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Clarinet Roadshow => All about Clarinets => Topic started by: Windsong on August 26, 2017, 11:14:44 PM

Title: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Windsong on August 26, 2017, 11:14:44 PM
This may be why we see so few alto clarinets.  I'm not really sure I fully follow his theory, in terms of true relevance, but it's an interesting rant, just the same.  While alto range is covered by the abilities of soprano and base ranges, collectively, I remain unconvinced as to the arguement that it is invalidated, thusly.  I have only ever seen ONE person play ONE clarinet at once, and it seems to me that Alto provides a good balance between the two, especially in non-ensemble work.
Have a gander:

https://youtu.be/WG12hRnUMkg
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on August 27, 2017, 06:28:40 AM
I watched that video a couple of weeks ago. I felt that the title was chosen to be attention getting, and the explanation was actually quite compelling. I thought it was well presented and well reasoned. In a truly full voicing you need all the voices. Each of these instruments has its' own timbre.

 The author of the video I think was calling for more alto clarinets, which makes a good bit of sense in terms of voicing. We don't give up the mellophone in brass because the cornet and trombone can cover it. It's the same argument. A mellophone is an alto cornet. An orchestra uses the French horn, but there is always a middle brass instrument. The difference between a mellophone and French horn is more than the difference between the alto clarinet and basset-horn when it comes to form, but when it comes to function and key, it's the same thing. The only reason we call it a mellophone was to dodge the patent claim on the Koenig horn. I think the author was correct and that the woodwinds are missing a voice in there compared to the strings and the brass, or vocal choirs.

I found this interesting:

"Alto Clarinets:

You find alto clarinets in harmony bands or symphonic bands, hardly ever in classical symphony orchestras. And there were only few classical compositions for bassett horn at all; but then there was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the bassett horn was his favorite instrument. That alone will make it very likely that this instrument will stay with us forever."

http://www.the-clarinets.net/english/alto-clarinet.html

Interesting site, bell translates to "funnel".

Thanks, Wolfgang.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on August 27, 2017, 07:49:27 AM
Alto clarinet is the viola of the string world. I mean that in a good way  ;)
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on August 27, 2017, 08:57:23 AM
I think ideally, the alto clarinet could be approached the same way the mellophone is approached. Because it had a similar voice to the French horn, mellophones were made with tuning slides or extra "crooks" to change from F to Eb or in some cases D or C. This made them adaptable to brass bands, orchestras, and folk bands. Of course there are no tuning slides for woodwinds (brass isn't obsolesced by changing pitch standard), and the approach for orchestral music is to have two clarinets, A and Bb. Before the instrument became chromatic friendly it was not uncommon to use more clarinets in different keys.

These days one could consider an Eb alto and an F basset-horn almost as analogous to the Bb and A soprano clarinet pair, or to the adaptable mellophone. I suppose that basset-horns are far harder to come by than alto clarinets, but for versatility it would perhaps expand the compass of the alto instruments. A basset-horn could read the French horn parts and a director / conductor / arranger would not have to worry too much about scoring a special part.

My own excursion into alto was to take advantage of a middle voice in Eb;- that is NOT a saxophone. Saxophones can be harsh. A clarinet is far smoother. In certain types of performance a saxphone is hard to tame. I will return my C melody sax to soft pads before I ever use that instrument in performance. It's simply too loud.

A clarinet on the other hand has dynamic advantages. It's more versatile. So, anyway, my goal was to use it as both a solo instrument as well as an accompaniment to vocals where it can lay down a very solid continuo, not quite a bass line, but not invading lead vocal space at all;- and capable of solos in the higher registers. And it fits in a much smaller case than a bass clarinet;- about as large as a trumpet case. An alto clarinet is a lot of versatility in a compact package.

I think a large part of alto clarinet use is up to the performers that like to play them. Perhaps if you land a spot in an orchestra you can show up with an F basset-horn.
"No score for my part? Oh, that's cool. I'll just hang with the French horn section......"
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on August 27, 2017, 12:50:45 PM
For me, alto is a balance between the tough technical passages of soprano and the easier music of the bass.
I'm not good enough to play soprano well, and sometimes bass is a bit boring. So break out the alto.

