See new independent reviews for the Ridenour 925c Bass clarinet

 

Below are two excellent and unsolicited independent reviews for the RCP 925c Bass clarinet available to buy in Ridenour Clarinet Products

Review from Pro Broadway musician John Isley originally published in 2013

My Review of the Ridenour Bass Clarinet

June 27, 2016

 

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 Originally published, December 2013:

 In the fall of 2011, I was asked to play the low reed chair on the first national tour of the Tony Award winning Broadway show, Memphis. Since I didn’t own my own bass clarinet at the time, and had been borrowing horns to this point, this posed a problem. As a sub on Broadway, I had the good fortune to use my friend’s Selmer bass clarinet from the early to mid 70’s ­ one of the “holy grail” of bass clarinets ­ and a wonderful, free­blowing instrument with a large and very warm sound. I was also fortunate to be able to borrow and play a new wooden Buffet Prestige low C -­ again a spectacular instrument. 

 

I am a doubler, saxophone being my primary instrument. The idea of spending almost $10,000 on a new Buffet or $7000 on a good used Selmer, and for an instrument that I would consider an occasional double, was just not something I was interested in doing, nor financially prepared to undertake. Add to that fact the reality of traveling a very expensive, and rather fragile piece of wood around the country, from climate to climate on trucks and being handled by road crews that, to be generous really don’t have much patience for or care of transporting your instruments, you have a recipe for heartburn and heartache on a daily basis. 

 

After much reading, research, anecdotal evidence and speaking to other players about their experiences, I decided to give the Ridenour Lyrique low C bass a try. Based on the information I could find, it seemed to be a reasonable combination of quality, playability and price. In short, a good value for the money. I ordered the instrument, and as they were backordered, waited a few weeks for the instrument to arrive. 

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the instrument. Of course I had hoped for it to be a “great” instrument ­ whatever that means in anyone’s personal, non­objective experience. I have always been somewhat leery of Chinese manufactured instruments, as while I have played (and do own) some very fine instruments manufactured there, I have also played many that were absolutely horrible, and virtually unplayable. My fears as regards the bass fortunately were completely unfounded! 

The instrument arrived, packed extremely well, and had obviously been regulated and set up before I received it. On opening it, the first impression I had was of the instrument’s case itself. Very well made, solidly built and sturdy. I immediately pulled it out of the case, greased up the cork joints and put the horn together. Everything was beautifully engineered and fit with no issues. It’s a very well crafted and lovely instrument. 

 

The instrument body is made of a composite hard rubber, which for an instrument that will be travelled extensively is a wonderful thing. No worries about cracks, splits or the usual natural expansion and contraction of wood, dependent upon temperature and humidity. It was always great to know that the horn would fit and play with consistency every time I opened the case. 

 

The keywork is solidly built. One of the biggest concerns I had was whether or not the long­throw keys for the left hand low notes would be strong enough to not bend or warp from continued use. The keywork is solid and firm but with enough flex to feel comfortable under the fingers. One minor complaint I have is that the positioning of these keys under the left pinkie finger is a little awkward for my hand. (I have relatively small hands). The right hand thumb keywork is a bit awkward as well and a little soft in action ­ as the throw is longer to make levering those long keys easier, though with practice, it becomes less of an issue. 

 

The double register key makes the horn very responsive and even throughout the registers and across register changes. This clarinet blows rather freely. Not as freely as some old Selmers I have played and certainly not as freely as my saxophones (it is after all, a clarinet!) but overall I found it to be a great compliment to my other horns as a doubling instrument and switching between horns, to and from the bass, to be quite comfortable. 

 

Probably the most impressive aspect of this clarinet is the sound. The sound is rich, resonant and warm, and is extremely consistent across the range of the horn. I was very pleasantly surprised at the “woodiness”, and by how warm and round it is with a wonderful depth of tonal color. Lots of projection and power without sacrificing tonal depth or expressiveness. I have found the scale to be uniform and the overall pitch of the bass consistent with no real problem areas or individual notes. 

