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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After playing the bass clarinet for going on 3 months now, I've found that I'm still having difficulty playing high F - C (haven't even tried going any higher). I've finally managed to get the D and E at the top of the staff under control But F and up is very difficult to play, with the high B and C almost impossible to sound. Maybe I'm just being much too impacient? I'm also having difficult playing staccato notes throughout the low end of the bass clarinet. I'm playing on a Vandoren B-45 and a B-40 (testing them both out right now, not sure which one I favor) with vandoren 2.5 or 3 traditional reeds. Any tips/comments/suggestions would be appreciated! :)
 

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The bass clarinet is a peculiar instrument in that it is the opposite of the saxophone when it comes to leaks. A leaking saxophone will play reasonably well in the upper register, but the low register is difficult. On the bass clarinet with leaks in the pads, the low register speaks, but the upper register is very difficult to play. I would have the instrument checked for leaks first before looking to other solutions, such as embouchure, airstream, and throat shape.
 

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wich bass clarinet are you playing? wich reeds on your VD B45?

Don't bite, it's worse if you bite, relax your embochure and open your throat to the point you begin to feel like "tossin' out your cookies" ;) sorry there's no better way to explain the feeling you should have inside your neck and throat. Also feels a lot like yawn after yawn after yawn while trying to speak.
 

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Just like jbtsax desciebed, a leak at the top of the instrument can make the upper clarion basically impossible even if you get the lower range to come out ok. That's the first thing I would check.

Seperately, this (i.e. from around E in the clarion) is also the area that is most difficult for beginners. Especially around G and a little above is considered most difficult.

Some bass clarinet models make this even more difficult for beginners, but shouldn't be impossible with practice and and instrument in good condition.

A problematic mouthpiece or reed setup can also make this more difficult, especially for a beginner. It doesn't have to be an expensive setup, just make sure it's working (maybe to have a good bass clarinet player try it for example, if possible).
 

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In addition to the other advice you've gotten, try this exercise in voicing. Play a high C (2 ledger lines above the staff), then while still playing take your finger off the register key and maintain the note - don't let it drop down to the first-space F. When you can hold the C for a while (say 5-6 seconds after closing the register key?), start on the B and repeat the exercise; work your way down as far as you can go while still maintaining the upper partial. You should find that it helps greatly both in starting notes in the mid/upper register as well as tone all through the range. I will be playing Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite in a few weeks and you can bet that I'm going to be spending a fair amount of time doing this exercise myself!
 

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There is no doubt. The bass clarinet is a challenge even to clarinetists that have never played a saxophone. Most bass clarinets are quite sensitive to being bumped and get out of adjustment quite easily. Then of course as mentioned, leaks.

I had to go to a Vandoren B-46 and from a 3 reed to a 4 in order to be able to fluently (or as fluently as possible) play the upper register. There is a whole embouchure thing that has to happen and it takes a while to find just what that "thing" is. I think that's what I love about the bass clarinet. Once you get it, you will be envied.
 

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It's almost like blowing in to a recorder, the less I focus on my embouchure and the more I just think "relaxed but firm air" (blow in to it, but don't bite or tense, this is not a soprano clarinet), the easier the upper register gets.
Bass clarinet requires less tension in general, and much, much more air.
Get it checked for leaks, because by three months, I was already in the altissimo (if anyone ever needs to even go that far with the bass) with my Vito. It's just a "gee whiz" instrument for me right now, but I may go out and do more with it.
A harder reed may help, and it may backfire. A harder reed for me made my cheeks sore. But if it worked for bebop, it may work for you. Good luck.
 

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Could be a number of things. Like many have said before, get it checked for leaks. Could be a reed problem.

What happened to me was that when I first started playing bass clarinet, I had the same problems you did. But, after playing it for some time, the high notes became easier. I also find that after a marching season of playing Bb and only picking up my bass every once in awhile, I get little squeeks on the high notes, that go away after playing for a month or so. Embouchure is everything.
 

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Get as good a mouthpiece as you can. I couldn't get my Leblanc Paris recently regulated bass clarinet to speak consistently in the clarion range, let alone the altissimo. Out of frustration I bought an expensive Walter Grabner bass clarinet mouthpiece and damn, it was 100% better. It still was challenging to voice octave jumps and such and I realized I would need to put more time into the instrument than I was willing to because I also play soprillo - bass sax. So I purchased the Selmer Paris Privilege bass clarinet. Again, 100% easier.

