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question about Buffet Albert Bass clarinet

Recently I bought buffet albert bass clarinet.
Very nice horn and good sound.
One thing I can't understand.
Previous owner say that this is alto hp clarinet.
I think he is not right,because lowest note on clarinet go to Eb piano pitch.
So it is only one tone from Eb clarinet pitch.
And last observation-it plays well in tune with piano.
Can somebody explain me what clarinet is it?


College Student who likes wind instruments & music
Some pictures would help a bit for the alto/bass part, though the range you said sounds like a Bass.
If it was a HP Alto to low E (assuming because Albert System,) the lowest note would be equivalent to a G on a (HP) Piano.
If it was a HP Bb Bass to low E (assuming that again) the lowest note would sound as a low D on a HP Piano.
Most likely this is a high pitch Bass that is being played to an out of tune piano, so check both of them with an electronic tuner.
SOTSDO will probably know more about Albert System Harmony Clarinets than I do, as I've never actually gotten to play one, and he started on a HP Bass in A rather like this one, so I'll hope he chimes in on this.

(also I wrote this post right before I went to bed so I'm sorry if something didn't make sense, I'll correct or explain it in the morning.)

Also a question: Why did you buy a HP instrument?


Old King Log
Staff member
As always, photos would help a lot here.

Some questions:

To what point is the horn keyed to, low E or low Eb?

What is the horn's serial number?

Are there any open finger holes on the instrument?

When you play a low C (T|FFF|ooo) into an electronic tuner, what does the tuner return?
To Sotsdo.
1 it is keyed like ordinar albert clarinet.
,so I think it is E.(remind that this note sound Eb on piano)
2.no s.number,only C.Fischer NY
3.No open finger holes.
4. 117 hz


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
1. Take photo.
2. Log on here.
3. Hit the Insert Pic button. ("Squared" in red in the below pic.)


4. Click the tab that says "From Computer."


5. Click on the browse button and find your file.

6. Click "Upload File(s)."

You can (you don't have to) then double-click the picture to choose sizes and formatting.


Old King Log
Staff member
By the way, my Buffet Albert horn was a low pitch instrument, even though it was an old horn. My grandfather was particular about adhering to the modern system as he played in pit orchestras over in Olde Bavaria, and the conductors in the opera systems were equally particular.

As an all around clarinetist equipped to deal with German opera, he did quite a bit of work (if what I've been told was true), getting time off from his oversight position with the engineer staff to travel widely. He got a lot of grief from all concerned in the German music scene over his "foreign" instruments, but he preferred the Alberts to the German horns. (He converted to Boehm once he got established in the New World.)

When he moved over here after the Great War, he worked as a fire chief for the Saint Louis Fire Department (a big step down from an engineering officer in Kaiser Bill's German (well, Bavarian) forces), and picked up extra funds by working movie theater orchestras and restaurants (until Hollywood picked up on talkies)

The only problem was the aged system used for the horns. He pawned the Bb and A sopranos, and the Bb bass for enough money to buy a Boehm soprano, bass and a tenor (yuk!), but couldn't find a shop that would take the A bass. So, it sat in the closet until my cheap ass mother pulled it out as good enough for young Terry, fresh off his escape from viola hell.

The rest, as they say, is history...

The only problem was the aged system used for the horns. He pawned the Bb and A sopranos, and the Bb bass for enough money to buy a Boehm soprano, bass and a tenor (yuk!), but couldn't find a shop that would take the A bass. So, it sat in the closet until my cheap ass mother pulled it out as good enough for young Terry, fresh off his escape from viola hell.

The rest, as they say, is history...

You had an A bass? Have you seen this? http://www.circb.info/sites/default/files/Bowen, Bass Clarinet in A, 2009-DISSERTATION.pdf

It claims that only 19 A basses are known to exist.


Old King Log
Staff member
Yeah. I've saved a copy with an eye towards preparing a reasoned, sourced reply. Just on anecdotal evidence (plus my encounters with Selmer A basses, two different ones), I get the feeling that it was poorly researched, perhaps mostly just here in the States.

