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Bass clarinet

Bass clarinet

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The bass clarinet is a musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 of the clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

 family. Like the more common soprano B

The bass clarinet is a
musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 of the clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

 family. Like the more common soprano B

The bass clarinet is a
musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

 of the clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

 family. Like the more common soprano B{{music
Soprano clarinet
The soprano clarinets are a sub-family of the clarinet family.The B clarinet is by far the most common type of soprano clarinet - the unmodified word "clarinet" usually refers to this instrument...

, it is usually pitched in B{{music|flat}} (meaning it is a transposing instrument
Transposing instrument
A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which written notes are read at a pitch different from the corresponding concert pitch, which a non-transposing instrument, such as a piano, would play. Playing a written C on a transposing instrument will produce a note other than concert C...

 on which a written C sounds as B{{music|flat}}), but it plays notes an octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

 below the soprano B{{music|flat}} clarinet. Bass clarinets in other keys, notably C and A, also exist, but are very rare (in contrast to the regular A clarinet, which is quite common in classical music). Bass clarinets regularly perform in symphony orchestras, wind ensembles, occasionally in marching bands, and play an occasional solo role in contemporary music and jazz in particular.

Description


Most modern bass clarinets are straight-bodied, with a small upturned silver-colored metal bell and a curved metal neck. Early examples varied in shape, some having a doubled body making them look similar to bassoon
Bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

s. The bass clarinet is fairly heavy and is supported either with a neck strap or with an adjustable peg attached to its body. While the upturned metal bell drew ideas in Adolph Sax to make the saxophone
Saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

 look like a bass clarinet, the two instruments are fundamentally different. Bass clarinet bodies are most often made of grenadilla or African Blackwood
African Blackwood
Dalbergia melanoxylon is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, native to seasonally dry regions of Africa from Senegal east to Eritrea and south to the Transvaal in South Africa....

, or (more commonly for student instruments) plastic resin, while saxophones are typically made entirely of metal. (All-metal bass clarinets do exist, but are rare.) More significantly, all clarinets including the bass have a bore
Bore (wind instruments)
The bore of a wind instrument is its interior chamber that defines a flow path through which air travels and is set into vibration to produce sounds. The shape of the bore has a strong influence on the instruments' timbre.-Bore shapes:...

 which is basically the same diameter along the body of the instrument. This cylindrical bore differs from the saxophone's conical bore and gives the clarinet its characteristic tone; it causes a clarinet to overblow
Overblowing
Overblowing A technique used while playing a wind instrument which, primarily through manipulation of the supplied air , causes the sounded pitch to jump to a higher one...

 at the twelfth compared with the saxophone's octave.


A majority of modern bass clarinets, like other clarinets in the family, have the Boehm system
Boehm system (clarinet)
The Boehm system for the clarinet is a system of clarinet keywork, developed between 1839 and 1843 by Hyacinthe Klosé and Auguste Buffet jeune. The name is somewhat deceptive; the system was inspired by Theobald Boehm's system for the flute, but necessarily differs from it, since the clarinet...

 of keys and fingering, which means that this clarinet has virtually identical fingering to the others. However, there are also bass clarinets being manufactured by instrument makers in Germany that are provided with the so-called Oehler system
Oehler system
The Oehler system is a system for clarinet keys developed by Oskar Oehler. Based on the Müller system clarinet, the system adds tone holes to correct intonation and acoustic deficiencies, notably of the forked notes . The system has more keys than the Boehm system, up to 27 in the Voll-Oehler system...

 of keywork commonly used in Germany and Austria, and some bass clarinets produced with the now considered obsolete Albert system
Albert system
The Albert system refers to a system of clarinet keywork and fingering developed by Eugène Albert. In the United Kingdom it is known as the simple system. It has been largely replaced by the Boehm system ....

 of keywork are still in use.

Most modern Boehm system bass clarinets have an "extension" key allowing them to play to the (written) Eb. This key was originally added to allow easy transposition of parts for the relatively rare bass clarinet pitched in A, but it now finds significant use in concert band and other literature. A significant difference between soprano and bass clarinet key work is a key pad played by the left-hand index finger with a vent that may be uncovered for certain high notes. This allows a form of "half-hole" fingering that allows notes in higher registers to be played on the instrument. In addition, most professional bass clarinets have two register keys, one for middle D# and below, the other for middle E and higher. Student instruments typically only have one. The second register key makes the altissimo range much easier to play.

In addition to these differences in keywork, many professional and advanced bass clarinetists own instruments with extensions down to a C (sounding B{{music|flat}}, identical to the bassoon
Bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

's lowest B{{music|flat}}, and a whole step below the cello
Cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

's lowest C) a full octave below written middle C. At concert pitch this note is the B{{music|flat}} below the second ledger line below the bass staff, or B{{music|flat}}1 in scientific pitch notation
Scientific pitch notation
Scientific pitch notation is one of several methods that name the notes of the standard Western chromatic scale by combining a letter-name, accidentals, and a number identifying the pitch's octave...

. Overall, the instrument sounds an octave lower than the B{{music|flat}} soprano clarinet.

