Subcontrabassoon Design Explorer

Subcontrabassoon

  • one octave lower than contrabassoon
  • sounding two octaves lower than written, or written with 15mb clefs
  • basic contrabassoon fingering system
  • low range: A −1 (13.75 Hz)
  • high range: at least F2, ideally C3
  • overall height: 193 cm (6′ 4″) (not including adjustable endpin)
  • estimated weight of maple version: 17 kg (38 lbs)
  • estimated weight of delrin prototype: 26 kg (57 lbs)
  • bocal and keywork at approximately same height as on contrabassoon

Frame Assembly

Support Column

  • bolted to top and bottom frames
  • relives body joint tenons from entire burden of securing instrument together
  • constructed of aluminum tubing for reduced weight

Top Frame

  • tenon connections for tube, wing, upper boot, lower boot, and bass sections
  • stud connections for small and boot bends
  • stud connection for half of bell bend
  • bolted to bottom frame via support column

Bottom Frame

  • tenon connections for wing, upper boot, lower boot, and bass sections
  • stud connections for wing and bass bends
  • bolted to top frame via support column
  • threaded receiver and thumb set screw for adjustable endpin

Endpin

  • adjustable over 22 cm (8.5″), similar to contrabassoon
  • threaded design for stronger support
  • slightly angled to place endpin under center of gravity

Reed

  • overall length: 85 mm
  • blade length: 43 mm
  • tip width: 27 mm
  • made from 32–34 mm tube cane gouged to 1.65 mm
  • (all dimensions subject to experimentation)

Bocal

#2 length (A440)

  • slightly longer than contrabassoon bocal
  • 5.2 mm (0.205″) inner diameter at reed end
  • (due to the narrower taper and shorter length relative to the instrument, the large end is actually very slightly smaller that of a contrabassoon bocal)

Cables

  • bowden cables (as in bicycle derailluer cables) replace keywork linkages that would be extremely cumbersome—and prone to adjustment challenges—with traditional keywork
  • low F, low E♭, low C♯, low B♭, and low A keys
  • traditional keywork or alternative solutions possible, if bowden cables prove to create more problems than they solve

Tube Section

descending tube, tuning slide, and ascending tube

  • bocal receiver
  • octave key keywork
  • descending tube and ascending tube constructed in four pieces, then soldered together permanently
  • (this section alone is roughly the same length as an entire bassoon!)

Wing Section

first, second, and third joints

  • corresponds acoustically to the lower two-thirds of the bassoon’s wing joint
  • all lefthand keytouches with the exception of octave keys
  • toneholes for C♯1 through F1 (and possibly F♯1)
  • automatic “half-hole” harmonic vent

Upper Boot Section

fourth, fifth, and sixth joints

  • roughly corresponds acoustically to the descending half of the bassoon’s boot joint
  • all righthand keytouches
  • toneholes for A♭0 through C1

Lower Boot Section

seventh, eighth, and ninth joints

  • roughly corresponds acoustically to the ascending half of the bassoon’s boot joint
  • toneholes for F♯0, F0, and E0

Bass Section

tenth, eleventh, and twelfth joints

  • roughly corresponds acoustically to the middle part of the bassoon’s bass/long joint
  • toneholes for D0, C♯0, and C0

Bell Section

thirteenth, fourteenth, and bell joints

  • roughly corresponds acoustically to bassoon’s bell joint (plus low A extension)
  • toneholes for B−1 and B♭−1
  • metal bell for reduced weight
  • can be removed separately (along with bell bend) for easier transport and storage

Tuning Slide

  • slide length roughly twice of contrabassoon, to allow for similar pitch adjustment
  • water hole and key

Small Bend

  • alternate construction of metal possible

Wing Bend

Boot Bend

  • tonehole for G0
  • bowden cable connector for low F key

Bass Bend

  • tonehole for E♭0
  • bowden cable connector for low E♭key

Bell Bend

  • tenon connection for bell section
  • can be removed separately (along with bell section) for easier transport and storage

???? Joint

first joint / first joint of wing section

  • tonehole for F1, closed by either LH1 or LH2
  • tonehole for F♯1 (if e/f♯ trill key included)
  • “half-hole” harmonic vent, positioned to produce the second harmonic above F♯1 through A♭1, resulting in F♯2 through A♭2
  • “half-hole” vent hopefully also produces the third harmonic above B1 and C2, resulting in F♯2 and G2)
  • automatic mechanism to open “half-hole” vent whenever LH2 is depressed but LH1 is not

???? Joint

second joint / second joint of wing section

  • toneholes for E♭1 and E1
  • left finger keytouches for LH1, e/f♯ trill key (possibly), LH2, E♭, and LH3
  • left pinky keytouches for low E♭, low C♯, and low A
  • left thumb keytouches for C♯, low D, low C, low B, and low B♭
  • bowden cable connectors for low E♭, low D, low B♭, and low A keys
  • (left handrest shown, but will be either redesigned or removed)

???? Joint

third joint / third joint of wing section

  • toneholes for C♯1 and D1

???? Joint

fourth joint / first joint of upper boot section

  • toneholes for B0 and C1
  • right finger keytouches for RH1, RH2, and RH3
  • right pinky keytouches for low F and A♭
  • right thumb keytouches for B♭, low E, and F♯
  • possible third harmonic key (above B♭ key)
  • low F / F♯ linkage
  • bowden cable connector for low F key
  • right handrest

