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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001008.txt from 2004/10

From: Robert Howe <>
Subj: [kl] Doubling
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004 23:52:18 -0500

How totally absurd this thread has become.

First, the saxophone was only invented in the early 1840s, and made
available for band use a half-decade later. It was not used outside of
France until the 1860s. It thus should be no surprise to find no saxophones
in Beethoven or Mendelssohn. Don't write back and argue with this
statement, go look at my paper, "The Invention and Early Development of the
Saxophone 1840-1855" in the 2003 Journal of the American Musical Instrument
Society. If you don't get JAMIS (and every member of this listserv ought
to!), write me privately and I'll send you a copy.

Second, the saxophone is not a clarinet. Because it has a single reed and
fingers like the upper register of a clarinet, clarinettists tend to have
this fantasy that they can pick up a saxophone and just play Kije or
Pictures or L'Arlesienne.

That's B-S-, pure and simple. One might as well argue for the bassoonist to
play English horn in the Fantastique. (Do saxophonists just pick up the
clarinet and play Petrouchka or the Beethoven Ninth?) The saxophone differs
from the clarinet in embouchure, voicing, tone tendencies, use of vibrato,
characteristics of registers...indeed, apart from the double reed vs single
reed issue, the saxophone is much more like an oboe than like a clarinet.
It requires its own approach, it requires as much study and practice as any
woodwind instrument. The fact that it has not earned a niche in the
standard woodwind section of the orchestra, or that plodding, unimaginative
composers and arrangers can make a saxophone section sound like mud, does
not make it another species of clarinet.

Third, doubling is really easy. You simply learn the embouchure and
approach for each instrument that you wish to play, learn to play the
instrument really well, then use that embouchure and approach when you play
the given instrument. Because he is distracted by more than one setup, a
doubler needs to spend more time and energy and money on having the best
equipment and reeds than does the player who only performs on one

Last night I played English horn and oboe 2 in a local community orchestra
concert. In that orchestra, over the years, I have played oboe (innumerable
works), English horn (ditto), bass oboe and heckelphone (The Planets--bass
oboe is the correct horn, but the conductor preferred heckelphone), oboe
d'amore (Christmas Oratorio), sopranino saxophone (Bolero), alto saxophone
(Pictures, American in Paris), tenor saxophone (Romeo & Juliet, Lt. Kije),
clarinet (various 19th century repertoire), and bass clarinet (Sorcerer's

I've played professionally on many of those instruments, also on baroque
oboe, oboe da caccia, basset horn and bass saxophone. So when I talk about
doubling, trust me, I have paid my dues.

My oboes are by Covey and Loree, my saxophones by Yanagisawa and Selmer, my
clarinets by Buffet and Selmer. Like I said, get the best equipment.


Robert Howe
First clarinet lessons: 1968
First experience on saxophone: 1971
First started oboe: 1972
Regular player of all three instruments to the present

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