 

I travelled the bass inside its original case, placed inside an Anvil style road case custom fit for the factory case. “Case­in­a­case” style. This was loaded and unloaded by road crews dozens of times, in hot to freezing cold climates and travelled thousands of miles on trucks without climate control. I had absolutely ZERO issues with regulation, sealing, corks, keywork, pads etc. The bass always came out of the case in wonderful shape, and ready to play. This thing is DURABLE! And it travels great. 

 

Finally, after sitting stored in my studio for over 15 months, I recently had occasion to use the bass again for a recording project. I literally hadn’t cracked the case in well over a year and was quite curious to see how it had fared stored all this time without being played. In a word, wonderfully. It came out of the case, ready to play just as it had been when I last packed it away! I was quite pleasantly surprised at this. And oh yeah, this thing records great! 

 

If you are a doubler in need of a well playing, good sounding, durable and reliable bass clarinet, you would be hard pressed to find a better low C bass than this one. You certainly won’t find one better in this price range. I know. I looked.

 

From Josh Johnson – Pro American doubler :

I’ve wanted to write this review for quite some time, but have been procrastinating like crazy because, well, that’s what I do. However, as I sit here at a lovely coffeeshop in Anchorage, Alaska watching the sun go down over the mountains three hours before our final Anchorage performance of the 2013/14 North American Broadway revival tour of “West Side Story” (off to Canada for a month on Sunday!), I’m suddenly full of inspiration, so…here’s some rambling! 🙂

This particular tour is the main reason I decided to buy the Ridenour Lyrique bass. Tonight we finish a two-week run of the show in Alaska, and this weekend, we begin four and a half weeks of performances all over Canada, from Vancouver to Edmonton. While this past couple of weeks have been amazingly mild in Anchorage, temperatures in Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon and Calgary are predicted to stay parked in the VERY minus-double-digits degrees Fahrenheit, and those are conditions I did NOT relish the thought of bringing a $10,000 wood Selmer or Buffet bass through. The hard rubber construction of the Lyrique assures a certain peace of mind in unstable climates that one just does not have with a wooden instrument. Travel between cities can be rather rough on musical equipment, particularly since I often travel my horns with the rest of the pit equipment on the trucks instead of carrying everything with me on the tour bus (which was what I did a couple years ago when I played the flute/picc/clarinet book on the national tour of My Fair Lady, but is highly impractical with a bass clarinet, a tenor sax, and four other smaller instruments). Having played Tom’s hard rubber soprano clarinets before, I knew that the bass was going to sound good and having played the Leblanc clarinets he designed for the past nearly 20 years, I knew it was going to be well-designed acoustically and play in tune. What I didn’t know was whether or not a sub-$3000 low-C bass clarinet would physically be able to stand up to the rigors of professional touring life (or, honestly, whether or not the mechanism would be up to the demands of a Leonard Bernstein bass clarinet part!).

Well, it is CERTAINLY up to the task. From the second I opened the box and put it together for the first time, this instrument felt like it’s been mine for years. I made a short video recording of my very first encounter with the instrument, which you can view here: A Quick First Look At The Ridenour Lyrique Bass Clarinet. Right out of the box, it was a joy to play. The sound of this instrument is absolutely fabulous, with a rich creamy center that doesn’t spread as you go higher, even into the altissimo; and the intonation is ROCK solid on this thing, with one noticeable exception: The lowest C# (concert B), is exceedingly flat, 20+ cents on average. However, I have needed to use this note precisely zero times, so it isn’t personally an issue for me right now. I will, of course, work on fixing it (perhaps a little building up of the tonehole on the inner surface will do the trick…to use this instrument in the long term, I am of course going to have to address this at some point, but it isn’t a major, major sticking point. This note tends to be sort of horrendous on most low C basses…). Overall, I was really, really surprised at how little work I had to do to play this instrument well. (I should mention that I am playing on a Ridenour hand-faced bass clarinet mouthpiece, which was included with the clarinet, a mouthpiece I had zero prior experience with, so what you are seeing in this video is truly a brand new encounter with unfamiliar equipment.)

As with any new instrument or mouthpiece, it does of course take a bit of time to get used to the voicing tendencies (hence that small harmonic blip in the altissimo in the video clip), but on the whole, it was remarkable how familiar and comfortable this instrument felt. It does absolutely everything I want it to, and it does it quite easily, which is a wonderful thing, because the very next day I flew to Chattanooga to begin rehearsals and tech for the West Side Story tour, so I literally had zero time to acclimate to this clarinet before using it in a professional setting.

