All profit supporting   special needs music

Clarinets Question About The Clarion Register On Bass Clarinet (the torture register)

Jazz Is All

Jazz Is All

Member
Café Supporter
Messages
758
Locality
Barcelona, Spain
I've been trying to master BC since I got my Vito Resotone a year ago. Not an easy task for anyone usually, let alone a 70+ year old saxophone-only player. I don't know why changing registers on this tubular instrument is so damned squirrely and difficult to control compared to any conical saxophone, but that seems to be the nature of the beast. It's hard enough learning to play from charts with the notes constantly changing by a 12th but Noooo, it has to have the most skittish overtone tendency in the instrument world. So I hadn't been playing it lately put off by the thought of not mastering it and having to give up and sell it. Yesterday I practiced and yet again found the same difficulty I had been having in jumping from the Chalumeu to the Clarion register.

I practice this by doing something I saw on a YouTube tutorial. I play each note in the lower register beginning with low Eb and playing up the instrument chromatically. While playing each note I press the register key to changes to the clarion note a 12th above. I play the two notes back and forth for each note in the chromatic scale and I had been able to get my clarion notes sounding quite nicely because I have learned at least how direct my breath and shape my throat to control them. However, when I get to D/A, which it always jumps up to the register above that, regardless of what I try. Today I was having more trouble with that than ever and was really considering selling this torture device and getting the Martin alto I have lusted after lately. But I hate to quit....I didn't learn to play 3 sizes of sax by giving up when I hit roadblocks along the way and I'll be damned if I quit so quickly with the BC.

As a result I considered what things I could change about my approach. First came the reed. I had been using a medium hard reed as most people suggest with the Vandoren Mpc I have. I have been playing 3.5s of a number of brands, and so I tried going up to a 4 and even a 5 to see if that would help. It just made it harder to play easily, so I went down to a 2.5 and a 3 and things got much easier, but still I couldn't stop the jump to the 3rd & even 4th register when I got to that Chalumeau D and above. So I tried altering the position of the mpc in my mouth by lowering and raising the height of my adjustable chair with the hydraulic handle to see how the position in my mouth with my back and head straight might change the tonal quality of my output. That in conjunction with angling the entrance of mpc into my mouth from more horizontal to more vertical caused me to actually be blowing down into the reed and not just against it. None of that seemed to do much so I went back to a more natural entry of the mpc into my mouth and I adjusted the position of the reed tip on the table from exactly even with the mpc tip to leaving a hair and then more of tip showing. All the advice I had seen and read was that the reed should be right up to the tip edge, so no tip shows, but I tried this adjustment to see if it would affect my ability to play the Clarion all the way up the horn to B. Again however, it didn't change much.

At the point of frustration it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't yet ever tried altering the amount of mpc I was taking into my mouth. In fact, I was taking in quite a bit as I am mostly a tenor player and have been doing that ever since Uncle Phil chastised us all on SOTW years ago about not eating enough mpc tip. Lo and behold, and Voilà, that was the decisive issue and problem. With just a small amount of tip in my mouth I was suddenly able to play from low Eb all the way up the BC to B2 not just in the Chalumeu and throat tone registers but also in the Clarion register. What a great feeling to finally be able to do that without the damn flock of Canada geese giving me hell and possibly frightening the neighbors. I broke for a well deserved lunch and a nap. From here it is onward and upward with this B&D instrument. I'll be damn if I let it get the best of me this quickly as I know that it has so many other non-sax like tricks up its devious sleeves to torture me. I realize that I must have a masochistic nature that needs to feel the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune rather than take the path of least resistance.
 
Pete Thomas

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
15,546
Locality
St. Mary's
In fact, I was taking in quite a bit as I am mostly a tenor player and have been doing that...

Just shows you may be better off not to believe everything you read on the internet. I think I know the post you are referring to. Possibly did a lot of people harm if they took it seriously.

I have only one word to say in response helping with bass clarinet:

Dolphy
 
Jeanette

Jeanette

Organizress
Cafe Moderator
Messages
26,721
Locality
Cheshire UK
Great news, just shows patience and perseverance pays :)

Jx
 
jbtsax

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
8,978
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
I can relate to your experience. Finding the voicing for the upper register of bass clarinet was a struggle for me as well. It is important to remember that because of the downward angle of the clarinet mouthpiece, the top teeth are closer to the tip of the mouthpiece than on the saxophone which is nearly straight into the mouth. When done properly the lower lip/lower teeth are close to the same location on the reed with each embouchure and angle.
 