As with all wind instruments, the upper limit of the range depends on the quality of the instrument and the skill of the performer. According to Aber and Lerstad, who give fingerings up to written C8 (sounding B{{music|flat}}6), the highest note commonly encountered in modern solo literature is the E below that (sounding D6, the first D above the treble clef). This gives the bass clarinet a usable range of over four octaves, quite close to the range of the bassoon; indeed, many bass clarinetists perform works originally intended for bassoon or cello because of the plethora of literature for those two instruments and the scarcity of solo works for the bass clarinet. In ensemble writing, notes much higher than about written C6 are uncommon.{{Citation needed|date=February 2007}}

Uses



The bass clarinet has been regularly used in scoring for symphony orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 and concert band
Concert band
A concert band, also called wind band, symphonic band, symphonic winds, wind orchestra, wind symphony, wind ensemble, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of several members of the woodwind instrument family, brass instrument family, and percussion instrument family.A...

 since the late 19th century, becoming more common during the middle and latter part of the 20th century. In recent years, the bass clarinet has also seen a growing repertoire of solo literature including compositions for the instrument alone, or accompanied by piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

, orchestra, or other ensemble. It is also used in wind bands, in clarinet choir
Clarinet choir
A clarinet choir is an instrumental ensemble consisting entirely of instruments from the clarinet family. Typically it will include E♭, B♭, alto, bass, and contra-alto or contrabass clarinets, although some pieces are scored for a smaller set of instruments....

s, marching band
Marching band
Marching band is a physical activity in which a group of instrumental musicians generally perform outdoors and incorporate some type of marching with their musical performance. Instrumentation typically includes brass, woodwinds, and percussion instruments...

s, and in film scoring
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

, and has played a minor, but persistent, role in jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

.

The bass clarinet has an appealing, rich, earthy tone quite distinct from other instruments in its range, drawing on and enhancing the qualities of the lower range of the soprano and alto instrument.

Musical compositions using bass clarinet


Perhaps the earliest solo passages for bass clarinet—indeed, among the earliest parts for the instrument—occur in Mercadante's
Saverio Mercadante
Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante was an Italian composer, particularly of operas. While Mercadante may not have retained the international celebrity of Gaetano Donizetti or Gioachino Rossini beyond his own lifetime, he composed as impressive a number of works as either; and his development of...

 1834 opera Emma d'Antiochia, in which a lengthy solo introduces Emma's scene in Act 2. (Mercadante actually specified a glicibarifono for this part.) Two years later, Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

 wrote an important solo for bass clarinet in Act 5 of his opera Les Huguenots
Les Huguenots
Les Huguenots is a French opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer, one of the most popular and spectacular examples of the style of grand opera. The opera is in five acts and premiered in Paris in 1836. The libretto was written by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps....

.

French composer Hector Berlioz was one of the first of the Romantics to use the bass clarinet in his large scale works such as the Grande Symphonie funebre et triomphale, op. 15 (1840), the Te Deum, op. 22 (1849), and the opera Les Troyens, op. 29 (1863). Later French composers to use the instrument included Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

, who wrote virtuosic parts for the bass clarinet in his ballet Daphnis et Chloe (1912), La Valse (1920), and his orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer, one of the group known as 'The Five'. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period...

's Pictures at an Exhibition
Pictures at an Exhibition
Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite in ten movements composed for piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874.The suite is Mussorgsky's most famous piano composition, and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists...

(1924).

The operas, or music dramas as they were later called, of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 also make extensive use of the bass clarinet, beginning with Tannhäuser (1845). He incorporated the instrument fully into the wind section as both a solo and supporting instrument. Wagner pioneered in exploiting the instrument's dark, somber tone to represent sadness and melancholy. Wagner was almost completely responsible for making the instrument a permanent member of the opera orchestra. The instrument plays an extensive role in Tristan und Isolde (1859), Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876), and Parsifal (1882).

Also around this time, Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

 wrote important parts for the instrument in his symphonic poems Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne (What One Sees on the Mountain), Tasso, and his Dante Symphony. Verdi followed suit, using it in Aida (1870), La forza del destino, Don Carlo and Falstaff. Following in Verdi's footsteps, Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot, are among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire...

, composer of La Bohème
La bohème
La bohème is an opera in four acts,Puccini called the divisions quadro, a tableau or "image", rather than atto . by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger...

, Tosca
Tosca
Tosca is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. It premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900...

and Madame Butterfly, used the instrument in all of his operas, beginning with Edgar
Edgar (opera)
Edgar is an operatic dramma lirico in three acts by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Ferdinando Fontana, freely based on the play in verse La Coupe et les lèvres by Alfred de Musset...

in 1889.

The later Romantics used the bass clarinet frequently in their works. All of Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

's symphonies include the instrument prominently, and often contain lengthy solos for the instrument, especially in his Symphony No. 6 in a minor. Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

 wrote for the instrument in all of his symphonic poems except for Don Juan, and the instrument shared the spotlight with the tenor tuba in his 1898 tone poem, Don Quixote, op. 35. Strauss wrote for the instrument as he did for the smaller clarinets, and the parts often include playing in very high registers, such as in Also Sprach Zarathustra, op. 30.

Composers of the Second Viennese School
Second Viennese School
The Second Viennese School is the group of composers that comprised Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils and close associates in early 20th century Vienna, where he lived and taught, sporadically, between 1903 and 1925...