The first real test came during the first rehearsal with the orchestra. I do not play the bass clarinet until the middle of the Balcony Scene, where the bass clarinet enters in unison with the cello on a written low Bb after sitting cold for about 25 minutes, then continues in a beautiful lyrical solo phrase of the “Somewhere” theme, which finishes in unison again with the cello, this time in the lower throat tones, which are notoriously problematic on bass clarinets, both in intonation and tone quality. I needn’t have worried, because not only are the F#, F and E nearly perfectly spot-on in tune, they are also much fuller and less nasal in quality than one would expect. They are very nearly…well, cello-like in color. (A quality that our musical director is no doubt highly appreciative of!)

My only criticism of this instrument lies with the basset keywork (low D, C#, C). The thumb key 

arrangement is awkward at best to begin with, and the travel of the key touches is quite excessive. When the thumb low D is depressed, I can slide my entire thumb forward underneath the low C# thumb key with room to spare. This makes any sort of rapid chromatic motion in the thumb virtually impossible, and there are no rollers to aid in this. The low C key is actually quite functional and easily accessible, just not from thumb low D. The low C# has a bit less travel, and with a bit of practice (and a long thumb helps), can be made to smoothly transition to low C. The left hand low D lever, however, is basically unusable. The amount of force required to depress this key is so extreme that I cannot fathom using it in any practical situation, the ONLY exception being whenever it chromatically follows a low Eb, which closes most of the pads depressed by the low D lever and alleviates most of the tension caused by requiring the pinky to close the two low F pads, the low E, and the low Eb. I have no doubt that this will be improved in future iterations of the instrument, as the key work has continued to improve since the instrument was debuted several years ago. (Perhaps a future version will include a right-hand pinky low D key!)

The rest of the mechanism is surprisingly very solid, and in the three months that I have been playing this instrument every day, 8 shows a week, the total amount of adjustment required has been a quarter turn of a screw on a bridge key and a small piece of gaff tape around a register key connection. Rather impressive, I think! I do find the RH3 (low G/clarion D) key to be quite stiff, but given the length of the connecting rod to the register mechanism that it operates in addition to the low G tonehole, that’s to be expected. It isn’t overwhelming, and when the bridge keys are aligned just right, the tension isn’t bad at all (or perhaps my finger has gotten stronger over the past couple months!) I would perhaps like to have some more supporting pillars or cradles for the basset mechanism rods, are they are quite long and very prone to flexing, particularly when assembling and disassembling the instrument, but there has been no major issue with them so far…as long as I remember to keep all the corks nice and greased up! 😉

As David Spiegelthal pointed out in his excellent and concise review of the instrument on the Clarinet Bulletin Board (David Spiegelthal Reviews The Lyrique Bass Clarinet), the bell does need to be turned quite a bit to the left to make the low C key connection work, but this is also not too much of an issue, and I hardly notice anymore.

Close inspection revealed very nicely finished toneholes, a very smooth bore free of burrs or imperfections, and quite meticulously fitted keywork. The Selmer-style upper joint trill keys are particularly attractive to me, and I quite enjoy the left hand low E/B and F#/C# keys, which require only slightly more effort than a Bb soprano clarinet.

The wood-shell case is also very snugly fitted and quite sturdy, with two very heavy-duty latches and a subway handle (end handle), which was a lovely surprise, as I expected a zippered foam horror that offered little to no protection.

I have long been a very big fan of Tom Ridenour’s, and I’m very happy to say that my experience with his Lyrique bass clarinet has only added to my admiration. Very few people know the clarinet better or love it more than he does, and it certainly shows in his current offerings. I am very proud (and fortunate!) to be able to say that I make the entirety of my living playing the clarinet around the world for thousands of people a week, and I do it with a Ridenour instrument.

In summation, I would like to emphatically urge all woodwind doublers, or even symphonic bass clarinet players who absolutely cannot afford to buy a Buffet 1193 or a Selmer Privilege to audition a Lyrique bass. I really think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality of this instrument!