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Why Bb?

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#21
The Bb clarinet is the easiest to handle for it's size and is the most preferred for it's tonal characteristics.

A C or Eb is pitch-wise hard to control except for experienced players and the tonal characteristic doesn't blend well with other "starter" instruments. And the tone is harder to control for a beginner.

You don't see many brand new clarinet players on an alto or bass clarinet, or even oboe or bassoon (yes, not a clarinet but they usually snag a clarinet player for these). Oboe and Bassoon requires a more advanced player in a sense. Plus how many 5th graders in the US can handle such a long instrument like a bassoon. But then over time the Bb clarinet has been the dominant instrument in bands and orchestral composers largely write for the Bb & A clarinet due to it's tonal quality. An Eb clarinet is high in it's tonal pitch but the Bb's tonal quality is preferred with the As.

If you look at the clarinet family it has one of the largest spread of instruments (of course, one of our experts here will show off his saxophone line). But you can find clarinets in G, F, E, Eb, D, C, Bb, A, Ab and probably everything else if you search around long enough. Handel's 1748 Overture required D clarinets due to it's tonal characteristic that he wanted with the rest of the orchestra. And Mozart wrote some popular pieces for the Basset clarinet in A. So the writer is looking for certain tonal characteristics, they reason instruments have various flavors .. such as the tonal difference between a Cornet and a Trumpet.

One reason the alto sax is the starting instrument rather than a tenor. Just think if you starting band had 8 soprano saxophones and what that would sound like ? Or how much larger and heavier a tenor is from an alto for a young player ?
Interesting site in your signature Steve, tho a couple of links are broken
oops, forgot about those links there and are outdated.
My main saxes are Selmer Paris SA80 soprano, VII alto & tenor and Couf Superba 1 alto and tenor.
Clarinets: my primary is a Buffet RC Prestige, Buffet R13 Bb/A, Leblanc LL Bb/A and various others.
 
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#23
I was preparing a post on this because it hits on something interesting, but I put it off looking for more facts. The Bb clarinet to my understanding is popular because the modern school bands bands and wind sympohies are extensions of the military bands of the 19th century that favored Eb and Bb concert pitches. Why were these pitches favored in particular? Why not go C and F like the orchestras do?

I'm not sure, but this video I saw on why the French Horn is in F got me thinking...



towards the end, she talks about how amongst the many crooks the harmonic horn had, the F ended up being though of tonally superior. That possibly could have shaped the F-C alignment of modern symphonies.

of course the F of earlier centuries are pitched different than the modern F.........
 

Aulos303

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Banned :(
#24
I was preparing a post on this because it hits on something interesting, but I put it off looking for more facts. The Bb clarinet to my understanding is popular because the modern school bands bands and wind sympohies are extensions of the military bands of the 19th century that favored Eb and Bb concert pitches. Why were these pitches favored in particular? Why not go C and F like the orchestras do?

I'm not sure, but this video I saw on why the French Horn is in F got me thinking...



towards the end, she talks about how amongst the many crooks the harmonic horn had, the F ended up being though of tonally superior. That possibly could have shaped the F-C alignment of modern symphonies.

of course the F of earlier centuries are pitched different than the modern F.........
Fascinating. I love their videos. That horn is surprisingly versatile and of course I want to try playing one ;)
Interesting that she says Richard Straus. I always thought it was pronounced Rickhard..
Anyway, good stuff!
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#25
Nice collection Steve!
Thanks, I started my collection in the 80s. The Selmer's I bought while in high school.
I still have my original 1978 Normandy 4 clarinet too.

btw, I'm also a horn player. I play primarily cornet and some trumpet as I prefer the tonal characteristics of the cornet. One of my sons started playing trumpet in 5th grade. Then in 6th after he played with one of my 3 french horns he switched over. I started playing french horn in 1982ish (sax in 1978, clarinet in 1980).

I recall, and Pete or Helen would be able to be more exact, some model saxophone in F.

Remember though, the double french horn is in Bb and F. The F tonally is better in the lower range and the Bb in the upper range. Most single french horns are in F for students. For a better description read this ==> http://jonathanhornthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/07/when-to-use-f-side-and-when-to-use-bb.html

I'm not that adept at french horn that you read in that article but the horn is very interesting in it's tonal characteristics. It's like a flugel horn (I have a marching FH too). Mpc selection and design has a lot to do with the way you sound in various tonal segments and can make lower, mid or upper ranges sounds deeper or thinner, or make harder or easier to achieve.

I had a chart from Selmer once on the breakdown of a trumpet and french horn mpc and how each individual mpc part can affect certain tonal characteristics.
 

Aulos303

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Banned :(
#26
I'll have to do some research, find out the differences between trumpet and cornet
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#27
I'll have to do some research, find out the differences between trumpet and cornet
The basic design difference is the Bb Trumpet has a cylindrical bore which is consistent steps (except bell) throughout the instrument.
The Bb Cornet has a conical bore which gradually increases until the big jump in the bell flare. The Trumpet is mostly cylindrical, Cornet half/half and might as well mention the Flugelhorn which is more conical.

The Bb Flugelhorn; all 3 have the same range but the combination of the bore design and mouthpiece design give all 3 a distinctly different tonal quality.

A conical instrument generally a warmer tone with fewer upper harmonics. Whereas, like a trumpet it will have a brighter tone with more upper harmonics.
This excludes variations you get from material, finish and assuming the "same/similar" mouthpiece. I prefer red-brass bells for cornet and french horn but those don't mix well in symphonies bands where nickel is preferred.