, Schoenberg, Webern and Berg, often favored the instrument over the bassoon, the instrument's closest relative in terms of range. Russian composers Dmitri Shostakovitch and Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

 used the low concert C and B-flat (equivalent to the bassoon's lowest two notes) in many of their compositions and an instrument with the extended range is necessary for works such as Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 4 in C minor, Symphony No. 7 in C major, Symphony No. 8 in C minor, and the Symphony No. 11 in G minor. All of these works exploit the instrument's dark, powerful lower range.

Prokofiev wrote parts for the instrument in his Symphonies 2-7 and in his ballet Romeo and Juliet. Rachmaninoff used the instrument to great effect in his Symphonies 2 and 3 and in his symphonic poem, The Isle of The Dead. Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 also took the instrument and wrote complex parts for the instrument throughout his career, most prominently in his ballets The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913).

Many modern composers employ the bass along with the contra-alto and contrabass clarinets, such as composer and longtime music director Esa-Pekka Salonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen is a Finnish orchestral conductor and composer. He is currently Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.-Early career:...

 of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic
The Los Angeles Philharmonic is an American orchestra based in Los Angeles, California, United States. It has a regular season of concerts from October through June at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and a summer season at the Hollywood Bowl from July through September...

 in his Piano Concerto. A great amount of literature can be found in the wind ensemble, in which there is always a part for the instrument.

There are a few major solo pieces for bass clarinet, including:
  • Ann Callaway
    Ann Callaway
    Ann Marie Callaway , who uses the name Ann Callaway, is an American composer. She studied with Alvin Etler at Smith College, George Crumb at University of Pennsylvania and with Jack Beeson, Fred Lerdahl and George Edwards at Columbia University, where she earned her D.M.A...

     Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra (1985–87) (Laureate Press, distr. MMB Press)
  • Peter Maxwell Davies
    Peter Maxwell Davies
    Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, CBE is an English composer and conductor and is currently Master of the Queen's Music.-Biography:...

    : "The Seas of Kirk Swarf" for bass clarinet and strings (2007).
  • Dietrich Erdmann: Concerto for bass clarinet and orchestra.
  • Osvaldo Golijov
    Osvaldo Golijov
    Osvaldo Noé Golijov is a Grammy award–winning composer of classical music.-Biography:Osvaldo Golijov was born in and grew up in La Plata, Argentina, in a Jewish family that had emigrated to Argentina in the 1920s from Romania and Russia.Golijov has developed a rich musical language, the result of...

    : "Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind" for solo clarinetist (soprano clarinets, basset horn, and bass clarinet) and string quartet
    String quartet
    A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

    , later arranged for solo clarinetist and string orchestra
    String orchestra
    A string orchestra is an orchestra composed solely or primarily of instruments from the string family. These instruments are the violin, the viola, the cello, the double bass , the piano, the harp, and sometimes percussion...

    .
  • Todd Goodman: Concerto for bass clarinet and orchestra. Premiered by Calvin Falwell.
  • Joseph Hallman: Concerto for bass clarinet and chamber ensemble. Premiered by Calvin Falwell and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra
    Philadelphia Orchestra
    The Philadelphia Orchestra is a symphony orchestra based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. One of the "Big Five" American orchestras, it was founded in 1900...

     in May 2007.
  • Rafael Leonardo Junchaya
    Rafael Leonardo Junchaya
    Rafael Leonardo Junchaya Rojas is a Peruvian composer, conductor, and researcher.-Biography:Junchaya was born in Lima, the son of physician/composer Rafael Junchaya Gómez....

    : Concerto Silvestre for bass clarinet and orchestra Op.14a. Premiered by Marco Antonio Mazzini
    Marco Antonio Mazzini
    Marco Antonio Mazzini is a Peruvian clarinetist.Mazzini received a degree in clarinet from the National Conservatory of Peru, and a master's degree from the Ghent Conservatory...

     and the GUSO Orchestra conducted by Steven Decraene in May 2009. First version for bass clarinet and string orchestra (Concertino Silvestre Op.14) premiered in Guatemala in July 2009.
  • David Lang
    David Lang (composer)
    David Lang is an American composer living in New York City. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music for The Little Match Girl Passion.-Biography:...

    : "Press Release" for solo bass clarinet (1991) (For Evan Ziporyn
    Evan Ziporyn
    Evan Ziporyn is an American composer of post-minimalist music and music for Balinese gamelans. He plays the clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, and metallophone, borrowing from classical music, avant-garde, and jazz...

    )
  • Donald Martino
    Donald Martino
    Donald Martino was a Pulitzer Prize winning American composer.Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, Martino studied composition with Ernst Bacon, Roger Sessions, Milton Babbitt, and Luigi Dallapiccola...

    : Triple Concerto for clarinet, bass clarinet, and contrabass clarinet
    Contrabass clarinet
    The contrabass clarinet is the largest member of the clarinet family that has ever been in regular production or significant use. Modern contrabass clarinets are pitched in BB, sounding two octaves lower than the common B soprano clarinet and one octave lower than the B bass clarinet...

    .
  • Thea Musgrave
    Thea Musgrave
    Thea Musgrave CBE is a Scottish composer of opera and classical music.-Biography:Born in Barnton, Edinburgh, Thea Musgrave studied at the University of Edinburgh and in Paris as a pupil of Nadia Boulanger...

