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 Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Kontra 
Date:   2012-02-12 20:39

I don't know about anyone else, but I feel like it's a really stupid idea. The bass clarinet is a much harder instrument to get right than the Bb clarinet, or so I've experienced. I feel like band directors who do this are a bit ignorant when it comes to the clarinet and bass clarinet. Of course there will always be that idiot who thinks bass clarinets are less than useful and that all they need are whole notes.

What do you think?

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: alto gether 
Date:   2012-02-12 21:02

Because alto clarinets have been phased out.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Ken Shaw 2017
Date:   2012-02-12 21:12

In my high school, the director put one of the weak players on Eb contra. There were fewer notes to make mistakes on.

Ken Shaw

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: bethmhil 
Date:   2012-02-12 21:15

We just had this discussion on Thursday in my Single Reeds methods class!

The general rationale is that bass clarinet parts are generally easier technically and rhythmically compared to soprano clarinet parts. Bass parts usually double bassoon, trombone, and bari sax parts, so the parts are usually made of whole notes and half notes, at least in young band repertoire. Even in college level rep., the bass clarinet parts are significantly easier... except in Maslanka pieces!

If a student has serious issues with rhythm and counting, then I might not disagree with the notion completely... Learning to count rhythms can be overwhelming to young students, and it might be beneficial to their learning and self esteem to put them on bass. They won't have so many (if any) difficult rhythms and technical passages thrown at them all at once on bass clarinet.

But for the most part, I very much disagree with the notion. There are plenty of less-than-exemplary rationales band directors use, but the one I've heard lately is "forcing clarinetists to use more air" by switching them to bass. It doesn't work. Not only do some kids feel like they are being 'demoted' when switched down to bass, but (in my personal opinion) bass clarinet is considerably harder to master than soprano clarinet, especially for young kids.

BMH
Illinois State University, BME and BM Performance

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: alto gether 
Date:   2012-02-12 21:20

Seriously: when I got my alto, I joined the local 4th of July pickup truck parade band. Bought the corresponding alto clarinet part. Obviously written for unpromising beginners. Shoulda got the 1st alto sax part instead, but what did I know?

But it's a self-fulfilling trend - put the weakest player on R flat grubelhorn, the publishers will write insultingly simple grubelhorn parts, so when band masters have to deal with weak players, they put them on grubelhorn . . .

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: bethmhil 
Date:   2012-02-12 21:24

That cracked me up! You're right though. ;)

My mother was knocked down to alto clarinet in her day... She keeps saying, "It was a punishment."

BMH
Illinois State University, BME and BM Performance

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Kontra 
Date:   2012-02-12 21:26

I agree that in my earlier years of playing bass, all I did was double bari sax or tuba parts. But as I got better and the repertoire got harder, I noticed the bass clarinet started to have its own part. Rarely now do I double anyone's part, and if I do it isn't just one particular instrument's part. Rather, it's a little bit of everyone.


When we play music in my concert band now, I'll play the same part as the bari for about 4 bars, and then go off and play my OWN part, and I've noticed the bari players looking over at me a bit wishingly.

I've also noticed that newer pieces of music give the bass clarinet more of its own part.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2012-02-12 21:29

I think the problem often isn't that directors put the weakest player on bass, it's just that they don't want to lose a strong player from the upper soprano clarinet parts. I don't know that the weakest players are generally relegated to bass, but it's true that even when a really strong player asks to try bass, directors' first reaction is often to say no.

Karl

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Kontra 
Date:   2012-02-12 21:33

That's what happened to me, kdk. I asked to play bass and both my directors said NO. As stubborn as I was, I brought it out during rehearsal one day anyway. Before that, both of my directors hated the instrument with a passion. Now one of them loves it, and the other still doesn't like it. He did however admit that my tone has improved on Bb clarinet from playing the bass.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: clarinetguy 2017
Date:   2012-02-12 22:07

I think KDK is right. Way back when I was in junior high school, I was fascinated by the bass clarinet and wanted to switch to it. I was playing first clarinet at the time, and from what I remember, neither my band director nor my private teacher wanted me to switch.

