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Author Topic: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?  (Read 6869 times)

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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But how many composers do you know have ever composed anything in G.....
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline windydankoff

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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 bell is 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 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. They look like a drug dealer's front teeth.  But it plays and sounds wonderful!
« Last Edit: January 11, 2021, 12:10:26 AM by windydankoff »
Windy at BLACK • HOLE Clarinets
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http://www.windydankoff.com/black-hole-clarinets.html

Offline Airflyte

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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.
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Offline DaveLeBlanc

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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.
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline windydankoff

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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.

Windy at BLACK • HOLE Clarinets
"User-Friendly" clarinets in Bb and C
http://www.windydankoff.com/black-hole-clarinets.html

Offline windydankoff

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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
Windy at BLACK • HOLE Clarinets
"User-Friendly" clarinets in Bb and C
http://www.windydankoff.com/black-hole-clarinets.html

Offline windydankoff

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Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
« Reply #51 on: February 26, 2021, 10:14:29 AM »
Here's new video on the topic that really breaks it down!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2OJ8eTCPZ4
Windy at BLACK • HOLE Clarinets
"User-Friendly" clarinets in Bb and C
http://www.windydankoff.com/black-hole-clarinets.html

Offline DaveLeBlanc

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Re: Alto clarinet: the reason for it's lack of favor, or perspective gone awry?
« Reply #52 on: February 26, 2021, 02:12:00 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.
It's very embarassing, but I have to shop for gloves at the local Asian stores; their size Large is US size Xtra Small....
David Watson of the original The Clarinet Pages
Irvine, California, United States

Offline PipeTobacco

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While I would love to play my alto clarinet with the community band I am in..... I do not currently do so and instead play my bass clarinet..... because our community band’s music selection is primarily of old scores of high school level pieces.... and virtually none of them have any alto clarinet parts.... a few have them on the conductor’s score, but it seems a lot of the PARTS for alto clarinet we’re lost (perhaps discarded).  I tried for a bit to use alto sax parts, but they tended to focus a lot on the upper register, and it felt like I wasn’t really able to contribute much because virtually nothing ever seemed to extend beyond (lower than) middle “C” on the horn.... so I sort of felt a bit short changed in terms of where I could best help the group.  Unfortunately, I am not a swift transposer.... so that is not really a great option for me either.

I guess I am just glad my bass clarinet is appreciated.  🙂

PipeTobacco

Offline TMHeimer

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It's too soft.
The Most Advanced Clarinet Book
tomheimer.ampbk.com/
austinmacauley.com/author/heimer-tom
(click on the book image then on PDF for samples)
"Boreal Ballad" for unacc. clarinet solo (advanced)--available at
Sheet Music Plus
YouTube performances - search by title (Nielsen Concerto)