    : Concerto for bass clarinet and orchestra.
  • Andrew Rindfleisch: "The Light Fantastic" for bass clarinet and wind ensemble (2003).
  • Jonathan Russell: Double bass clarinet concerto.
  • Josef Schelb: Concerto for bass clarinet and orchestra.


There is a limited chamber repertoire for bass clarinet and other instruments. Apart from a number of works for ensembles of clarinets of different sizes, notably Leoš Janáček
Leoš Janácek
Leoš Janáček was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and all Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research and his early musical output was influenced by...

's suite Mládí (Youth) and Joseph Hallman's Nostalgias.

Bass clarinet soloists and ensembles



It was not until the 1950s that classical performers began to adopt the bass clarinet as their primary instrument. The pioneer was the Czech
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

 performer Josef Horák
Josef Horák
Josef Horák was a Czech bass clarinetist.It was not until the 1950s that classical performers began to adopt the bass clarinet as their primary instrument...

 (d. 2005), who is credited as having performed the first ever solo bass clarinet recital on March 23, 1955. This marked a turning point when the instrument first became thought of as a soloist's instrument.

Because the repertoire of solo music for the bass clarinet was quite small, most bass clarinet soloists specialize in new music, while also arranging works composed for other instruments from earlier eras (such as the Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 Cello Suites
Cello Suites (Bach)
The Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach are some of the most performed and recognizable solo compositions ever written for cello...

). Beginning with Horák, many players have commissioned works for the instrument, and consequently there now exists a repertoire of hundreds of solo works, many by prominent international composers such as Brian Ferneyhough
Brian Ferneyhough
Brian John Peter Ferneyhough is an English composer. His music is characterized by the extensive use of complex rhythmic tuplet notation which features in all his works...

 and David Lang
David Lang (composer)
David Lang is an American composer living in New York City. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music for The Little Match Girl Passion.-Biography:...

. In addition to Horák, other specialist performers include Henri Bok
Henri Bok
Henri Bok is a Dutch bass clarinetist and saxophonist. He is a professor of bass clarinet at Rotterdam Superior Conservatoire and Musikene in San Sebastian....

 (Netherlands), his student Luís Afonso
Luís Afonso
Luís Afonso is a Brazilian clarinetist and bass clarinetist.Afonso studied clarinet and bass clarinet at the Rotterdam Conservatoire under Walter Boeykens and Henri Bok. He has taught at São Paulo University since 1992. He plays clarinet in the Orquestra Sinfônica Municipal and Orquestra Jazz...

 (Brazil), Dennis Smylie
Dennis Smylie
Dennis Smylie is an American bass clarinetist, known particularly for his performances of contemporary classical music.He studied at the Juilliard School under Joseph Allard...

 (United States), Tommie Lundberg (Sweden), Harry Sparnaay
Harry Sparnaay
Harry Sparnaay is a noted Dutch bass clarinetist, composer, and teacher. He is the most well-known player of new music for the bass clarinet and has won the following: First Prize Gaudeamus Contest , Swedish Record Prize , Bulgarian Composers Union Award , Inaugural Sounds Australian Award ,...

 (Netherlands, who has worked with important composers such as Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian composer. He is noted for his experimental work and also for his pioneering work in electronic music.-Biography:Berio was born at Oneglia Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (October 24, 1925 – May 27, 2003) was an Italian...

, Iannis Xenakis
Iannis Xenakis
Iannis Xenakis was a Romanian-born Greek ethnic, naturalized French composer, music theorist, and architect-engineer. He is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers...

, and Morton Feldman
Morton Feldman
Morton Feldman was an American composer, born in New York City.A major figure in 20th century music, Feldman was a pioneer of indeterminate music, a development associated with the experimental New York School of composers also including John Cage, Christian Wolff, and Earle Brown...

), Evan Ziporyn
Evan Ziporyn
Evan Ziporyn is an American composer of post-minimalist music and music for Balinese gamelans. He plays the clarinet, bass clarinet, saxophone, and metallophone, borrowing from classical music, avant-garde, and jazz...

 (United States), and Michael Lowenstern
Michael Lowenstern
Michael Lowenstern in the Hyde Park neighborhood, is an American bass clarinetist and composer specializing in new music....

 (United States); the latter two are also composers.

In October 2005, the First World Bass Clarinet Convention was held in Rotterdam
Rotterdam
Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam on the Rotte river, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre...

, Netherlands, at which Horák was the guest of honor and played in one of the many concerts given by the leading bass clarinetists from around the world (including all the aforementioned performers, as well as many others).

At least two professional bass clarinet quartets exist. Rocco Parisi's Bass Clarinet Quartet is an Italian group whose repertoire includes transcriptions of music by Rossini
Gioacchino Rossini
Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces...

, Paganini
Niccolò Paganini
Niccolò Paganini was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was one of the most celebrated violin virtuosi of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique...

, and Piazzolla
Ástor Piazzolla
Ástor Pantaleón Piazzolla was an Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player. His oeuvre revolutionized the traditional tango into a new style termed nuevo tango, incorporating elements from jazz and classical music...

