Considering a Bass Clarinet? Careful!

“Is anyone able to post some well-recorded soundfiles of the ridenour bassclarinet and a buffet or selmer for comparison?”

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A gentleman from Belgium posted this request on a “board” a while ago. I found it quite interesting, as the question was for comparing the Ridenour Lyrique Bb clarinet and other French and Japanese instruments. My own immediate response is to ask the reason for such a request.

First, get a good Bass Clarinet mouthpiece. Many use the Selmer (Paris). I use the C facing.) Also, please make sure that you understand that in general the reed you use on the Bass is much less resistant than that which you use on Bb. Then, make sure that you use a floor peg and that you try to use a bassclarint neck that has an turned-up end ppise which has the mouthpiece going into your mouth similar to you Bb. (Rosario Mazzeo, my teach for 6 years and Bass Clarinetist with the Boston Symphony for 32 years designed that) Also be sure that you understand that the fingerings past the clarion can frequently use harmonic fingering for the best speaking and itonation .

My own experience with Bass Clarinets has been that of a doubling instrument, frequently playing Pierrot Lunaire, by Schoenberg, really the 20th Centure masterpiece for the two clarinets, Bb and Bass, and other such works or works such as the Hindemith Septet.fpr WW Quintet, Bass Clarinet and Trumpet.The performane were always in professional circumstances, either Carnegie Recital Hall in the Lucas Foss / Allan Sapp series of concerts or for radio broadcasts.

Playing Bass is quite important in this context and is very largely a matter of the correct mouthpiece, but almost more, for a clarinet in excellent adjustment, or should I say perfect adjustment.

The sound is not of prime importance and no difference in sound can truly be discerned except by performing or recording exactly the same repertoire with the same basic equipment, (reed and mouthpiece). Who, one would hasten to ask, will be the judge of which sounds better, or which projects more, or to characterize the sounds of each of the clarinets in question?

We are talking about a matter of ones opinion. Important? Certainly, but a matter of opinion. On the other hand, the adjustment of the instrument can spell the difference between a successful rendering of the part and total screeching failure. The instrument upon which you play must be in perfect adjustment. If you buy one and it comes unadjusted or adjusted poorly, send it back immediately. Do not hesitate.

When you try, (with an eye to purchase) the horn must be perfectly adjusted and it is best to go to the place of purchase and check the whole place out, from owner to store, everything. If you bring your own mouthpiece with you, all the better, for you at least are startng on somewhat familiar territory. 

Now as to Bass Clarinets in this century, we are talking about serious “Tiger Country”, meaning this is not about several hundred dollars, but frequently ten times that amount.

If you are talking about the Ridenour Clarinet, Bass, or Lyrique Bb or even the Basset he makes, take a train or plane to Duncanville, Texas. I have never been there, but I know you will be treated with great courtesy. And likely you will leave totally satisfied, for that is his mission in clarinet life, and he knows the horn better or as good as anyone.

You can pay upwards of several thousands for a Bass clarinet. Don’t do that by mail!

If you want, go to Paris. For that kind of money you will be treated with total coutesy if not downright obsequiesness.

As far as recording different clarinets, rubber, wood or balsa wood, with a good player, nobody can tell the difference and the conditions of recording would have to be absolute scientifically arranged, a virtual impossibility.

 

When I was doing those concerts in NYC, I had them order me a Bundy, one-piece plastic Bass clarinet, (and an Eb as well. Those were my extras)

The cost was very little, but the one piece Bass never got out of adjustment.( I will end with a true story.During rehearsals  for Pierrot, the pianist wanted the lid of the piano open. He had it lifted. Unfortunately he didn’t see that my bass was resting there and it went crashing to the floor as the lid was raised. I was startled and went immediately to the horn , picked it up and it played perfectly. Would it have played had it been wood? I think not.

Keep practicing and be careful what you buy.

Sherman

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