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Curved Soprano Clarinet bell?

So, we've all seen the semi-curved soprano sax, but a friend mentioned an idea for a curved soprano clarinet bell and described it as resembling a semi curved soprano sax.
Is he dreaming, or does something like this exist? Sounds like it would be tough to manufacture not to mention expensive.
I wonder what it would do for my tone... and is there anyone, if it turns out to be practical at all, that can custom make one?

Wild, I know, but it never hurts to ask, eh?


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
it would be difficult to make one out of wood as when you turn it the weight dstribution would be very off balanced. Plus the Bb clarinet bell isn't exactly really long.

making it out of metal would much easier as you use a shaped mandrel to shape the bell.

There are a few makers out there that have refined the art of making wood curved products such as a tenor or alto sax neck out of wood. But then I don't know if those are one piece or not.


Old King Log
Staff member
Mind you, not all of it has to be turned. While turning is the quickest (and certainly cheapest) way of forming a symmetrical clarinet bell, this bell (by its very definition) is not going to be symmetrical.

The tenon socket at the top would be amiable to turning (or, more properly, boring). However, unless you went with some form of computer controlled milling/machining, the rest will be hand work until you get to the sanding/polishing. (Although the volume of the bell is somewhat important to tuning of the bell notes, it doesn't have to be symmetrical, just a proper amount of volume. That can be added by careful sanding/polishing once the outer surface has been completed.

However, for funky looking for funky looking's sake, just go out and buy a Backun bell.

Dave Dolson

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Famous early New Orleans' clarinetist Alphonse Picou had a curved silver bell on his Albert System (Bb soprano) clarinet. The horn was on display in a museum in the French Quarter when I was last there (years before Katrina).

Two trad-jazz clarinetists that I know also have (had) the curved bell on their Albert clarinets. One was Tom Sharpsteen, who recently passed away. The other was Walter Sereth, who played with the Golden Eagle Jazz Band for years. Walter claimed the curved bell allowed him to hear himself better in the ensemble. While playing alto next to him, that was a fact . . . the sound came right back into the ensemble.

From the audiences' perspective, it made little difference but when I was in the audience listening to it, I was aware of a slight lessening of Walter's projection. He has a wonderful and very strong sound on his old 1887 Buffet Albert.

The three curved silver clarinet bells I've seen had a more drastic curve upward than did the one in Gandalfe's photos.

Walter called it an "opera bell" but admitted that was a name that he and Sharpsteen came up with to describe the bell. The one thing I don't know is how the lowest note on the horn is affected by the longer-then-standard bell. I would imagine it changes the pitch drastically but never asked. DAVE
Thanks everyone! I think gandalfe may have nailed it, but the aforementioned friend also described it as "unexpectedly short" however who knows what his idea of short really is anyways.
Also, Dave's information makes tons of sense in regards to the "back projection" effect. Logic suggests the further "back" the curve, the more backwards projection.
Backun bell and its applied Phlebotinum doesn't mix with every horn. I find that you can't just drop it in to every clarinet... in mix'n match, that groove inside of it does have some effect to resistance at the bell notes... can feel rather weird (is that even a valid description?)

Dave Dolson

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
The curved bell shown by Gandalfe resembles the same curve as on a King Saxello's bell, i.e., straight out at a 45-degree angle. Modern tipped-bell sopranos (called "saxellos" for marketing purposes) have less than 45-degree curvatures, as does the old tipped-bell Bueschers from the 1920's.

The three curved clarinet bells I've seen had more of a curved-saxophone-like curvature . . . up and out. The curved silver clarinet bells I heard did nothing for the tone of the instrument (I'd heard Walter's with and without the curved bell and he sounded the same with either bell).

Speaking of octavins, (did I spell that correctly?), I know a guy on California's central coast who has one (or at least had one, I haven't talked to him in a few years). He played it at a jazz festival we were both attending. It had a wonderful sound, kind oboeish but with the timbre of a soprano saxophone at its oboeish-best. DAVE


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Speaking of octavins (...)

Yeah, speaking of octavins.

From what I see in SOTW, WOOF and TCBB there's a wealth of people who can machine/drill/lathe/burr the inconceivable and yet no one does instruments like these (although I hear that the Sausage Bassoon is being re-engineered).

So...what would be so difficult about an Octavin? Or is it the markets again? <sigh>
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