The Bass Clarinets

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Most modern bass clarinets are straight-bodied, with a small upturned silver-colored metal bell and a curved metal neck. Early examples varied in shape, some having a doubled body making them look similar to bassoons. The bass clarinet is fairly heavy and is supported either with a neck strap or with an adjustable peg attached to its body. Bass clarinet bodies are most often made of grenadilla or African Blackwood, or (more commonly for student instruments) plastic resin. All-metal bass clarinets do exist, but are rare. More significantly, all clarinets including the bass have a bore which is basically the same diameter along the body of the instrument. This cylindrical bore gives the clarinet its dark tone and low pitch; it also causes a clarinet to overblow at the twelfth compared with the saxophone's octave.

Modern bass clarinets, like other clarinets in the family, have the Boehm system of keys and fingering, which means that this clarinet has virtually identical fingering to the others. However most bass clarinets have extra keys allowing them to play below (written) E, and a key pad played by the left-hand index finger with a vent that may be uncovered for certain high notes.