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 Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2012-04-13 01:30

Ted Ridenour (Tom's son) was kind enough to send me, free of obligation, the latest version of the Ridenour "Lyrique" low-C bass clarinet to try out. In return I promised to give it a thorough review and provide him with my impressions. I thought it was rather daring of the Ridenours to allow me to speak my mind about their new baby with neither censorship nor strings attached, as I am a certified Skeptic Curmudgeon, but clearly these are fearless people, and quite confident in their product. So, here's what I wrote:

Design and construction:
• The instrument is nice and heavy and very solidly built, and the finish and workmanship are excellent in those areas visible to the public eye, though a little bit rough in those hidden areas that only a technician is likely to see.
• Minor design nit: The relationship of the bell key to its operating lever on the lower joint is not quite perfect, so the bell must be rotated about 15 degrees to the left to keep the operating arm from slipping off when low-C is played.
• Matters of preference: I’d prefer the neck angle to be a bit steeper (more vertical) and with maybe a tighter overall S-bend, to get the instrument body closer to the player. I found the instrument trying to move away from me while I was playing, so that I had to use a neck strap even when seated and using the floor peg. Also, the three thumb keys for the low-D, C# and C require a lot of travel, and personally I would accept a greater force requirement on these keys in trade for less travel, but no doubt there are other players who prefer or need a lighter touch and are willing to accept the longer ‘throw’ of the touchpieces in return.
• Regarding the three thumb touchpieces for the lowest notes, they are nicely shaped and rounded, a huge improvement over the original model of 5+(?) years ago, which had standard Chinese-design rectangular touchpieces with painfully sharp edges.
• The alternate (left-hand) low D spatula in not just a nice feature, it is a necessity on this instrument because the arcs of travel and relative positions of the low D and low C# spatulas make it nearly impossible to slide from low D to low C# with the thumb (the thumb has to be lifted completely off the first key to reach the second one). I personally prefer the German-style configuration (also used by Amati) of four ‘thumb buttons’ arranged in a little square for the low Eb, D, C# and C, as any one of those notes can fairly easily and smoothly be gotten to from any other of them – but again this is a matter of taste.

Intonation and tone quality:
• The sound is very good in all registers, though it felt just a little bit thinner and less focused than I’d like. This perception is more in the ear of the player than the audience, though, based on my having recorded the Ridenour back-to-back in a number of musical passages against my personal bass clarinets (using the same reed and mouthpiece); on the recordings the sound of the Ridenour bass is nearly indistinguishable from that of my #1 Boehm-system bass (a 1930s-vintage Kohlert with a homemade low-C extension).
• Only one note on the instrument sounded fuzzy to me, that being the ‘normal’ throat F# played with the l.h. index finger; whereas the alternate fingering using the two lower r.h. side trill keys was clear as a bell. Both fingerings were in tune. The often-problematic ‘pinch’ throat Bb was nice and clear, and spot-on in pitch.
• Intonation: The lower chalumeau and extended-range notes were a bit variable in pitch (details to follow), but from chalumeau F all the way into the altissimo the instrument was dead on with just two minor deviations in the lower clarion. Here are the pitch results I got (averaged over a few trials, and at an overall pitch level of A-440):
Low C: +25 cents
Low C#: -10 cents
Low D: +20 cents
Low Eb: -10 cents
Low E: +10 cents
Low F through throat Bb: +/- 5 cents
‘Long’ clarion B and C: +10 cents
Clarion C# through altissimo high G: +/- 5 cents

Keeping in mind that I haven’t played any of the “big-4” bass clarinets (Selmer-Paris, Buffet, Yamaha, Leblanc) in a couple of years, I have to rely on memory as to how they felt and played. Based on my recollection, the new Ridenour bass clarinet is very reminiscent of my favorite Big-4 bass clarinet, the Selmer 67. The Ridenour even resembles the Selmer in key cup design and such, whereas the early Arioso low-C bass (of which I bought one of the very first production units) was really just a hard-rubber knockoff of the Yamaha design – one which I didn’t like that much.