LostCircuits

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
758
Locality
Black Forest
I found Michelle Anderson's Youtube videos helpful.
 
Jazz Is All

Jazz Is All

Member
Café Supporter
Messages
758
Locality
Barcelona, Spain
I can relate to your experience. Finding the voicing for the upper register of bass clarinet was a struggle for me as well. It is important to remember that because of the downward angle of the clarinet mouthpiece, the top teeth are closer to the tip of the mouthpiece than on the saxophone which is nearly straight into the mouth. When done properly the lower lip/lower teeth are close to the same location on the reed with each embouchure and angle.
Thank you so much for that explanation which I can see quite visually in my mind and realize immediately how true it is. I was playing the BC mouthpiece as if it were a sax one not realizing that fact. Actually I also tried playing it with the footpeg angled under my seat by a bit so in fact my lower lip was probably practically at the vamp without me snapping to that fact. This was because the one thing I never did is what I used to do years and years ago as a sax noob which was to find the breakaway point of the reed from the facing curve and put my lower lip on it. I even drew a line there like the basic learners do. LOL. It didn't even dawn on me to do that with this new animal.

I also have tried playing it with the footpeg angled out away from me so the mpc went in at less of an angle, but it still is angled up due to the fairly extreme upward curve of the neck. Now I understand how I was sabotaging all my efforts to get that register through reed hardness, reed position, voicing, etc. LOL.....we are never too old or experienced to live and learn huh?
 
Jazz Is All

Jazz Is All

Member
Café Supporter
Messages
758
Locality
Barcelona, Spain
Just shows you may be better off not to believe everything you read on the internet. I think I know the post you are referring to. Possibly did a lot of people harm if they took it seriously.

I have only one word to say in response helping with bass clarinet:

Dolphy
Actually I saw him play two sets at the Five Spot in the summer of 1961 with Booker Little. They are the sets on the two volumes of Prestige's Live At The Five Spot, because they were recording that night. My high school buddy Andy Miller (RIP) and I sat at a table right near the stage and I saw and heard everything as if in a dream of a journey to another, more wonderful, universe. Unfortunately Eric didn't give me any pointers on how to form a proper embouchure because he was too busy playing, and I actually was not a horn player yet. In fact, I had never seen a bass clarinet up close before in my life or heard one making music like that. Regardless it was an unforgettable night in my life and made me a lover of those incredible musicians and their type of jazz for life. I bought most of Dolphy's albums in the next years as a result of that experience.
:headscratch:
 
LostCircuits

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
758
Locality
Black Forest
Ok, question for you guys, I don't have a peg on my BC and I was told it is a waste of money but I am curious now.
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
15,809
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
It's just to take the weight. Some baritone saxophones have one. Helps with the not dropping it. A bit awkward stood up but quite convenient sitting, especilly if you're switching.
 
Jazz Is All

Jazz Is All

Member
Café Supporter
Messages
758
Locality
Barcelona, Spain
Ok, question for you guys, I don't have a peg on my BC and I was told it is a waste of money but I am curious now.
What he said. I play sitting down, and it makes it easier to have it at the right height and keep the weight off of my spine. Standing I suppose it doesn't make much sense because you use a strap, but seated it does. I use a strap while seated too because that way I can let go of it to use both hands for dealing with the sheet music etc.
 
D

Dibbs

Member
Messages
764
...I don't know why changing registers on this tubular instrument is so damned squirrely and difficult to control...


I don't know for sure but I strongly suspect it's because the bore is too big. Ideally the bore diameter should should be multiplied by the square root of 2, doubling the cross sectional area, to go down an octave. Using round figures a soprano clarinet has a bore of around 15mm which would imply a corresponding bass clarinet bore of around 21mm. Actual Boehm system clarinets have a bore of over 23mm. That's about 10% too big. They probably ended up like this to give them a bigger sound in the low register. When they were invented nobody expected expected them to play high notes much.

