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 Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2022-01-08 11:21

Hi

I'm trying to find someone who plays a small bore Leblanc basset horn or is familiar with them. These are apparently earlier and much less common than the later large bore models. They have an approx 16.1mm bore (the large bore ones are 18mm).

From the little I've been able to find so far, they use a "tweener" mouthpiece, smaller than alto, but maybe larger or at least a specific type of Bb mouthpiece.

I haven't found anyone who plays one, but one person who plays a similar bore old Buffet basset said they are meant to use "a French version of a German basset horn mouthpiece". The socket diameter supports this, being too small to even fit an alto mouthpiece, but a regular French soprano mouthpiece is loose. Fitting the tenon of a regular Bb mouthpiece wouldn't be a problem but apparently it's unlikely to work well with one...

Questions are...
- What problems it could have with a regular French soprano mouthpiece?
- What current made mouthpieces (brands and models) work on these?
- How good this Leblanc basset horn is once in good condition?

This one is in terrible condition, only a couple of the throat notes even play, and even with a small repair it wouldn't be anywhere near a condition that it's possible to assess it.
I'm trying to determine (i.e. help the owner decide) whether it's worth the repair, hopefully to be used for university and/or professional level classical trios, etc.

It looks like a "higher" model than my professional Leblanc alto (swan neck model), but that's mostly cosmetic (elaborate logo and engraving on the bell, seems overall a little better made, etc.). The alto, although a pro model, isn't at the level of current Buffet or Selmer (though they have their problems too) and would be borderline good enough for this type of use, but we have no idea how this basset compares with it.

Thanks

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Jarmo Hyvakko 
Date:   2022-01-08 13:12

I have got an old selmer. Supposed to play with a clarinet mouthpiece. Not possible to play with the same mouthpiece than the clarinet. Just try to find a more open mouthpiece that works well. Perhaps also widen the bore of the mouthpiece to match the instrument.

A small bore basset horn is a very interesting instrument, perhaps more a real basset horn compared to modern alto clarinets in F extended to low C. Sadly the volume isn't enough for a modern symphony orchestra. And intonation issues are a bit challenging too. And that's why i am using a modern buffet prestige when playing in public.

Jarmo Hyvakko, Principal Clarinet, Tampere Philharmonic, Finland

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Johan H Nilsson 
Date:   2022-01-10 14:18

Clarnibass,

I don't think I have seen such kind of a Leblanc basset horn.

Could you provide the approximate serial number and some photos of the front and rear side so all details in the key work can be seen?

Refurbished, it should not play worse than the Selmer basset horn. ;-)

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2022-01-10 19:46

>> Could you provide the approximate serial number <<

It is strange but I couldn't find a serial number. At least not in any place that I've seen a serial number before (and I checked the neck, bell and everywhere I could think of). Maybe it's hidden somewhere?

I can post photos in a few days.

>> Supposed to play with a clarinet mouthpiece. Not possible to play with the same mouthpiece than the clarinet. <<

Do you mean your Selmer is supposed to use a regular soprano clarinet mouthpiece but doesn't work with one?

>> Just try to find a more open mouthpiece that works well. <<

More open than what? I won't be the one playing it anyway, but to test, my regular Bb mouthpiece is pretty open.
I'm not sure we will have a mouthpiece that is possible to experiment with, and the ones I can are so bad that I'm not sure would mean anything.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2022-01-11 13:09

Can you post some photos of this basset horn just so we can see exactly what's going on here. Descriptions are one thing - even though I have a pretty good imagination, seeing actual photos will definitely be far more beneficial than going largely on descriptions and imagination.

Chris.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2022-01-12 13:35

Here are some photos.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2022-01-12 13:38
Attachment:  20220112_105633s.jpg (437k)
Attachment:  20220112_1056332s.jpg (453k)
Attachment:  20220112_1056333s.jpg (149k)
Attachment:  20220112_1056334s.jpg (222k)

Photos were too big, trying again.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2022-01-12 14:12

That must be a pretty ancient one as it's nothing like the Leblanc basset horns I've seen in both real life and in catalogues. Also looks like this one has a RH forked Ab/Eb mechanism as seen on some Leblanc basses so there's no need for a LH Ab/Eb lever - the forked Ab/Eb fingering being xxx|xox.

Maybe the later large bore ones were developed by Charles Houvenaghel for more volume, even though many die hard basset hornists don't view them as true basset horns and consider them more like alto clarinets in F to low C.

The later ones were available to both low C and also low Eb - the low C ones had a divided or two piece lower joint with a socket ring part way up where the sections are jointed.

Chris.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Johan H Nilsson 
Date:   2022-01-13 21:47

Thanks for those photos, Clarnibass!