The current bass clarinet is an enormous improvement over the original model. I can’t speak for full-time professional symphony bass clarinets or soloists as I’m neither by any stretch of the imagination, but I would guess that the vast majority of bass clarinetists at any level of proficiency would be very happy with the new Ridenour instrument. If I were not already over-equipped with good bass clarinets, I’d be tempted to whip out my credit card and take one home.

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: Hank Lehrer 2017
Date:   2012-04-13 03:12

Hi DS,

I got a chance to play the Low Ridenour bass last week for just a few minutes. I had not problem with playing a full 4 octave range (OK the highest b and c brought dogs to the door). Crossing the break was no real issue; I played pretty much all over the instrument with ease but I play BC pretty regularly.

The voice of this instrument was excellent although I used my regular MP; the person who owns the instrument had a much more vibrant tone with a Grabner MP (I'm not sure what lay) and about a #3 fibercane reed (not sure what brand).

A few years ago, I tried a Ridenour Low Eb instrument and sent it back. Bad ergonomics and no real advantage over the bass I was playing. This new instrument is much better.


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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: bmcgar 2017
Date:   2012-04-13 04:12

FWIW, I've been very happy with mine with the exception of some adjustment set screws that have been frozen since I got the instrument.

The only thing I can add is that, in comparison with a pro Yamaha model I played along side of the Ridenour, the Ridenour had a more-resonant timbre that was more consistent up the scale than the Yamaha. (Can't remember the model.) Grabner LB mouthpiece with 3.5 reed and the metal Optimum lig.

Worth every penny for a part-time bass cl. player like me who couldn't and wouldn't invest in a $10K horn.


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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: DougR 2017
Date:   2012-04-15 14:18

Dave, thanks for the lengthy review. As someone who always wanted a low-c bass (pant, pant) I appreciate hearing about a low-c horn that may actually be affordable and ALSO usable at a pro level (or am I over-interpreting your review)? The fact that you are indeed one of the Board's great curmudgeons also adds some interest, obviously.

...although it may not be enough to liberate me from the fond fantasy of exiting the Selmer factory in Paris with a brand-new Privilege strapped to my back...

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: Clarimeister 
Date:   2012-04-16 08:44

My question is can you get away with playing the Shostakovich Violin Concerto Scherzo excerpt with those thumb keys for the extended range at a very fast tempo. In an audition, precision is everything. I'd like to hear if it's ok with doing that.

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2012-04-16 14:53

I played that piece on my old Kohlert with its homemade low-C extension and awkward thumb keys, and survived. But then again, it was a concert, not an audition. I've always done fine in concerts but doubt I would pass any audition anywhere! Among other things I did attempt that particular excerpt on the Ridenour, and was not able to pull it off -- but I hadn't gotten used to the left-hand alternate low D so wasn't able to use it efficiently.

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: gsurosey 
Date:   2012-04-22 20:01

How much will one of these set you back, and where can they be found? It's making its way to my mental wish list.

EDIT: I see it now on Tom's site.


Bb/A: Buffet R13
Eb/Bass: Bundy

Post Edited (2012-04-22 20:03)

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Hart 
Date:   2012-07-30 13:55

I'm based in the UK, and am keen on playing a low C bass (and, from what I hear, probably want one with automatic double register key as well).

I could quite feasibly get to Gear4Music's warehouse to try out their 'deluxe bass clarinet' which goes to low C and sells for about half the price of the Ridenour one reviewed here, though I'm not sure what style of register key it has.

Ridenour being based in the States, I would not be able to try theirs out unless there are local stockists - so can anyone here tell me whether they think I should save up the extra and take a chance on the Ridenour - is the difference in price justified by the difference in quality?


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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: srattle 
Date:   2012-07-30 14:55

David Hart:

I don't know anything about the bass clarinet at gear4music, but I would advise staying away from a Low C bass clarinet selling for 900 pounds. . .
It is made of ABS plastic, and more than likely has not great mechanics. Again, I'm not familiar with this clarinet, but it sounds suspicious.

