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 Self-taught contrabass
Author: moolatte 
Date:   2010-06-18 02:49

So I'm borrowing an Eb Contrabass from my school over the summer for fun. I've only played Bb and Eb soprano clarinets, so it's a little unfamiliar territory.

I just tried playing the chromatic scale and I couldn't play any higher than the highest F on the staff (F5)

It just makes an awful squeak each time I try playing the next G and everything above it.

I've noticed there's 2 bridges on the instrument. One is connected to the 6th finger key. Am I supposed to press that key down when I get to the G? Or is my instrument broken or something.

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2010-06-18 04:11

What model is this clarinet? By 6th finger key I assume you mean the G/D key. On some models this is connected to te register mechanism which has two keys. You are not supposed to press that key for any higher notes. A leak from the register mechanism or any place high on the instrument will show first on the upper part of the clarion register, so check for leaks. It can also be a problem of a player not used to playing this part on this instrument.

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: blazian 
Date:   2010-06-18 04:17

Perhaps you're biting to hard. That's what happened when I first started. Softer reeds are better for low notes and harder reeds make high notes speak better (but not necessarily help them sound better). What brand contra is this? Selmer USA/Bundy/Beuscher? Selmer Paris (so nice!)? Vito/Leblanc?

I know the first bridge (probably closer to the front of the contra) is for the one-on-one fingering for Eb/Bb. I believe the 6th finger key (RH3) linkage is similar to the much discussed bass clarinet double-register system...? It switches the vent holes used for clarion B-D# and E-∞. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Edit: Answering some of my questions would be redundant... I should've posted faster. :P

- Martin

Post Edited (2010-06-18 04:18)

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: moolatte 
Date:   2010-06-18 07:42

Well, the next question I have (I haven't really played the contrabass since earlier today)

There's this little tube at the top left (with the mouthpiece facing you) of the body. Every time I press down the register key, that little key lifts up just barely a millimeter.

Should it be lifting up? I remember pressing it down accidentally while trying to do the chromatic scale earlier while lifting my instrument by the top (bad idea, I know) and when I pressed it down, I was able to hit the notes above the high F on the staff, and even get to high C, but I couldn't go any higher since higher notes need the right hand. As you probably could tell, my right hand was holding down this key in particular.

Is it a leak? Or is it some genius keywork to help you get those notes out?

I noticed when I'm going from B in the middle of the staff, that key is all the way up until the D, so it's used for something.

It's a Bundy BTW.

Post Edited (2010-06-18 07:43)

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: LCL 
Date:   2010-06-18 13:35

A picture of the little tube you're talking about really would help. I have a Selmer Paris Rosewood EEb contra-alto and a Leblanc Paris Paperclip BBb contrabass and really have not encountred your problem. But, although the instruments may be able to play in the range you referred to, most of the parts are low notes. These horns were designed to give the band bottom. I have played contras since 1963 as a student and do so regularly in the community band setting. May I suggest that you take the horn to a good technician to see if there is a leak.

Good luck!

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2010-06-18 15:18

moolatte -

It's 99% certain that the register mechanism is out of adjustment.

There are three vents: the upper register vent on the neck, the lower register vent near the top of the upper joint, and the throat Bb vent, lower down. They're controlled by three springs with different tensions, so that one spring overcomes another, plus several levers. Any change in the springs, or crud or lack of lubrication, can throw the balance off.

It should operate as follows:

When you press the throat A key and the register key, the Bb vent should open and the other two should stay closed.

When the throat A key is closed and the right ring finger is down, the lower register vent should open and the other two should stay closed.

When the throat A key is closed and the right ring finger is up, the upper register vent should open and the other two should stay closed.

When the spring tension gets off, or the mechanism binds, one of the vents that should be closed raises or sticks slightly open, which ruins the high register response. You can often see what's happening. Finger throat A and press the register slowly. If either of the register vents moves even slightly, it's leaking. Then finger clarion D and slowly raise and lower your right ring finger. The Bb vent should stay closed and the register vents should alternate, with each one closing completely.

On contras, the three-way action is the very devil to balance. I'd advise taking it to a repair shop rather than trying it yourself, since it probably needs to be taken apart and thoroughly cleaned and lubricated. Also, a contra needs to be handled like a baby. If you so much as bump it against a stand or let the bell bounce off the floor, it can get thrown out. Since this is a school instrument, it's not surprising that it's had abuse and is out of adjustment.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: moolatte 
Date:   2010-06-18 20:00
Attachment:  CIMG0437.jpg (923k)

Well, if you quite need a picture of what vent I'm talking about, if it doesn't fail before I post it, I've attached an image of the particular vent and circled it in red.

I'm talking about the F on the top ledger line of the usual treble clef staff. I can't go any higher than that without having to press this little pad down.

Post Edited (2010-06-18 20:03)

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2010-06-19 00:11

The picture shows the lower of the two register vents, which should be open only for third-line B up through Eb. It should be completely closed whenever your right ring finger is up, and if it's open, this is definitely the cause of your problem.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: EEBaum 
Date:   2010-06-19 01:01

It's pretty rare for a school-owned contralto or contrabass NOT to have issues like these. Could use some quality time from a good tech.


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 Re: Self-taught contrabass
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2010-06-19 07:06

The problem you describe is exactly what several already suggested, the register mechanism out of adjustment. Ken's first post has a description of what should open when. If you have technical sense this is really all you need to know to figure out how the mechanism works and understand where the problem is exactly. If you can't better to give it to a good repairer to fix.

Although the description in Ken's post is basically correct, just to explain one detail more:

>> Finger throat A and press the register slowly. If either of the register vents moves even slightly, it's leaking. <<

For a double, triple, or more register mechanism, it works as Ken said by springs overcoming other springs. But when the register lever is closed it has an even stronger spring close the keys. It has to be (significantly) stronger or else the register key would open when the lever isn't pressed.

When the register key lever is pressed some of the keys are only closed by springs which are weaker than the lever spring. Especially if the pads are relatively soft, it is possible that there is slight movement of the register keys that are not opening, when pressing the register lever. They will not necessarily leak, it is simply the register lever closing will press these keys even harder, crushing the pads slightly more. It is the same thing when you press a closed key with your finger, usually you will be able to push it more. So in the situation Ken described, you might actually see a tiny movement of those keys because of that reason, eventhough they are not leaking at all.

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