. Edmund Welles
Edmund Welles
Edmund Welles is an American bass clarinet quartet from Oakland, California. Its members are Cornelius Boots, Jonathan Russell, Jeff Anderle, and Aaron Novik, playing what the group refers to as "heavy chamber music." The group performs many different genres of music, including avant-garde,...

 is the name of a bass clarinet quartet based in San Francisco. Their repertoire includes original "heavy chamber music" and transcriptions of madrigal
Madrigal (music)
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....

s, boogie-woogie
Boogie-woogie
Boogie-woogie has the following meanings:*Boogie-woogie, a piano-based music style*Boogie-woogie , a swing dance or a dance that imitates the rock-n-roll dance of the 1950s*"Boogie Woogie" , a song by EuroGroove and Dannii Minogue...

 tunes, and heavy metal
Heavy metal music
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States...

 songs. Two of the members of Edmund Welles also perform as a bass clarinet duo, Sqwonk.

Bass clarinet in jazz


While the bass clarinet was seldom heard in early jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 compositions, a bass clarinet solo by Omer Simeon
Omer Simeon
Omer Victor Simeon was an American jazz clarinetist. He also played soprano, alto, and baritone saxophone and bass clarinet....

 can be heard in the 1926 recording "Someday Sweetheart
Someday Sweetheart
"Someday Sweetheart" is a jazz standard written by Los Angeles-based musicians John and Reb Spikes in 1919. It was the biggest hit the brothers wrote, and was performed by many recording artists of the period. The first one to record the tune was blues singer Alberta Hunter...

" by Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe , known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer....

 and His Red Hot Peppers. Additionally, Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

 recorded with the instrument a few times early in his career.

Harry Carney
Harry Carney
Harry Howell Carney was an American swing baritone saxophonist, clarinetist, and bass clarinetist mainly known for his 45-year tenure in Duke Ellington's Orchestra. Carney started off as an alto player with Ellington, but soon switched to the baritone. His strong, steady saxophone often served as...

, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

's baritone saxophonist
Baritone saxophone
The baritone saxophone, often called "bari sax" , is one of the largest and lowest pitched members of the saxophone family. It was invented by Adolphe Sax. The baritone is distinguished from smaller sizes of saxophone by the extra loop near its mouthpiece...

 for 47 years, played bass clarinet in some of Ellington's arrangements, first recording with it on "Saddest Tale" in 1934. He was featured soloist on many Ellington recordings, including 27 titles on bass clarinet.

The first jazz album on which the leader solely played bass clarinet was Great Ideas of Western Mann (1957) by Herbie Mann
Herbie Mann
Herbert Jay Solomon , better known as Herbie Mann, was a Jewish American jazz flutist and important early practitioner of world music...

, better known as a flautist. However, avant-garde musician Eric Dolphy
Eric Dolphy
Eric Allan Dolphy was an American jazz alto saxophonist, flutist, and bass clarinetist. On a few occasions he also played the clarinet and baritone saxophone. Dolphy was one of several multi-instrumentalists to gain prominence in the 1960s...

 (1928–1964) was the first major jazz soloist on the instrument, and established much of the vocabulary and technique used by later performers. He used the entire range of the instrument in his solos. Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin
Bennie Maupin is a Detroit Michigan jazz multireedist. He performs on various saxophones, flute and bass clarinet.He is probably best known for his participation in Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi sextet and Headhunters band, and for performing on Miles Davis's seminal fusion record, Bitches Brew...

 emerged in the late 1960s as a primary player of the instrument, playing on Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz,...

's seminal record Bitches Brew
Bitches Brew
Bitches Brew is a studio double album by jazz musician Miles Davis, released in April 1970 on Columbia Records. The album continued his experimentation with electric instruments previously featured on his critically acclaimed In a Silent Way album...

as well as several records with Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbert Jeffrey "Herbie" Hancock is an American pianist, bandleader and composer. As part of Miles Davis's "second great quintet," Hancock helped to redefine the role of a jazz rhythm section and was one of the primary architects of the "post-bop" sound...

's Mwandishi
Mwandishi
Mwandishi is the ninth album by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, released in 1971. It is one of Hancock's first departures from the traditional idioms of jazz as well as the onset of a new, creative and original style which produced an appeal to a wider audience, before his 1973 album, Head Hunters...

 group. His style resembles Dolphy's in its use of advanced harmonies.

While the bass clarinet has been used often since Dolphy, it is typically used by a saxophonist or clarinetist as a second or third instrument; such musicians include David Murray
David Murray (jazz musician)
David Murray is an American jazz musician. Murray plays mainly tenor saxophone and sometimes bass clarinet. He has recorded prolifically for many record labels since the mid-1970s.-Biography:...

, Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller is an American jazz composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Miller is best known as a bassist, working with trumpeter Miles Davis, singer Luther Vandross, and saxophonist David Sanborn, as well as maintaining a prolific solo career...

, John Surman
John Surman
John Douglas Surman is an English jazz saxophone, bass clarinet and synthesizer player, and composer of free jazz and modal jazz, often using themes from folk music as a basis...

, John Gilmore
John Gilmore (musician)
John Gilmore was an American jazz tenor saxophone player best-known for his long tenure as a member of Sun Ra's Arkestra...

, Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer is a jazz saxophonist, composer, arranger, and big band leader based in Los Angeles, California. Mintzer is a member of the jazz rock band the Yellowjackets.-With The Yellowjackets:*Greenhouse, 1991;*Live Wires, 1992;...