Also, depends on whether or not I have to walk a long way. Bass is a lot heavier and I hate walking 2 miles roundtrip with it, so alto is nice for those occassions.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Windsong on August 27, 2017, 04:59:28 PM
I did enjoy this video, and don't mean to imply that I think the reason Altos are unpopular has to do with the comments made within, or the author's "sway", if you will, but the general concensus (albeit erroneous) among people that it is a duplicitous clarinet, instead, and the author's recognition of this stigma. 
Sorcerer--like you, I really enjoy the voice of the alto.  It does not sound like the upper range of a bass or the lower range of the soprano, despite its ability to play the same notes.  It sounds only like an alto, and it has a much more refined, warmer sound than saxophone, as you menton.  It may not have an active relevance in symphonic outfits, but its sound cannot truly be replaced or reproduced by anything else.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on September 13, 2017, 02:04:30 PM
I think this video come closer to validating the alto as an effective performance option:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T_IA8K7xK8g
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on September 14, 2017, 08:17:32 AM
I think this video come closer to validating the alto as an effective performance option:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T_IA8K7xK8g

I do like the arrangement but I'm not sure if alto clarinet is the "voice" I want to hear with it.

Check out this clarinet quartet performing Libertango, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvyBnfLtbsE

        - - - - and then, a saxophone quartet - - - - , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHOosbInDK4

I guess I prefer a little more edge to the sound on this particular composition but the alto clarinet does quite well with it.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Dibbs on September 14, 2017, 08:35:39 AM
I've never played an alto clarinet.  What are they like to play?  Are they difficult to voice in the clarion like a bass?  Even great bass clarinettists, in the upper registers, often sound like they are on the verge of squeaking.  The alto doesn't seem to have that sound.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on September 14, 2017, 10:53:11 AM
It's not too difficult to play, but I always thought it was really weird. I mostly played a metal one so it was really awkward as the mouthpiece seemed too big for the body.
The angle.you hold it is a little odd too, and it's not really have enough for a neck strap but is tough without one.
Clarion seems to be easier than a bass imo.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on September 16, 2017, 03:40:52 PM
 
I've never played an alto clarinet.  What are they like to play?  Are they difficult to voice in the clarion like a bass?  Even great bass clarinettists, in the upper registers, often sound like they are on the verge of squeaking.  The alto doesn't seem to have that sound.
Regard my comments as novice observations after just two weeks with an instrument that is a restoration in progress.

I'm enjoying getting a work out on that Harry Pedler alto now. It's easy in the low register, a bit more challenging in the clarion. It could need a few new pads, and I'm still working out which mouthpiece works with which reed.

It's mostly open hole and that's not an issue. In fact it might fit me better than a Bb soprano. It's the only alto I have played, so not much of a basis for comparison. The rings are a great design for it being perfectly flat to the tone hole tops. It is easily played with the broad flat part of the fingers as opposed to the tips. The glissando technique works well but I noticed that I could even use the c hole plateau in a glissando by sliding off of it.

It's the first time I've customized reeds to improve response. I've been spoiled by consistent success with LaVoz mediums on everything.

That might have worked, but several 1.5 Vandoren reeds came with the mouthpiece(s) and those were way too limber, so I tried some NOS Rico # 3;- great quality cane but too stiff. So I've worked a few of the Ricos down at the heel, and I am getting pretty good sound all the way up.

That transition area between the manual registers is a bit fuzzy, just like with the bass Harry. At least with these being manual, I get to choose which one. One some notes hitting both results in split tones like that sax note in "Low Spark of High-heeled Boys". That could be useful????

 The clarion response is better after tweaking the reeds, but I suspect a few of the old dried out pads don't seal completely. A few are newer. The altissimo is better, which seems to point to leaks. It has improved or maybe I have. Playing it might be softening up these old pads.

