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 A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: SonicManEXE 
Date:   2017-10-31 00:19

Hi all,

All this talk of tuning has got me wondering: is it possible to make a bass clarinet with the functionality of a well-known brand without going overboard on price? Something I've noticed is that as great a value as the Yamaha 221 is, it plays very sharp and that can only hurt the potential of a player in an ensemble, especially in middle/high school when a student is still learning fundamentals of the instrument. I've heard about alternate mid range/professional basses that rival the price of the 221, such as the Kessler Custom and the Ridenour models, all of which feature necks that can adjust from the middle rather than the neck receiver, but how GOOD are they? I have experience with the Allora low C bass and to put it in the simplest term I can, it is trash. Absolute trash. Every register tunes differently and lower notes are a challenge--not to play, but to press down the keys.
Something I've noticed about cheaper low clarinets is that the register mechanism is not made very well and it makes lifting the throat tone A key extremely difficult; that is, unless you're pressing down the G/D key which releases the pressure. It's a terrible design, but I've seen it on instruments ranging from the Allora to the Leblanc L7181 reso-tone contra alto. Even the 221 suffers from this to a degree, but not as much as the other two I mentioned.

I suppose my question is: are we fooling ourselves into thinking we're getting a good deal with the 221, or are the alternatives with lesser-known names secretly better? Essentially, if a high school director wanted to get actual good bass clarinets for their program, should they go with the Yamaha, one of these other choices, or splurge and get the Buffet student model?

Thank you all.

Jared
Ft. Lauderdale & Tampa, FL

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: blazian 
Date:   2017-10-31 04:47

I agree with your assessment of the Allora low C bass, but I do have one that I perform on occasionally that works fine for me. Certainly beginner level, but can't be played by anyone but a professional to compensate for its problems. It could be regarded as trash.

In high school I played a Buffet 1183 student/intermediate bass and hated it. I much preferred the Bundy I marched with to that thing. It was always going out of adjustment and had the wheeziest clarion of any bass clarinet. My section mate's 1183 was stolen out of her car and she bought a Yamaha 221-II as a replacement. I think she was much happier on that instrument than on her last bass.

But we may still be fooling ourselves. There's nothing wrong with the old Bundys we've used for ages. If Selmer USA charged more for them, maybe teachers would see the value of them, rather than dismiss them as cheap plastic basses. I've not been a fan of Vito/Leblanc basses because of their register regulation issues.

- Martin

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Toolaholic 
Date:   2017-10-31 05:04

Ridenour Low Eb for about $2000. Ridenour Low C for about $3000. Michael Lowenstern liked the Ridenour. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_uTrbNPagqk As for the Yamaha 221 II I have neck out 3/8 and 1.5mm tuning rings which brings it to A440. Same with my 622 II Yamaha Low C. Neck out about 3/8 and 1.5mm rings and it plays 440.

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: ClarinetRobt 
Date:   2017-10-31 05:32

For what it's worth:
I had an All-Stater (Texas) I gave a few lessons. She played a Ridenour Bass, Low C. She sounded just lovely, great tuning, and seem pretty indestructible.
She got her grandparents to buy her one for graduation heading into college. The last time I talked to her, her college professor (she's not a performance major) sneered at the instrument. That is until he heard it, then played it himself.
The Ridenour seams to hit all the right notes. (pun intended)

~Robert L Schwebel
Mthpc: Behn Vintage, Lig: Ishimori, Reed: Aria 4, Legere Euro Signature 3.75, Horns: Uebel Superior, Ridenour Lyrique

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: shmuelyosef 
Date:   2017-11-01 04:14

Toolaholic wrote:
>As for the Yamaha 221 II I have neck out 3/8
>and 1.5mm tuning rings which brings it to A440

Are the tuning rings in the middle tenon between upper and lower joint? I have one of these and, yes, keep the neck pulled out 3/8", but the lower register still plays sharp. I tried just pulling out the middle with no rings, but as expected the G,A,B got stuffy.

Any ideas for a cheap source of Bass tuning rings, or should I just fire up the lathe?

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2017-11-01 04:25

It is hard to find fault with the Ridenour 925e bass (I did not go for the 925c). I had one before my "significant other" upgraded me to a new Selmer Model 65 for my retirement.

But if I had to keep playing the Ridenour, I would have had few if any criticisms. It is a GOOD and inexpensive bass clarinet. It has a double register key and a LH Ab/Eb key; both are usually found only on more expensive bass clarinets.

I did carry mine in an old 5 piece Selmer case as the 925e comes only in a one piece Protec-like case; the sections do come apart.

HRL

PS The myth that the keys on the Ridenour are soft and go out of adjustment easily is "fake news."

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Toolaholic 
Date:   2017-11-01 05:39

The Fobes selmer tuning rings fit mid joint. The 221 is based on the 621 which is based on selmer 30 series from late 70s early 80s. https://www.clarkwfobes.com/products/tuning-ring-bass-clarinet



Post Edited (2017-11-01 05:40)

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: oian 
Date:   2017-11-01 08:24

I've had a Ridenour 925c for about 2 1/2 years. It plays very well in tune. I'd heard about "soft keys". I don't baby the instrument by any means and haven't had any significant problems or needed an adjustment since I got the horn (except for an adjustment screw that would periodically loosen which was fixed with a touch of clear nail polish). I don't play professionally, or intend to and it is nice to never have to be concerned about whether it's hot, cold, wet or dry as one would with a wood instrument. I play with the students in a Jr High and High School band (I'm way past High School age), church orchestra and an adult school (New Horizons) band.