The instruments that Mr. Ridenour sells are from hard rubber (them same general material as most professional mouthpieces) and are sold as professional instruments.

For a bass clarinet, the $3000 or whatever that Tom's cost is very inexpensive.
It is possible to try his clarinets in Europe, you just have to be willing to lose the shipping and/or tax for the trial.

Of course, all of this depends on how serious you are about playing the instrument. If it's just for a laugh, then probably the cheap plastic one would make sense. But if you want to perform on it, then I would stay away from the gear4music variant.

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2012-07-30 15:28

They all start off in some nameless factory in China; but to what specifications they are built (or design they are copied from), and where they go when they leave the factory, and what is done to them by the eventual seller ----- those factors can vary widely. Caveat maxima emptor!

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Hart 
Date:   2012-07-30 21:13

Thanks SRattle and David Spiegelthal for your advice.
I presume that that you are talking about the G4M's as being from a nameless Chinese factory, and not the Ridenours? If so, then I guess I will start trying to save up the extra for the Ridenour.
For what it's worth, I'm not a great expert by any means - more of a percussionist - but will definitely want to be recording with it, and might just end up using it live in a band, amongst other clutter that I play, if I'm lucky.


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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2012-07-30 21:27

The Ridenour instruments also start in a Chinese factory, and I'm sure the Ridenours know the name of that factory, even if we don't. The difference with Ridenour instruments, as far as I can tell, is that the seller is a clarinet expert and has a personal hand in the design, specification, and final setup of the end product. Whereas, most of the generic Chinese-made instruments flooding the market nowadays seem to be the same basic instrument (essentially hard-rubber copies of the Yamaha design, maybe modified a bit) manufactured with the brand name of whomever pays them to stencil the instruments, or possibly even distributed 'blank' with no branding whatsoever, and stenciled after-the-fact by the distributor/retailer.

I'm not in the instrument retail business, so this is just my semi-educated guess from observations of the instruments that are being sold online. I may be wrong and I'd be happy to be corrected by anyone who actually knows what is going on.

David Hart, you write that you're not too experienced in bass clarinet, so I think it will be difficult for you to assess different instruments; perhaps you could take a few lessons from a professional bass clarinetist, and/or have such a person help you try out instruments when that time comes.

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Hart 
Date:   2012-07-30 21:33

Yeah, I had lessons on the 'regular' B flat clarinet back in school for a couple of years, and that was a while ago now, so I should probably try to look someone up. Not sure how many there are in the Dundee area, though.

Thanks again for all the info.

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: Wes 
Date:   2012-07-30 22:12

Hi Dave S!

There is a Kohlert bass clarinet now residing in St. Louis that I've worked on for various reasons that also has a low C extension. The wood extension was added by the legendary late Glen Johnston in Hollywood and the keys were made and installed years later by Nick Spirito of Long Beach, CA. The wood in that instrument is the finest and hardest possible and the sound is completely resonant, perhaps better than any others I've heard. The tuning needed some work but it is quite good now. One thing I revised was the register key mechanism so that it is reliable and I also extended the low keys a little for a short fingered player. No wonder you like yours!

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: The_Clarinetist 
Date:   2012-08-29 18:48

Hi David,

even though you might not be that experienced with bass clarinets it is still worth a try to go and test that g4m deluxe bass. I mean you should at least be able to get a feeling of the key mechanism and overall quality.

As a matter of fact I am interested in acquiring one of those. I know they offer it with a 14 day money back guarantee but I live in Sweden and would have to pay extra shipment hin and forth if I would find it lacking in any aspect.

I did make an enquire to g4m about this instrument and they said it had been updated a few times since it was introduced in 2007. I think I prefer its set up with 6 keys for the right hand little finger instead of just 5 as on the yamahas. And unlike most chinese bass clarinets it is silver plated and I would rather have a plastic bass rather than a wooden one considering the crack risk and heaviness that wood entails.

Compared to double the price of ridenour's bass you have nothing to loose testing g4m's bass, and I would be extremely happy to read your review of it here :)

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: 47tim 
Date:   2014-06-29 22:55

Hello, I was just wondering, is this bass made of wood? If not, what material is it?

