Flat tone hole location on bass clarinet bell

Discussion in 'Clarinets' started by Mojo, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. Mojo

    Mojo

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    I have a new low C bass clarinet that has a flat low C#. The low C and low D are fine. The low C# is ~30 cents flat.

    As a test, I pulled the bell out on the cork about 1/16". This made the low C and C# ~13 cents flatter. So to make the low C# 30 cents sharper, I figure the tone hole on the bell needs to be located 1/8" or a little more higher than it is. The key needs to be altered to work at that location too.

    Alternatively, the body length could be made 1/8" shorter but then something needs to be done to lower the low C pitch back down. Like the bell bore made smaller.

    Any thoughts from instrument repair people?
     
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  2. SOTSDO

    SOTSDO Old King Log Staff Member CE/Moderator

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    You will not use that particular note more than 0.001% of the time you play the horn (unless you are into some funky jazz performance motif, in which case nothing I say here will matter one way or the other), so my advice to you is to pinch the embouchure up on those rare occasions (all two of them) and not worry about it the rest of the time.

    The original reason for that extra tube length was to allow the bass clarinet player to duplicate the range of the standard bassoon (i.e., to allow him to play down to the low Bb concert of a non-Wagnerian bassoon). Some Russian works have the occasional low D in them, but you're not likely to encounter them anywhere but in a very dedicated orchestra wedded to works from the romantic period.

    Radical surgery (to relocate the tone hole) could probably be done (some repair types of my acquaintance would do it in a heartbeat), but you would be talking a lot of money for some very limited utility. And, the modification would not look all that nice, something to consider if you would want to sell the horn in the future.

    There are a few shows that will use the extension, but by and large the low C bass was relatively rare until recently, so arrangers have avoided those notes due to the limited availability of the horns - a form of the chicken and the egg problem, as it were, Instead, arrangers have taken to using the mis-named contra-alto horn (the true "bass clarinet"' our bass clarinets are actually melodious low tenor instruments), An extended bass would work better (and be a hell of a lot easier to haul around as well), but (until recently, with the advent of the Chinese instruments) low C basses were relatively rare. So, we poor low reed players have to carry those cumbersome metal horns around with everything else.

    I've has a low C bass since the very early 1970a, but (other than playing the occasional bassoon part on it (and using the low notes to provide a foundation for the occasional female vocal ballad in a big band settings where mellow low notes are usually in short supply, I've used the low notes on no more than three or four occasion, all in Russian romantic period classics.

    And, all of that said, I still enjoy playing the Totentanz down there at the bottom of the horn.
     
  3. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I so agree with Terry's analysis, but I can see this is really bugging you. Have you played with key heights, different mouthpieces, and/or cork wedges in the tone holes? BTW, my Buffet Privilege bass clarinet to low C has the same problem. It's so bad that I'll play a C# and lip it down to play the low D, same with the C lipped down for the C#, but I'm screwed when it comes to the money shot, the low C.
     
  4. Mojo

    Mojo

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    Key height is already wide open. Corks crescents can only flatten a note. I would consider undercutting it if it was on the body. Since these low notes are only used in one octave, they should be made right in the first place. My guess is that a standard low Eb bell design is used on this low C bass clarinet. On the low Eb BC, the tone hole may be properly located to get both the low E and middle B as in tune as possible. Little sharp on the B and a little flat on the E.

    I am playing a wind ensemble concert next month that has several low Ds in it. Modern compositions use it fairly routinely I think along with the Low As in the bari. I agree that I may never see a low C# or low C with this group. I have played shows that call for them. All the names start running together but I think Beauty and the Beast may have been the last one I saw them scored.
     
  5. pete

    pete Brassica Oleracea Staff Member Administrator

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    Shouldn't smaller = sharper? The cork is making the tone hole smaller. As a logical example, the tone hole for an altissimo D is a lot smaller than that for a :TrebleClef::Space0:.

    I'm not a instrument tech, but I've played horns with corked tone holes.
     
  6. mezzrow

    mezzrow

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    Just catching up in here... Can I ask what model this is, just for info's sake? Beyond that, I would very carefully play with pad height to see if you get any relief, and just squeeze as best you can to crank that up on the rare occasions you have to play it. And I do mean rare. You could crescent-fill the tone hole to bring it down if sharp, but you're pretty much stuck, if it's flat. If I had a dollar for every time I've had to play that note, I still wouldn't have enough dosh to get a cuppa coffee - not these days, anyway...

    In any case, you made me drag out my Selmer Model 37 to check it now - I'll drop back in any let you know what I get from checking the pitch on it (edit - yep, about 30 cents low here, too). I play lots of D's, and the low C's I play are generally just pulled an octave down to support the bassoons. I did have my "backside" keys customized for the bottom notes so I could get around better, especially getting from D to C and vice-versa. The model 37 only goes down to Eb in the RH - mine dates back to 1972. The rest gets done by the thumb - I use a strap and a peg, and have removed the thumbrest, as it just gets in the way.. The work was done by Mike Manning in NYC when he rebuilt my Model 37 a couple of summers ago. Here's a pic of it now - Mike sent this as he was working on it, and you can't get a much better picture. He did a terrific job...:

    model33_001.jpg
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2015

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