In many (or most?) school bands, there is a limited number of truly outstanding clarinet players. To a band director, it's much more important to have these players playing first than bass.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Sean.Perrin 
Date:   2012-02-12 22:10

Odd... in my school the directors always tried to put strong players on bass because they could easily make the switch. I think some teachers assume that the parts are "easier" though, and put weaker players on bass because of that.

I guess it depends on where you are and who the teacher is!

Founder and host of the Clarineat Podcast: http://www.clarineat.com

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: rtmyth 
Date:   2012-02-12 22:41

For many years, the Allentown high school band had 72 members, 24 on b-flat clarinet. None on bass, as I recall.

richard smith

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: davyd 
Date:   2012-02-13 03:12

When I was 7th grade, the director didn't assign anyone directly to alto, bass, or contra-alto clarinets (the school didn't own a contrabass); he asked for volunteers. Perhaps because I volunteered but didn't express a preference (my 6th grade band didn't have any of these instruments, so I didn't know what they were like) I got the contra-alto. This meant transposing in most of the pieces, a skill I might otherwise never have acquired.

I had one of 2 contra-altos, rather than one of 15 or so Bb's, so I didn't get lost in a crowd. We were seated behind the lower saxophones and next to the tubas, so I got to hear a mix of tone colors. The alto/bass/contra-alto section (4 bass and 2 each of the others, IIRC) had the full range of abilities within it.

In 8th grade, the situation was much the same, except that I asked for, and got, one of the bass clarinets. I took lessons on the Bb clarinet, so I was a doubler before I knew what a doubler was.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: blazian 
Date:   2012-02-13 03:52

When we were initially introduced to the bass clarinet in middle school, everybody wanted to play it. Later on while I was first chair, I would always look longingly over to the bass clarinet. In high school I'd had it with soprano clarinet and purposely did badly so that I would get switched.

I've always had interesting or at least fun parts in high school literature on bass clarinet. Every concert I'd have some sort of solo. My band director did see the value of a good bass clarinet player and rewrote bassoon parts for me as well. We had up to three bass clarinets in the first band at a time.

- Martin

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Lelia Loban 2017
Date:   2012-02-13 11:55

>>I asked to play bass and both my directors said NO. As stubborn as I was, I brought it out during rehearsal one day anyway. Before that, both of my directors hated the instrument with a passion. Now one of them loves it, and the other still doesn't like it. He did however admit that my tone has improved on Bb clarinet from playing the bass.
>>

Good job for being stubborn and making your point! I'm convinced that band teachers will get the best results if they encourage kids to play the instruments they really want to play. Kids who love their instruments will work harder to master them. The bass is such a worthwhile challenge -- a splendid-sounding instrument when well-played.

Lelia
http://www.scoreexchange.com/profiles/Lelia_Loban
To hear the audio, click on the "Scorch Plug-In" box above the score.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2012-02-13 14:41

This discussion came up not too long ago on the SaxOnTheWeb forum, where I was pretty much shouted down for suggesting that what Kontra is asking, actually takes place. Certainly back in my day (when dinosaurs ruled the earth) it was very common for the worst clarinetists to get put on one of the so-called 'harmony' clarinets by their band directors. I was one of the very rare (then, at least) players who switched to bass clarinet by choice rather than decree.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Bob Phillips 
Date:   2012-02-13 15:56

... or as the clarinet faculty at BYU has said; "The alto clarinet is not an instrument of music, but an instrument of torture."

Bad rap. Fab youTube performance of some of the Kovac's Homages!

Bob Phillips

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: SteveG_CT 
Date:   2012-02-13 16:59

David Spiegelthal wrote:

> This discussion came up not too long ago on the SaxOnTheWeb
> forum, where I was pretty much shouted down for suggesting that
> what Kontra is asking, actually takes place. Certainly back in
> my day (when dinosaurs ruled the earth) it was very common for
> the worst clarinetists to get put on one of the so-called
> 'harmony' clarinets by their band directors. I was one of the
> very rare (then, at least) players who switched to bass
> clarinet by choice rather than decree.