It does handle very similarly to the bass Harry Pedler, which I am used to, except the bass is definitely in need of the peg. The alto is very slightly heavier than my typical grenadilla Bb soprano. Sitting, I find that I can cradle the bell between my knees and it sits at the perfect position. Standing, I like having the strap and the thumb pad and it can rest against either leg.

Going to larger clarinets reminds of old film camera formats. Parameters that are insignificant with a smaller device become problematic as the device gets bigger and the solutions tried might be diverse. For that reason, basses and altos tend to be quirky compared to sopranos.

What surprised me, and it might be improved, but the low clarion notes have a distinctly saxophone like tone. All altos might not be like that and this one might be different with new softer pads.

I'm going to learn to play it and see what it is like in ensembles. I'm glad I took a chance on a mostly open hole model because I'm sure I can easily manage it. Just for kicks I tried it with parade gloves and the low register played just fine.

When I say that these are quirky, it's mostly the result of the plateau strategies. This one has two relatively neutral plateaus, the left thumb and the c (L3) hole. The result is that some fingering alternatives are in order in places. This one has it's own "rules" that diverge from the typical ones we use on a soprano. And the bass is all plateau, so another set of exceptions in fingering apply to it. One has to have some fingers down to hold onto the instruments, and these need to be neutral or helpful to the tone and pitch character.

Switching from one size to the others is helpful in understanding the principles that apply to all clarinets, or at least it is for me.

For the added versatility, I think an alto could be a very useful addition, particularly in small ensembles. It's a lot of range in a small package.

Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on September 16, 2017, 04:51:39 PM
I think this video come closer to validating the alto as an effective performance option:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T_IA8K7xK8g

I do like the arrangement but I'm not sure if alto clarinet is the "voice" I want to hear with it.

Check out this clarinet quartet performing Libertango, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvyBnfLtbsE

        - - - - and then, a saxophone quartet - - - - , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHOosbInDK4

I guess I prefer a little more edge to the sound on this particular composition but the alto clarinet does quite well with it.

OK, what this mostly confirms is that I really like A. Piazolla.

Anyway, if you only have one clarinet voice, it's different. I'd like to hear the clarinet quartet with an alto substitution for one of the sopranos.

With the sax quartet, the alto clarinet could have covered the parts of both the tenor and alto saxophone solos, and I prefer its' tones.

In any case, that tune lends itself well to single reed ensembles.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on September 29, 2017, 02:21:55 PM
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t4eVFsmx3EM

(Bump!)
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on September 29, 2017, 02:25:50 PM
This one, while perhaps a trite choice, does show how gorgeous the alto voicing can be in an ensemble. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu17hPfxAl0
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on September 29, 2017, 04:58:27 PM
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t4eVFsmx3EM

(Bump!)

Who is this Bach fellow  ;)

This sounds really good on alto !

This man's posture and breath support appear to be perfect.

Ok, I just watched this again - how did this video get any "thumbs down"?  Really?
His is Dr. Mark Wolbers and he is a phenomenal alto clarinetist.

Here's another performance : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbPYdQVRXv4
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Lisa on September 29, 2017, 06:25:18 PM
I emailed Dr Wolbers with some alto clarinet questions a while ago, he was very nice.  He teaches up in Alaska.  I agree, what kind of jerk gave him a thumbs down??