There is an orchestration book of recent (last 10 years or so) that categorically states that NO (as in "absolutely none whatsoever") A bass clarinets were produced ever. Once again, poor research in a topic that is of marginal interest. The article above gives the impression of that as well - something done for a master's that was too much trouble for the panel to follow up on.

After mastering the funky key work, I loved my horn. Transposition was a bear, but I had just come off of playing the viola, where the clef was a factor as well as the notation, so I got along just fine. And, my grade school band director (who later became my high school band teacher before ascending to the head of music for the district - he remains a close friend (and valuable union contact) to this day) apparently loved the added "grunt" that the low end horn added to our little grade school group. (He also started me on bass again when in junior high, and even procured my "own" horn for me to use through high school.)

No matter - my stupid mother traded the thing (after I was fully lapped into the transposition issues when playing from Bb parts for a couple of years) for a horrid Bb soprano, this on the advise of my "teacher" (all of three lessons) who immediately gave up his "task" once the trade was complete.

At this remove, I don't even recall his name. The music store through which he worked is long time gone, a very careful search of my mother's papers upon her death revealed nothing (I still think that she got a bunch of money out of the trade, as the teacher could play an Albert system horn), and inquiries with the head of music with the school district (who is still alive and kicking on his trombone as this is being written) led nowhere as well (and he put in some effort).

There was a photo of me holding the bass, but it is of poor quality B&W, and taken from behind the music stand (where only a very small portion of the neck and mouthpiece was visible). And, careful searching for that revealed nothing.

I can understand the need for such things with the grief that clarinet players experience over playing in sharp keys to accommodate vocalists and string players. After all, we still have A sopranos in profusion. But, Wagner is only a small part of the orchestral rep, and the impression that I get is profit reigns over all these days. Selmer did break the logjam for a brief period, but (I mean really) what bass clarinet player wants to tote two basses to anything?

(A fitted, French style case for the pair would be a really neat piece of luggage, however...sort of like a Traypac for a baritone/bass clarinet/clarinet combination. It would have to come with its own forklift, however...or, you could dress up like a hot little harp player, and rely on other players to do the moving for you...)


Old King Log
Staff member
By the way,is playing Albert Bass differ emotionaly for you from Boehm Bass?

I still have a couple of old ones that I picked up (no Buffets, unfortunately - there's another long story on that you can find hereon someplace), both of Italian production and both in storage. As I can't play a conventional horn any longer (another long story), it's been a number of years since I've picked one up.

Having said that, both systems have their plusses and minuses. The key work on the Boehms is superior for almost every purpose. The intonation of the Boehm horn is superior as well.

But, the arrangement of the fingering (with the straight line F scale on the Boehms) makes them more suited for playing in sharp music (i.e., music written in concert keys that favor instruments pitched in C), while the Boehm horns are more suited to playing the other variety.

When playing musicals on the clarinet, I enjoy using my Oehler horn for the soprano part for much the same reason. Those sharps get to you after an hour or so.

Now, if only such alternatives existed for the saxophone. I became much more accustomed to playing in five or six sharps on the sax over the years, just so that music pitched in A would resemble the original charts...
Hello All,

I am new to the forum. I noticed your were discussing Albert Bass Clarinets and thought I would share and also see if anyone could also help to provide any information.
Firstly I must admit I do not play myself. My son however (nearly 16) have been playing Clarinets and Saxophones since he was about 7 and thankfully his is still interested and playing. I have sourced several instruments over the years always looking for a bargain and my son now has an Soprano, Alto and Tenor sax and well as a Bass clarinet and his main Bb clarinet which is a Buffet R13 which has a lovely tone. I even got hold of an electronic clarinet/sax the AKAI EWI 5000 which I appreciate to many of you probably isn't a real instrument but it's interesting and I have always tried to keep my sons interest in music.

