I got a question today about my approach to “sound” on the bass clarinet, and I realized that I never really talked about it before.
The question was: “I’ve heard some clarinetists say that a Bass Clarinet should just sound like a bigger clarinet but then I’ve also heard that you should approach the Bass Clarinet as if it were it’s own voice. What are your thoughts and opinions on this topic?”
Here’s my reply: Good question. The notion of sound is very personal, and as such, you should take my opinion as just that—an opinion. In my view, the bass clarinet can have many different sounds, and any/all of them are as appropriate as any other. But for me, when playing classical music (e.g. orchestral playing), I choose to produce a sound that is very much like a “low” clarinet, such that when the Bass Clarinet moves into the Clarion register, it starts to sound like the Chalumeau of the Bb clarinet.
On the other hand, for jazz, I am much more flexible with my sound, and I’ve been told that it begins to sound more like a saxophone, which is fine by me.
Ultimately, what never changes for me is the way I articulate, the way I breathe, the way I support and the way I voice notes, all of which I have made videos about at one point or another.
Here’s one on tone and support:
And here’s one on articulation: