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Another newbie

Hi folks,

New to the forum, and to music (never mind just woodwind). I'm currently learning the bass clarinet, and am using one of the cheap Rosedale (Gear4music) instruments (don't hate me!!). Sometimes, I can get a nice tone from her, and other times she just honks at me - it kind of depends what mood we're both in. I've started refining the mouthpiece table a little, which has helped a bit, but there's more work to do - and no doubt I'll discover more little tweaks that need doing as I discover more notes and octaves. I did play a little Bb clarinet at school, but that was three decades ago.

I'm only looking to be a casual player, and am also learning five other note playing instruments at the same time. Yes, you read that right. I'm learning music, rather than wanting to be a virtuoso on any one instrument, and having several instruments gives me the freedom to go wherever the questions take me (I found linear progression learning incredibly frustrating). While it may sound ridiculous to some (most of you?) I think my targets are realistic. By the time I'm 50 - in four years - I hope to be able to play a few tunes on each instrument with a modicum of competence. If you're wondering, the other five are electric baritone guitar, six string baritone ukulele, acoustic bass guitar, keyboard, and chromatic harmonica... plus a couple of rhythm instruments. I will probably be at risk of that range increasing as time goes by ...

I look forward to exploring the forum and chatting with you all.
 

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
Welcome and ain't life grand. There really is no one path, each of us tend to follow our own. I remember when I was working on overtones and one of my instructors suggested I play just one instrument for a year and get those overtones down. That was a no go FOR ME and we're talking mostly saxes by the way sop, alto, tenor, and bari with some sop and bass clarinet. I have to say that when I returned to performance music after a 25+ year break, I spent about ten years with a number of instructors.

The two things I work on with late bloomers like yourself is creating a good sound and rhythm exercises. For sound I start with long tones playing the low C, for example, from soft to loud to soft over 8 beats, and then move to the next note walking up the scale, and with a tuner at hand. The louder you blow the more one tends to go flat so you have to adjust your embouchure. It's a dreaded but proven method of mastering an instrument. For rhythm, well I did that with instructors so I couldn't fake myself out thinking I was doing good. :) Good luck.
 
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saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
A good bass clarinet mouthpiece can make a world of difference. I struggled at first using a Yamaha 4C. I bought a Roger Garrett piece and it was an improvement, but I just didn't like the sound of it - not very full. Then I played a Clark Fobes San Francisco that belonged to a friend. That was a wow moment. Another wow was the price - almost $400. I decided to buy his mid grade model, the Nova, and I like it a lot. I haven't played his entry level piece, the Debut, but a lot of clarinet teachers recommend that piece for beginners / intermediates. At $79.50, it's a bargain.
 
Welcome and ain't life grand. There really is no one path, each of us tend to follow our own. I remember when I was working on overtones and one of my instructors suggested I play just one instrument for a year and get those overtones down. That was a no go FOR ME and we're talking mostly saxes by the way sop, alto, tenor, and bari with some sop and bass clarinet. I have to say that when I returned to performance music after a 25+ year break, I spent about ten years with a number of instructors.

The two things I work on with late bloomers like yourself is creating a good sound and rhythm exercises. For sound I start with long tones playing the low C, for example, from soft to loud to soft over 8 beats, and then move to the next note walking up the scale, and with a tuner at hand. The louder you blow the more one tends to go flat so you have to adjust your embouchure. It's a dreaded but proven method of mastering an instrument. For rhythm, well I did that with instructors so I couldn't fake myself out thinking I was doing good. :) Good luck.

Thanks Gandalf. That's pretty much how I'm starting out. The only instruction I'm taking is theory, but from someone who plays guitar, bass, keyboard and drums - so I can tap them for some pointers as required. Having had clarinet lessons as a kid, I feel comfortable enough on my own with that so far. Everything else (aside from snippets of info I glean from others) will be self taught. If I struggle significantly with anything, I might seek a couple of lessons to get over that hurdle.
 
A good bass clarinet mouthpiece can make a world of difference. I struggled at first using a Yamaha 4C. I bought a Roger Garrett piece and it was an improvement, but I just didn't like the sound of it - not very full. Then I played a Clark Fobes San Francisco that belonged to a friend. That was a wow moment. Another wow was the price - almost $400. I decided to buy his mid grade model, the Nova, and I like it a lot. I haven't played his entry level piece, the Debut, but a lot of clarinet teachers recommend that piece for beginners / intermediates. At $79.50, it's a bargain.

Thanks saxhound. I've certainly not ruled that out. I'm starting out by trying to tweak my existing mouthpiece, but will fall back on a replacement if my own interventions don't get me where I want to be.
 

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Also, don't discount reed strength in the equation. As a general rule of thumb, more closed tip openings require a harder reed. In my experience, that allows for better intonation, but sometimes sacrifices volume and fullness of tone. Conversely, a larger tip opening and softer reed can give you that big fat tone you are looking for (and easier blowing), but your intonation can quickly get wonky if you don't have a good ear.

As someone who started on clarinet, when I started playing sax, I gravitated to the small tip opening / hard reed school of thought - encouraged by my clarinet teacher who sort of doubled on sax. I could play the sax with good technical skills, but my tone was kind of thin and pinched. I had a hard time with vibrato and really had to honk to get out the low notes on the horn. When I started studying with a true professional sax player, he kept telling me that I had no sound, no tone, no soul. Switching to a more open tip and softer reeds gave me the sound he was looking for. It also made every note on the horn speak easily at any volume. It wasn't an instant transformation. I spent a couple years practicing long tones and overtones until I felt comfortable with my new setup.

It's not perfectly analagous to the bass clarinet because there are even more variables at play. The angle of the neck can be critical, as well as embouchure position, air flow and the vagaries of the horn itself. I struggled for a year to get a good sound on BC, but eventually found the right mix for me. I'm by no means a virtuoso, but I can cover a part in a concert band or theatrical production with a little practice.

If you haven't already done so, I would encourage you to read all the threads on the bass clarinet forum here. There is a boatload of good information there. Pay particular attention to posts by Terry Stibal (RIP). I learned a lot from him. Good luck on your journey.
 
Thank you, saxhound! Lots of great pointers there. My mouthpiece is currently VERY open, but I still need to do a little more work on the table. It will still have quite a generous tip opening when done though I reckon, and the reeds I currently have are Vandoren V12 2.5s. I'll certainly bear in mind your comments on balancing fullness of tone and accuracy.

The angle of the neck is a biggie - or should I say the angle of the mouthpiece to me. When I first started, I was really struggling because I was sat on too low a seat. I now use the piano stool at my keyboard, and that's improved things greatly, posturally and tonally - far less squawks. Embouchure still needs a lot of work tough. My default position voices it up over the break, without the register key being pressed, and I have to make a conscious effort to "open up" (on my first use, I played the clarion register on this, better than I played the chalameau register on my Bb soproano 30 years ago - but sadly that wasn't the register I wanted...)

I'll certainly be crawling my way through that sub-forum, gleaning anything that might help me on my way.

Thanks again.
 
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