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Hey, all-

I have a friend who's the band director at a local high school, and he has a parent who'd like to buy their child a good student model bass clarinet. He asked me, and since I just play whatever's at hand, I don't really have any idea what to recommend! So, what do y'all recommend for a good student model bass?

Geoff
 

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The Kessler is supposed to be a great buy as is the low budget Selmer, I think Merlin here on SOTW may have one. There's a video by Micheal Lowenstein about the Selmer instrument on youtube. There's also a video by Merlin on his channel about his bass clarinet set up on youtube.
 

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Hands down the best student horn I've played is the latest few Jupiter models. Tunes great, feels good in the hands- nothing to complain about. I'd love to pick one up as a practice/keep on the stand horn.
 

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The Yamaha 221 is excellent. I prefer it to the Jupiters that I have had in school bands, but I am not sure if I have tried the latest Jupiter model.
 

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Yamaha 221 Type II (the regular 221 is an old re-branded Vito), and Jupiter are the best low E-flat basses. Selmer/Vito are also options if they can be gotten for a good price. I'd hesitate to recommend a low C instrument for a student (Kessler, Ridenour, etc.). Too much maintenance, and for a small student, maybe too tall/unergonomic to play. Someone knowledgeable about basses might be able to pick up a pre-1983 Selmer low E-flat that hasn't been abused for about the price of a Yamaha, but too many beat-up ex-school Selmers are around for the casual buyer to consider.
 

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Yamaha 221 Type II (the regular 221 is an old re-branded Vito)
Just a small correction. Both the 221 and 221 II are made by Yamaha, with the II being a later version (I don't remember what was changed, I think some tone hole locations/sizes and a few small things). The Yamaha 220 is the model made by Vito for them and is the same as a Vito bass.
 

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The one-piece bodied Selmer USA (has also been branded as a Bundy at various times) is really quite a solid instrument that won't hold back a motivated student. It's mechanically simple and the lack of bridge keys means that even a clumsy person like me didn't knock it too far out of adjustment, even when I was carrying it around on my bike.

I played one for many years, before and after college, and still keep it around as a backup to my Low C Selmer (Paris). The tone isn't anywhere near as warm or rich on the Bundy, but it's certainly not lacking in power or projection. I think the throat A and Bb on the Bundy might be better than the Selmer, if I'm honest. They seem punchier to me. I never had any trouble playing way into the altissimo on the Bundy, though passages with lots of large leaps between the altissimo and lower registers do feel like they require enough voicing gymnastics that I mostly avoided them when I could. Realistically, those don't come up that often in everyday playing.

Some of the newer horns on the market have more advanced register mechanisms, but I can't help but be skeptical of their ability to stay in proper adjustment. I have a Kessler soprano sax that is really quite a decent horn to play, but the keywork is very soft. That wouldn't bode well for a bass clarinet at all, in my mind.
 

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All the HS students in my area seem to have Yamahas to low Eb. The only negative I see is that they all need to pull out the neck 1/4” and some the mouthpiece too 1/8” to tune.

I play a 1st generation Kessler to low C. The metal is not too soft or the keys are beefy enough to hold shape.

If the kid is physically big enough, I would consider the current Kessler or Ridenhour Low C bass clarinet. Both are $2000 or a bit more. Mine worked fine enough for me for a couple of years then I put $500 into it for a local clarinet wizard to set it up real nice.
 

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I don't want to hijack this thread, but I figured it goes along with the conversation.
Any recommendations for a okay enough Bass Clarinet for a Bari player that needs one for a double infrequently for big band stuff? I guess a lot of these recommendations given so far would go both ways.
 

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The Yamaha 221ii is markedly better than the previous 221 or 220. I had a Jupiter and it felt cheap and sounded unexciting.
 

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I don't want to hijack this thread, but I figured it goes along with the conversation.
Any recommendations for a okay enough Bass Clarinet for a Bari player that needs one for a double infrequently for big band stuff? I guess a lot of these recommendations given so far would go both ways.
Yup, sounds to me like you just need the cheapest good brand.
 

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It's mechanically simple and the lack of bridge keys means that even a clumsy person like me didn't knock it too far out of adjustment, even when I was carrying it around on my bike.
I'm sometimes surprised to read about how the double register mechanism or bridge key can get out of adjustment. I mean, obviously they could, but I had my low C bass for almost 20 years and had to adjust those mechanisms... maybe three or four times. I'm not particularly careful with it. I'm not clumsy but I walk with it a lot (in a Wiseman case which is good but hardly the best as far as protecting it) and leave it on the case while going for a few minutes, use the soprano clarinet, etc. Maybe I know how it works so careful on a "micro" level. I do know a pro classical clarinetist who had to replace the middle tenon (it broke), needed significant adjustments after dropping it (separate drop), and other several adjustments... all in the last year. That's in addition to dropping and breaking their new glass mouthpiece... so who knows :)

I think the throat A and Bb on the Bundy might be better than the Selmer, if I'm honest.
On the single register vent models, the throat Bb has a separate tone hole so there's (in theory) the least compromise for it. The double register models usually have the lower vent hole also work as the throat Bb tone hole, so a larger compromise for that "tone hole". On the better pro models it's usually still pretty good but still a compromise.
For the A (and to a lesser degree the Bb), check the venting on the A key. It might be too low... or not, and it could be just the way it is.

