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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2014
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Hmm. My Bundy does. My hands are big enough, so I have no inherent problems with that. Or is there more to open holes than just the required finger accuracy?
 

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Based upon my playing experience of both varieties, I always felt that the open-hole version had a better timbre than the "standard" plateau horns. However, how much of this was obvious to the listener as opposed to perceived by the player is entirely up in the air.

In general terms, only those with beefy hands should consider an open-hole alto clarinet. As you may want to sell the beast down the road, it would be more logical to go the plateau key route in the first place.
 

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I have an older wooden Conn, made in France Alto clarinet. This has a great sound with a Pillinger mpc and Vandoren reed. There are bargains out there in alto clarinet land and as a fellow RC and Selmer bass owner (fanatic) the Conn should match your sound concept fairly nicely. The Buffets, LeBlancs and Selmers also play very nicely but you will pay a premium for them if you can find one for sale.
 

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I've tried several. My old teacher had a Buffet (I'm guessing several decades old) that had a great sound but I don't remember much about it (keys, intonation, etc).

I've tried a new and an old Selmer and both sounded great, especially the new one, but I just never liked Selmer keys. If you like their bass model 35 you probably will like the alto too for keys (the Privilege is an improvement and a little different). That new Selmer alto was about three years ago so it is probably the current model.

I have an old Leblanc which I don't use, and although it plays it really needs a repair so I can't make a fair comparison now. It has a pretty nice sound, but has reponse issues that might or might not have something to do with leaks. It also has a big intonation problem around the throat notes.

I might repair my Leblanc some day, but now I play a Pedler alto. I don't know if it is even considered a professional model but it is very good. It has some uncomfortable things, like the trill keys are moving sideways instead of down, and the main left hand stack keys are a little apart from each other, but it sounds very good and I would never guess it is so much cheaper than a new pro model (excluding shipping & tax it was $180). If I ever buy a new alto clarinet then it is almost entirely for the more comfortable keys (probably Buffet).
 

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The finger spacing issue can be a problem with older altos. The alto is the largest clarinet where the tone holes covered by the fingers can actually (with a bit of stretching) still fit under the fingers. (Hence the occasional open (or, non-plateau) alto clarinet.

On some of the older altos, the finger touch pieces were not "adjusted" so as to keep this spread down. In other words, instead of relocating the touch pieces a la the Sax bass clarinet design (yes, Virginia, the modern bass clarinet is another of Sax's works of design genius), they just closed over the holes and left the touches in place. Some can deal with this without a problem; others cannot.

The old guide that I used to use was "If you have any troubles at all with finger spacing on an A clarinet, then don't buy an open-hole alto". It still seems to hold true, the last time that I had occasion to test it.
 

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I play a Leblanc with a low Eb and use a Vandoren B44 mpc with a Rico 3.5 reed. I'm currently "trying to use" a Plasticover 3.5 alto sax reed. I'm not feeling the love yet...This horn is something I honk on around the house for "S&Gs." I 've only tried it once at a club and I had a hard time hearing it much less trying to improvise in tune. I also have a Kohlert Eb alto and a open ring Selmer Paris to a low E. Stay away from the open ring horns.

I wish I could find a better mouthpeice than the B44.
 

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My main instrument is a 1959 Buffet Radio Model Alto clarinet that was specially made for The French Radio Orchestra. The wood is superb and the keys are unplated German silver and are closed like a sax. The intonation and tone are excellent. I play jazz and use a Giggliotti mouthpiece and Hemke #2 alto sax reeds. I strongly suggest this mouthpiece and reed combination. I have recently started recording from my home computer and have had amazing results and great fun.
 

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I didn't know that John Surman played alto !!! I would like to hear that.
I have a wood Selmer from the early 70's that i won on Ebay for $325, it has a surface crack.
I had to pay repairs, duty and shipping on top of that but i'm still happy with my purchase.
I took me a little while to get used to the embouchure (compared to a Bb) and to make the clarion register "sing" but i'm really happy with it now,I play it regulary.
I use a Vandoren B40 mpc, i would be interested in trying a Grabner someday.

ps........don't use alto sax reeds, even thought they're exactly the same size, the slope is different.
 

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daigle65 said:
ps........don't use alto sax reeds, even thought they're exactly the same size, the slope is different.
I'm quite happy with my Hemkes...:?
 

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tictactux said:
I'm quit happy with my Hemkes...:?
Then I guess it depends on the mpc and type of reed.
I've tried alto sax reeds and they don't respond very well with the facing of an alto clarinet mpc.

ps....I've seen a Charles Bay mpc with the inscription "use alto sax reed only", I guess the facing curve on that one is different.
 