It was true when I was in school too. Usually the kids who had trouble playing the high notes got put on bass since you rarely had to get out of the chalumeau or low clarion when playing bass in the typical middle/high school concert band repertoire. I was "exiled" to the bass clarinet myself at one point for this reason. Turns out I played a lot better on bass and still love playing it today several years later.

Later on I figured out that my upper register difficulties were in large part due to being told to use a vandoren 4.5 reed "because only beginners use softer reeds". I wish I could have afforded private lessons back then and had a real teacher set me straight.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: danb1937 
Date:   2012-02-13 17:24

As a retired band director of 29 years (all public school levels), I always looked for a soprano clarinet player who was independent enough to play bass clarinet and not get lost. Maybe not a first chair player, but maybe 3rd or 4th, and talk it up and make it attractive to the player as a special assignment. I seldom had a weak bass clarinetist (or contra-alto either, for that matter), in all those years.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: ohsuzan 
Date:   2012-02-14 01:30

My DH got moved to bass clarinet by a community band director after the director was told (By whom?? My lips are sealed!!) that my DH had an . . . uhmmm . . . "issue" . . . with reading rhythms. Not with doing them. Just with reading them.

Fast forward five or six years. The assignment has worked out very well, and now DH is anchoring the bass section in a very good community band. And his Bb playing has improved exponentially.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of needing intensive exposure to the basics.

Susan

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2012-02-14 12:23

In a very good community band, I have played clarinet, tenor sax, and bass clarinet.

Tenor Sax = boring, easy, doubles all sorts of low instruments (but I always enjoyed sitting with Russ or Andy when they played Bari sax)

Clarinet = Great except playing 2nd is a real challenge at times. 1st is much easier but I'm a pretty fair player. Nothing wrong with playing 3rd but it depends on the literature.

Bass Clarinet: A real blast; much fun; contemporary band music has decent parts. Sometimes the director needed to tell me to "not dominate the other low reeds." LOL.

In an advanced band, the BC clarinet part is a wonderful,adventure; much technique needed at times. I played Pines of the Appian Way recently. Now there's a neat BC solo.

Challenges come to those that demand and then accept them."

HRL

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: David Spiegelthal 2017
Date:   2012-02-14 14:32

I'll provide a bit different slant from the esteemed Dr. Hank on playing bass clarinet in community/concert bands. I don't play in those groups any more, because I got tired of having most of my parts doubled by one or more of the following instruments: tenor sax, baritone sax, euphoniums/baritones, trombones, tuba, string bass (if the band has one, as some do). Way too much "oompah" playing and blowing my brains out playing fff for no particular good reason. I get much more satisfaction and waste less effort playing bass clarinet in orchestras. Granted, there are far fewer opportunities to do that compared with playing in concert bands.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2012-02-15 00:22

DS,

I've been called a lot of things and esteemed does not often make the list. LOL.

You are correct that doubling any other low reed or brass utility axe is a real waste of time. But quite often in really "high quality" (I shudder to think of the abuse I am about to take for the use of that phrase) band music, there are some interesting parts and even some neat solo lines (cued in bassoons, tenor sax, or euphonium probably).

I do play bassoon and have even thought that I might like to hone my skills on that instrument later is this decade. My past experiences on the fagotto have been a lot of fun,

HRL

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: clarinetwife 
Date:   2012-02-15 03:07

Lelia Loban wrote: <"I'm convinced that band teachers will get the best results if they encourage kids to play the instruments they really want to play."<

I work in a music store and talk with a lot of youngsters who are playing or want to play bass clarinet. I haven't met any who were made to switch. It seems that the band directors around here either go with those who show enthusiasm for switching or those who they identify as likely to actually enjoy the instrument. That is a good thing.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Hank Lehrer 
Date:   2012-02-15 10:52

The fascinating thing is that in the past several years, bass clarinet has become a marching band instrument. As a former HS band director for several decades (who had as many clarinets and flutes as possible switch to brass for marching band) this is hard for me to understand.

