But... ...by and large, the alto clarinet (like the bass saxophone) is one of those few modern musical instruments that has been allowed to "go extinct". In the case of the bass sax, it's more likely a case of its limited availability, something that I've written up around here somewhere before. In the case of the alto, it may be that it's in the initial stages of the same process. Regardless, the end result is the same. My parents both attended high school in Saint Louis MO in the 1930's, going to three different high schools in the process. In the high school annuals for those years, all three of the bands had bass saxophones - different bass saxophones, as distinguished (under a high power industrial microscope) by stuff like the dent patterns in the horns. I did a little mental gymnastics around these three data points, the population that they covered, and the population of the US at the time, and the presumed wealth of the three schools, and then projected a total (probably on the low side) of several thousands of such instruments nationwide. (I biased the universe of schools possessing bass saxes downward in an intentional effort not to overestimate things.) The question remained: where did they all go? The three high schools in the annuals had lost theirs somewhere along the line - I know this because I actually checked. But the rest? Well, some are no doubt in the hands of bass sax collectors. But, for the vast majority, they are probably where all the old sousaphones went to die, wherever that is. (In the case of Saint Louis, I found (and then promptly returned off of a rent to own program) the only bass sax that I or any of my musical friends in Local 2 knew of, it being secreted in the storage barn belonging to St. Ann School Music Service, the elephant store at the time. I kept it for two shows, and then reluctantly gave it up, figuring I'd never need it in the future and a sailboat would get more use.) But, how does this apply to the alto clarinet? Well, what did the bass sax in was probably logistics (they cost a lot, are hard to transport, and very hard to march) and changing tastes and technology in music. In the good old days, banjos and bass saxes both filled a musical niche due to the tastes in music and the need for a bass and rhythm instrument that could penetrate on their own. Once Les Paul started working his magic and amps came along for the bass, they dropped by the wayside. The alto clarinet came about through a desire to form a regular "choir" of the clarinet family. The soprano was the soprano voice, the alto intended to be the alto, the incorrectly named bass was the tenor voice, and the "contra alto" the true bass of the family. However, the coincidence of bore and range of the alto was (for whatever reason) judged to be "vapid" (not my term - it comes from several orchestration books of my acquaintance). The soprano came down low enough, and the bass high enough to fill in all of the portions of the spectrum, and it was ho! for the instrument storage room for the poor alto. They're still out there - check eBay on any afternoon for five or six pro level horns going begging for next to nothing. But, the parts seem to be more limited, the players few and far between, and the two chase each other's tails into obsolescent disuse, if not absolute oblivion. There's nothing stopping folks from wanting to play the things. I've got a pro Selmer mouthpiece (D facing) and ligature somewhere that I would give away if only I could find them, and I'd be glad to help someone out once it turns up. But, absent the parts, they are pretty much doomed to free-form jazz. And, with a "vapid" tonal quality, they're not going to crowd out the Chu Berrys anytime soon.