Bass clarinet to low C Bass clarinet to low E-flat  

Bass clarinet

The Bass clarinet is a very nice member of the family pitched in B-flat, one octave below the soprano B-flat clarinet. Most basses descends to low E-flat (concert D-flat) but there are variants that descends to low C (concert B-flat). The left one of the two basses to the right is an E-flat version and the right one is the C version. It is a little bit longer than the E-flat version in reality.

The instrument is very heavy, so there is a floor stand attached to the clarinet body. A well played bass will boost the overall sound impression in a small ensemble as well as in the symphony orchestra. The lower notes could really make you shiver, especially if the instrument descends to low C. We think the bass was invented by either G. Lott in Paris in 1772 or most probably Heinrich (Heinriah) Grenser in Dresden in 1793. Maurice Ravel uses both A and Bb bass clarinets in his "Rapsodie Espagnole" for instance.

There is also a bass clarinet pitched in A. Wagners Valkyrian and Tristan has nice solos for the A bass. Schönbergs Pelleas and Melisande uses it and I also heard that Strauss makes use of it in some pieces. You can also hear it in Mahler's 4th Symphony. If you have any more interesting information about the A bass let me know.

This is how you play the bass. Click on the image to view full size.

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This page was updated 2004-04-12
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