HRL

PS I have my hands full keeping by personal bass clarinets working properly and all I use them for are shows and wind band or ensemble work.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: ohsuzan 
Date:   2012-02-15 16:06

Oh, Hank! I still carry around a mental image of the little girl bass clarinetist MARCHING with said instrument in the Anthony Wayne H.S. band (of my vintage -- before your friend took it over and took it to the top).

I have no idea why they put her on bass clarinet in the first place, as she was abnormally small for a young woman to start with. But then, to expect her to carry it on the march -- well, like I said, it created a permanent mental image. The instrument was taller than she was, and she struggled mightily with it.

The experience led me to under-appreciate the bass clarinet as a serious instrument until more recently. But curiously enough, in the auditioned ensemble with which I am now playing, the bass clarinetist -- although a top-drawer player -- is this little gnome of a fellow who has to pile up two or three chairs plus a pillow on the seat to allow him to reach the keys on his bass. His feet barely touch the floor, except in tiptoe position. It always looks like he has climbed up the durned thing, wrapped himself around it, and is holding on for dear life. He's a killer player, but I don't see how he does it.

Susan

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: super20bu6 
Date:   2012-02-17 10:54

As a complete opposite to ohsuzan's "little gnome", I have just the opposite problem....well, not on Bass Clarinet but on Contra Alto. I'm 6'4" and have to use an endpin on the Contra. All through high school and college, I never played Bass Clarinet...I was spending all my concert band time on Bassoon...and played Tenor Sax in the marching band. I only recently bought a Bass Clarinet as I knew I was going to play Bass in a pit orchestra. As luck would have it, I auditioned for an excellent community band as a "sub" for Contra and Bari Sax.....but I ended up as the principal Bass Clarinet. The music we play is far from boring and I've practiced more for this group than I have in years. For those of you who haven't had the chance....play or listen to "Blue Shades" by Frank Tichelli. Some truly exposed Bass Clarinet solo's and a "mini cadenza"...and even a Contra Bass Clarinet solo, which I rewrote for the Contra Alto, with the directors blessings. He'd rather have me do the solo on Contra Alto than let the Tuba's play the cues. The Tubas actually played the cues in a rehearsal and I thought he was going to throw something at them...he made it VERY clear that he wanted that part played by the Contra...and NOTHING else.
I'm obviously very new to the low clarinets but am loving it...even at my "advanced age" as compared to some of you. I've just upgraded my mouthpiece on both of my low clarinets and am truly pleased with my tone and volume output. Although the flutes that sit directly in front of me would probably prefer to NOT be vibrated out of their chairs. I am truly lucky to be a member of a community ensemble with a director that has no qualms about me doubling Bass and Contra. A previous situation was the exact opposite..the director was vehemently opposed to me playing Bass Clarinet, if there wasn't a Contra Alto part...I was handed a Bari Sax part. That group already had a Bari Sax player and a Bass Clarinet...but he insisted that he did NOT want a 2nd Bass Clarinet in the group. As you know, Bari sax parts can go above the staff...and that is not the ideal range for a Contra Alto...yes, I took a LOT of parts down an octave.
Sorry to wander off subject,
Mark

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: GeorgeL 2017
Date:   2012-02-18 00:24

It is true that bass clarinet parts are usually technically easier than Bb clarinet parts, but it is also true that the bass clarinetist will have a lot more solos to play than any other clarinet player in a band except the principal player. Putting a player who does not have command of the instrument in a situation where he has to play solos does not seem like a smart move, unless the band uses another instrument to cover the bass clarinet solos.



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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: davyd 
Date:   2012-02-18 03:29

If there's no contra alto part, a better choice than a baritone sax part might be bassoon (2nd if there's 2), pretending it's treble clef and adding 3 sharps. Contrabassoon or string bass would also work, but you would have to read them down an octave in addition to the above.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: BobD 
Date:   2012-02-18 09:40

When I started band in 1939 there was such a thing as 4th Clarinet for those of us who were not great performers. I believe 4th was in the process of being eliminated so I moved to 3rd and my buddy was put on Bass Clarinet. At that time the move was considered an "or else" proposition. My friend stayed on BC throughout his life and became quite proficient at it. I have only come to appreciate the instrument in later life.