Lisa
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on September 30, 2017, 03:14:14 PM
What I am noticing in addition to the flawless performance is his end pin. I think this is essential. With my alto if it barely moves, it blows my embouchure and chirps. Keeping it still is essential to controlling the register, well for me. I'm used to the pin on my bass.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Lisa on September 30, 2017, 04:36:07 PM
What I am noticing in addition to the flawless performance is his end pin. I think this is essential. With my alto if it barely moves, it blows my embouchure and chirps. Keeping it still is essential to controlling the register, well for me. I'm used to the pin on my bass.
I tried marching with an alto .... Once.  I found it almost impossible not to squeak and squank.  I also didn't like playing one with a neck strap seated for the same reason, I was used to an end pin with bass.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on September 30, 2017, 06:49:02 PM
What I am noticing in addition to the flawless performance is his end pin. I think this is essential. With my alto if it barely moves, it blows my embouchure and chirps. Keeping it still is essential to controlling the register, well for me. I'm used to the pin on my bass.
I tried marching with an alto .... Once.  I found it almost impossible not to squeak and squank.  I also didn't like playing one with a neck strap seated for the same reason, I was used to an end pin with bass.
I used to march bass without a neckstrap... LOL
I too do not like the way the alto handles. It is just a little odd for me especially with the weird neck angle. For that reason I like the LeBlanc altos a lot better.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Lisa on September 30, 2017, 07:21:57 PM
I'm sure not to everyone's taste, but i like them.  It's  combination I'd never put together, cosmic sounding hang drum and alto.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WBaIsZsuHBE
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on September 30, 2017, 09:02:33 PM
I LOVE the alto. I got two old school Vito altos hoping to get one working (one was broken in half). Now Iím stuck with TWO that play well   :-))

As always, MP is key. I have two old hard-rubber original Vito MP (FRANCE 2V, attributed to Riffault) ó same as I love for Bb and C clarinets. The first one I got from Vytas Krass. He sells nicely refined Riffaults. One of the horns in particular has a soulful sound around the break, reminiscent of baritone sax. I found the holding angle hard on my right wrist. I removed the thumb hook and cut in a deep indentation to form a negative thumb rest. Now it fits me real fine. Great for jazz, birthday parties, and more, yet to explore.

Only on the Clarinet Pages.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: andybeals on October 10, 2017, 11:58:31 AM
I think that my LeBlanc alto came with an end pin holder on it.  I had one affixed to my other three altos.  (Long story, covered elsewhere.)  I've played the Noblet without an end pin or a neck strap because I forgot my stands and end pin (it doesn't fit in the case so it travels with the stands), and I can't recommend it. 

Mouthpiece-wise, my low clarinet tech recommended the JD Hite mouthpiece for my first alto.  I've been playing on one ever since.  Inexpensive and it sounds good.  My hat is off to them.

The Linton has a socket that's too small to accept the Hite, so I use an ancient Noblet piece on it rather than turning down the tenon on a Hite to fit it. 



Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Lisa on October 10, 2017, 08:05:20 PM
Good to know about the Hite.  Iíll keep that in mind if i ever find an alto i like.  I almost bid on a vintage wooden  Conn a while back, it was two piece and open hole as i wanted, but it didnít have the low Eb, only E, though i wonder if i would truly miss the Eb, as it probably would be for my own enjoyment.  I have been advised to not get an alto unless it has the Eb by various people i have asked, though iím Not sure if its because the note would be missed, or that it seems the instruments missing that key are possibly of a lesser quality.
Lisa
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on October 10, 2017, 09:04:22 PM
Good to know about the Hite.  Iíll keep that in mind if i ever find an alto i like.  I almost bid on a vintage wooden  Conn a while back, it was two piece and open hole as i wanted, but it didnít have the low Eb, only E, though i wonder if i would truly miss the Eb, as it probably would be for my own enjoyment.  I have been advised to not get an alto unless it has the Eb by various people i have asked, though iím Not sure if its because the note would be missed, or that it seems the instruments missing that key are possibly of a lesser quality.
Lisa
Honestly probably not. In terms of how common the low Eb is on both bass and alto, the answer is "not very"
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: andybeals on October 11, 2017, 09:14:48 AM
Low E-flat instruments are newer, generally.  The low E-flat called for in the literature?  Not very often - but it appears more often in newer pieces.  The newest ones often call for the low D in runs (steps) down, but don't often ask for the C, and I've never seen the C-sharp. 
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on October 11, 2017, 11:22:37 AM
By the time one has a $15,000 low-C extended bass clarinet, they probably already have a contra too!
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on October 12, 2017, 01:11:49 PM
For my Vito alto, I tried a Hite, but wasn't satisfied. I get great sound now with a vintage hard rubber Vito MP labeled FRANCE 2V. I bought 1 on eBay and another from Vytas Krass. They are both fine.

