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 Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2009-10-03 16:23

A while ago there was a discussion on this list regarding the notion of having a low D added to an alto clarinet, effectively providing the alto clarinet with the same compass as the basset horn (low D on alto clarinet = low C on basset horn).
No concrete information was given regarding repairmen who add the extra note or direct experience with an alto clarinet with the added low D.
Has anyone had experience with having a low D added to his alto clarinet or does anyone know a technician with experience adding the extra hole and key?

(May I respectfully request that those with objections to substituting an alto clarinet for a basset horn abstain for the moment, perhaps starting another thread with moral and musical objections to this notion. In Montreal, musical organizations (my orchestra, Montreal Opera, etc) do not want to rent/borrow basset horns when needed. I must personally arrange the acquisition of 2 basset horns. After several decades of arranging for basset horns for orchestras (and publics) unconcerned with the nuance of timbral differences between basset horn and alto clarinet, I no longer have the time/energy/money to keep up this utopian, idealistic and extremely time-consuming exercise of arranging for a pair of basset horns every time we need them.)

Thanks in advance for any info or experience you might have with regards to adding a low D to an alto clarinet.
------------------------------------------------------------
Simon Aldrich

Clarinet Faculty - McGill University
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre Metropolitain de Montreal
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre de l'Opera de Montreal
Artistic Director - Jeffery Summer Concerts
Clarinet - Nouvel Ensemble Moderne

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: USFBassClarinet 
Date:   2009-10-03 17:06

Just a few cents from me...

Someone told me before that muncy I think? made a wooden bell for an alto clarinet along with an extension and took a vow to never do it again as it was such a pain. I have no idea who the clarinetist was. I believe it was a person who did extensive work in Canada but I heard the story from someone else who knew him.

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2009-10-03 18:08

My early Selmer contra-alto goes only to low E. When Steve Fox restored it for me, I asked him about adding a low Eb (which the current model has), to improve third-line B natural. He said he could do it, but he doesn't like to make keys and suggested simply making an extension with an open hole and no key. The middle B turned out to be fine even without the extension, so we didn't do it, but he's certainly competent to make an extension. His waiting list is very long now, and he hasn't been doing special alterations.

Walter Grabner has extended at least one bass clarinet to low D. http://test.woodwind.org/Databases/Klarinet/2001/12/000391.txt He used to have a photo on his site, but no longer. He no longer makes low C extensions, though. http://test.woodwind.org/Databases/Klarinet/2004/03/000871.txt

Pete Worell in England does keywork alteration and custom keywork, including bass clarinet low C extensions. http://freespace.virgin.net/pete.worrell/gallery/selmerbasscltextension.htm

Dave Spiegelthal has done the same. http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=171768&t=171768.

Chris P can probably give other sources. See http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=243100&t=242906

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Morrie Backun 
Date:   2009-10-03 18:41

Hello,

I think the player might have been Chuck Currie and my shop made the Cocobolo wooden bell, extension and mechanism for his Alto Clarinet. Chuck has a great collection of really fine instruments and is always looking for ways to enhance the instruments capabilities.

We are fully equipped to do custom keywork and extensions.

I am not sure we took an actual "VOW" to not do it again, but as I recall it was a challenge to get everything working well together. Having said that, the sound at the end was worth the work.

As for using Alto instead of Basset....I have heard many good musical performances diminished by players working with unfamiliar instruments or ones in poor shape. Finding excellent Basset's in great shape can be a daunting task and several of my clients who own them, will not rent or lend them.

Best regards to all.

Morrie Backun
Backun Musical Services
604-205-5770
morrie@backunmusical.com

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Ebclarinet1 
Date:   2009-10-04 13:06

The new Buffet Prestige alto clarinets have a vent on the bell and when the vent is covered and low Eb is played it makes a very well tuned low D (=low C on the basset horn). Perhaps you could just buy a Buffet alto bell as an alternative to more major surgery. I own a basset horn too but I have experimented transposing some of the classic basset horn pieces and playing them on alto using the vent covering and it works very well. I used a rubber stopper (I'm a cell biologist and we use these in various pieces of lab equipment) as it was easy to insert and remove. That way you can play a low Eb (Db on the basset horn) by removing the stopper relatively easily. Of course this would not work in a chromatic passage of the low notes.

The Buffet alto has a very pretty sound, a bit more "robust"(less veiled) than a basset horn, but a lovely sound. The Adagio of the Mozart concerto sounds beautiful on it!

Hope that's some help!

Eefer guy

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2009-10-04 14:33

A Buffet bell fitted to a Leblanc, Noblet, Vito, Bundy, etc. alto won't give you the low D - the entire low Eb key is on the body on Buffets and the low E issues from the lowest tonehole on the body while the low Eb key is open standing, low Eb issues from the bell vent once the low Eb key is closed so blocking this vent will give the low D - but this is only on Buffet altos.

On other altos with the standard bell arrangement (with the key on the bell actuated by the low Eb key on the body) the low Eb issues from the bell itself (and low E issues from the vent on the bell while the bell key is open), so putting a Buffet bell on a Leblanc (or similar) alto will only give you an alto to low E as there's no bell key to close for the low Eb - then covering the bell vent will give low Eb but with more physical effort as now there's no bell key.

