Bass clarinet

The bass clarinet is a woodwind instrument, the bass of the clarinet family. When transposing musical instrument it sounds lower than written in deep -B, which is a major ninth. The contrabass clarinet is still an octave lower, the Subkontrabassklarinette is the deepest instrument of clarinet genus. In some older works (eg Wagner and Maurice Ravel ), a bass clarinet in A is required. Since instruments are not built in this mood today, the clarinetist must transpose the voice. Apart from the normal notation in the treble clef is often used in French works, also the bass clef in which an octave lower, so a whole tone is listed on the sounding tone.


The bass clarinet is made of African Blackwood ( simpler versions also made ​​of plastic) in the rule. It consists of a mouthpiece, a two-part crook, a top and a bottom piece and a bell. The bell is usually made of metal, but there are now also bell made ​​of wood, which has a positive effect on the sound and resonance of the instrument. The bass clarinet is usually played sitting down. However, it has, like a saxophone, also has a attached to the connection between the upper and lower piece eyelet to which a strap can be mounted (eg for use in a marching band or for soloists who want to play a concert in the standing position). To adjust the bass clarinet, the body size of the playing while seated musician, it is equipped with a cello -like, adjustable stinger. Rarely do we see instruments with coiled tube that resemble bassoons. Some manufacturers use this variant especially for contrabass clarinets. Instruments such as the clarinet all, it has a scale, and a cylindrical nozzle with a single reed.

Unlike the B -flat clarinet that ( sounding D) has the small E in the bass, most bass clarinets can play until the big C ( the melodic counterpoint -B) today. The upper limit of the tonal range depends, as with all wind instruments, from the craftsmanship of the blower and the mouthpiece or leaf used.

Even more than in the Bb clarinet has in the bass clarinet, the Boehm system can enforce, not least because bass clarinets are much more expensive with Müller system due to the very limited international demand. In addition, the supply of reeds with a German interface is very low.


The exact origin of the bass clarinet is uncertain. It may have been developed in 1772 by G. Lott in Paris or 1793 by Heinrich Grenser. Prior to the curved basset horn was the deep instrument of the clarinet family. The Belgian musical instrument maker Adolphe Sax led to the beginning of the 19th century, the instrument straight form that exists today.

Use in the music

Bass clarinets are often used to expand the sound in smaller ensembles, also you can find them after 1850 often in the symphony orchestra, where they mostly run on the Bass function. In jazz, the instrument is often used.

In the orchestra

In the orchestra, the bass clarinet is mostly played by the second or third clarinetist as a second instrument, large orchestras but sometimes pure bass clarinetist.

The most famous bass clarinet solo in the classic is probably the Dance of the Sugar from Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, where are the low notes a contrast to the glittering heights of the celesta. More solo passages can in some Wagner operas (especially in Tristan and Die Walküre ) and in the Rhapsodie Espagnole by Maurice Ravel hear. An important role is played by the bass clarinet in the symphonic poems of Richard Strauss ( eg, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks ) and in virtually all orchestral compositions by Gustav Mahler.

Furthermore, the bass clarinet in nearly all symphonic wind band is busy. Here it is impossible to imagine the contemporary literature. Frequently their mysterious sound is used in soft passages in the form of long, sustained notes. Unlike, for example, on the bassoon, it is on the bass clarinet much easier possible, soft and quiet to use on a low note. The octave - free overtone of the clarinet does the rest, to sound a mysterious, distant sound.

Furthermore, their high mobility used to the low position of the composer.

In chamber music

Especially in the new music, the bass clarinet is sometimes used in small ensembles. The most common use they probably found in Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. Furthermore, the bass clarinet always busy as the bass instrument in the clarinet quartet. However, in some arrangements it can also optionally be replaced by a B -flat clarinet. Also available in larger clarinet ensembles or choirs clarinet bass clarinet and partly also the contrabass clarinet is an important part of the ensemble. In -built for this ensemble arrangements of orchestral works, it serves as a substitute for the lower strings or wind instruments.

As a solo instrument

For the bass clarinet a variety of solo pieces was (some with piano accompaniment) composed especially in the last century. These are often very virtuosic and extremely difficult. A piece for bass clarinet solo with the title Shadow sounds composed Mauricio Kagel 1995. Additional compositions for example by Elliott Carter ( Steep Steps, 2001), Dietrich Erdmann ( monologue, 1984), Othmar Schoeck ( Sonata for Bass Clarinet and Piano, Op 41, 1931), Olga Neuwirth ( Spleen, 1994), Shigeru Kan -no ( Otnacca, 1999), Iris ter Schiphorst (Hi Bill, 2005), Léonid Karev ( Manteau noir, 2007). Anders Eliasson integrated into its one-movement, created in 1996 and first performed in 2004 by Bo Pettersson, Concerto for bass clarinet and orchestra, the solo instrument in the symphonic worked through action.

In Jazz

1926 Omer Simeon played the first jazz bass clarinet solo in jazz history in the number Someday Sweethart of Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers. At the beginning of the 1930s, Harry Carney played in Duke Ellington's music occasionally bass clarinet. The first important soloist but the instrument was Eric Dolphy, who established it as a serious jazz instrument. Since then, the bass clarinet is often used, but rarely musicians specialize (such as Michel Pilz, Rudi Mahall or Thomas Savy ) exclusively on the instrument, often it is played as a side instrument of saxophonists. In the jazz version of Layla, Eric Clapton played 1997 on some jazz festivals, Marcus Miller is heard on bass clarinet.