Bob Draznik

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: bradfordlloyd 
Date:   2012-02-18 10:31

Back in junior high school (remember? back before they called them middle schools?) I was a second clarinet player who loved playing, but wasn't all that good. I needed practice and I needed to focus.

My kindly band director at the time asked if I could help him by moving to bass clarinet to round out the ensemble (which was quite short of lower voices). I agreed, and found that re-focusing and learning to play bass clarinet, understanding how the lower voices support the ensemble and make music, and having a few more exposed parts (i.e., where there weren't 15 other clarinets covering it) taught me to be a better musician.

A year later I was in state honor band on bass clarinet (after being named most improved musician at my jr. high), and the year after that, I was back in state honor band as a first clarinet (as well as being a first clarinet in my high school band). I attribute at least part of that improvement and turnaround to that band director and his keen insight into how to help out a kid with some potential. I went on to study music at a pretty well-known university.

By the way, after spending 20-something years away from music entirely, and now returning to the clarinet, I'm considering bass clarinet again -- I love the music, and I have the desire to play, but my technical facility isn't where I'd like it to be some days. Does that make me a "bad clarinetist"? Perhaps....or maybe just one that needs to practice and refocus again as I rebuild my skills.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: davyd 
Date:   2012-02-18 12:45

@Bradfordloyd: Knowing that your technical facility isn't where you would like it to be does not make you a bad clarinetist, especially since you want to improve. Not having technical facility and not wanting to improve: that's another story, though I'm not going to use the word "bad" to describe it.

Every community ensemble in the world has people who were away from their instrument for many years, or who are starting on one late in life. The ones who genuinely want to improve, or at least get no worse, are vital to the continued existence of such ensembles.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: bradfordlloyd 
Date:   2012-02-18 13:46

@davyd: Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I am where I am in my musical journey...and ongoing improvement always has been and always will be the goal. And bass clarinet may be a part of that in the future....as it was in the past.

That said, I continue to marvel at the attitude and arrogance of some who play clarinet. "Bad" is anyone who can't perform at the level that they perceive themselves to perform on any given day. Doublers are often seen as "unserious" or "unfocused" or "not a true (or a bad) clarinetist." And, yes, I realize that they were probably first chair in their state honor band, and/or first chair in college. I get it. But in a world where there are maybe 50 real, full-time professional jobs, all the rest of us are just striving to improve and get by in one way, shape or form.

Sorry, rant over.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Reese Oller 
Date:   2021-09-24 20:23

I have no idea if my band director put me on bass as a punishment or not. He told me I could have been second chair clarinet but needed my second strongest tone/volume. So I was thrown in the deep end (with a lot of help from my friend) and resurfaced a reasonably competent bass clarinetist!

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2021-09-24 20:53

...so that they'll rebel from the incorrect assumption of their teachers that their musical skills are beyond worth having played soprano clarinet, and practice, for among other reasons, to show people otherwise, to eventually excel in all aspects of clarinet family play, and produce funny and informative Youtube videos.....??????

https://www.youtube.com/c/earspasm

I guess that's one theory ;)

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2021-09-25 01:30

i bought a bass clarinet to play jazz after discovering eric dolphy. i didnt get to play bass clarinet till around 2000 in a legit setting. i discovered i have a knack for it and excell at in community band. i also was frequently called out for dominating the low woodwinds . a bari plastic reed and vandoren b46 is a killer combo for playing loudly. now i am playing alto clarinet and bass and still having a ball in community band after a 13 year layoff. no longer have the wind for the b46 and use a much tamer hite with legere setup.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: tucker 2017
Date:   2021-09-25 02:54

Super20dan, a BARI sax reed?

