Northern Sounds: the home of sampling enthusiasts. Hello there.
The contrabass bassoon is almost totally unusable as an instrumental colour in sampled orchestrations (you have to admit it). However, you can hear the contrabass clarinet "move" in the air, thus the CBC adds life!
Will someone for gods-sake sample this mother properly before I die! And I mean all the way to the bottom octave.
I've been a strong advocate of the contrabass clarinet for years. In my opinion, it's far more versatile and useful than the contrabassoon. It can blend with virtually anything, strings, winds, brass... hell, even timpani. With a decent model it's the most agile bass instrument I've heard, excepting the electric bass, of course.
Honestly, like another post on this thread points out, they are rather easy to play and many clarinettists can double on it with a bit of practice, although I've seen a couple really weird ones with highly modified fingering that require a whole new technique... the bottom line is that I include contrabass clarinet in every large score and I don't know what I'd do without it.
Ideally we would have contra range clarinets AND bassoons...
In it's defense, contrabassoons are actually much more agile than orchestration books claim, and they CAN play somewhat softly, but only with expensive instruments and expert players... since good contrabassons/players are in short supply, it gets an unfair shake. It's staccato is hard to beat...
I agree. I recently picked up a contra alto clarinet to add to my collection, and it's lots of fun. Eventually, I would like to acquire a contra bass clarinet, too. The contra bass only goes down another 2 1/2 steps lower than the contra alto. The contra alto goes 7 semi-tones lower than the bass clarinet.
There is also a sub-contrabass clarinet (or whatever you would call it...) that you don't see often. I knew a guy who had one that was literally a contrabass with "added" lower extensions, so it retained it's playability, but the extended tones were mostly only good for slow-moving parts. I've also seen photos online somewhere of a real monster, a C.C.bass, some mutant beast that apparently goes a fair bit lower than a piano.
Incidentally, that guy could do a killer digirido imitation, with any bass range clarinet, but it sounded especially menacing with the contrabass.
We have sampled a few contrabass clarinets for GPO Advanced. In addition to the Eb Contrabass (or contra alto), we also have sampled the Bb contrabass clarinet. Beautiful instruments. There will be some other lower range surprises.