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 Problems with bass clarinet
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2003-03-27 04:18

I just started playing bass clarinet recently and am having trouble playing certain notes. Anything higher than the the E in the second register (thumb register key) seems to be accidentally hitting higher harmonics. Is this a characteristic of too soft a reed, a bad ligature, a bad mouthpiece or a combination? I play Rico size 3 (on regular clarinet I use Gigliotti Plus 3.5), with the stock mouthpiece and the stock metal ligature, non-inverted.


US Army Japan Band

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 Re: Problems with bass clarinet
Author: graham 
Date:   2003-03-27 08:07

A common problem. Playing bass in the clarinet register is a good deal more tricky than in the clarinet. You have to get used to the feel of the notes. If anything a softer reed helps. But I would not suggest a Rico. Vandoren are easy in the upper register (disappointing lower register to my mind). I have also found that tenor sax reeds work well in the upper register, but can also be underwhelming in the lower register.

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 Re: Problems with bass clarinet
Author: javier garcia m 
Date:   2003-03-27 13:30

I agree with Graham, clarion register in the Bass is a little bit difficult and I have the same problem, E, F, and specially F# sometimes "jump" to high C#, D and D#.
A lot of work with 12th, slow scales, chords and so on.
I feel better also Vandoren than Rico in this register. I use # 3. I've not tried other reeds.
Enjoy jour bass, is wonderful instrument!!

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 Re: Problems with bass clarinet
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2003-03-27 13:38

sfalexi -

The problem is almost certainly the register key mechanism. It shifts between the lower and higher vents when you raise or lower your right ring finger, and it easily gets out of adjustment.

If, as I suspect, the second register Eb is OK, but the E and higher notes are bad, this means the lower register vent is remaining slightly open when you lift your right ring finger. It takes only a tiny leak to ruin the response.

The adjustment is tricky, since it involves springs of different strengths competing against one another, and the long rods can bend easily. Take the instrument to a repair shop that has experience with basses.

Best regards.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Problems with bass clarinet
Author: sfalexi 
Date:   2003-03-27 14:27

Thanks for the advice. I forgot (to my regret) to mention that the bass I'm playing on now is a "loaner" from a school until I recieve a reconditioned bass clarinet that should be arriving in the mail any day now. The community orchestra is the one who ordered the bass clarinet (thanks to the mayor of our town for making us their OFFICIAL orchestra and giving us an annual budget of $20,000 for music, needed instruments, repairs, and whatever else we would need the money for!). If what Ken says is the problem, then hopefully it will just be avoided on the new bass that I'll be signing out to practice and perform on. I will however switch to a vandoren instead of the Rico in case this doesn't solve it. And eventually I might pick up a good bass mouthpiece (I already heard of some good makers out there so no further postings about that are necessary). I figure even if bass isn't my main instrument, and even if I may never own one, it wouldn't hurt to have a mpc in case another situation like this comes along where I'm asked to play bass.

Thanks all. Happy clarinetting!


US Army Japan Band

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 Re: Problems with bass clarinet
Author: William 
Date:   2003-03-27 15:00

My old clarinet professor once said that you can "pretty much tell what kind of bass clarinetist you are auditioning" by asking them to play a staccatto Ab (5). G5 and G#/Ab5 are the two most problematic notes on the instrument and you just have to develope the "feel" for playing them. My friend, who is a terrific ex NYC clarinet/saxophone artist (currently Professor of composition, saxophone and jazz studies at the Univesity of Wisconsin--Madison) describes actually "placing" these notes as opposed to the feel of "playing" them on any other instrument. In any case, the register between F#5 and A5 is a challenge for all beginning bass clarinetists, but is one that can be mastered with careful practice.

But before that can occure, your bass must be in relative perfect adjustment. Leaks can cause all sorts of response and quality problems in that register, and yet leave your lower notes practically unaffected. As others have suggewted, take your bass to an experianced, trained repairperson--as opposed to someone who is just fixing horns as a hobby or part-time venture. Play test it at the shop and have more tweeking done, as needed, until it is corrctly adjusted. My favorite repariperson, for basses, is Tom Fritz at IMS in DesPlaines, IL--but any trained technician who specializes in woodwinds should be able to do a adequate job. If you can "tame" those G & G# 5's, bass clarineting can be just the "most fun". Also, check out the September, 2002, issue of THE CLARINET which contains the artical, "Approaching the Bass Clarinet" by Dennis Smylie. He reviews special altissimo alternate fingerings that the great Josep Allard taught (and many use).

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