I am making a proposal to my superintendent and business manager to get a significant amount of money to overhaul the district instrument inventory, and one of the areas I want to make an addition is a contra clarinet. I know very little about those instruments, so I would love to know if I should get a contra-alto or a contra-bass and why. Can someone with some expertise shed some light for a percussionist?
Had an all stater a couple of years ago on contra-Alto, kids compete for the same spot on Eb and Bb. ALL of the kids there (that made the all state band) were playing Eb contra alto. (My kid got 1st chair)
Get an Eb, It sounds better. Donít waste money on a plastic instrument, do it right and get a selmer 40 or 41.
Now, to the people who are saying itís not much lower than a bass, thatís only true if you already have Low C bass clarinets, which most people donít. A standard bass plays to low Eb.
I love low reeds and would have both instruments in my top ensemble if I could afford it.
I'm a clarinet player. Buy a contra-bass clarinet instead of the contra-alto. It has a deeper, richer tone, better intonation and it will blend far better with your woodwind choir and even your low brass. Shoot, I was even able to use it as tuba substitute once, and it was hard to hear a difference.
Re: Contra clarinets
Posted by Stoopid Trumpet Player on 3/10/2023, 8:14 am, in reply to "Contra clarinets"
The contra alto clarinet is one of my favorite instuments in an ensemble. Absolutely rich, gorgeous lows. Like th other poster said, make it a priority!
Re: Contra clarinets
Posted by Low Clarinet Guy on 3/10/2023, 8:02 am, in reply to "Contra clarinets"
I'll give a general idea of what both can do and what is worth it vs. not.
Contra-alto Clarinet. It's Keyed in Eb, which puts it only a 4th lower than a bass clarinet. They'll run you a bit cheaper than a Bb contrabass clarinet, and there are more models available from different manufatuers. Depending on your budget, you'll either have a composite plastic one, or a wood one. Unless you have a TON of budget, I would get a composite one as they are significantly cheaper and way easier to maintain.
The advantage to contra-alto is that you can hand them a tuba part untransposed and they can basically just read it. (You need to add 3 sharps/ take away 3 flats from the key signature, but besides that it'll work). It's flexibility in covering parts is its biggest advantage.
The disadvantage is that it doesn't really go much lower than a bass clarinet. Nice bass clarinets can already play down to a Bb 3 spaces below bass cleff, and a Eb, contra-alto clarinet only goes to a Gb below that.
Bb Contrasbass: Keyed in Bb, basically a Bass Bass Clarinet. Just like contra-alto, they come in 2 models, a composite one and a wood one. For school use, I would almost always get the composite one, as it's easier to maintain and you won't have to worry about cracking. The keywork is likely to be simplier, mostly in the the right hand side keys, but for the parts it'll play it will do.
The disadvantage is that there is less felxibilty in parts. For band pieces, you are more likely to see Eb contra-parts, and unless there is a dedicated Bb contra part, they are just gonna be doubling the bass clarinet part.
What you get will depend on what you plan on using it for. Are you trying get a low woodwind to help reinforce or cover a weak low brass? Or do you need that extra full octave that a Bb contra provides.
I think they both have their uses/purposes. Bb Contra is nice because you can give them the bass clarinet part (since there is limited actual contra music much of the time) and they'll play an octave lower and a a nice resonance. It's a lower clarinet than the Eb, so it is 'bassier.'
The Eb contra is also going to add bottom, but can read bari sax parts or transpose tuba parts into treble clef. That can have its own advantages there to make it easier to cover missing tuba skills.
We have 2 old contra-altos, but no Bbs at my school. I think if I was going to purchase I would do Bbs myself. They're so pricey though that I don't see us making that purchase anytime soon for our program!
Re: Contra clarinets
Posted by Can't live without on 3/9/2023, 10:14 pm, in reply to "Contra clarinets"
Contra clarinet could be your cherry on top. Fill out the rest first imo