The french horn is different from this "equation" though. as it's mostly conical with a mix of cylindrical in the adjusting tubes and valve area. Can't have conical adjusting tubes LOL
 

Aulos303

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Banned :(
#28
Interesting stuff. Sax is conical whereas I believe that clarinet is cylindrical, correct?
Also the recorder is conical but the tin whistle cylindrical.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#29
yeah but a brass instrument is simple.
They have 3 or 4 valves used to extend the tonal range through extended plumbing.

A woodwind is totally different as they have various toneholes, and combination of toneholes used to extend the range. And these toneholes all can vary in diameter which will affect the tone and backpressure/pressure inside the instrument and also inside your mouth. One reason the tapered upper bore became popular because pro players could feel a more consistent backpressure playing down the instrument from a purely cylindrical instrument.
larger toneholes also lower pressure more quickly but are mathematically related to position on the instrument as the bore increases.
 

Aulos303

_•_ •_• __ •_•_ •____|
Banned :(
#30
Which is why some holes on the tin whistle are large and some are small!
 

Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
#31
...I recall, and Pete or Helen would be able to be more exact, some model saxophone in F.....
Yup, there were, and there still are. The most commonly seen is the vintage Conn Mezzo-Soprano in F.

The Conn-O-Sax was also in F, but was much less common than the Mezzo-Soprano.

I'm trying to think of a modern one... I'm sure there is one... But maybe I'm just having a hallucination, since I can't remember what it is ATM... itd_3d_ani_w60_smiles_065.gif
 

Aulos303

_•_ •_• __ •_•_ •____|
Banned :(
#32
...I recall, and Pete or Helen would be able to be more exact, some model saxophone in F.....
Yup, there were, and there still are. The most commonly seen is the vintage Conn Mezzo-Soprano in F.

The Conn-O-Sax was also in F, but was much less common than the Mezzo-Soprano.

I'm trying to think of a modern one... I'm sure there is one... But maybe I'm just having a hallucination, since I can't remember what it is ATM... itd_3d_ani_w60_smiles_065.gif
Some nice pics there! That Conn-O-Sax is weird. A ball instead of a bell and said to sound like a big oboe! Odd
 

kymarto

Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#33
Interesting stuff. Sax is conical whereas I believe that clarinet is cylindrical, correct?
Also the recorder is conical but the tin whistle cylindrical.
There is an important distinction between a conical bore (oboe, sax) and a reverse conical bore (simple system flute, recorder). A reverse cone acts as a cylinder, but through acoustics which you probably don't want to know, makes some of the high notes more secure. It's interesting to note that the piccolo comes in two different flavors, one with a cylindrical bore and another with a reverse-conical bore. The cylindrical ones tend to be used in bands since they are a bit louder (do you need a louder piccolo?), and the conical ones, most often made of wood or composite, are used orchestrally. Otherwise they are identical.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#34
I'm trying to think of a modern one... I'm sure there is one... But maybe I'm just having a hallucination, since I can't remember what it is ATM...
There was an Asian firm doing that for a short while. I also remember that they made a C tenor -- at least two generations, because I remember the thread on SOTW -- and possibly a C soprano. Very briefly, Eppelsheim had some sort of partnership with Reese and they also produced a modern C soprano.

I'd have to look for links. I have them stashed somewhere.
 

saxhound

Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#36
There was an Asian firm doing that for a short while. I also remember that they made a C tenor -- at least two generations, because I remember the thread on SOTW -- and possibly a C soprano.
I think Pete is referring to Aquilasax. They were a hot thing about 5 or 10 years ago, but recently closed down due to supplier issues.
 

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#38
I think Pete is referring to Aquilasax. They were a hot thing about 5 or 10 years ago, but recently closed down due to supplier issues.
Yeah, I ordered one and then backed out as the play tests started turning ugly.
I didn't understand why someone would want a sax in C, other than to play piano music and such.
At one time I was going to buy a C clarinet, but then just decided to sight transpose the music instead as I could do that for Trumpet, Tenor sax already. I normally would just buy piano music as it was far cheaper to get a book versus one sheet of a transposed instrument.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#39
Gandalfe + Saxhound: I think you're right.

I know I've said this before: the C instruments and F instruments can be played in a style to bring out more of a "reedy" tone than the standard Bb/Eb instruments, but not enough for me to spend $50K on a Conn-O-Sax.

I'm not the world's best at transposing on my first run through. I'd much rather write out the transposition.

There is a G mezzo-soprano as well.
I also think that if you have the cash, Benedikt Eppelsheim could probably build whatever you'd like.

EDIT: I forgot about the curved soprano in A, too.
 
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Helen

Content Expert Saxophones
Staff member
Administrator
#40
I didn't understand why someone would want a sax in C, other than to play piano music and such.
IMHO, one is answer is these horns are appealing to mediocre musicians who play with guitar players, but can't play in the keys of C#, B, F#, etc.

This thread niggled at my brain b/c it seemed familiar to something I wrote about a few years ago. Low and behold, it was Aquilasax who floated the idea about starting modern mezzo-soprano production. BTW, that was in 2012, and guess what? It didn't fly, so I guess predicted correctly, and there never was enough interest to get the project going.

The article I wrote generated a fair amount of comments, and was the only article I ever had to close the discussion down on until the dust settled.

One player who signed up for this new mezzo-soprano did so b/c:

I am a multi-instrumentalist and love the sax but I hate hate hate the awkward fingerings and transpositional mental gymnastics required to play the Eb Alto (especially) along with groups playing in the “common” keys most pop/rock/blues groups play in — E, A, G, D, C, B.
This player is certainly not alone. Certainly not all C-pitched players play the horns b/c they are not capable of playing in guitar players' favourite keys, but for many that is certainly the case. I see these players as a throwback to the original target market of the C melody saxes.
 
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