, Roger Rosenberg, James Carter
James Carter (musician)
James Carter is an American jazz musician.Carter was born in Detroit, Michigan and learned to play there before moving to New York City. He has been prominent as a performer and recording artist on the jazz scene since the mid-1990s, playing saxophones, flute, and bass clarinet...

, Steve Buckley
Steve Buckley
Steve Buckley is a British jazz musician. He is a multi-instrumentalist who is most often heard playing alto, soprano and tenor saxophones, penny whistle and bass clarinet....

, Andy Biskin
Andy Biskin
Andy Biskin is a Texas-born American jazz clarinetist, bass clarinetist, composer and filmmaker, working primarily out of New York. Biskin is a graduate of Yale University and once served as an assistant for Alan Lomax. Biskin's music has often been played on NPR between segments on All Things...

, Dai Pritchard, Don Byron
Don Byron
Don Byron is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist. He primarily plays clarinet, but has also used bass clarinet and saxophones....

, Julian Siegel
Julian Siegel
Julian Siegel is a UK Born Jazz Saxophone and Clarinet player, writer and arranger.Siegel has toured and recorded with Greg Cohen and Joey Baron and was awarded the BBC Jazz Awards 2007 for Best Instrumentalist....

, Gunter Hampel
Gunter Hampel
Gunter Hampel is a German jazz vibraphonist, clarinettist, saxophonist, flautist, pianist and composer born in Göttingen, Germany, perhaps best-known for his album "The 8th of July 1969" that included fellow musicians Anthony Braxton, Willem Breuker and Jeanne Lee...

, Chris Potter
Chris Potter (jazz saxophonist)
Chris Potter is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist.-Biography:Born in Chicago, Illinois, Potter spent most of his childhood in Columbia, South Carolina where his mother taught psychology at the University of South Carolina...

, Michel Portal
Michel Portal
Michel Portal is a composer, saxophonist, and clarinetist.Portal studied clarinet at the Conservatoire de Paris...

 and Oran Etkin
Oran Etkin
Oran Etkin is an internationally acclaimed jazz/world artist and composer who is known for giving music classes for children in New York City. He recently released Wake Up Clarinet!, his first release in the genre of family music...

. Very few performers have used the instrument exclusively, but such performers include the Baltimore-based American musician and bandleader Todd Marcus, Luxemburg-based viruoso bass clarinetist Michel Pilz, Berlin-based bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall
Rudi Mahall
Rudi Mahall is a contemporary jazz bass clarinetist.While studying classical clarinet, Mahall shifted towards contemporary music, improvisation and jazz.He is, or was a member of following bands:...

, Chicago-based bass clarinetist Jason Stein, Amsterdam/Detroit-based bass clarinetist Jason Alder of the electroacoustic improvisation ensemble Sonido 13
Sonido 13
Sonido 13 is a theory of microtonal music created by the Mexican composer Julián Carrillo around 1900 and described by Nicolas Slonimsky as, "the field of sounds smaller than the twelve semitones of the tempered scale". Developed in 1895 while he was experimenting with his violin...

, and French bass clarinetist Louis Sclavis
Louis Sclavis
Louis Sclavis is a French jazz musician. He performs on clarinet, bass clarinet, and soprano saxophone in a variety of contexts, including jazz and free jazz...

. Klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman
Giora Feidman
Giora Feidman is an Argentinian-born Israeli clarinetist who specializes in klezmer music.-Biography:Giora Feidman was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where his Bessarabian Jewish parents immigrated to escape persecution. Feidman comes from a family of klezmer musicians...

 is known for idiosyncratic use of the bass clarinet on some klezmer and jazz tunes.

Other uses of bass clarinet


Like most woodwinds, bass clarinets are little used in popular music
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

, but there are occasional examples, such as "When I'm Sixty-Four
When I'm Sixty-Four
"When I'm Sixty-Four" is a song by The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and released in 1967 on their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.-Composition:...

" by The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, "Epitaph" by King Crimson
King Crimson
King Crimson are a rock band founded in London, England in 1969. Often categorised as a foundational progressive rock group, the band have incorporated diverse influences and instrumentation during their history...

, "I Belong to You" by Muse
Muse (band)
Muse are an English alternative rock band from Teignmouth, Devon, formed in 1994. The band consists of school friends Matthew Bellamy , Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard...

, and Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica is the third album by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, released in June 1969. Produced by Beefheart's friend and former schoolmate Frank Zappa, it was originally released as a double album on Zappa's Straight Records label...

by Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band. The bass clarinet is also heard in the sample from the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack used in the "Intro" on the album Demon Days
Demon Days
Demon Days is the second studio album by British virtual band Gorillaz, released in May 2005. The album features contributions from De La Soul, Neneh Cherry, Martina Topley-Bird, Roots Manuva, MF DOOM, Ike Turner, Bootie Brown of the Pharcyde, Shaun Ryder, Dennis Hopper, the London Community Gospel...

 by Gorillaz
Gorillaz
Gorillaz is an English musical project created in 1998 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. This project consists of Gorillaz music itself and an extensive fictional universe depicting a "virtual band" of cartoon characters...

