>tube and put the reed on before you put the neck into the rest of the
>instrument. When you take it apart, take the neck out before you remove
>reed and mouthpiece. The bending back and forth of the instrument if you
>it the other way is a sure recipe for leaks.
>Leblanc originally made a wide mouthpiece, which takes Vandoren contrabass
>reeds. About 20 years ago, they went to a narrower one, the same width as
>the Eb contra-alto. Vandoren doesn't make reeds for these, but their bass
>sax reeds fit fine and are much better than the brown-box/orange-box Ricos.
>Count yourself lucky if you have the old mouthpiece, which works better in
>the low register.
>Mouthpieces are a problem. Old contras have often been played by "etc."
>players, and the mouthpieces get beaten up. It's worth sending what you
>to someone like Everett Matson, who can make remarkable improvements. It's
>also worth trying a new one. The Selmer C* is a good, intermediate design.
>However, I got one recently, and it was *way* lopsided and took my
>man a lot of work to straighten out. Apparently Selmer's manufacturing
>equipment has gotten worn, and they sell so few it's not worth it to them
>go to the expense of fixing it. However, rubber is good, and it's worth
>effort to fix them.
>Even if you don't normally play double lip, you almost have to use it on
>contra if you don't want your brains scrambled. Also, you need to take
>plenty of mouthpiece, especially on top. Sometimes it works to use the
>so-called "Andy Gump" embouchure that a lot of bassoonists use, with your
>lower jaw dropped and pulled back and your chin bunched. Don't puff your
>cheeks, though.
>Contras take a fairly soft reed. However, the very large reeds tend to
>on the bottom. I therefore buy them hard -- Vandoren # 4 -- and put them
>a large flat file to make them completely flat on the bottom. By the time
>remove any bark along the edges and get them balanced, they probably end up
>around # 2 or 2-1/2. You want them just hard enough that you don't get
>flapping or clicking sound on the low notes. Then blow gently.
>As others have noted, Leblanc quality control is not good, and they have no
>Francois Kloc to provide aftermarket service. However, contra is too much
>fun to let the opportunity pass. Once I got my BBb working, it can both
>ppp and shake the walls.
>I don't know of contra-specific exercise books, but I don't think of it as
>that much different from soprano. Just play your scales and etudes on
>contra. If you don't know about it, there's a great contrabass instrument
>site on the web. I think it's, but if that's not it,
>can find it through Anne Bell's sponsor's page on Sneezy or, I think, on
>Sneezy home page.
>Welcome to the Low BBb Club.
>Best regards.
>Ken Shaw
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