Description::Bass clarinet


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Description Most modern bass clarinets are straight-bodied, with a small upturned silver-colored metal bell and a curved metal neck. Early examples varied in shape, some having a doubled body making them look similar to bassoons. The bass clarinet is fairly heavy and is supported either with a neck strap or with an adjustable peg attached to its body. While Adolphe Sax imitated its upturned metal bell in his design of the larger saxophones, the two instruments are fundamentally different. Bass clarinet bodies are most often made of grenadilla (African Blackwood) or (more commonly for student-instruments) plastic resin, while saxophones are typically made entirely of metal. (All-metal bass clarinets do exist,<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> but are rare.) More significantly, all clarinets including the bass have a bore that is basically the same diameter along the body of the instrument. This cylindrical bore differs from the saxophone's conical one and gives the clarinet its characteristic tone, causing it to overblow at the twelfth compared with the saxophone's octave.

A majority of modern bass clarinets, like other clarinets in the family, have the Boehm system of keys and fingering, which means that this clarinet has virtually identical fingering to the others. However, there are also bass clarinets being manufactured in Germany that are provided with the Oehler system of keywork, which is most often known as the 'German" system in the USA, because it is commonly used in Germany and Austria, as well as Eastern Europe and Turkey; bass clarinets produced with the Oehler system's predecessor, the Albert system of keywork, are still in use, particularly in these areas.

Four modern bass clarinets, from left to right Leblanc L400, Signet Selmer 1430P, E. M. Winston, Leblanc 330S.

Most modern Boehm system bass clarinets have an "extension" key allowing them to play to the (written) E. This key was originally added to allow easy transposition of parts for the relatively rare bass clarinet pitched in A, but it now finds significant use in concert band and other literature. A significant difference between soprano and bass clarinet key work is a key pad played by the left-hand index finger with a vent that may be uncovered for certain high notes. This allows a form of "half-hole" fingering that allows notes in higher registers to be played on the instrument. In addition, older bass clarinets have two register keys, one for middle D and below, the other for middle E and higher. Newer models typically only have one. The second register key makes the altissimo range much easier to play.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

In addition to these differences in keywork, many professional and advanced bass clarinetists own instruments with extensions down to a C (sounding B, identical to the bassoon's lowest B, and a whole step below the cello's lowest C) a full two octaves below written middle C. At concert pitch this note is the B below the second ledger line below the bass staff, or B1 in scientific pitch notation. Overall, the instrument sounds an octave lower than the B soprano clarinet.

As with all wind instruments, the upper limit of the range depends on the quality of the instrument and the skill of the performer. According to Aber and Lerstad, who give fingerings up to written C8 (sounding B6), the highest note commonly encountered in modern solo literature is the E below that (sounding D6, the first D above the treble clef).<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> This gives the bass clarinet a usable range of over four octaves, quite close to the range of the bassoon; indeed, many bass clarinetists perform works originally intended for bassoon or cello because of the plethora of literature for those two instruments and the scarcity of solo works for the bass clarinet.

Bass clarinet sections
Intro  Description  Uses  History  Notation  Notes  References  Further reading  External links