Anyway apologies for my rambling. To get to the point when looking for a bass clarinet I stumbled across (I bought it back in 2013) what I believe to be an old Buffet Albert system bass clarinet. If memory serves correctly when I did a bit of research I think it is around 1921 based on serial no.
On inspection whilst it is not currently playable (needs new pads and a good overhaul) the clarinet looks to be in lovely condition with no visible damage to the wood that I can see and the keys look to be in very good condition for the age.
As I mentioned it hasn't been played yet and unfortunately it didn't come in the mouthpiece or original case but I do intend getting it back to being playable again.

I would welcome your views on the clarinet, any information you may be able to share or direct me where I can look.
Also where I may find a suitable mouthpiece and case.

Many thanks

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College Student who likes wind instruments & music
I'd hope that a modern Bass mouthpiece would fit, I'll measure mine if I can find a ruler.
As for a case, I haven't been able to get a better one for mine, a low E also, so I imagine the easiest way is to either make on yourself or get one custom-made.


Old King Log
Staff member
You lucky so-and-so...

I learned ("learnt"?) to play clarinet on a Buffet A bass clarinet with the Albert key work, a relic of my grandfather's music career in both Bavaria (where he was an officer with the Bavarian Army who dabbled in opera on the side) and here in the United States.

The A horn was the only one of his instruments remaining during the days of my youth. When he arrived here post The Great War, it was among the few high-value possessions that he and my grandmother were able to evacuate following the "red revolution" post war.

(Incidentally, its not generally known that old Unca Adolph Hitler, Mr. NAZI party later in his life, was a member of the left-wing elements that briefly controlled Bavaria post war. He did a pretty good job of covering this up (including imprisonment and killing of the witnesses to same), but it's all written down.)

When my grandparents arrived in generally pro-German Saint Louis, his engineering experience quickly saw him rise in the Fire Department, where he was able to make station chief before forced into retirement by injuries to his lungs following the "great" bleach factory fire. They then sold all of his new horn, since his lungs were short.

However, working as a civil servant, even as a "desk official" in the battalion, was not a route to the kind of money that he needed to raise ten or eleven children, so he immediately started playing music for money. No real opera here in the US (the Municipal Opera (musical theater) was the closest he ever got there), but tons of work in movie theaters and hotel orchestras that fit well with his work schedule with the battalion.

When he got over here, he immediately went to pawn his European horns (along with Grandma's jewelry) in order to raise some interim capital. But, every pawn shop he approached would take the A and Bb sopranos (both Buffet horns, from what I have seen of the supporting documentation) and the Bb bass, but none would touch the A bass. So, into a succession of closets it went until it was time to take little Terry off of stringed instruments (to this day, I continue to hate the feel of a viola under my chin) and onto a horn.

While the Albert "system" is a bit on the obsolete side, you can still play them as well as your skills can allow. And, starting on the relatively small Buffet A bass to low E, it was relatively easy to handle for my burgeoning sixth grade arms and neck.

All the tools you need are available in the Rubank series of clarinet methods. The Elementary volume comes with two fingering charts - a Boehm one (using a skeletal metal instrument at the one side, and an Albert one with a normal looking soprano horn. The lip technique on the bass is a bit more involved, but other than that it's a doddle.

I took a grand total of three lessons with a guy at the local Nottleman's music store, but he moved on to another shop on the far north side and that was that. Everything else I picked up on my own, including the talents needed to make the A to Bb transposition, and the need to drive the alto clef out of my head.

In doing so, I unwittingly adopted a technique common with baritone horn players over in Europe, who made the transposition from the bass clef parts in to the pitch of the baritone by learning to read the part with different names assigned to the notes. So, instead of reading the Eb as Eb, you just read it as low E.

A bit hard to express, but it was good enough to get me by for a couple of years. My school district's music supervisor loved having the clarinet parts in the simple stuff we played doubled at the octave, and he encouraged me in my efforts (indeed, he is supportive to this day).)

However, as my technique developed, the district urged my parents to get me a Boehm system instrument. As the Boehm bass horns were too expensive, and as the same guy who got me started on the clarinet offered a one for one trade for a mid-level Boehm horn, my skinflint mother jumped at the chance and thus I became a "real clarinet player".

