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Clarinet in the bass bag

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by moped10, May 7, 2004.

  1. moped10


    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Any of you DBists play the clarinet? I do alot of recording on my own when gigging season gets light (slow in the winter), and am interested in adding a solo instrument, at least just to play the head for some reinterpretations of standards- I play piano and guitar, but have always been drawn to the sound of the clarinet, especially the style of Barney Bigard and the likes- Anyone?
  2. Yeah - played clarinet for years - it's now in need of repair! - there is only so much time to practise so I don't now and you do need to especially if you want good sound. Not sure about Barney but him and his ilk often used a simple system clarinet which made it very difficult to play but had a wider bore that got that fat woody sound.

    However, the sound has to be in your head and its production has less to do with mechanics than the unconcious development of control in the throat area - THE essential instruction that cuts the mustard - if not the only one is by Joe Alard (that might be Allard) - book and amateurish video - don't be put off, its the BIZ. Joe Alard taught all the greats and greats of sax too - Leibman, Daniels, Berg etc. and is worth a search on.

    The mechanics of the mouth have to be right though, and this takes time to build up the facial muscles and control. You wont get a Bigard or anyone elses good sound by honking as some sax players seem to.

    I haven't mentioned fingers coz you just have to learn them - all fingers perfectly relaxed just hovering over the keys/hole with next to no movement just like a top typist. However, its not a keyboard - putting your fingers in the right place will not produce the right or an in-tune note at least unless you pre-hear the note. Like bas you'll find there is always more than one way to play a note. No woodwind can play in-tune throughout its range naturally - can't be done, never will be, though they improve wth technological advance. So every instrument is a compromise and you need the ability to compensate.

    Reasonable quality clarinets are cheap relative to other instruments and woodwinds as well. This is good. Sax players find the fingerings awkward because the registers are a 12th apart, not an octave so a fingering for middle c becomes a g on top of the stave in the next register. If you start with clarinet you never even think about this as a hinderence or difficulty.

    If you still fancy it, get Alard, play long notes, NEVER play if your embouchure (mouth) collapses as you can only compensate with bad technique - usually chewing your lips. This means a program of dedicated practise. Now if you said you wanted to sound like George Lewis - well I never was keen. The men for me (since I know no women players) are Eddie Daniels, Don Byron and the often overlooked Bill Smith, Tony Scott, maybe Buddy De Franco, Jimmy Guiffre for an alternative approach and Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman and Russel Procope and and oh I could go on.

    Oh and buy a TOP quality mouthpeace that is not radical, and of good reeds in boxes of 10 - don't get them individually or just a couple here and there - you'll get a discount for a box anyway (I tried the lot but always came back to Vandoren) and spend time learning to adjust reeds, reject the bad and spot the good. (usually golden with small black flecks and an even cut). Some people just struggle as if its a badge of honour to play with crap - you wouldn't put up with strings that could no longer cut it would you?

    I could just say get a teacher but as a habituee of TB you've read that so many times there's no point in saying it again.

    Finally, Bigard may not have been avant guard but he was astonishing - this is one darn high standard to aim for. As ever, the best thing to do is to just try it for a while - see what you think then go get a teach. Good luck. I lurve that sound too - its a much undersused instrument!
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I played clarinet when I was a kid but quit because at the time I hated it.

    Now I actually like the sound a lot, but have lost whatever facility I once had on the instrument.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I occasionally toy with idea of getting a pocket trumpet (and a hat like Don Cherry!), but if I lie down for a few minutes, it passes...
  5. moped10


    Apr 9, 2003
    Wilmington, NC
    Thanks so much Mike! I strike information gold on this forum much more often than not- I'm prepared for hours upon hours in the woodshed, and I'm sure I'll sound like Squidward from SpongeBob (those with kids should get that one) for longer than I would like, but if I can at least play the melody of "Rose Room" by Christmas, I'll be happy- I wonder if there's an Ed Fuqua on the Talk Clarinet forum who'll give me a good newbie treatment? ;)
  6. Cheers Mope - gold? - dunno about that. Hope it all goes well - if there isn't an Ed Fuqua on talk Clarinet you can always come back here and get the treatment. Just say sumpthin like a singer once said to me - "I don't like all that technical stuff, I'm into free expression like Ella Fitzgerald" - whereupon me and my mate were given a card so we could contact her for gigs. No kiddin!

    After the hours in the 'shed we'll be looking forward to listening to your up loaded doubled track! Squidward - if that's on telly I aint got one - get the sound in you head and you wont be able to stop yourself sounding good - honest - so many people don't do that - its not just what pitch is a note - its what do I want it to sound like - enjoy!
  7. I have a chromatic harmonica for when I get the urge to act like a horn player. I got some facility on it -- can play standard and Latin heads and solo marginally. Occasionally, some friends who have a trio at a local supper club will indulge me after the place has cleared out and let me blow (and draw).

    Its great fun, but I feel uncomforatble just sitting there while the other guys are playing their solos and comping, so I end up playing riffs or guide tones.
  8. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I've toyed with the chromo harp idea as well, but my friend Steve Sargenti, who plays it VERY well, calls it "the devil's instrument", due to its difficulty. Like Ed, I've also thought about a pocket trumpet, which in my case is more do-able, since I was a trumpet major through my college years.

    But ultimately, I always see them as diversions from my DB practice, which I really don't get enough of. Since DB pays for my mortgage and my kids' education, I try to stay on track a little more that if I were just playing bass as a hobby. Might be nice to find a baby trumpet under the Christmas tree, though.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Hey look, I'm replying to myself....

    If you're woodwind-friendly, you might want to check out the Xaphoon, a small bamboo saxophone that I think uses a tenor mouthpiece. It's made here on Maui by my friend Brian Whitman. It sounds like a cross between a sax and a clarinet, quite pleasant, and not expensive. Go take a look at Brian's excellent website (xaphoon.com). At the very least, you can check out his gorgeous wife, Celena ;)
  10. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    I have a Xphoon, and there's no instrument with a better fun/price ratio. They're about $50, I think, fit in your pocket, and a good wind player can lake one sound like an alto sax.

    I am not a good wind player, but I do know some basic flute and recorder fingerings and have a ton of fun with mine.
  11. Josh McNutt

    Josh McNutt Guest

    Mar 10, 2003
    Denton, Texas (UNT)
    I'm glad you mentioned the Allard method, Mike. I play saxophone and bass interchangeably, and I think Allard is definitely the way to go. I don't know to which book you are referring, but I like Liebman's book, Developing a Personal Saxophone Sound. I've been told by a former Allard student(unfortunately, I'm not one) that Joe felt that Dave had some of the concepts wrong, but I can't really see any flaws in the book. I've never seen the movie, but I know it was made near the end of his life when he wasn't doing so well.
  12. Josh - I doubt I could find the book - I'll have a look tonight. I used to lodge in a house with a couple of musice students, and as students do, they'd photocopied the lot and copied the video too, so I got a copy of a copy. I never saw it in the shops over here - I looked.

    There's several things I can remmeber about the video now - making a flat table for the reed by stretching the lower lip - that focussing the breath is done ahead of the lips, a point he demonstrates by blowing an alto with a large gap either side of the mounthpiece - and his views on the diaphram 'support from the diaphram - baloney - I have to support my wife'. I know Leibman's book is or at least was reccomended by local sax king who teaches at the Royal Northern College of Music, as he does Allard too.

    One thing Josh, who picks up your bass when you fancy a sax solo? Even Rashan Roland Kirk couldn't manage both of these at the same time!