So things will work the other way round - put a Leblanc bell on a Buffet and you have an alto that will descend to low D, and if you fit a low D key (eg. for the right thumb) to close the bell key, then this will certainly work.

Chris.

Post Edited (2009-10-04 14:38)

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   2009-10-04 15:11

We have discussed earlier the "simple-minded" method of achieving a ?decent? low D by a removable bell extension "tube" etc with the sacrifice of the low Eb, A bit of research here might accomplish your needs, perhaps. Don

Thanx, Mark, Don

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2009-10-07 14:17

Thanks to everyone who responded with opinions and experience related to putting a low D on an alto clarinet.
It appears a lot of people have thought of this and done it already.
It looks like I might not have to send the alto clarinet out of the country to get it done.
Morrie Backun summed up why I am getting this done, "As for using Alto instead of Basset....I have heard many good musical performances diminished by players working with unfamiliar instruments or ones in poor shape. Finding excellent Basset's in great shape can be a daunting task and several of my clients who own them, will not rent or lend them."

Thanks again,
------------------------------------------------------------
Simon Aldrich

Clarinet Faculty - McGill University
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre Metropolitain de Montreal
Principal Clarinet - Orchestre de l'Opera de Montreal
Artistic Director - Jeffery Summer Concerts
Clarinet - Nouvel Ensemble Moderne

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: 2E 
Date:   2021-05-24 08:42

Jared De Leon offers this service now. I sent him my alto clarinet about a month ago, he 3D printed the extension and built a key on the right thumb to close the new tone hole. Should be getting it sent back to me any day now 👍

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2021-05-24 19:59

Thanks for resurrecting this thread Brendan, and for the information.
Do you mind my asking how much the procedure costs?
I am interested to hear your comments in a few days regarding the result.

(My orchestra has since bought a pair of Prestige basset horns.)

Simon

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: alanporter 
Date:   2021-05-24 21:25

I have a low Eb bass clarinet with the Eb hole in the bell. I have found that inserting a plastic tube into the bell can produce a low D together with the loss of the Eb. The tube dimensions are 7 3/4" long and 1 1/2" inside diameter.

I have two band scores that do not have a written Eb note so my simple trick serves well.

tiaroa@shaw.ca

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2021-05-25 04:47

Not exactly on topic, but I've built two removable low-D extensions for a couple of my bass clarinets. They often come in handy, without the significant extra length and complexity of full low-C extensions. Still, they're time-consuming to build right despite only adding one note. Alto clarinet would be the same.

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: 2E 
Date:   2021-05-27 17:55

Simon, about $500USD for the extension.

Jared also did a few other mods to my alto, including building a left hand alternate Eb lever and a black, 3D-printed, adjustable neck for additional cost.

It's getting posted back to me now, should hopefully have it in a week or so. There's a video of him demo-ing it on youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iQv5E6QDFg

Cheers!

2E

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Ralph Katz 
Date:   2021-06-09 07:48

I have an alto clarinet in transit now to Stephen Fox in Canada, to have him extend it to low D. Should have sent it last year, but was afraid that it would get hung up in Customs. Finally bit the bullet and shipped it.

He has a lot of experience adding extensions, and I will have him overhaul the instrument as well. The cost will be lots more than $500, but still way less than the cost of a functional, used Basset Horn. The extension will be permanent. I will figure out a case later, but probably construct one myself for Bb, Eb, and extended alto clarinets.

Our clarinet quartet has a number of arrangements with Alto Clarinet or Basset Horn, and this will allow bringing one less instrument to gigs.

I talked about this with the manufacturers' reps for everyone with an alto clarinet at the 2018 Midwest Clinic in Chicago. Only the Yamaha people were willing to say what a good idea having a low D would be. But they haven't made one.

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2021-06-09 10:06

Thanks for your reports Brendan and Ralph.

I originally envisioned adding a low D to an alto clarinet as a low-cost solution to play *2nd* basset horn parts that descend to a basset horn written low C, before my orchestra bought basset horns.

However, playing the *1st* basset horn part on an alto clarinet in a piece like the Gran Partita is not ideal, as the part would be in D major on alto clarinet. All the delicate playing around high C on the basset horn would be around high D on the alto clarinet. High C# and D are not always good notes on alto clarinets.

Simon



Post Edited (2021-06-09 22:51)

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Ralph Katz 
Date:   2021-10-29 05:05

So, I did it. The goal was to have a single instrument to play both basset hron and alto clarinet parts.

Stephen Fox in the Toronto area overhauled and modified a Noblet alto clarinet that I picked up cheap, and it now it has a low D. His skills have certainly improved in low these decades, so this instrument also has an offset floor peg, uses a standard Bb clarinet bell, has a LH Ab/Eb, and some other mods. The low D is actuated by either a RH thumb paddle or a LH pinky key.

It was 1/3 the cost of the good used basset horns I saw a couple of years ago.

I haven't played it in an ensemble yet, but our quartet wants to work up a piece with basset horn, so it will get a test. But one member of the group moved out of town and we won't rehearse for another few weeks.

Jason Alder has had Jared de Leon also add a low D to an alto clarinet.

News at 11.



Post Edited (2021-10-29 05:08)

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 Re: Low D added to alto clarinet
Author: Simon Aldrich 
Date:   2021-10-29 07:05

Thanks for the update Ralph. Good to know Stephen Fox is still going strong.

Simon

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