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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys

I have a great Buescher Contra Alto Clarinet, and I was wondering whether anyone had ever done any modifications to enable Contra Alto Clarinets to play altissimo?

Obviously it doesn't have a vent key (like a Bass Clarinet)...

Any thoughts?

Cheers

J
 

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It doesn't? I mean that oboesque LH1 (index) finger touchpiece that has a tiny hole and a wing beneath that allows you to half-hole that tonehole. <scratches head> Hmm. Without half-holing you're can only leave the key completely open which might not give you an easy entrance into the altissimo world.

Got pictures?
 

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No, the contra-altos and contra-basses I've played have not had a vent hole.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It doesn't? I mean that oboesque LH1 (index) finger touchpiece that has a tiny hole and a wing beneath that allows you to half-hole that tonehole. <scratches head> Hmm. Without half-holing you're can only leave the key completely open which might not give you an easy entrance into the altissimo world.

Got pictures?
Unfortunately no tiny hole and wing beneath (ala Bass Clarinet)... This is because due to the size of the instrument, the LH1 key doesn't have a pad directly beneath it... You will see in the picture that it operates a pad a few centimetres above. There is also another pad just above that (the top key shown in the photo) - this is operated by either the thumb key or the LH1 key.
So in essence, it's like the pad operated by the LH1 ring on a standard clarinet...

I'm wondering if I could get that to stay open, if that would make a difference... However, making a mod to that key would throw a lot of other things out! (Like the thumb wouldn't operate that key, causing F's to play as F#'s?)

Hmmm...
Possibly can't be done?
 

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can be done. You put the vent on the padcup, connect it to a printer silicon hose, run the hose back form the padcup to the hinge tubing, along the hinge tubing, thru the touchpiece arm connecting to a nipple under the touchpiece. Do you follow? like a remote vent operated by the same finger that operates it on the bass clarinet, but actually venting ermotely the corresponding padcup.
 

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Someone here on the forum posted about adding a vent hole to his contra and discovering that it didn't help much.

I would avoid standard clarinet fingerings on contra.

You'll get a clearer tone and quicker response by overblowing the throat tones (G=D, G#=D#, A=E, Bb=F). The side Bb fingering is a better high F than the regular one. Experiment with different bass clarinet fingerings past high F. Generally they'll be flatter on contra.
 

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I did such a modification to my previous contra-alto, which was a Buescher (identical to Bundy/Selmer USA). I made a sliver key and installed it just below the l.h. index finger key touchpiece, so one could slide down to operate it (just as you would slide down to the tab on a bass clarinet half-hole vented key). To the sliver key I attached a linkage operating a short register key, and I placed a 'pip' (small vent tube) about where I calculated it should be (using a bass clarinet as a model and scaling up the dimensions). At that location it had almost no effect, so I tried a few other nearby locations, both higher and lower, and varied the length and diameter of the tube as well. In the end, I was able to get a very slight improvement in altissimo response, but not enough to warrant the effort. That instrument has since been sold to a customer overseas.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the input guys

Maybe it's not going to work... Oh well - if I want to play a low clarinet AND altissimo, I guess it'll have to be my bass...

Thanks again!

J
 

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Contra-alto altissimo is totally possible. I had (brief) access to one last school year and could get chromatically up to an F (above 3 line F) using my bass clarinet fingerings. I wasn't allowed to take it home with me so I never worked out a good fingering system (in tune and practical) but the notes are definitely in there, have a pleasing sound, and would be totally useable if you just put in the time to figure out how.

The contra-alto is an underappreciated instrument, to be sure, and there's no doubt in my mind that someday that someday someone will adopt it and do beautiful, virtuostic things with it.
 
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