1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pedal Clarinet
PEDAL CLARINET, a contrabass instrument invented in 1891 by M. F. Besson to complete the quartet of clarinets, as the contrafagotto or double bassoon completes that of the oboe family; it is constructed on practically the same principles as the clarinet, and consists of a tube 10 ft. long, in which cylindrical and conical bores are so ingeniously combined that the acoustic principles remain unchanged. The tube is doubled up twice upon itself; at the upper end the beak mouthpiece stands out like the head of a viper, while at the lower a metal tube, in the shape of a U with a wide gloxinea-shaped bell, is joined to the wooden tube. The beak mouthpiece is exactly like that of the other clarinets but of larger size, and it is furnished with a single or beating reed. There are 13 keys and 2 rings on the tube, and the fingering is the same as for the B flat clarinet except for the eight highest semitones. The compass of the pedal clarinet is as follows: —
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The instrument is in B flat two octaves below the B flat clarinet, and, like it, it is a transposing instrument, the music being written in a key a tone higher than that of the composition, and in order to avoid ledger lines a whole octave higher besides. The tone is rich and full except for the lowest notes, which are unavoidably a little rough in quality, but much more sonorous than the corresponding notes on the double bassoon. The upper register resembles the chalumeau register of the B flat clarinet, being reedy and sweet. The instrument is used as a fundamental bass for the wood wind at Kneller Hall, and it has also been used at Covent Garden to accompany the music of Fafner and Hunding in the Nibelungen Ring.
Many attempts have been made since the beginning of the 19th century to construct contra clarinets, but all possessed inherent faults and have been discarded (see Batyphone). A contrabass clarinet in F, an octave below the basset horn, constructed by Albert of Brussels in 1890, was, we believe, considered successful, but it differed in design from the pedal clarinet.