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 Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Apersonn 
Date:   2020-03-13 05:07

I'm having an issue while playing my bass clarinet in my high school's pep band. I find that my sound is easily drowned out by that of trombones, trumpets, and saxophones alike, so whenever I am trying to project an important melody or an otherwise interesting part, I am unable to. Sometimes I don't even know if I am playing correctly because I cannot hear myself!
Balance is out of the question, as the pep band is a more informal institution, so I need help. I have tried everything from simply giving more power, spinning my air as fast as I can, and even using half-hole tricks to reach into the high altissimo register (up to a barely tuned A5), but nothing so far has worked for me.
Should I try to get a new mouthpiece? Is my 3 hardness reed too soft or hard? Should I just play the tenor sax?!?
All feedback is welcome!

Edit: Thank you for the replies! What I'm hearing is that I could try to experiment with more open mouthpiece styles or hook an amplifier to my instrument, but I really can't compete with instruments practically designed to be loud. Perhaps it's about time that I finally get into a different instrument group than the clarinet family, but I'm not too sure if my director would let me; I've been playing *only* bass clarinet (with some contrabass) for the past three years, and I nearly reached the first chair position in my state's All-State band this year... Basically, she might want me to stick to bass clarinet and nothing else. I tried to learn Bari sax at the end of the previous school year, but not only did I never get the chance to bring it home over the summer, but there are also some other musicians in the pep band who are already considering the same (and actually play the sax in the first place). I'll talk to her soon and see what we can figure out.

Post Edited (2020-03-13 23:42)

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2020-03-13 05:37

If you enjoy playing the bass clarinet and otherwise enjoy playing in pep band, there is nothing in particularly you can do about the "dynamics" situation.

When playing in large bands with bass clarinet I always enjoyed listening down to the bass trombone which inevitably is playing exactly the same part.

Now I've always been a small lay mouthpiece guy, but I think with bass clarinet it does make sense to stick with "medium-close" to "close" facings. This is because it's much easier to produce a "buzzier" sound which projects more (and tends to cut through much better).

..............Paul Aviles

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2020-03-13 06:32

It is not possible to compete with the sheer volume that trumpet, trombone, and saxophone players can produce — especially in a pep-band game environment.

Not without electric amplification.

IF you, personally, must be equal with those instruments in the volume category: yes, tenor or bari sax.


Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Ed Palanker 
Date:   2020-03-13 17:42

It's hopeless unless you can get an amplifier attached to your bass, and even then you won't compete.


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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Mojo 
Date:   2020-03-13 18:03

I have experimented with high baffles and large tip openings on bass clarinet. They can give you more volume. But still not enough for a pep band IMO. I would play tenor sax.
Mojo Mouthpiece Work LLC

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: r small 
Date:   2020-03-13 19:09

If you can find a Charles Bay piece with an open tip, I think his most open was about .080, you'll get more volume than just about any stock piece. A Selmer H (.090 I believe) is pretty loud too. But I agree with Mojo. Better to play Tenor Sax. Get a high baffle screamer piece to compete with the brass.

By the way, years ago when I was heavily into bass clarinet I had Charlie make me a couple of bass clarinet pieces to my specifications. One was a .102 tip and was marked VO-L (very open tip long facing length). This piece played very well with a Fibracell soft reed. The other piece was a .106 tip and was marked EO-L (extremely open tip long facing length). I'd say this piece was about one step beyond what could be played by a mortal human.

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Max S-D 
Date:   2020-03-14 09:40

Look, I love to play loud on the bass clarinet and I'd say I can put out as much volume as any player I've ever heard, but trying to play bass clarinet loud enough to project outdoors next to saxophones and brass instruments is just not going to work.

Even blowing your brains out (with excellent technique, air, voicing and embouchure), the bass clarinet is just inevitably going to hit a ceiling at a dynamic level where a saxophone is just getting started. That's exhausting to sustain and even then, you're probably not going to sound very good.

Even if you could be loud enough, the timbre of the bass clarinet is probably not going to carry, since you're almost definitely doubling the bari, bass trombone, etc. parts, and those instruments just have a tone that will cut more.

Does your school have a tenor or bari sax that you can use for pep band? This could be a great chance to learn a double and keep the bass clarinet for playing in other contexts.

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: EbClarinet 
Date:   2020-03-14 10:10

I agree with the other post about all woodwinds not being able to over power the brass or percussion. If you stick with the bass clarinet through college and n2 the symphony, then you'll get soli and wonderful solos. Have you tried playing solos for bass clarinet and piano?

Just stick with the instrument and when you mature as a player, you'll get your chance 2 shine. Preferably in a symphony orchestra. Those parts r tough so get you the book of orchestral excerpts for the bass clarinet.

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: kilo 
Date:   2020-03-14 14:21

Glad the OP found the information he was looking for.

In general, this is a great example of trying to get an instrument to do something it wasn't really made for in a setting where it doesn't really belong. A whole bass clarinet section playing "oom-pa" lines might work but trying to play a melody line by yourself and still be heard above everyone else isn't realistic. In my concert band I think of the bass as a sectional instrument, mainly providing a foundation for the soprano clarinets with an occasional chance to add an interesting line here and there. I know that when the section is short and I have to play soprano the other clarinets always say they miss the hearing the bass.

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Apersonn 
Date:   2020-03-15 02:12

I will be trying to borrow a bari or at least a tenor from my school to learn over the spring break. The one time I got to try bari for a day, I loved it but I really didn't get the chance to pursue it further.
Also, I do believe that in the right setting, the bass clarinet is a great instrument i.e. in a duet with a piccolo player. It just doesn't work in a pep band environment like a lot of you have been commenting. Thanks for your help!

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 Re: Playing Louder/Projecting Better on Bass Clarinet
Author: Max S-D 
Date:   2020-03-15 21:08

The bass clarinet is a great instrument! It's my favorite one to play.

But I definitely take any chance I can get to play the bari. It's a really fun horn to play and can be an eye opening experience where air support is required. It will not tolerate an unsupported air stream!

Have fun.

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