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2021-09-25 04:39

not bari sax reed -bari is a brand name of an early synth reed sold by the bari mouthpeice company. bari synth reeds are very powerfull and bright sounding . the legere is a better reed but back then the bari brand was about all you could get for clarinet or bass clarinet.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2021-09-25 08:15

Wow, lots of replies to this question.
It's because the bass clarinet parts are easier than the first clarinet parts. As are the 2nd & 3rd clarinet parts.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: donald 
Date:   2021-09-25 14:42

Aw man, stop it, it hurts.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Michael E. Shultz 
Date:   2021-09-25 14:55

My band director and saxophone teacher had been roommates. My saxophone teacher suggested to the band director that I start learning bass clarinet. I believe the rationale was that there were already plenty of saxophone players, and that my talent could be better used as a bass clarinet player during concert season.

After one year on the bass clarinet, the Eb contra alto player graduated, and I was moved to the contra alto. Upon being given my first piece of music, for a Bb bass clarinet, I asked one of the players next to me what I was supposed to do. I was told to transpose it. I soon became capable of transposing bass clarinet parts on sight, and played the contra alto for two years until I graduated.

I put in some time learning the soprano clarinet for a stage band piece that we did not end up performing. By then I was able to read clarinet and trumpet parts and transpose them on sight on my Eb alto saxophone.

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
Groucho Marx

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: davidjsc 
Date:   2021-09-26 13:11

@SteveG_CT - I had to laugh at your 4.5 Vandoren reeds comment, because I started out playing clarinet on the alto and come from the soft reeds camp that was suggested by Arthur Nix (alto/bass/contra player) in the 1970s-1980s. To this day I have never used a reed harder than 2.5 and then only 2.5 if I am playing a soprano instrument. On my alto and bass, it's 1.5 or 2 life for me - the alto really seems to like 1.5 while I use a 2 on the bass. The handful of other bass clarinet players I have met over the years, seem to be divided into those who use harder reeds simply because of habit from starting on a soprano instrument, and then those who started out not playing a soprano instrument and stuck with soft reeds because they started on those and there was no need to go to harder reed as they progressed.

DSC

~~ Alto Clarinet; Bass Clarinet; B-flat and C Boehm Clarinets; Albert C Clarinet; Oboe ~~


Post Edited (2021-09-26 22:13)

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2021-09-26 17:46

i agree-softer is better on alto and bass.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: davidjsc 
Date:   2021-09-26 22:25

Taken from "Practical Hints on Playing the Alto Clarinet" by Arthur Nix (1983):

= =

"It is recommended that a reed strength of 1.5 to 2 or soft to medium soft be used on the larger clarinets. All too often a reed that is too hard is used on the larger clarinets. This results in a tone that is harsh, has poor response, has a tendency to be sharp in pitch, and, most importantly, causes the student to use an embouchure that is too firm. Excess lip pressure, due to a stiff reed, filters out the mellow overtones and the warm sounds that are so characteristic of the larger clarinets" - pg.5

= =

Reading this, and then reading various comments posted here about how the alto clarinet has been marginalised by school band conductors and directors and doesn't add much tone colour, etc blah blah blah ... well, no surprise if the instrument has been used as a castoff for weaker soprano players who continue to play it like a soprano instrument with their stiffer reeds and continue to ruin the alto (especially) and bass with poor tone.

DSC

~~ Alto Clarinet; Bass Clarinet; B-flat and C Boehm Clarinets; Albert C Clarinet; Oboe ~~


Post Edited (2021-09-26 22:34)

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: EbClarinet 
Date:   2021-09-27 06:01

I can appreciate every 1''s posts of yesterday year. What has been said is true of band directors but also clarinet professors!!! My clarinet professor thought the same thing and when she opened her mouth about bass, I was dumb founded of her ignorance.

I desire 2 b proficient on all of the clarinets because I call my self a clarinetist. I'm an Eb Clarinet specialist bcoz I fell in love with this instrument @ 14. I have excellent tone quality and I'm in tune. I got my 1st 1 @ age 28 and I've played 1st Bb Clarinet, alto clarinet and bass clarinet for 5 years of college (bass).

My college band director thought I was horrible on clarinet bcoz I had a bad audition. How ever, the grades 4-5 material we played had expose parts for bass clarinet that actually mattered and we got cussed out daily for not covering those parts. I quickly mastered the instrument and he only had 2 in the top band so we had 2 play loudly and really growl in the lower notes.