Soft or hard keys can be a tricky issue. For example a local player thought the keys on their clarinet were very soft. In fact they were harder than most clarinets, both a result of their shapes and the materials. They were hard and springy and used soft pads and materials, so felt spongy ("soft") to the player, when they were actually hard and next to impossible to adjust by regular methods that work on well designed and made instruments.
 

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I play a Buffet Prestige low C, but will be traveling abroad this summer for a gig. I don't want to travel with it, so I recently bought a 221II from trice here on SOTW.

The Yamaha is a fine instrument. The body does break into two pieces and fits into that molded case that is very similar to the size of an alto sax case. I anticipate being able to bring this onboard the plane as my carry on.

Lately, the Yamaha stays out and assembled on my stand. I don't worry about swabbing it out or the cat knocking it off the stand...and if I feel like blowing for a few minutes., I do it. No worries. As Mojo stated above, it does tune a bit on the high side, but I play a little flat...so no big thing for me.
 

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I have owned a Yamaha 221ii in the past and used it mostly for shows. It was a solid, dependable bass clarinet. I did have to pull the neck out up to 1/2" to get it to tune to A=440, as they are A=442.
 

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Michael Lowenstern recently put out a video review of the Selmer 1430LP here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTAS7-Y8PiQ

He really seems to like it with the exception of a couple very out of tune notes, middle B and C as I recall.
Fun fact - The current 1430LP, as with all Selmer USA harmony clarinets, is a re-branded Vito. I think they changed it over in 2009.
 

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I'm sometimes surprised to read about how the double register mechanism or bridge key can get out of adjustment. I mean, obviously they could, but I had my low C bass for almost 20 years and had to adjust those mechanisms... maybe three or four times. I'm not particularly careful with it. I'm not clumsy but I walk with it a lot (in a Wiseman case which is good but hardly the best as far as protecting it) and leave it on the case while going for a few minutes, use the soprano clarinet, etc. Maybe I know how it works so careful on a "micro" level. I do know a pro classical clarinetist who had to replace the middle tenon (it broke), needed significant adjustments after dropping it (separate drop), and other several adjustments... all in the last year. That's in addition to dropping and breaking their new glass mouthpiece... so who knows :)
I'm hoping once I get my new case, my bridge keys on my Selmer will stop getting out of adjustment. The original case for my 33 basically rests the upper joint on the bridge keys.

On the single register vent models, the throat Bb has a separate tone hole so there's (in theory) the least compromise for it. The double register models usually have the lower vent hole also work as the throat Bb tone hole, so a larger compromise for that "tone hole". On the better pro models it's usually still pretty good but still a compromise.
For the A (and to a lesser degree the Bb), check the venting on the A key. It might be too low... or not, and it could be just the way it is.
Yeah, the Bb on the Bundy has its own tone hole and is a lot clearer and louder than the Selmer, which uses the lower register vent. I've learned to compensate for it and I'm not totally sure if it's that the Bb on the Selmer is muffled compared to the B, which is clear and strong (and sharp) or if the Bb on the Bundy is actually louder, clearer and brighter than the notes around it and I learned to compensate for that. I guess it doesn't much matter.

Soft or hard keys can be a tricky issue. For example a local player thought the keys on their clarinet were very soft. In fact they were harder than most clarinets, both a result of their shapes and the materials. They were hard and springy and used soft pads and materials, so felt spongy ("soft") to the player, when they were actually hard and next to impossible to adjust by regular methods that work on well designed and made instruments.
Yeah the soft keys on the Kessler soprano were actually soft. They would go out of adjustment all the time. I had to stop using some of the multiphonic fingerings I learned on the Yamaha soprano at my college because the ways I was holding the horn were bending the palm keys enough that they were starting to rub. The Yamaha never did that.

The Kessler instruments seem to go through relatively frequent updates and this horn was purchased 9 years ago, so it's likely that the issue has been addressed, but I haven't tried a newer one. The instrument overall is fine.
 

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My high school and college each had a student model plastic Yamaha bass clarinet in the back room. For me, they were both impossibly sharp unless I played with a looser embouchure and flatter tongue position than I use on the bari, which sounded awful.

This was about 10 years ago, and I bite less and could probably get those in tune properly now, but I've had no particular intonation issues (aside from the chronically sharp middle line B) on the 60's and 80's vintage Selmer instruments that I've played, typically with the tuning slide pulled out about 1/8" - 1/4". I don't have issues on my Bundy, either, though I do have to pull out almost all the way on that horn once I'm warmed up.

I pulled out that Bundy for the first time in a while in anticipation of lending it to friend who I'm going to teach to play bass clarinet. It's a great horn! I don't remember exactly what I spent on it, but I think it was about $400 used back in 2004. That was money well spent and I can't imagine the secondhand value has gone up much on these, given they are about as rare as dirt.
 
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