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The written ranges of clarinet and bass clarinet are shown in Wikipedia as following:

clarinet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarinet#/media/File:Clarinet_range.svg

bass clarinet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bass_clarinet#/media/File:BassClarinetRange-Written.png

If I were to decide on writing for both in the same range, would it be safe to write for both in the range e3 (midi number 52) up to c7 (midi number 96)? By that I only mean the written ranges, the final sound of the bass clarinet will naturally sound an octave lower.

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3 Answers 3

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Not quite. According to the linked Wikipedia pages, both instruments can be written in the range E3 – G6. C7 can also be written for both instruments. However, bass clarinet skips A6 and B6.

Note, however, that the altissimo range of the bass clarinet, does allow for an additional octave. See, for example,

"Altissimo register fingerings for the bass clarinet" by y Thomas Aber and Terje Lerstad

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The bass clarinet does sound an octave lower than the clarinet, but it uses the same fingering and thus offers pretty much the same basic range. The bass clarinet usually has additional keys to get even more notes on the low end. Generally a woodwind instrument has a standard range and an extended range, which can go as far as technique allows (which we’d call altissimo range). The standard range is quite easy to play, but altissimo range will start to require special fingerings and a good setup and technique. This also means that not all changes between altissimo fingerings are easy to do. But generally with woodwind instruments the lower pitched instruments are nice to overblow and and offer a wide range. This means that although the altissimo on bass clarinet has been ignored for a long time it does offer a very nice altissimo range.

For clarinet we have different registers:

  • The chalumeau register from written E3 to Bb4 (on BC the lower note goes lower)
  • The clarin register from B4 to C6
  • The altissimo register from C#6 to (?), with fingering charts existing up to A7 (for bass clarinet even up to C8)

But these altissimo notes can be hard to play, can be limited in their tone or dynamics, they can be problematic wrt. intonation. Thus you should use them only if you know exactly why you are using them

Also keep in mind that these instruments sound very different in these different ranges. A part played by a soprano in chalumeau can also be played by a bass in clarin, but will have a totally different color.

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  • The notes from C#6 up to about G6 are not hard to play
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 15:39
  • @PiedPiper Yes, lower altissimo is quite standard, they play well and they extend the upper clarino register quite well.
    – Lazy
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 15:46
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If you want them in unison then you can write in the range E3 to G5 as written for the soprano clarinet (E5 would be safer).
If you want them sounding in octaves then you have the written range E3 to G6 available (E6 would be safer).

Don't write either instrument higher than G6 unless it's a solo part part to be played by a very competent player.

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