The low Eb: I read somebody saying that having it there improves 1 or more other notes.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: andybeals on October 12, 2017, 01:26:35 PM
The low E ó I've heard that's the reason for the bell extensions some people favor on the eefer as they give them a little extra length (who wouldn't mind a little extra length?) - and they're un-necessary on a full-Boehm eefer.  (Terry L. Stibal aka "SOTSDO" on Sax on the Web has a FB Selmer 10S in E♭.)

I've decided to perform with the Linton alto on the 29th, unless it kicks up a fuss at rehearsal tonight.  The one part we have for it in the Star Trek theme medley isn't playing with the bass, so the close blending of the Noblet alto with my sometimes-standmate's Noblet bass isn't needed.

There are also alto parts in Variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Three Negro Dances, but the former is difficult enough in the bass part and the latter's alto part is a slightly simplified version of the effer's part.  I play bass on both, much to my standmate's relief. 
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on October 13, 2017, 12:56:33 PM
The benefit of the low Eb probably lies in the fact that it's longer and has that extra open hole. Some clarinets need an extra open hole on the bottom, which is why sometimes you see people drilling a hole in the bell.
So I guess in conclusion, the low Eb is not very commonly used in music but it helps the chalumeau register stay in tune, regardless of the usefulness of the actual key.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Silversorcerer on October 13, 2017, 06:00:15 PM
If It's there (low Eb), I'll find a use for it. It works very well as the fundamental in an EbM arpeggio.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on December 06, 2017, 08:52:03 AM
I'm really starting to wonder if the alto is making a comeback.

A Bundy (in nice shape) just sold on ebay for $340.  No joke.

Just a matter of timing perhaps?
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: andybeals on December 08, 2017, 07:01:51 AM
Having watched for a while, I'd have to say "seasonal fluctuations".  They go up, they go down.  Not a month or two ago, a badly water-damaged Noblet alto went for north of $350, an absolutely crazy price. 
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on December 08, 2017, 09:48:04 AM
Years ago when I was first starting out, I put up a Bundy alto that was out of adjustment for auction. It sold for $36 with free shipping.
After that, I never did an auction again...
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on December 08, 2017, 10:31:30 AM
eBay is a strange place Dave. I'm starting to like the Reverb site for instrument "browsing".
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on December 08, 2017, 05:01:38 PM
I don't subscribe to the theory of starting extra-low to attract attention. I start at the lowest price I'll be satisfied with. I think it demonstrates my respect for the item, as well.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Lisa on December 08, 2017, 09:19:45 PM
Having watched for a while, I'd have to say "seasonal fluctuations".  They go up, they go down.  Not a month or two ago, a badly water-damaged Noblet alto went for north of $350, an absolutely crazy price.
Andy, i saw that too!  i was like, Whaaaaat?  i have an ipad mini, and even on a small screen, the damage was obvious.  the people bidding on that must of been using flip phones to view it, to think it had any chance of being playable.
altos do seem to be hot now.  I hope it's making a comeback, it's got a neat range.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on December 27, 2017, 12:21:55 PM
The Alto does have a wonderful range. It has much of the guts of a bass, but not so extreme, and the clarion sounds much nicer than (typically) that of a bass. I would love it more if not for the often-awkward Eb. But it's good for jazz. I've had rockin' good times playing low rhythmic backup parts in songs like Killer Joe. And in the clarion, it doesn't shout "I'm a clarinet" like a soprano does.

