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 Contra contraption
Author: Willie 
Date:   1999-08-15 05:22

Is there any way to get a Contra Alto to play ff or fff outside of hooking it up to a large rock & roll amp? At our last out door concert, we to cresendo way up on some of our pieces and I couldn't even here myself over the bari sax and he was barely puffin' on that thing. The profesor is always asking me to play louder 'cuz he likes the deep voice the Contra has (not bad comin' from a trumpet player). It's an old LeBlanc metal EEb with an old LeBlanc mp. I also sometimes use an unmarked mp that uses bari reeds which is handy when I can't find Contra reeds, but it sounds the same. I tried a couple #3s and they won't hardly play at all even when scaped down.

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Kontragirl 
Date:   1999-08-15 17:16

Maybe it's your instrument. I play on a plastic Bundy, and it's always a nice bari sax and contralto clarinet duet when we get really loud. I would try putting contra reeds on the unmarked mouthpiece. That's also a good tip to get a bass clarinet really loud, use contra reeds. That's what I did when I didn't have bass clarinet reeds yet.
I'm just curious, but what part do you play? I play alto clarinet part, bari sax part, and every once in a while I get a contralto clarinet part.

Kontragirl

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Melanie 
Date:   1999-08-16 02:45

I have played alto clarinet for a while, along with bass and contra. In this time, I have realized that while the horn may be at fault, reeds make a big difference in the volume of lower clarinets. On alto clarinet, I used alto sax reeds. The softer the better. On bass, tenor sax; on contra, bari reeds.

Kontragirl: it's really not the best idea to play alto clarinet parts on contra-alto. From experience, the alto clarinet lines generally follow the saxes, french horns, and occasionally the euphonium high parts. Alto clarinet is a harmony instrument in the mid range. Contra-alto is a low voice meant for bass lines in music. Playing alto parts on a contra places the harmony line in the wrong register. In high school, my band was cautioned by a guest conductor to put the contra on bari sax parts or tuba parts unless there was a contra part.

Just some advice from someone who has been there and done that!

Melanie

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Kontragirl 
Date:   1999-08-16 03:28

Hey, I don't assign the parts, I just play 'em!

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Willie 
Date:   1999-08-16 04:23

Same here Kontragirl! I play what we can find in the music pile. If I don't have a contra part I'll look for bari, but I have found that tuba and strind bass parts are even better sometimes if ya know how to transpose it. Its easy, just figure out what the key is for Eb by going up three notches on the cycle of fifths and read the staff as if it were in treble clef. In most segments,I can go an octave lower to more depth to the piece. As for the instrument, it IS a piece of junk. My daughter found it in the back bandhall storeroom where it was used as a doorstop, baseball bat and lord knows what else. It took me almost 2 years of on & off tweeking, bending and even putting saddle oil on the rock hard pads to get it to play. I'm shaking the trees now trying to find my own so I can fix it right.

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Arnold the basset hornist 
Date:   1999-08-16 06:44

Just wondering no one plays bassoon parts (or contra bassoon) with his contra alto?

For my basset horn I ordered special manufacured mouthpieces with long table and wide opening (not cheep at all, but it works fine). I can allmost "blow away" a basson with my 1.80 mm * 28 mm "french alto clarinet style" mouthpiece.

Arnold (the basset hornist)

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Ken Shaw 
Date:   1999-08-16 19:31

Willie wrote:
-------------------------------
Is there any way to get a Contra Alto to play ff or fff outside of hooking it up to a large rock & roll amp? At our last out door concert, we to cresendo way up on some of our pieces and I couldn't even here myself over the bari sax and he was barely puffin' on that thing. The profesor is always asking me to play louder 'cuz he likes the deep voice the Contra has (not bad comin' from a trumpet player). It's an old LeBlanc metal EEb with an old LeBlanc mp. I also sometimes use an unmarked mp that uses bari reeds which is handy when I can't find Contra reeds, but it sounds the same. I tried a couple #3s and they won't hardly play at all even when scaped down.


Willie -

I played nothing but contra-alto and contrabass in the West Point Band for a couple of years, and, believe me, the Leblancs can ROAR. If you have one in good condition, with the right reed, and you have the breath to play it, you should be able to drown out the entire section. I played a BBb contra at the ClarinetFest in Columbus a year ago, on the "Bydlo" movement from Pictures at an Exhibition, and nobody missed the tuba.

However, the Leblancs are very finicky about pad condition. Even a tiny leak, particularly in the extremely complex register key mechanism, can make they nearly unplayable. Find the 3 holes (2 register + 1 for Bb) and press the register key, watching for movement of more than one pad. First, finger low F (for the lower register key); then the A above (for the upper register key) and finally the throat Bb. Then finger low A and move the low G finger pad up and down to switch between the register keys. More likely than not, the coordination will be off. Fortunately, there are adjusting screws that make it possible (though not easy) to balance the mechanism properly.

Starting with second space A, go down by half steps, seeing if there is a particular point where the response goes bad. That's where you will find a leaky pad. It's best to go to a repair shop to get this fixed.