Now that's a lot of money to just to sound great. But for me it was worth the expense. And people who only play bass clarinet marvel at my sound. I'm an amatuer with very little time on clarinet, but playing pits and shows and having a great time. Now if I could just get used to the alternate fingers, crossing the break and such. :cool:
 

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I would put money on a leak. I've had a couple of chances to do a little on bass clarinet and every one I've blown played very easily through the clarion range. You should be able to play up into what would be the palm keys on a saxophone with out too much effort and even with a cheap mouthpiece. I really suspect you've got a leak somewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks for all the great responses everyone, lots to consider here...I'm about 100% sure it's not leaks, because it was just overhauled when I first recieved it. My repairman also played it for me since I could barely get it to speak at the time, and he could play everything, even into the altissimo, effortlessly, on a cheap bundy bass clarinet mouthpiece he had lying around (He loved how it played so much, he wouldn't give it to me at first)....so I don't think leaks are the problem. Also, maybe it should be noted that I've never played soprano clarinet, I came to bass clarinet from bari sax. And as far as setup goes, the vandoren B45 with size 2.5 - 3 vandoren traditional reeds sounds and plays much better than my original setup, which was a bundy with rico 2's, but it's just those high notes which are still killing me.
 

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It wouldn't hurt to have your tech check it again just to make sure nothing has changed since the overhaul.
 

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Get as good a mouthpiece as you can. I couldn't get my Leblanc Paris recently regulated bass clarinet to speak consistently in the clarion range, let alone the altissimo. Out of frustration I bought an expensive Walter Grabner bass clarinet mouthpiece and damn, it was 100% better.
I've heard very good things about the Grabner. I play a Fobes San Francisco, but for the OP (or anyone else just starting on bass or with a tight budget) I would recommend a Fobes Debut - only $65, and if it's anything like his higher end mouthpieces (and I'll bet it is), this is the bargain of the decade.

It still was challenging to voice octave jumps and such and I realized I would need to put more time into the instrument than I was willing to because I also play soprillo - bass sax. So I purchased the Selmer Paris Privilege bass clarinet. Again, 100% easier.
There are instruments where you can get away buying something inexpensive, but bass clarinet is not one of them. The pro horns - and by pro I mean the Buffet 1183/1193 and Selmer Privilege (or previous Selmer Paris horns like the 35/37) - just sound and respond much, much better in the clarion range. Pretty much any bass can sound great in the lower register (the bass is God's instrument, what can I say? :mrgreen: ), but the gap between a student/intermediate horn and a pro horn in the clarion and above is lightyears. Yeah, they are bloody expensive but very worth the expense.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I've heard very good things about the Grabner. I play a Fobes San Francisco, but for the OP (or anyone else just starting on bass or with a tight budget) I would recommend a Fobes Debut - only $65, and if it's anything like his higher end mouthpieces (and I'll bet it is), this is the bargain of the decade.



There are instruments where you can get away buying something inexpensive, but bass clarinet is not one of them. The pro horns - and by pro I mean the Buffet 1183/1193 and Selmer Privilege (or previous Selmer Paris horns like the 35/37) - just sound and respond much, much better in the clarion range. Pretty much any bass can sound great in the lower register (the bass is God's instrument, what can I say? :mrgreen: ), but the gap between a student/intermediate horn and a pro horn in the clarion and above is lightyears. Yeah, they are bloody expensive but very worth the expense.
I don't actually own my current bass clarinet (its a student horn - called a wurlitzer or something wierd like that), but I'm going to be looking into buying my own soon....any suggestions for a good bass clarinet on a ~$1500 budget?
 

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LeBlanc Low Eb Bass Clarinets are great....I've had two, still have one of them and would only replace it if I needed a low C. I got mine for $500 + $900 overhaul.
 

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Fobes Debuts are great mouthpieces, and incredible bargains. I use one as my backup mouthpiece to my Fobes San Francisco. For $1500, you can get a used Noblet or Leblanc, a new Jupiter (I didn't think much of them until I tried a friend's), maybe a slightly beat up '60's-'70's vintage Selmer 30, or a used Yamaha 221II. The old Buffets can be cheap, but they tend to be stuffy and sharp. If you've got $1500 to spend on a horn, make the most of it and spend another $250 on a top quality mouthpiece.
 
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