I went for Vito altos because I like non-wood, and there was some agreement somewhere, maybe at sax-on-the-web, that Vito is better than Bundy. I haven't had opportunity to compare, but I do appreciate the high quality keywork. I bought 2 broken ones, hoping to fix one. Now I have 2 players. But that's a good way to be sure to get a good one. If they both get running, there's a basis for comparison to pick the best one or to try an improvement, and then have a control in the experiment.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on January 14, 2019, 12:58:14 PM
I'm replying to myself over a year later to congratulate myself (tooting my own horn) because yesterday I made my performance debut on alto clarinet, playing a honkin' bass line on That Old Black Magic. I even included the low-Eb as a grace note. It was rollicking fun and I got good compliments. I use a vintage Vito FRANCE hard rubber MP with a Fibracell alto sax reed.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on January 14, 2019, 03:10:48 PM
Very good Windy. Keepin' it real on the alto!
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on January 14, 2019, 03:39:35 PM
I'm replying to myself over a year later to congratulate myself (tooting my own horn) because yesterday I made my performance debut on alto clarinet, playing a honkin' bass line on That Old Black Magic. I even included the low-Eb as a grace note. It was rollicking fun and I got good compliments. I use a vintage Vito FRANCE hard rubber MP with a Fibracell alto sax reed.

Hooray for Fibracell!
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: LarryS on January 14, 2019, 04:39:53 PM
Does the alto fit in between basset and soprano clarinets? Does it have the range of a soprano but with lower notes?
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on January 14, 2019, 05:09:38 PM
Does the alto fit in between basset and soprano clarinets? Does it have the range of a soprano but with lower notes?
Alto would be between soprano and bass.

Basset is pitched in A, and goes down to low-C.

The alto is pitched in Eb, and goes down to low-Eb. The exact range of notes is equal to that of a soprano clarinet, with an extra Eb on top of the low E that standard soprano clarinets have.

So, the majority of notes that an alto plays can be reached by a low-C basset clarinet.

Then there's the basset horn, which is pitched in F and goes down to low-C.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: BLMonopole on January 15, 2019, 04:35:55 AM
Sadly, alto clarinet has had some very bad PR over the years.  It generally plays unimportant parts (echoing bass clarinet or 3rd clarinet), and therefore has been relegated to weaker players, and poorly maintained instruments.  I can name dozens of band directors I've come into contact with who believe its a terrible instrument impossible to play in tune (meanwhile, the F Horn section is massively out of tune and no one is getting rid of them!).  Over time, composers just stopped writing for them. 

Properly maintained and played instruments are the key.  I bought and restored a Selmer Paris Series 9 alto many years back and have enjoyed it immensely.  It plays as well in tune as any of my other instruments and has a unique voice.  It's truly a shame that this voice has been marginalized for no real reason. 
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: andybeals on March 12, 2019, 08:18:51 AM
Speaking of the alto, I recently watched this video by Bret Newton: "Who's Afraid of the Alto Clarinet"

Quote
This is a live recording from the 2019 Clarinet Colloquium at Texas A&M University at Commerce where Matthew Banks and I try to dispel some of the myths and rumors about the Alto Clarinet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxsSJcty4MM (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxsSJcty4MM)

30 minutes.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on March 12, 2019, 02:51:55 PM
Oh, that guy. He grew a beard.
Anyway, with China (yeah, I know) producing clarinets in G with boehm system keywork, that may be a nice alternative too neglected and abused altos. It's pitched 2 steps higher though. Just sayin'
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on March 12, 2019, 10:16:53 PM
But how many composers do you know have ever composed anything in G.....
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on March 16, 2019, 03:46:44 PM
I just got one of the G clarinets with Boehm system keywork, a very new and exciting product from the same Chinese maker as my favorite C clarinets. They have been selling Albert system G clarinets for some time, so-called Turkish clarinets, so they have the acoustics worked out. It's a practical key to play in because the low register is in C. Fine for an improviser and by-ear player like me.

BUT ... it's not a mature product. They made incredible mistakes. The barrels are WAY too long, and the bell is equally WAY too short. It has serious keywork and ergonomic issues*, and about 8 holes to retune (worse than the C clarinet). It's been a major hacking project, but I got it working with a few days of serious shop work. I suspect it will be improved over the next couple years, as the C was. Simply said, they are dumping their bad prototypes on eBay.

