The bass clarinet is approximately 40 inches. It has keys of nearly 20 inches in length. Bass clarinets vary in size and model due to the number of keys they have and the materials used to make them respectively.
As a clarinet player, one thing that drew me to the instrument was its versatility. Once you start learning to play the clarinet, you are not confined to the type you began with, there is always room for growth and it offers a bit of a challenge luckily I can be fueled by a challenge and quest for knowledge. Currently, I am learning how to play the bass clarinet and it’s a big step from the B flat clarinet, not just in size but also in the sound and range. People who don’t know of its existence often mistake it for a saxophone and I can’t quite blame them since the shape is quite similar. People are also quite surprised when they hear its sound. Despite the instrument being quite large, the sound is soft and full which is very pleasing to the ear. Now that I’ve talked a bit about my love for the instrument, let’s go through some more information on it starting with why they come in different sizes.
Why are there so many sizes of clarinet?
Clarinets come in different sizes and each size is meant to produce a different range of sound. The clarinets can be distinguished not just by their sounds but also have their respective names such as the Soprano clarinet, Eb clarinet, Piccolo clarinet, and the Bass clarinet. Larger clarinet such as the bass clarinet tends to have more keys making them more versatile. Players choose their preferred clarinet size based on preference and where they want to play the instrument. A player who wants to play in a marching band might opt for a different size than the one who wants to play in an orchestra.
Sizes and Models of the bass clarinet
When it comes to the various models and sizes of the bass clarinet, the biggest distinguishing factor among them is the bass line. Some bass clarinets go to the low C making them slightly longer. This type is mostly used in symphonic orchestras. On the other hand, some bass clarinets have a slightly shorter bass line which goes to the E flat. If you compare the two mentioned bass clarinets, the first one has three extra notes which are the D, D-flat, and C. For younger players, they should go for bass clarinets that go up to E flat since they are easier to blow.
When it comes to the various bass clarinet models, the players select them based on price, use, and preference. Professional players will opt for a wooden clarinet. Cheaper versions made from resin can also be found, and these are advisable for beginners since they are easier to blow.
Effects of the bass clarinet sizes
The size of clarinets, in this case, the bass clarinet can have several effects on various aspects of the whole clarinet playing experience. The bass clarinet is considerably larger than other clarinets so let’s look at some of the effects.
Sound and range
This is undoubtedly one of the most common and noticeable effects of the size of the bass clarinet. As we established earlier, the bass clarinet is bigger than other clarinets such as the B flat clarinet thanks to the four additional keys. The bigger the clarinet the more versatile it is.
Ease of learning
Although learning the clarinet fingerings is not difficult, new bass clarinet players might experience some difficulties along the way. Compared to other smaller clarinets, the octaves of the bass clarinet are a bit different. The bass clarinet is also quite big therefore it requires more breath support which makes it a bit harder to learn.
Ability to play while self-taught
Many people believe that the bigger the clarinet, the harder it is to teach yourself how to play it. While it’s true that it might take some time to fully teach yourself how to play the bass clarinet, it is very possible. With a few pointers from your teacher on the correct embouchure and posture, you will be able to play. Beginners should learn the proper embouchure habits from the start since breaking improper embouchure habits later can be quite difficult.
Cost of lessons
As far as the cost of lessons goes, regardless of the size of the clarinet, all lessons cost the same. Although most teachers advise their students to begin with the B flat clarinet, they will still take you in if you want to start with the bass clarinet.
The bass clarinet is big, weighing 30 to 50 pounds therefore it’s not the most portable instrument. It can be tiresome to travel with it and the player needs to use a special carrying strap that is worn around the chest and shoulders for support and stability. This is one reason the bass clarinet can be difficult for younger players.
Bass clarinet and B flat clarinet comparison
Because most players start with the regular-sized clarinet, let’s look at how their size differences affect the various aspects mentioned above:
|Difference||Bass clarinet||B-flat clarinet|
||40 inches||26 inches|
||Bb1 to Bb5||D3 to Bb6|
||Requires more breath support||Requires moderate breath support|
||Not easily portable||Easily portable|
I’m still learning how to play the bass clarinet and so far the process has been so fulfilling. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get it right from the start. Remember that it is a bit different from the regular B flat clarinet so it just needs some more practice. Choose the size that you want and begin the journey. You will enjoy its versatility!
Are there different sizes of clarinets?
Yes, clarinets come in different sizes.
How long will it take to learn how to play the bass clarinet?
With regular practice, you can learn how to play within two years.