The older Leblancs (say, 30 years old) have different mouthpieces than the newer ones. The older ones are better, since they take wider reeds and thus make more sound. The new, narrower ones (which take baritone sax reeds) are not as good. On the low notes, all you year is the reed slapping against the mouthpiece, with no pitch to speak of. The older ones take Vandoren contrabass clarinet reeds (or at least the one on my old BBb contra does).

It's possible that you're using the wrong size reeds. If a baritone sax reed is put on one of the old mouthpieces, there will be leaks along the rails where it doesn't reach all the way across. If you have the newer mouthpiece and put a contra reed on it, the reed will overlap the sides of the rails, which kills the response.

If your reed is too wide, you need to sand it down to the correct width, which is about the width of a sharp pencil line narrower than the outside of the rails. Get a sheet of 400 grit waterproof (black) sandpaper and put it on a flat surface (preferably a sheet of glass). Hold the reed near the middle with the tip forward and the butt end back. Sand with light pressure (never allowing the tip to wrinkle), always drawing the reed toward you, from butt to tip. Reverse the sides every 20 or so strokes to take off evenly from both sides. Finally, round off the sharp corners _very_ gently, always stroking from the outside toward the middle of the tip.

If your instrument is the "paperclip" model rather than the straight one, it may have the extension down to low C. If it does, you can usually remove the extension and put the bell on where the extension used to be, or even leave off the bell. This will usually improve the overall response, if you don't need the low notes.

Have fun. Make big noise.

Ken Shaw

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Kontragirl 
Date:   1999-08-16 21:31

Arnold the basset hornist wrote:
-------------------------------
Just wondering no one plays bassoon parts (or contra bassoon) with his contra alto?

I don't get to play contra bassoon parts because the director doesn't like the thought of me trying to sight transpose and possibly not being able to play as loud. That wouldn't be a problem, especially since it's easy to transpose that kind of music, but he's a trombone player, so what can I say?

Kontragirl

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Willie 
Date:   1999-08-17 04:26

Hey, I thank all of you for responding. I've only been playing this thing since last October as I had a 4 way by-pass last year. It's fun. As for the instrument, the serial # is 402 and it has, I suspect the original pads. I offered to repad it if the school would buy some but the band director hates this thing and won't spend any money on it even if one of the kids wanted to play it (they don't like it either). I think I'm going ti try one more time to see if he'll let me trade something for it as I know he needs saxs & horns bad and I have a small stack of 'em in my den. By the way, does any body know how old it is? The school records list it as far back '69.






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 RE: Contra contraption - answer to Kontragirl
Author: Arnold the basset hornist 
Date:   1999-08-17 06:07

The only thing I can suggest:
Find a few other woodwinds players for playing some chamber music, and you play the bassoon part - and then occasionally he hears it.
<i> e.g.</i> one of Mozarts Divertimentos for 2 Bb Clarinets and Bassoon (which are also available for 3 basset horns)
<i> or</i> Jacque Ibert "cinque piece on trio" for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon (but this sheet music is quite expensive!)
Best would be a piece you cannot play the basson part on a trombone at all, but you do it on your contra.

(or do I have to try to compose something?)
Arnold, the basset hornist

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 RE: Contra contraption
Author: Kontragirl 
Date:   1999-08-17 21:55

No way! I started playing in October too! Isn't that weird? I don't have any ideas about the instrument though...I just thought that was weird.

If I could get my paws on some chamber music, you don't know how fast I would grab it! But both of the music stores around here don't carry it. Maybe I'll look around online later....Thanks for the idea though!

Kontragirl

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 RE: Contra contraption - for Kontragirl's paws
Author: Arnold the basset hornist 
Date:   1999-08-20 11:21

Hello Kontragirl,

I think you'll have to order the chamber music parts just as I had to do for my basset horn sheet music.

Here what I would recommend at the beginning:
("order" them for <i>christmas</i>, <i>birthday</i> and <i>good marks at school</i>)

Amadeus, Winterthur (CH)
BP503 (parts) + BP503p (score)
Willy Hess: Trio op. 75
cl+cl+bassoon
approx. DM 26,-- + DM 12,--

Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden
KM2245
W. A. Mozart: Divertimento Nr. 5, KV Anh. 229 (439b)
cl+cl+bassoon or 3 basset horns
approx. DM 15,--

Kunzelmann, Lottstetten/Basel
ekb43
Giovanni Simone Mayr: 12 bagatelle a 3
fl+cl+bassoon
approx. DM 30,--

Trio Bläsermusik, München/Mühldorf
HK-011
Peter Paulitsch: Präludium, Fantasie und Ragtime, op 24
cl+cl+basset horn/bass clar/bassoon
approx. DM 24,--

Kunzelmann and Amadeus offer a quite good selection of chamber music for woodwinds.

P.S.: German <a href=http://www.musikverlage.de/verlage.html>addresses of publishers</a>

Well, I could also mail an listing with the sheetmusic I own (for basset horn) to you, but I'll be a far way for you to visit me for having a view to it.

Arnold (the basset hornist)

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 RE: Contra contraption - for Kontragirl's paws
Author: Kontragirl 
Date:   1999-08-20 18:32

Thank you, I'll try to check into getting some!

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