Some older German system basses have a bore size around 20mm which is out the other way. I've never played one but I strongly suspect that the clarion is a lot more stable on those instruments.
 
sax panther

sax panther

Member
Café Supporter
Messages
638
Locality
UK
Ok, question for you guys, I don't have a peg on my BC and I was told it is a waste of money but I am curious now.
I find the peg really useful for pit work - on quick instrument changes I can just grab the BC from the stand, and lean it straight back onto the stand when I need to switch back. If I'm playing standing up, or in an orchestra/wind band gig where I'm only playing bass, it doesn't bother me so much not having a peg.
 
jbtsax

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
8,978
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
I don't know for sure but I strongly suspect it's because the bore is too big. Ideally the bore diameter should should be multiplied by the square root of 2, doubling the cross sectional area, to go down an octave. Using round figures a soprano clarinet has a bore of around 15mm which would imply a corresponding bass clarinet bore of around 21mm. Actual Boehm system clarinets have a bore of over 23mm. That's about 10% too big. They probably ended up like this to give them a bigger sound in the low register. When they were invented nobody expected expected them to play high notes much.

Some older German system basses have a bore size around 20mm which is out the other way. I've never played one but I strongly suspect that the clarion is a lot more stable on those instruments.
Fascinating. Where did you find or learn this information about bore dimensions?
 
D

Dibbs

Member
Messages
764
Fascinating. Where did you find or learn this information about bore dimensions?
Sorry the bit you highlighted? That comes from pipe organ rank design. For maximum evenness of tone they they do that but they can vary it a little bit if they want them to go brighter or less bright as they go up through the octaves.
 
LostCircuits

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
758
Locality
Black Forest
None of that seemed to do much so I went back to a more natural entry of the mpc into my mouth and I adjusted the position of the reed tip on the table from exactly even with the mpc tip to leaving a hair and then more of tip showing. All the advice I had seen and read was that the reed should be right up to the tip edge, so no tip shows, but I tried this adjustment to see if it would affect my ability to play the Clarion all the way up the horn to B. Again however, it didn't change much.
What MPC are you using? Also, how do you define the "flush with the tip" alignment? What I found was that I get the best result, both on sax and BC if I fasten the reed and then bend it to close with the tip rail and it is almost flush (it never aligns 100% because of the shape of the reed vs. the tip). Only reason I ask is because I have seen different descriptions, most of which didn't make much sense to me.

One more thing I found to help with getting into the clarion register is to double lip with very little embouchure pressure but I am only a beginner myself and probably way behind your level of playing.
 
LostCircuits

LostCircuits

Member
Messages
758
Locality
Black Forest
It's just to take the weight. Some baritone saxophones have one. Helps with the not dropping it. A bit awkward stood up but quite convenient sitting, especilly if you're switching.

What he said. I play sitting down, and it makes it easier to have it at the right height and keep the weight off of my spine. Standing I suppose it doesn't make much sense because you use a strap, but seated it does. I use a strap while seated too because that way I can let go of it to use both hands for dealing with the sheet music etc.

I find the peg really useful for pit work - on quick instrument changes I can just grab the BC from the stand, and lean it straight back onto the stand when I need to switch back. If I'm playing standing up, or in an orchestra/wind band gig where I'm only playing bass, it doesn't bother me so much not having a peg.

Thanks, that's what I thought but I rather ask a stupid question than beat my head against the wall
 
D

Dibbs

Member
Messages
764
I just re-read and realised that your instrument probably only has a single register vent. That's part of the problem too. Having two works better.
 
Colin the Bear

Colin the Bear

Well-Known Member
Messages
15,809
Locality
Burnley bb9 9dn
Like a saxophone.
 
Jazz Is All

Jazz Is All

Member
Café Supporter
Messages
758
Locality
Barcelona, Spain
I just re-read and realised that your instrument probably only has a single register vent. That's part of the problem too. Having two works better.
Well, in fact I was wondering if that was the reason and I should sell this one and buy one with the second vent plus the tuning adjustment both on the neck. More money of course so while at it why not splurge and get a low C model. That way all those standards that begin on C or D and never go below C1 would be playable in the lower register which is where the best tone of the instrument resides IMO.

Fortunately eating much less mpc now saves me from that, in principle anyway, for the time being until I get better on this one.
 
Last edited:

Similar threads (maybe)

arock
Replies
54
Views
9K
kevgermany
kevgermany
ColColt
Beginner Squeaky Tenor
5 6 7
Replies
137
Views
8K
ProfJames
ProfJames
F
Replies
18
Views
3K
compound
C
Saxmole
Replies
9
Views
832
Jez Watson
Jez Watson
C
Replies
5
Views
883
Jazzaferri
Jazzaferri

Popular Discussions

Top Bottom