I think it's the kind/level material that is played on bass, that a leader should determine the bass players. No 1 is mentioned those beautiful orchestral songs/solos that bass covers, like in the Nutcracker or the Rite of Spring. That book of excerpts for orchestral try outs r difficult and 2 get a position in orchestra u've got 2 b excellent on bass. I don't think that orchestra conductors think the same way about bass that public school (grade) directors think. The 1 my may university thought that way but he was a violinist.

So I think it's individual education/perspective about the bass. I'm just not sure on how bass players r picked for orchestra. Perhaps some 1 can share their knowledge/experience with me about this.

I'm a composer so I write difficult passages that sound great on the lower clarinets. My parts aren't all whole and half notes. I have 1 piece in 24/16 and an altissimo F for the bass. It's my college experience/education that opened my eyes to the lovely bass. Personally, I would not put a weak player on bass for my compositions but and experienced bass player that has control of the instrument.

All of this coming from an Eb Clarinet player!!!

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/mbtldsongministry/

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: 2cekce 2017
Date:   2021-10-03 18:57

The opposite happened in my high school and college bands. During concert season the band director would have the section leaders switch to bass clarinet and bari sax. Neither had a dedicated bass clarinet or bari sax player, so I'm guessing the reason was to cover all the parts for the music we played.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: savvyliterate 
Date:   2021-12-27 08:29

When I was in beginner band in 7th grade (1992), we were learning our scales and breath control. I walked into my band director's office and said, "Mr. XXX, what do you think of this?" Then I played a B, which was very loud and clear.

He just stared at me a moment, then asked, "How would you like to learn bass clarinet? You'll be in symphonic band by 8th grade."

Apparently, his current bass clarinet player was graduating and he was seeking a replacement. With my lung capacity, I fit the bill. Within a week, my schedule had been rearranged so I was in intermediate band rather than beginner band, and indeed I stepped up to symphonic band a year before most of my classmates.

I always loved playing bass clarinet and alternated between that and Bb in marching band until I graduated college. I'd love to own one now, but that's a cost I'll have to save for.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: DarkenWolfie 
Date:   2022-01-20 13:11

Halfway through fifth grade year my band director asked if I would like to try the bass clarinet. None of us knew what that was, I said sure and have played it since. I'm now a sophomore and I've always been the only bass clarinet at my school. My parts usually follow the tuba part but sometimes also the bari or trombone. There have been several cases where there was no bass clarinet part so I played the Bari Sax part. I think he put me on it because it would be easier but I much prefer it over a normal clarinet any day. I'm so glad he did.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: tripler 
Date:   2022-04-01 00:43

First, my granddaughter auditioned at the prestigious (music) La Guardia High School in NYC on Bb clarinet and was accepted. She chose to play bass clarinet. As a star basketball and soccer player, she is not used to taking the easy road on anything she does.

Second, I play four clarinets and three saxes, and in our excellent community band I choose to play bass clarinet. In the past, when the clarinet was my only instrument, I played principal clarinet in several community bands and orchestras, and sometimes second and third. If I'm not going to be the principal then my next choice is bass clarinet.

Yes, in wind bands there's a lot of doubling (for all instruments) but with bass clarinet there are two types of parts that I relish: 1) keeping the rhythm (and often counter-rhythms) and 2) juicy accompaniments; not to mention the rare solo. As a conductor once told me, when a soloist is waxing eloquently in the high register, the bassy accompanist must support the soloist. In those situations, I listen like mad to every nuance the soloist might make, and work hard to adjust my sound to complement the soloist perfectly. Very satisfying.

One night, when the young bass clarinetist sitting next to me was timidly accompanying the alto, I reprimanded him, saying: "Don't let that alto overwhelm you, play out." The next time, he did much better, and so did the music.

I learned a long time ago on the street, playing parade marches, the trumpets and other treble instruments have the melody, but the basses have the drama. Also true in the concert hall.

Yes, the bass clarinet has fewer sixteenth quavers, but an enthusiastic and assertive player can contribute dramatically to the music.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2022-04-01 01:38

Wow, too many posts to read. I agree with Ken way back there. It's simple-- in school bands the parts are way easier. Fewer notes to screw up. Different story for a professional band or of course a symphony. Say, how many HS bands HAVE someone on Eb?

