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Bass clarinet

The bass clarinet is a musical instrument of the clarinet family. Like other clarinets, it is usually pitched in B flat (meaning it is a transposing instrument where a written C sounds as B flat), and plays notes an octave below the "normal" soprano clarinet and an octave above the contrabass clarinet.

The instrument is heavy and has a floor stand attached to its body. Some models have folded bodies, making them look similar to bassoons, while others are straight-bodied with a small upturned bell. While sometimes mistaken for a large saxophone, the bass clarinet has a bore which is basically the same diameter along the body of the instrument. This cylindrical bore gives it the clarinet's dark tone and low pitch.

Table of contents
1 Uses
2 Invention
3 Musical compositions using bass clarinet
4 Selected references
5 External links


Bass clarinets are used to boost the overall sound in small ensembles. They are also used in symphony orchestras.


The origin of the bass clarinet is uncertain. It may have been invented by G. Lott in Paris in 1772, or by Heinrich Grenser in 1793. Adolphe Sax, a Belgian manufacturer of musical instruments, first designed the straight-bodied form of the bass clarinet in the early 19th century.

Musical compositions using bass clarinet

The most familiar piece in classical music using the bass clarinet is probably "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker, in which its low tones contrast with the tinkling higher pitches of the celesta. Other pieces featuring this instrument include:

Karlheinz Stockhausen's In Freundschaft (1977) can also be played on the bass clarinet (among other instruments).

While the bass clarinet is seldom heard in jazz compositions, a bass clarinet solo by Omer Simeon can be heard in the 1926 recording "Someday Sweetheart" by Jelly Roll Morton & His Red Hot Peppers.

Selected references

External links