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Thread: Concerning the Rarity of Contrabass Woodwind Instruments

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    Default Concerning the Rarity of Contrabass Woodwind Instruments

    Why is it that the contrabass instruments of some families seem to be somewhat rare, and would it be worth the time and money investments to learn them?

    Ever since I first started playing music 12 years ago, the bassier side of the art has always fascinated me. I've always been perfectly happy filling out the low end of any music ensemble in which I partook--bass guitar, double bass, bass voice, and even bass drum in marching band. I'm at a stage in life where I'd like to begin exploring other instrument families (primarily brass and woodwind) to expand my repertoire and appreciation of music, but I'd like to continue my specialization in the contrabass range if at all possible. However, in both my personal orchestral experiences and in watching performances on YouTube, I've noticed that the contrabass instruments of the woodwind family don't appear to be in very many orchestras. This strikes me as curious, given that the contrabass members of the string and brass families are a standard feature, even in small ensembles. Why is it, for example, that you almost always see double basses alongside the cellos, and tubas alongside the trombones, but not always contrabassoons alongside the bassoons? Is it an issue of finance or repertoire (i.e., are the instruments disproportionately expensive to purchase and maintain, or have composers historically neglected these instruments)? If the latter is the case, would you suggest that I play bass woodwinds (e.g., bassoon, bass clarinet, bari sax), rather than their contrabass counterparts, just for the sake of being able to participate more in local ensembles, or would the investment in contrabass still be worth it? Would it be entirely unorthodox, for example, for me to suggest to my conductor that I simply double the bass parts an octave lower?

    Thank you for your insights!

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    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
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    Money does play a part, no doubt. Yes learn bassoon if you want to have a chance at playing in an amateur orchestra. Learn bass clarinet if you want to play in a community concert band. There will be more competition for sax players that already own a bari sax.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

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