The German silver keys and the engraving on the bell makes me think this instrument is from about the same time as a Leblanc bass clarinet I own that has serial number 5XX.

It's my impression that Leblanc changed from German silver to plating the keys some time in the 1950s.

I also notice that the Bb4 and register key mechanism is the same as on an alto clarinet. The Selmer basset horn and old Buffets have a Bb clarinet style simple register key.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2022-01-14 09:57

>> The German silver keys and the engraving on the bell makes me think this instrument is from about the same time as a Leblanc bass clarinet I own that has serial number 5XX <<

Do you know when your bass is from approximately?

I couldn't find anyone else who has even seen one of these. People who have seen many Leblanc altos, basses, etc. guessed it could be any time from the 30s to the 60s, but possibly 60s is unlikely.

Even older Leblanc altos and basses I've seen had what I think is called jump trill keys, where they are straight and bridge over one another. This one doesn't have that.

The neck and bell look nickel plated.

Mainly what I'm trying to find is what mouthpiece was originally used with these.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Johan H Nilsson 
Date:   2022-01-14 13:50

I cannot date my 5XX bass clarinet, so it is difficult to date the basset horn. I had a look at my little register of saved ads and it seems Leblanc started plating their basses at serial number 6600. If that was in the 1950s and they made 300 per year, 3000 per decade, it would be from the 1930s. To couple serial numbers with production dates, I would need ads with both serial number and dated purchase receipts.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: paulyb 
Date:   2022-01-14 23:32

60s does seem a bit too late. This one in the Smithsonian is apparently from 1962 and is a much more familiar design:

https://www.si.edu/object/nmah_606557

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Johan H Nilsson 
Date:   2022-01-15 04:00

paulyb wrote:

> 60s does seem a bit too late. This one in the Smithsonian is
> apparently from 1962 and is a much more familiar design:

That instrument has plated keys (looks like nickel plating to me). According to the description it has serial number 6502 and was made in 1962.

Interestingly:
"This basset horn was designed in Paris but manufactured at the Wisconsin plant."

I thought all Leblanc France instruments were made in La-Couture Boussey and shipped to the US.

The basset horn with lowest serial number I have come across is from this forum:

"Author: John25
Date: 2009-02-17 13:53

I bought my Leblanc basset-horn brand-new on 23rd November 1961. The serial number is 5575."
http://test.woodwind.org/clarinet/BBoard/read.html?f=1&i=424461&t=294589

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: clarnibass 
Date:   2022-01-15 09:19

Most I was able to find so far...

I thought the inline bridging trill keys is something they started making and stuck with it... but not sure anymore. So I thought this means this basset is earlier... but not necessarily.

According to the most info I could find, they changed from contoured Leblanc in the logo to straight in 1972, so this is before.

From the logo on the Clarinet Perfection page, there is no start date, but this logo with the G as part of the contoured Leblanc is the oldest, made until the 1950s.

The keys are a little tricky. First it looks like unplated nickel silver for the keys, but nickel plated neck and bell. The nickel plating is shiny, almost looks like new, and there's nothing to suggest it's not original (the engraving looks very nice and crisp). It's worn a bit on the top of the neck (the part perpenducular to the length of the neck).
One person posted a photo of an alto with the same "scheme" - Buffet style trill keys, and not really possible to tell from photos, but probably also unplated keys and nickel plated neck and bell. They don't know when it's from but a guess is also 1930s.

So 1930s is the best guess so far for this basset.

By the way at the very top of the upper section, in tiny letters, very easy to miss, engraved "Made in France". So this one was made in France.

I've read some older Leblancs might have mazac keys, or only for some of the keys. On this one, some parts of the keys are surprisingly shiny compared with how unplated nickel silver keys usually look like... so I'm not sure yet.

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 Re: Small bore Leblanc basset horn
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2022-01-15 15:27
Attachment:  P1010001 (1).JPG (692k)

I've got an old Leblanc alto with unplated keywork but has a nickel plated crook and bell.

I doubt they'd have used Mazak keys on a basset horn given how long the keys are and how soft Mazak is, plus the fact unplated Mazak looks like zinc and is just as soft so would've worn out decades ago through normal use with no layer of plating to protect it.

You haven't replied to my post over on Facebook where you were asking if a Selmer Bundy bass clarinet floorspike fitting will work on this, so I'll give you a casual reminder of that. I've fitted one to an old Leblanc bass (also with unplated keywork and nickel plated bell and crook) as well as an Yamaha alto clarinet (see attachment) to show it has just over 3mm of clearance between the floorspike and the back of the lower joint.

Chris.

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