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I have never played bass clarinet before but have some training in clarinet. Obviously one of the challenges of soprano clarinet is covering the tone holes which seems to be nearly non-existent in the bass. I play a lot of bari sax in ensembles and have no problems in air flow for playing lower notes. Are the embouchures that different between Bass Clarinet and Bari Sax?
 

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I found playing Bass clarinet somewhat easier than playing soprano clarinet. I am not much of a muchness on both of them :whistle: but, yes, for a number of reasons I liked the bass more. I am no longer playing bass now.

The embouchure maybe, for some (there are many different embouchures on clarinet and the modern trend is to play in a more relaxed way), closer to saxophone but I would say that baritone sax and bass clarinet have some differences.

Take a look at some videos on embouchure. You will quickly see the differences.

Older bass clarinets have al more horizontal neck and mouthpiece position (which encourages a more saxophonic approach) than modern ones which are definitely pointing upwards to make sure the player has a closer approach to the soprano clarinet.


now take a look at this, different approach.

 

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You can play bass clarinet with a bari sax embouchure. The low notes will sound OK but the middle register will not sound like a member of the clarinet family unless you really develop a BC embouchure.

BC take a lot less air to play than Bari sax. That was my major adjustment when doubling in a big band.
 

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Playing bass clarinet with a bari embouchure Is going to give you some pretty nasty tone. The bass clarinet definitely requires a different voicing than bari.

That said, if you try to pay bass clarinet with a sax embouchure, you'll get some sound and maybe even be in the ballpark pitch-wise, which is not the case with the soprano clarinet. I have never understood why open tone holes are so difficult for some people. It seems like if you know where the tone holes are and aren't just throwing your fingers in the general direction of the instrument, that wouldn't be an issue. But if it is, the bass clarinet has plateau keys and that could be easier. So I suppose the case could be made that it's easier for someone who doesn't play either instrument to pick up and make a sound on.

That said, if you're at a fundamentally strong baseline, I think the bass presents a lot of challenges compared to the little clarinet. Bass clarinet voicing is a lot more demanding than on the clarinet if you want to play in the altissimo or make wide interval leaps. The little clarinet is a lot more stable/less prone to jumping partials. And almost any fast run is going to be easier on the soprano clarinet.

The main reason people think the bass clarinet is easier is because most bass clarinet parts are easy. Given an equivalently challenging part, it's at least as hard, IMO.

The face strength required to play the soprano is definitely harder, though. But that's just because I don't practice enough.
 

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I feel more comfortable playing bass clarinet than clarinet, so in that sense it seems easier. In a similar way I feel less comfortable improvising on alto than any of the other saxes, and less comfy on alto flute verses flute. Maybe it has something to do with the sound or pitch?
 

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A good bass clarinet embouchure has all of the same elements as a soprano clarinet embouchure, but they are less "exaggerated". On bass clarinet the chalumeau register is quite easy to produce a full, rich, well controlled sound. Success in the clarino register across the break however is not so much a matter of embouchure, but of finding the "voicing" inside the throat that is required to make those notes speak. Unfortunately this is not as easily taught as the correct embouchure because there is nothing visual on the outside to go by. It came quite naturally to some of my students who switched to bass clarinet, but there were others who struggled with it at first. Hopefully Nitai Levi will join in this thread. I know him to be an excellent bass clarinetist.
 

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As mentioned above, voicing the notes around the top of the staff is a challenge. If a player is imprecise in hand position, the plateau keys on a bass would be easier to master. New players tend to use too-soft reeds as they can get a big, buzzy sound in te low register, but it's best to use reeds that allow the best tone quality in the upper register, maybe a 2 1/2 Vandoren blue box or equivalent, minimum strength. I've found I can play just about anything on my bass I can on my soprano clarinets. The big issue for me is stabilizing the instrument. I use both a peg and a neckstrap if I want to practice something challenging (Till Eulenspiegel, the Ravel stuff, etc.). Of course, the instrument has to be in its best condition, and basses need more maintenance and are less forgiving of leaks than soprano clarinets.
 

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I personally find it a bit harder. 馃榾
When I was beginning on a soprano clarinet, everything seemed so "natural" for me. With a bass I have couple issues I need to work on.
 

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The main reason people think the bass clarinet is easier is because most bass clarinet parts are easy. Given an equivalently challenging part, it's at least as hard, IMO.
This is exactly it...I play the bari sax seat in several big bands and one in particular has some pretty gnarly bass clarinet requirements in some of the modern charts. I play a Yamaha 221-ii and get by, but playing fast in the altissimo is a challenge
 

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I found playing Bass clarinet somewhat easier than playing soprano clarinet. I am not much of a muchness on both of them :whistle: but, yes, for a number of reasons I liked the bass more. I am no longer playing bass now.

The embouchure maybe, for some (there are many different embouchures on clarinet and the modern trend is to play in a more relaxed way), closer to saxophone but I would say that baritone sax and bass clarinet have some differences.

Take a look at some videos on embouchure. You will quickly see the differences.

Older bass clarinets have al more horizontal neck and mouthpiece position (which encourages a more saxophonic approach) than modern ones which are definitely pointing upwards to make sure the player has a closer approach to the soprano clarinet.


now take a look at this, different approach.

Thanks for those videos! I don't think they're different approaches so much, but different things - embouchure vs. tongue position, I need work on both. ;)
 

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I will categorically state that bass clarinet is not easier and in fact it is a very demanding instrument to play reasonably well. After a while your fingers know what to do on Bb soprano clarinet so the open tone holes cease to be an issue that beginners face; it's your posture and relaxing your right shoulder enough so that supporting the instrument methodically and consistently with your right thumb and mouth on quick transitions from the throat keys to the lower clarion register and above that is worked out eventually. From the clarion to the altissimo register things get challenging because, over time, a player develops a signature tone just in that range as well as dynamic approaches, slurring and articulation techniques that are comfortable and controllable.

Getting back to my initial comment to basically finish my thoughts on this: even though the bass clarinet can seem easier to play in spurts or in a limited way, what one discovers quickly is that the full range of the instrument is far more demanding because of the amount of air and heavier articulation that the mouthpiece demands. In a sense the typical parameters that are set in Bb soprano become exponentially more demanding in nature on the bass.

I have never played bass clarinet before but have some training in clarinet. Obviously one of the challenges of soprano clarinet is covering the tone holes which seems to be nearly non-existent in the bass. I play a lot of bari sax in ensembles and have no problems in air flow for playing lower notes. Are the embouchures that different between Bass Clarinet and Bari Sax?
 

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Consider yourself lucky when covering the tone holes is your biggest challenge in playing soprano clarinet ;)

I personally think that maintaining a correct embouchure (firm enough in the lower chalumeau, while staying loose enough in the altissimo) and proper voicing are much bigger challenges to reach a proper clarinet tone.
 

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If you can get past the purchase prices, the new Buffet and Selmer basses are significantly easier to play, and much more like playing soprano, than the older designs (like my 1971 Selmer). Stabilizing the instrument is important, as the size of the instrument renders the soprano clarinet right thumb/mouth anchor points much less effective. The best solution I've found is both neckstrap and peg. I've seen photos of Josef Horak(sp?) angling his bass forward and wrapping his right foot around the peg, but that doesn't work for me. I don't find myself changing embouchure register to register much, on any clarinet, as the ideal is to achieve a consistent tone quality, but to achieve that on bass I need to be a lot more conscious of voicing than when I play soprano.
 
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