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: Tom Ridenour 
Date:   2014-06-30 01:09

The Lyrique 925C is made from hard rubber.

Ted Ridenour

Ridenour Clarinet Products,,

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: windplr 
Date:   2014-06-30 06:19

I recently asked about the material used in the Ridenour bass, and the reply from Ted was that the bass uses the same natural hard rubber that is used on their soprano clarinets. He also said that each bc goes through the same prep, adjustments and tuning by Tom as the sopranos before being shipped to the customer.

What I have not yet asked, but would be interested to know, is how much of the overall design of the bass is specified by Tom. I ask, because after reading RCP literature and watching several of their videos, it is obvious to me that his soprano clarinets are 100% Tom's designs (a good thing). From my research so far, I have not been able to discern whether or not the RCP bass falls into this category.


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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: Tom Ridenour 
Date:   2014-06-30 08:40

All of our instruments are made to Toms's specs and then hand finished/adjusted by him in our shop here in Texas.

Ted R.

While I'm happy to answer these questions the above article is relevant to this topic.

Ridenour Clarinet Products,,

Post Edited (2014-06-30 08:52)

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: sax panther 
Date:   2014-06-30 11:08

Hi David

If you have the chance to test a G4M bass clarinet (with no obligation to buy) then go for it, there's nothing to lose. If you like the one (or one of the ones) you try, see if you can buy it there and then - if they make you order a different one, it might not be so good! I've tried a bari sax and a tenor sax from them. The bari was ok after a bit of adjusting, but the tenor was unplayably sharp from upper octave A and higher. Only thing I could think of was that the octave pip had been placed slightly too high on the neck. Could probably have been solved with an aftermarket neck. Keywork felt nice though. Also tried one of their cajons, which was awful (althought it came with a nice case!)

With a company with quality control as patchy as G4M, I think you'd need to factor in buying the instrument, then another couple of hundred quid getting it properly set up by a decent tech. With the Ridenour one, although I don't have any experience with this company myself, I do know that each instrument receives a proper set up before it's sent out.


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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: David Hart 
Date:   2014-06-30 23:35

Well, this thread has awoken after a long slumber. I haven't taken any steps since I asked my initial question, but I was inspired to see what was now available.
Turns out there is a John Packer brand low C bass clarinet, the JP222, and a second hand one came up on their website for £1000, but they said there was already someone interested who will presumably have snapped it up by the time I can make it down to Taunton, Somerset (which is both a long way from where I live in Scotland and not on the way to anywhere else I'm likely to be visiting in the near future). New it sells for £2466 on their website, though there is also an ex-demo one listed for £2096. I suppose I could concoct an excuse to visit Bristol, and then it wouldn't be much further to make a visit there.

On the Gear4Music website, the 'Deluxe' bass clarinet to low C has disappeared, apart from one ex-demo one at a reduced price of £852, and I get the impression it has been discontinued in favour of their new 'Rosedale' version, with a price tag of £1500. I emailed them and the guy said the Rosedale is far superior, but £852 is still a lot less than £1500. Gear4Music is in York, which *is* on the way to places I might normally visit, so I'm going to try to get down there later this month and try out both the Rosedale and the one remaining Deluxe, if someone hasn't already taken it.

I'd be happy to share my notes on their relative merits, and indeed also on the John Packer one if I manage to make that trip, if someone here would be kind enough to give me a run-down of the specific things I should be looking out for when I check out a bass clarinet.

Sadly, good deal though the Ridenours seem to be, there's just no realistic prospect of me getting to Texas to try one out - if I had that sort of money to splash on transatlantic travel, I'd have the sort of money to save up for a professional brand bass clarinet anyway :-)

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 Re: Review: Ridenour low-C bass clarinet
Author: blazian 
Date:   2014-07-02 08:19

I'm planning on visiting Mr. Ridenour sometime before school starts again for me so I can have my clarinet tweaked. I am in the market for a bass clarinet...

- Martin

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