???? Joint

fifth joint / second joint of upper boot section

  • toneholes for A0 and B♭0

???? Joint

sixth joint / third joint of upper boot section

  • tonehole for A♭0

???? Joint

seventh joint / first joint of lower boot section

  • tonehole for F♯0
  • support for adjacent bell section

???? Joint

eighth joint / second joint of lower boot section

  • tonehole for F0
  • support for adjacent bell section

???? Joint

ninth joint / third joint of lower boot section

  • tonehole for E0
  • bowden cable connector for low D key

???? Joint

tenth joint / first joint of bass section

  • tonehole for D0

???? Joint

eleventh joint / second joint of bass section

  • tonehole for C♯0

???? Joint

twlefth joint / third joint of bass section

  • tonehole for C0

???? Joint

thirteenth joint / first joint of bell section

  • tonehole for B−1
  • bowden cable connector for low B♭ key
  • supported by adjacent lower boot section

???? Joint

fourteenth joint / second joint of bell section

  • tonehole for B♭−1
  • bowden cable connector for low A key
  • supported by adjacent lower boot section

Bell

  • modified large-bore low B♭ baritone saxophone bell
  • plastic or wood construction also possible, if suitable saxophone bell cannot be found (see Miscellaneous>Bonus: Alt. Bells for more information)

Descending Tube

  • bocal receiver
  • tuning slide inner receiver
  • lower octave key touch
  • upper octave key touch and alternate touch
  • possible third harmonic vent, positioned to produce the third harmonics of C♯1 through F1, hopefully resulting in G♯2 through C3

First Ascending Tube

  • tuning slide inner receiver
  • two coupled upper octave vents, positioned to produce the second harmonics of D1 through F1, resulting in D2 through F2

Second Ascending Tube

  • one of two coupled lower octave vents, positioned to produce the second harmonics of A0 through C♯1, resulting in A1 through C♯2

Third Ascending Tube

  • one of two coupled lower octave vents, positioned to produce the second harmonics of A0 through C♯1, resulting in A1 through C♯2

Low A, Bassoon-Style Bell

This design may very well end up being used for the prototype due to the ease of manufacturing. It would, however, be heavier than a metal bell.

Low A, All-Metal Bell

This design reduces the weight of the bell section even further by replacing the thick-walled portions of the bell bend and bell section with thin-walled metal. It would, however, be much more difficult to manufacture.

Low A, Tall-Wrap Bell

This design reduces the width of the instrument by 13 cm (5″), but adds 83 cm (32″) of height. At a total height of 276 cm (9′ 1″), quite impractical.

Low A, Tight-Wrap Bell

Only slightly more reasonable than style 4, this design adds an extra bend to coil the bell section more tightly. The overall height would be 261 cm (8′ 7″)

Low A, Straight Bell

Not even remotely realistic, but cool-looking nonetheless. At 3.75 m (12′ 4″) tall, even your octobassist friends will be jealous.

Low A, Helix Bell

Move along... nothing to see here.

Low B♭, Contrabassoon-Style Bell

The low B♭ version of the standard subcontrabassoon.

Low B♭, Bassoon-Style Bell

The low B♭ version of low A style 2.

Low B♭, All-Metal Bell

The low B♭ version of low A style 3.

Low B♭, Tall-Wrap Bell

This is the only low B♭ design that makes sense to me. It trades a significant reduction in width for a significant (but not entirely absurd) increase in height. The overall height would be 240 cm (7′ 10″).

Low B♭, Straight Bell

305 cm (10′ 0″) tall; enough to be impractical, but not enough to be impressively ridiculous. Barely worth the pixels.

Low C, Bassoon-Style Bell

At only 48 mm (1 ⅞″) long, this tiny bell would only lower the pitch by 2–5¢. Cute, but probably unnecessary.

(In this view, the tenth joint has been altered to remove the C0 tonehole entirely. A more practical solution would be to have a latch to close the pad covering this tonehole.)

Low C, Flared Metal Bell

This is a logical extension of the other metal bells. However, because of the bell’s shortness, the flare looks rather silly. Oh well.

Γ

One of my favorite bits of trivia is that the word gamut originated in medieval music theory as a contraction of gamma ut, the lowest note (G2) of the musical scale at the time. Because of this, I’ve occasionally battled the temptation to extend the range of the subcontrabassoon down a whole step to G −1 (≈12.25 Hz), thus returning the once-mighty gamma to its place of supremacy.

—Is this a good idea?   No.

—Am I actually going to do it?   Absolutely not.

—How would I grow the third thumb necessary to play it?   Не знаю.

But it sure is fun to look at, isn't it?

(229 cm (7′ 6″), if you’re perversely curious)

Bell Alternates

As the low B and B♭ keywork is operated by bowden cables (rather than direct linkage), the bell section and bell bend could be modified without changing the rest of the design. (Though, changing the overall length of the instrument will certainly introduce intonation and timbre changes, especially in the lower range.)

Some of these alternate bell designs are practical and under serious consideration. Some would be interesting but difficult to manufacture. Others are patently ridiculous and just made me chuckle.

Low A

From the beginning of the project, I designed the subcontrabassoon with the intention of having low A as its bottom note. As more and more contrabassoons (and contrafortes) are built to low A, I didn't want the subcontrabassoon to be “left behind”.

Low B♭

Personally, I don’t see much reason to consider low B♭ bells. If A −1 is musically unsatisfactory, B♭−1 and B−1 are not likely to be much better.

Additionally, as the subcontrabassoon was designed with low A in mind, most low B♭ designs offer no significant reduction in bulk over the low A designs.

Low C

Unlike low B♭, there are real benefits to low C bells. The entire bell bend and bell sections can be dispensed with; reducing the overall height to 182 cm (6′ 0″) and reducing the weight by roughly 5 kg (10 lb).

 

Sorry; there seems to be a bug in my code and I can’t seem to get rid of this last folder. Don’t worry and go about your business, there's certainly nothing secret in here…

 

Yeah… very stubborn bug…

 

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Copyright 2018 - Richard S. Bobo

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