. Multi instrumentalist Mick Karn
Mick Karn
Andonis Michaelides , better known as Mick Karn, was an English multi-instrumentalist musician and songwriter, who came to fame as the bassist for the art rock band Japan, from 1974 to 1982....

 plays bass clarinet on many of the tracks on the eponymously titled and only album by Rain Tree Crow
Rain Tree Crow
Rain Tree Crow was the name used by the English New Wave band Japan when they briefly reformed for this one-off project, which would be their final album...

.

The bass clarinet has proved to be an effective solo instrument in many television and motion picture film score
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

s. A notable example is the recurring "Jubal Early theme" pervading the score for the "Objects in Space
Objects in Space
"Objects in Space" is the 14th episode and series finale of the science fiction television series Firefly created by Joss Whedon. Serenity encounters Jubal Early, a ruthless professional bounty hunter who will stop at nothing to retrieve River...

" episode of the Firefly
Firefly (TV series)
Firefly is an American space western television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label. Whedon served as executive producer, along with Tim Minear....

TV series as well as in many songs used in the popular TV series, Monk
Monk (TV series)
Monk is an American comedy-drama detective mystery television series created by Andy Breckman and starring Tony Shalhoub as the titular character, Adrian Monk. It originally ran from 2002 to 2009 and is primarily a mystery series, although it has dark and comic touches.The series debuted on July...

. The bass clarinet is very frequently used in the jazzy segments of Angelo Badalamenti
Angelo Badalamenti
Angelo Badalamenti is an American composer, known for his movie soundtrack work for director David Lynch, notably Blue Velvet, the Twin Peaks saga and Mulholland Drive...

's score for the TV series Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks is an American television serial drama created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. The series follows the investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper , of the murder of a popular teenager and homecoming queen, Laura Palmer...

. The bass clarinet was frequently used in scoring The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series)
The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising...

; the instrument's potentially sinister tone greatly complemented the mood of the series. Along with the soprano clarinet
Soprano clarinet
The soprano clarinets are a sub-family of the clarinet family.The B clarinet is by far the most common type of soprano clarinet - the unmodified word "clarinet" usually refers to this instrument...

 and saxophone
Saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

, the bass clarinet dominates the score of 30 Rock
30 Rock
30 Rock is an American television comedy series created by Tina Fey that airs on NBC. The series is loosely based on Fey's experiences as head writer for Saturday Night Live...

. Inon Zur
Inon Zur
Inon Zur is an Israeli American music composer who has won several awards for his work. Originally writing for movies and television, he later moved into composing for video games. He has been described as being "internationally recognized as one of the A-list orchestral composers in the video...

 uses a solo bass clarinet extensively in its upper range in his score for the video game Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins is a single-player role-playing video game developed by BioWare's Edmonton studio and published by Electronic Arts. It is the first game in the Dragon Age franchise...

.

History



There are several instruments that can arguably be considered the first bass clarinet. Probably the earliest is a dulcian
Dulcian
The dulcian is a Renaissance bass woodwind instrument, with a double reed and a folded conical bore. Equivalent terms include "curtal" in English, "dulzian" in German, "bajón" in Spanish, "douçaine"' in French, "dulciaan" in Dutch, and "dulciana" in Italian....

-shaped instrument in the Museum Carolino Augusteum
Salzburg Museum
Housed in the Neuen Residenz , the Salzburg Museum is the museum of artistic and cultural history for the city and region of Salzburg. It originated as the Provincialmuseum and was also previously known as the Museum Carolino-Augusteum.-Origins:The Salzburg museum was set up in the early 1800's,...

 in Salzburg
Salzburg
-Population development:In 1935, the population significantly increased when Salzburg absorbed adjacent municipalities. After World War II, numerous refugees found a new home in the city. New residential space was created for American soldiers of the postwar Occupation, and could be used for...

. It is incomplete, lacking a crook or mouthpiece, and appears to date from the first half of the eighteenth century. Its wide cylindrical bore and its fingering suggest it was a chalumeau
Chalumeau
This article is about the historical musical instrument. For the register on the clarinet that is named for this instrument, see Clarinet#Range....

 or clarinet in the bass range. Four anonymous bass chalumeaux or clarinets apparently dating from the eighteenth century and having from one to six keys also appear to be among the earliest examples, and one in particular has been suggested to date from before 1750. However, the authenticity of at least one of these instruments has been questioned.

In the Munich Stadtmuseum
Munich Stadtmuseum
The Munich Stadtmuseum is the city museum of Munich. It was founded in 1888 by Ernst von Destouches and is located in the former municipal arsenal and stables, both buildings of the late Gothic period.-Permanent exhibitions:...

 there is an instrument made circa 1770 by the Mayrhofers of Passau
Passau
Passau is a town in Lower Bavaria, Germany. It is also known as the Dreiflüssestadt or "City of Three Rivers," because the Danube is joined at Passau by the Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north....

, who are often credited with the invention of the basset horn
Basset-horn
The basset horn is a musical instrument, a member of the clarinet family.-Construction and tone:Like the clarinet, the instrument is a wind instrument with a single reed and a cylindrical bore...

. It resembles early sickle-shaped basset horns, but has a larger bore and is longer, playing in low B{{music|flat}}. Whether this should be considered a low basset horn or a bass clarinet is a matter of opinion. In any case, no further work along this line is known to have been done.