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daigle65 said:
Then I guess it depends on the mpc and type of reed.
Yes, definitely. Some reeds will work better on some mouthpieces and not others. Although I play the same mouthpiece you do on alto clarinet and both Vandoren alto clarinet and alto sax reeds work great.
 

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I come here for guidance!:)


Well, someone I know who has an antique shop around here, swapped his Buescher (plastic) alto clarinet for a decoration Chinese saxophone that I had acquired because of some mouthpieces it was sold with (a Century with more problems that I care to describe) .

First of all I am not a clarinetist at all and I only had a go at a Bb clarinet with an Albert system (that I liked considerably more than the more confusing , to me, Bhöm system) many years ago (I liked it but not enough to keep and make a study of it), but this alto, probably because of the vague resemblance to a saxophone , is growing on me but Oh Boy ! Is it difficult to produce any sound other than squeaking?

As far as I can tell this thing is in a decent state and seals (more or less) well but it is hard to play or should I say it is hard to produce any sound other than noise.

Are they all like that? Is it me? I am wondering whether to try to play it (and learn to cope with the incredible difficulties of clarinets!) or to just sell it to someone who knows and appreciates these things better (although I know that they are not worth much....by the way, how much? )
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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I would definitely avoid an open hole alto. The stretches wouldn't work for my stubby little hands!

milandro:

I just bought a v cheap Vito on ebay and absolutely love it. I also got a closed tip Vandoren m/p (i use close tipped m'ps on Bb clarinet) and although it needs a repad i am getting some ok sound with a couple of the lower pads sealed with cling film!

I would say keep it. Concentrate on getting a nice sound in the lower register and don't even worry about crossing the break for now (hey, it worked for Jimmy Giuffre!). I seem to remember that you do play/jam with bands. The alto clarinet gives you a really nice option in terms of your "tonal palette" (pretentious much, Rooty? ;)). You probably need to find a good m/p reed combination so it's a nearer match to your sax setup. I would guess that at the moment you're applying much too much force when you form your embouchure and breathe out to set the reed moving. You can take it very easy on the lower notes and still get a lovely sound.

I think myself that these are seriously underutilised instruments in jazz. If Eric Dolphy had happened to pick up one of these rather than the bass he would have obtained very similar effects and all the sax players would be longing for altos and not basses. And (whisper) they're so cheap to buy used.
:)
 

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ps........don't use alto sax reeds, even thought they're exactly the same size, the slope is different.
I did try both alto and tenor reeds b4 i got hold of the proper thing. Tenor were really interesting even though slightly too long for the mp and protruding too far. Both could be played in tune fairly ok (to my great surprise). I agree that "proper" alto reeds probably do get a better result but i found it to be not as huge a difference as i would have expected. I am actually considering trying the tenor reeds again with a couple mm cut off the butt end. I really liked the buzzines and extra honk i could get. I'm sure they would be totally unsuitable if i had any plan to attempt classical music on alto clarinet.
 

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Thanks Rooty, yes I do play at Jam Sessions and I should think that It would rise a few eyebrows if I would turn up with one of these at a session.
I will give it a go, today I will show it to someone who understands about clarinets and ask his opinion about having it done.
I am amazed at the range of this horns (I've heard).
Much too much pressure uh? Yes must be! If I pressed any harder my eyes would pop out of their socket! I have to study this clarinet embouchure thing
 

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Forum Contributor 2011, SOTW's pedantic pet rodent
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Thanks Rooty, yes I do play at Jam Sessions and I should think that It would rise a few eyebrows if I would turn up with one of these at a session.
It certainly does cause a few raised eyebrows! I've found it a nice icebreaker. Everyone thinks it's beneath their dignity to get into a cutting contest with an alto clarinet. So they relax a bit and it's more fun. And maybe the music's better.

Apparently when Dolphy first pulled out his bass on a Mingus gig the reaction was "Why don't you put that silly looking thing away?!" (!!)
 

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(...) but this alto, probably because of the vague resemblance to a saxophone , is growing on me but Oh Boy ! Is it difficult to produce any sound other than squeaking?
No, shouldn't. Actually, the embouchure is a bit more relaxed than on soprano clarinet, but that of course depends on the - drum roll - mouthpiece and reed.
As far as I can tell this thing is in a decent state and seals (more or less) well but it is hard to play or should I say it is hard to produce any sound other than noise.
Are they all like that? Is it me? I am wondering whether to try to play it (and learn to cope with the incredible difficulties of clarinets!) or to just sell it to someone who knows and appreciates these things better (although I know that they are not worth much....by the way, how much? )
Oh, forget what other people try to tell you about value and worth. Trust your ears. Either you like it or you don't.
FWIW I have an open-hole Bundy...I don't see many problems with open holes - they aren't that much farther apart than on a soprano. I am using Hemke Alto Sax reeds with no adverse effects...
 
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