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Niclas.e.gustafsson 
Date:   2022-04-27 08:46

Also its a matter of sound projection. Lower frequencies reeds travel less and blend more. So a worse player can be unnoticed on bass but not on the higher parts. Less intonation issues,and less rhythmical issues is heard from an audience perspective. Better sounding band!

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: donald 
Date:   2022-04-27 12:34

I don't know any band directors stupid enough to do this, but I suppose they must exist...

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Reese Oller 
Date:   2022-09-22 06:27

I am also always told not to dominate the band.... I have the power, and I am NOT afraid to use it! I was switched to bass because my band director thought I was "too loud" on Bb clarinet. Little did he know the monster he would create... I now play bass mostly, clarinet in marching band and a different school band (same school, different level) and I recently picked up Eb and contrabass. I excel on contra. Not so much on Eb! I really love the bass clarinet, and I worked hard to get truly good at it. I am grateful, because during COVID (my eighth grade-sophmore year) I had a chance to sharpen my clarinet skills, which won me the bass clarinet.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Hunter_100 
Date:   2022-09-22 17:56

I have never been in a band that had a bass clarinet that was consistently too loud. If you are dominating your group sound, they must not play very strongly, or perhaps a very small ensemble?

Of course if you are belting out FFF on quiet parts, that is your fault and a totally different matter...you still need to match dynamics with the rest of the group.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Reese Oller 
Date:   2022-09-22 19:54

No, I'm not going triple forte. I do match dynamics, and we have a very large band. My part can be very exposed, and now there are two bass clarinets. In soft parts, both of us playing softly still is equal to about a mezzo forte.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Hunter_100 
Date:   2022-09-23 01:29

What pieces are you playing with exposed bass parts? I'm just curious. The bands I played with in 8th grade/9th grade never played anything with serious bass parts, it was all just doubling other low reeds as I recall.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: super20dan 
Date:   2022-09-23 04:46

i had no problem dominating using a vandoren b46 and bari soft synth reed. it was fun. cant play the vandy b46 anymore 20 yrs later. lost to much wind.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Reese Oller 
Date:   2022-09-23 20:26

We don't have many, but we do have a few in a piece called Let me be Frank with you (don't be fooled, it's a Mackey piece), Also a newer piece called "Star Ship" written by Yukiko Nishimura. Hmmmm, I think there's a bass clarinet solo in Molly on the Shore, but it's been a while. I use a Vandoren Bd5 and a 3.0 vandoren blue box. Amazing volume, but a lot of air required.

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: David H. Kinder 
Date:   2022-09-24 06:34

tldr;

I played Bass Clarinet through my high school years. I don't think it's harder than Bb soprano clarinet. I played Bass as the easiest way to get into the top band in school.

I played on the school's Bundy Bass back then (mid-90's). That thing... did not do fast runs well. I remember one piece and the Bass Clarinet had a quick run of 16th notes to do as a SOLO... and I just couldn't do it.

Well, I couldn't do it on that equipment. My senior year, I also enrolled at the local community college for band and got to use their Selmer Pro Bass clarinet... and that thing was amazing (especially by comparison). Great mouthpiece too. The neck was much better angled to play it like a regular clarinet rather than it feeling like a saxophone. Anyway, that passage would've been a piece of cake on that far more refined instrument.

So anyway... *I* don't think it's harder than Bb clarinet, and if the equipment sucks, then it'll certainly be harder on more technical passages (which are quite rare).

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 Re: Why do band directors put their bad clarinetists on bass clarinet?
Author: Tom H 
Date:   2022-09-24 08:53

David--Yes. During my band Director career I ran into some very interesting school bass clarinets.....and tenor and bari saxes.

The Most Advanced Clarinet Book--Austin Macauley Publishers
tomheimer.ampbk.com/ Amazon, Sheet Music Plus
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
Boreal Ballad for unaccompanied clarinet--Sheet Music Plus
(902)-225-3276

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