A 1772 newspaper article describes an instrument called the "basse-tube," invented by G. Lott in Paris in 1772. This instrument has not survived and very little is known of it. The article has frequently been cited as the earliest record of a bass clarinet, but recently it has been suggested that the basse-tube was in fact a basset horn.

The Klarinetten-Bass by Heinrich Grenser
Heinrich Grenser
Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Grenser was a German musical instrument maker.Grenser was born in Lipprechtsroda, Thuringia. From 1779 to 1786 he was apprenticed to his uncle, August Grenser, a Dresden instrument maker, and after his apprenticeship he continued to work in August's shop, taking it over...

, circa 1793, had a folded, bassoon-like shape and an extended range, and was presumably intended to serve as a bassoon replacement in military bands. Desfontenelles of Lisieux built a bass clarinet in 1807 whose shape was similar to that of the later saxophone
Saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

. It had thirteen keys, at a time when most soprano clarinets had fewer.

Additional designs were developed by many other makers, including Dumas of Sommières (who called his instrument a "Basse guerrière") in 1807; Nicola Papalini, circa 1810 (an odd design, in the form of a serpentine series of curves, carved out of wood); George Catlin of Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

 ("clarion") circa 1810; Sautermeister of Lyons ("Basse-orgue") in 1812; Gottlieb Streitwolf in 1828; and Catterino Catterini ("glicibarifono") in the 1830s. These last four, and several others of the same period, had bassoon-like folded shapes, and most had extended ranges. A straight-bodied instrument without extended range was produced in 1832 by Isaac Dacosta and Auguste Buffet.

Finally, Adolphe Sax
Adolphe Sax
Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax was a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician who played the flute and clarinet, and is best known for having invented the saxophone.-Biography:...

, a Belgian manufacturer of musical instruments, designed a straight-bodied form of bass clarinet in 1838. Sax's expertise in acoustics led him include such features as accurately-placed, large tone holes and a second register hole. His instrument achieved great success and became the basis for all bass clarinet design since.

It should be noted that the instrument on which Anton Stadler
Anton Stadler
Anton Stadler was an Austrian clarinet and basset horn player for whom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote both his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings and Clarinet Concerto....

 first played Mozart's
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

 clarinet concerto
Clarinet Concerto (Mozart)
Mozart's Clarinet concerto in A major, K. 622 was written in 1791 for the clarinetist Anton Stadler.It consists of the usual three movements, in a fast–slow–fast form:# Allegro# Adagio# Rondo: Allegro...

 was originally called a Bass-Klarinette, but was not a bass clarinet in the modern sense; since the late eighteenth century this instrument has been called a basset clarinet
Basset clarinet
The basset clarinet is a clarinet, similar to the usual soprano clarinet but longer and with additional keys to enable playing several additional lower notes...

.

Notation


Orchestral music for bass clarinet is written using one of two systems:
  • (a) Conventional treble clef in B{{music|flat}}. This sounds an octave and a major second lower than written and therefore uses the same fingerings as the soprano clarinet, and is by far the more common of the two.
  • (b) Bass clef in B{{music|flat}}. This sounds a major second (tone, or whole step) lower than written. The player must, of course, be able to read bass clef. For music written in bass clef, higher passages may be written in treble clef to avoid the use of excessive ledger lines, but this should not be confused with system (a), in which notes sound an octave lower than in system (b). Unlike music for the bassoon
    Bassoon
    The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

    , the tenor clef is not used for higher passages.


System (a) is used in orchestral music by most composers west of Germany and in all show, concert band and clarinet choir music. System (b) is used chiefly by Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

, Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

, and Russian and eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

an composers, although there are exceptions.

Music is occasionally encountered written for the bass clarinet in A, e.g. in Wagner operas, and Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

 or Rachmaninov symphonies; this music also tends to be written in bass clef although not invariably (e.g. Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

's La Valse
La Valse
La valse, un poème choréographique pour orchestre , is a work written by Maurice Ravel from February 1919 until 1920 ; it was conceived as a ballet but is now more often heard as a concert work...

). Apparently, bass clarinets in A were once produced by German and French makers, even though the historic record is not particularly clear just where and when such production started and ceased. Since instruments pitched in A were not available to play music that had already been written, bass clarinets produced after 1900 were equipped with the low Eb extension key to allow easy transposition of such parts.

Until the last half of the 20th century, no new bass clarinets pitched in A were produced. For a brief period starting in the late 1970s, a bass clarinet with Boehm style keywork and pitched in A (and keyed to low Eb, even though the original parts seldom descend below written low E) was again produced by Selmer Paris. While perfectly functional, such instruments were both expensive and a significant physical burden to the player, who would have to carry two heavy bass clarinets to rehearsals and performances. For these two reasons more than anything else, few modern bass clarinets in A have been sold. At some point after the 1980s, Selmer ceased production of the bass clarinet in A, although examples are still available from factory stock.

Very few modern players own a bass clarinet in A; these parts are therefore played on the B{{music|flat}} instrument, transposing them down a semitone.

External links


{{Wikisource1911Enc|Bass Clarinet}}
{{Clarinet}}

{{DEFAULTSORT:Bass Clarinet}}