I'd say that the Ridenour is a very good inexpensive bass clarinet.



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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2017-11-04 00:23

Toolaholic,

I have a Selmer Model 32 as my backup bass. It is a tremendous instrument that is very much like my Selmer Privilege. I've played both a Yamaha 221 and 621 and they are nothing like the Selmer 30 series in any way.

Where did "The 221 is based on the 621 which is based on selmer 30 series from late 70s early 80s." come from? Please tell me more about this assertion as I don't see that there is any kind of relationship between the Selmer Model 30s and the Yamaha 221 or 621.

HRL

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Toolaholic 
Date:   2017-11-04 17:26

Clark Fobes reviewed the 621/622 in May/June 1990 and the 622 II in 2014. Both times he stated it was based on the 33. From September 2014 Clarinet journal “According to Yamaha, the bore speci - cations of this instrument should be about 925 in , but my measurements place the bore at 922in (23 40mm) which is essen- tially the same as my old Selmer Model 33 bass clarinet from 1976 is is no coinci- dence Yamaha rst produced a low-C bass clarinet in 1988 called the Y622 which was a copy of the Selmer Model 33, albeit with some variations e previously mentioned Brian Petterson explained to me in a phone call that the Y622II (released in 2009) is not so much a redesign as it is an upgrade to the Y622 ere are some improvements to bracing of the extension key rods, a metal middle joint tenon and some revised tone holes “. Hope it’s ok to post part of the review.



Post Edited (2017-11-04 17:39)

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Toolaholic 
Date:   2017-11-04 17:33

May/June 1990 article from clarinet journal. Join CIRCB to read. http://www.circb.info/?q=node/11486



Post Edited (2017-11-04 18:54)

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2017-11-04 22:35

Thanks, Toolaholic for the clarification.

HRL

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: thereallukasj 
Date:   2017-11-05 05:44

I really reccomend a Kessler Custom low c bass. They are $1,000 cheaper then Ridenour, have a much better fitting case, and have stronger keywork that I think is better layed out. Check out my independent review on youtube at the link below and subscribe to my channel for more bass clarinet and clarinet material.


https://youtu.be/IEYn4Fe4MrM


Thanks,
Lukas Johnson

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2017-11-08 07:45

I played the 925e for a year. Excellent sound and intonation.

I could not handle the keywork....I had to work way too hard. I have since sold it and now play a Selmer Series 9 low c bass instead (a wonderful horn, but also $1,000 more in price).

I also found the stock Ridenour case truly awful.

But, for anyone needing a bass, without incurring a heavy investment, I would absolutely recommend...and there is a reason it costs what it does.

Anthony

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2017-11-08 16:03

Fromsfca,

Agreed about the key work being a bit over sprung on the 925e. The throat A was one key I did not like at all. But other than that, I had not real problems.

Yes, a very crappy case; I used my one-piece Protec or the old Selmer 5-piece case I mentioned above.

But you are correct, at the price... One can't expect a $2K bass to play like a $10K bass so there are some compromises that must be considered.

HRL

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: Mojo 
Date:   2017-11-09 16:44

I have been playing a first gen Kessler low C for about 2.5 years. Was $2300. I thought it was good (well regulated) when I first got it. It gradually went out of adjustment then I had an accident at home that bent the body octave key. I bent it back but it was not closing correctly all the time. So I researched techs within a reasonable drive from me and took it to Mike Hammer near Bensalem, PA.

Mike said even new, he could put in 5+ hours adjusting the mechanism and fixing leaks. His Mag testing found two leaks in the neck. One in the tuning slide and one was a pin hole leak in a Weld. He replaced 4 pads. He changed how much the octave keys and the extended low notes opened. He took play out of the mechanism. He adjusted springs which I really notice in how the low notes spring back. They were sluggish before.

So after $500 worth of work, it plays better than it ever did. Fluid across the breaks. Very responsive.

So I think a good value is buying low cost low C bass clarinet that has potential and planning on having it set up by an expert tech. Either right away or after a year or two.

MojoMP.com
Mojo Mouthpiece Work LLC
MojoMouthpieceWork@yahoo.com

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2017-11-09 18:11

Hey Mojo,

Glad that worked out for you.

I did tje same thing with the 925e without success. The design has long rods which are prone to bending and, due to length and how the keywork is designed, difficult to note quickly.

Low G required too much effort and the horn was constantly out of adjustment (I'm probably not as gentle as I should be putting it into the car, but I'm usually juggling a couple of other instrument cases).

The Selmer Series 9 I now play (my 3rd or 4th Series 9 bass) has wonderful feel, with solid keywork design, intonation and tone.

Granted: finding a vintage bass clarinet that plays well can be a challenge, with adjustments I ended up paying $3K for a low C bass, which I think was well worth the investment.

I happened to luck out.

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 Re: A GOOD inexpensive bass clarinet?
Author: fromsfca 2017
Date:   2017-11-10 07:26

I played the 925e for a year. Excellent sound and intonation.

I could not handle the keywork....I had to work way too hard. I have since sold it and now play a Selmer Series 9 low c bass instead (a wonderful horn, but also $1,000 more in price).

I also found the stock Ridenour case truly awful.

But, for anyone needing a bass, without incurring a heavy investment, I would absolutely recommend...and there is a reason it costs what it does.

Anthony

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