However, having replaced with barrel with a normal Bb, one and extended the bell with electrical tape and gotten lucky with a mouthpiece, I have myself a fine instrument! The tone is gorgeous, but ONLY with one particular Chinese mouthpiece. Any of my favorite MPs or any others I tried are either resistant or just sound mediocre. I still have more to learn. If there is interest in this, I will continue reporting on another subject thread. But as of this morning, I can PLAY it, and I'm thrilled!

*  Ergonomic issues not bad if you are about 6 1/2 feet tall and have extra-large hands. I am 5'8" tall, size-L hands, and I had to do lots of metal trimming and epoxy work, especially on the bottom R-hand keys. It looks like bad Mexican dental work.  But it plays and sounds wonderful!
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: Airflyte on March 16, 2019, 07:49:55 PM
Windy, thanks for the mini-review on the G horn with the "French" keywork. These have gained my attention.  If I may suggest, you may want to start a new thread on these "folk" clarinets when you get your copy dialed in.

I just think of these as being more playable and possibly superior tone-wise than the old altos.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: DaveLeBlanc on March 16, 2019, 09:14:17 PM
I just got one of the G clarinets with Boehm system keywork, a very new and exciting product from the same Chinese maker as my favorite C clarinets. They have been selling Albert system G clarinets for some time, so-called Turkish clarinets, so they have the acoustics worked out. It's a practical key to play in because the low register is in C. Fine for an improviser and by-ear player like me.

BUT ... it's not a mature product. They made incredible mistakes. The barrels are WAY too long, and the bell is equally WAY too short. It has serious keywork and ergonomic issues*, and about 8 holes to retune (worse than the C clarinet). It's been a major hacking project, but I got it working with a few days of serious shop work. I suspect it will be improved over the next couple years, as the C was. Simply said, they are dumping their bad prototypes on eBay.

However, having replaced with barrel with a normal Bb, one and extended the bell with electrical tape and gotten lucky with a mouthpiece, I have myself a fine instrument! The tone is gorgeous, but ONLY with one particular Chinese mouthpiece. Any of my favorite MPs or any others I tried are either resistant or just sound mediocre. I still have more to learn. If there is interest in this, I will continue reporting on another subject thread. But as of this morning, I can PLAY it, and I'm thrilled!

*  Ergonomic issues not bad if you are about 6 1/2 feet tall and have extra-large hands. I am 5'8" tall, size-L hands, and I had to do lots of metal trimming and epoxy work, especially on the bottom R-hand keys. It looks like bad Mexican dental work.  But it plays and sounds wonderful!

If you manufactured these, how would you alter the keywork to make it more ergonimic? I'm 5'6" with tiny hands and have a really difficult time playing contra alto, but there's really nothing to be done about it - the tone holes are simply too far apart.
Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on March 16, 2019, 09:19:18 PM
Yes, I will start a new topic by repeating some if this info.

More "playable" than the alto clarinet? No, it's a different animal entirely. My Vito alto sounds a lot closer to a bass cl. And, it fits my hands very well and takes an alto sax reed. This G horn sounds much closer to a Bb or A. It takes a standard Bb mouthpiece. But surprisingly, the bore is small, relative to typical Bb cl. That gives it tonal character all its own. And, the problem of matching a MP to its "energy" i.e. impedence. I think the small bore indicates German design and the Germans do produce many of the Albert system G clarinets. It's fair to assume the maker uses the same body for this as they do for the Albert they make.

Dave, with hands smaller than men's glove-size Large, I would not recommend this horn. It could be re-designed with some plateau keys I suppose, but it's only popular for Turkish/Greek music and they are focused on Albert system. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the designer and maker to make THIS design better.

Title: Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
Post by: windydankoff on March 16, 2019, 10:34:37 PM
Back to the Alto ... a new video showed up:
Who's Afraid of the Alto Clarinet?
A live recording from the 2019 Clarinet Colloquium at Texas A&M University
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxsSJcty4MM