Bass clarinet - Sound Characteristics
Mellow, gentle, soft, dark, velvety, round, substantial, sonorous, forceful, plain, lively, warm, mild, sighing, earthy, somber, shadowy, melancholy, pale, weak, reedy, hollow.
The bass clarinet sounds much softer than the bassoon, especially at piano levels.
Its dynamic spectrum is impressive: as on the clarinet, a ppp can be played, which fades away to nothing. This is why the solo passage for bassoon in the 1st movement of Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony, which asks for a ppppp, is often played by the bass clarinet.
Low register (chalumeau register)
Bb1 – Eb3 sounding
Notes in the chalumeau register sound dark, mellow, sonorous and insistent and are favored particularly for serene and solemn passages. The lowest notes up to A2 have an especially dark and somber timbre.
Middle register (throat register)
E3 – Ab3 sounding
As on the clarinet the middle register lacks overtones. Compared to the other registers the notes sound weak and dull.
Upper register (clarinet register)
A3 – F5 sounding
These bright, powerful, full-sounding and brilliant notes are often used as a middle voice in the orchestra. These pitches correspond to the weak sounding register of the Bb clarinet (E4–Ab4) and can be played with far more brilliance and substance by the bass clarinet.
Highest register (altissimo register)
Gb5 – B5 sounding
The highest notes sound narrow, incisive and penetrating by comparison. They are hardly ever asked for in orchestra literature.