As I rose through the education system, I gradually accumulated the proper outfit for the orchestras and bands that I played in (a pair of Selmer Bb and A horns, and a bass (Boehm, of course) in Bb bought for my exclusive use by the district (a Bundy, mind you, but one with a floor peg). I also started playing sax, and picked up enough bassoon to get by on a show book or second chair in orchestra. However, I always missed the "sweet" sound and feel of my Albert bass.

Fast forward to college at a pathetic little pile down in Springfield MO (Drury College), where the bass that I was using was one of those pathetic Kohler horns, with a damaged register key, a crack in the lower joint and no peg. However, one fine day I was rummaging around in the school's horn room, looking for a working baritone (I found one, although not in working condition), when I blundered into a "pouchet" style case stuffed into the back of the storage.

From the size and the style, it looked like a duplicate of my old Albert bass. However, his time it was Buffet bass clarinet in Bb. Color me happy as hell.

The instrument was a total mess, with all of the pads eaten away by bugs, and the key work smelly and corroded. But a week's worth of work with lighter fluid and bore oil, penetrating oil, key oil and small screwdrivers, I got it cleaned up enough to take it up to Saint Louis and have the re-padding and regulation done.

While the bell and neck on that horn can't compare to those on your horn (no shine left at all, anywhere on the instrument, and also no lyre mount on the neck like the one in your photos), when fixed up I had a bass (albeit one that only descended to low E) without compare. I had to buy another Rubank Elementary method (for the fingering chart), but the system came back in less than a week.

When I left the hell that was Springfield, I approached the god-like Dr. Don Verne Joseph, the head of the music department, and offered to buy the horn from the school (since few others were playing the Albert system - none in fact with the local collegian community, many of whom tried the horn and loved the tone, but couldn't get their Boehm oriented heads around it). His answer was an immediate and resounding "No!"

(Despite his lofty status, the only thing that DVJ was into in a big way was the college "laboratory jazz ensemble". So much Basie was played that you could have floated a boat in it. Stuck up snob...)

I've since been back and inquired after the horn a second time, but it had disappeared without a trace. Upon reflection, I probably could have walked off with the thing, but that damn'd ethical conscience kept me from doing so. On top of this, none of the freshman level base courses (literature/composition, and "civilization" something or other) would transfer to a real school. So, I started my sophomore year as a half-sophomore - thanks a lot, Drury!

I've bought a couple of Albert basses since (both of Italian production, and more stiff and unresponsive instruments you will never play, I assure you). I've kept my eyes open back when I could still play a horn, but never saw a Buffet Albert bass on offer.

When playing clarinet, I prefer the Albert and Oehler systems in sharp-rich environments (orchestral and shows, along with big band stuff) and the Boehm instrument for the military band stuff

As for playability, there are some intonation issues with the Albert instruments (both soprano and bass - I trust that you didn't spend your money on a high pitch horn), but you learn to deal with them in time. In particular, the notes produced by the first finger down on the lower joint seemed to be a trifle sharp - I've been told that this may have been an artifact of the different notes being emitted - um - "differently".

The differences with the first fingers take some getting used to, but if you can manage a sax, you won't have much difficulty. A Selmer mouthpiece from their standard lineup fits the neck just fine, at least on the two that I had experience with. (I found the C** to be the best.)

For a case, you will probably have to go custom. I tried my Buffet from Drury in the wrong case once - I had it and the Kohler out at an orchestra rehearsal, and put it away in the Kohler case by mistake whilst distracted by an attractive 'cello player) and the two joints simply did not fit the Boehm horn case layout.

That manual register key is a little hard to master at first, but after a while you even learn to 'half hole' the second register when you trip it as you progress up the horn - it eases the production of the lower most tones in the clarinet register.

If I could still blow a horn, I'd probably come by and steal it from you. Since I can't, all I can offer is congratulations on an excellent find. Besides, I've got Pete's matched pair of Selmer A and Bb metal full Boehm horns ahead of you on the list.


College Student who likes wind instruments & music
I'll assume SOTSDO's right on the mpc, though if someone finds this later, it's almost 1 inch on inside bore and 1 1/8 inches on outside bore of the tenon.
Many thanks SOTSDO and TrueTone,
Some very interesting and useful comments.
Are you able to help identify exactly what is it?
I believe it is a Bb Bass Clarinet (looks very similar to this one http://www.uark.edu/ua/nc/NCCollectionPage/Page/BuffetAlbertBass.htm although not total convinced it is the same)
Also is it a Low E, I really have no idea how to tell, and there seems to be very little information available in the internet.

As you say the Albert system is pretty much obsolete now, by the sounds of it this was a lovely clarinet in it's day, I certainly want to get it playing again. They do seem to be quite rare, I have only every seen this one come up and not sure the owner knew what it was as it was miss-listed.

I guess there is not much call for these anymore and hence of limited value???
I am not really interested in selling but would be nice to know if it has a value, might also help me to decide how much money to invest in getting it playable again.

I was thinking of doing some of the work myself, stripping down, cleaning etc. then getting someone to do the fine adjustments for me. I am no expert but I am practical with an engineering background and have carried out minor repairs and pad replacement on my son first cheap clarinet. Would welcome any views and also if anyone knows of where I could get any drawing schematics etc. Also view on what to do with the wood. whether I should oil it or not and what to use. I did see an article on using a mix of methylated spirit and nut oil. Would welcome ideas suggestions.

Or if it is potentially very valuable maybe would be worth getting an expert to overhaul it? I did mention it in passing to a reputable store in London when I was in there last (Howarths). I didn't have the instrument with me, but to be honest they seemed un-interested in it and suggested it was not worth it, they didn't even bother looking at the photos. I just think that is a real shame and certainly from my untrained eye, I think there is a lot right with this horn, there are a couple of needle springs missing and a couple of keys are ever so slightly out of true much nothing that seems major, not obvious breaks anywhere.

Thanks again for your comments and interest, it has given me some renewed enthusiasm as the horn has been in the box for the past 18th months since I bought it.
Just wondering about the rubank elementary method book you mentioned. I see some available but not sure whether it is the correct one.
There is one that is rubank elementary for clarinet no. 34 is this the right one, or is there as specific one that cover Bass Clarinet and/or Albert system?

Many thanks
Hi SOTSDO, TrueTone,
Many thanks for the replies, really interesting and informative. I was wondering what else you are able to tell me about my clarinet? As far as I know I think it is a Bb Bass Clarinet. Not being an expert I don’t know much more than that. For instance whether it is a Low E instrument?
There seems to be very little available online about it I guess mainly due to it’s age and the fact that it is an Albert system, which as you said SOTSDO seems to be pretty much obsolete now.
I would love to find out more and as mentioned in my previous post also get it back to playing condition. I am considering doing some of this myself, whilst not an expert I have an engineering background and did manage to carry out some work including re-padding on my sons first Bb clarinet. Any idea if there are any drawings, schematics that would be available from somewhere? I thought of doing some of the work then getting someone to make the fine adjustments. I would really welcome any advice on the body, “To oil or not to oil”. I read somewhere an article on using a blend of methylated spirit and nut oil and not to soak but to use oiled rag and do it gradually. What do you think?
Also I wonder whether this kind of horn has much value, appreciate that these are not very common. I have only ever seen this one for sale, and it was mislabeled so not sure the seller knew what it was, I didn’t even know until after I bought it, I just liked the look of it and thought it was special. Whilst I don’t think I would be interested in selling it (unless it meant I could retire early J ) having an idea on value might help make the decision on best route for restoration, I wouldn’t want to spend hundreds on it professionally if the general view is that it would not be worth it.
I did enquire in a reputable clarinet store in London last year (Howarths) I did not have the clarinet with me at the time, but when I mentioned it they were not particularly interested and said it wasn’t worth doing anything with, which I thought was a real shame for something that was obviously a special instrument in it’s day.

Anyway any advice/opinions welcome.