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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000986.txt from 2002/06

Subj: Re: [kl] Bass Clarinet in A
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 11:50:45 -0400

In a message dated Tue, 25 Jun 2002 6:28:05 PM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

<< Nutcracker, Wagner, Rach. Symph. #2, might do
well to generate a list of repertoire that calls for the bass clarinet in bass clef and A and get them under their fingers without writing the names of the notes over the notes on the page. The process is easier if you start by either learning bass clef fluently or learning Bb to A transposition fluently, and then add the other skill on top, as opposed to learning both at once. Common sense stuff.>>

Not only common sense, but part of the gig.

Clarinet is a "transposing" instrument. Even if you're Dan Leeson, and come to every gig, with every clarinet, from Eb, D, C, Bb, A, Bassett A, Bass in Bb, and Bass in A, there still might come an instance where you will have to/or want to transpose.

Transposing is a basic skill necessary for playing orchestral music. There are some times when you just have to pay your dues.

In the case of the bass clarinet in A, the clarinet world decided long ago, composers and Dan Leeson notwithstanding, that this instrument was superfluous.

The expense of owning and maintaining two basses,lugging them both to concerts and rehearsals, and finding adequate room for them on stage or a crowded pit, was probably more than most bass clarinet players were willing to deal with.

Now don't get me wrong, while wrestling with "La Valse" I might wish I had a bass in a, or even better, a clutch lever that would instantly and magically change my bass into an A.

Failing that, what I do, is pull out my hand written transposition, that I did 25 years ago, and plunk it down on the music stand. I think anyone who has played bass long enough has a small collection of these somewhere, just as the Eb player has his/her copy of "Til Eulenspiegel" just in case the librarian passes out the part in D.

Whether or not you have your little stash, transposition is a necessary skill for the symphonic bass clarinetist. It's a pain, but there it is.

It reminds me of an anecdote. An adult amateur clarinetist approached me about a year ago and aked me for advice and assistance in getting in one of the local orchestras. He plays in several local bands, but thought he might enjoy playing some orchestral stuff. I asked him if he had an A clarinet. He said no. I asked him if he planned to get one. He said no. I told him, forget it! It's part of the gig!

Walter Grabner


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