I wanted to introduce myself on here, I'm 28 years old and have been back with recorder for over three years now, currently own the entire NSATB set of the Yamaha 302/304 plastic series plus a Moeck wood alto in decent condition, though the high notes are a bit hard to hit. Eventually looking for a good wood soprano though that can wait.
I would like to draw attention to the question of why no manufacturer has of yet introduced a plastic great bass in C. With early music as popular as it has now become, you'd think there might at least be more talk on the subject. I'm actually interested in starting a petition for the plastic great bass, and would like pointers on how to increase the odds of success. I accept that it may ultimately fail, but I'd like to think that I tried as well as I could.
Why do you want a plastic instrument? Plastic is not authentic and hence by definition inferior. The cost of plastic is 10 times the cost of wood. The difference in price tends to be the labour cost. When you get very large instruments, there is likely to be little difference in price, so they are not popular and do not sell and the manufacturer can't recover the investment.
Well let's see why I want plastic...at the standard bass size you can get a decent plastic model for only a little over $300 new...the leading wood basses are slightly over $1000. The cheapest great basses I can find come out to just over $2000, which is, simply put, TOO MUCH for most of us. I bet you could make a great bass of reasonable quality out of plastic that would retail for only about $800-1000, based on my price intuitions. There's no reason why the cost jump from bass to great bass should be humongous for plastics but not for woods.
At the very least we should be able to demand a price well below $2000 on a wood great bass. Do the 'square' designs save a significant amount of cost? If not for economic reasons then why were the squares introduced?
I may be hallucinating but it seems like I saw someone with a plastic great bass once. I will have to shoot off an e-mail and see if that's correct- it was a while back so my memory isn't 100% clear. It probably was just that the coloring reminded me of a plastic instrument's.
That would be pretty cool, though. I know what you mean with plastic instruments- I have an okayish wooden soprano but that would be the only instrument I had if I stuck with wood. Great basses are probably not in my future.
PhilOShite, I freely admit to being not that bright musically, so feel to trounce me for asking this. Why do you consider wood to be more authentic, other than that it's been used for longer? I can understand it being the more romantic choice for that reason, but I'm not sure why plastic instruments are somehow fake, especially since construction materials don't guarantee quality.
Whisk, I assume you know how to contact the person who owned that great bass?
I don't find anti-plastic bias to be a very respectable attitude. Fact is, plastic is much more economical, and a good plastic model can sound almost as good as wood. I've tried out several wood tenors that I didn't find to be nearly as good as my Yamaha plastic, at least if you don't limit your criteria to tone color alone. The mediocre tenors couldn't play nearly as loudly as mine can, and the sound wasn't as "solid."
If a plastic great bass either exists now or is introduced in the future, I wonder what design it would have? I'd think it's too big for a knick, so it would probably have to use a bocal. And would the second and fifth holes be open?
Sorry for not noticing the question sooner. Er I have to admit that "Plastic is not authentic and hence by definition inferior" does not seem a lot stronger now than it did when I wrote it. Obviously, in light of posts, it is an opinion and not a fact. Never the less, I have been asked to justify it so here goes:
As has been pointed out, the material does make a difference to the sound. It also makes a difference to the way you play (even if it is as shallow as 1 material feels good and another does not). If you make an instrument using the methods in use at the time that some music was written then the instrument will sound like the instrument that the composer knew and wrote the music for (well this is the theory anyway). That means if you use an authentic instrument then when you play the music, the music you play will be what the composer intended. I cannot argue whether a plastic recorder sounds better that a wooden one. If you think one is better that the other then it is better.
All that said, however, the kind of music that was written for recorders seems to be of interest to the kind of musician that is interested historically accurate performances. When I talked about inferior, I was talking about the point of view of such a musician and I can see how I gave the wrong impression. You are of course entitled to have a different priority and I am sorry for giving the impression that I thought you were not.
As I said previously, raw plastic is much more expensive than wood and so the larger instruments are going to go up rapidly in price because the price will be proportional to the cube of the size of the instrument. This means a Great Bass of the same standard as a £300 bass will be coming in at around £1000 (all other things being equal). At that price, I would expect that the wood v plastic prejudice will start coming into play (because the relative price difference is smaller). If that does happen then the cost of developing a tool to make the instrument is going to have to be spread amongst fewer customers further putting up the price. Furthermore, the company making these things may have a machine big enough for basses but not gt basses and so buying a new one will further put up the cost. All in all, companies will have done their sums and come to the conclusion that what you want is not possible.
for sentence 2 please read "does seem a lot stronger now than it did when I wrote it". Oops.
Mmm, that makes more sense. When it's put this way, I definitely agree with you. Someday I may have the skill/money/time requisite to seek after high levels of historical accuracy, but right now I'm just happy to have instruments and people who will let me play with them, so it's Purcell and plastic for me. Thanks for clarifying. =)
Okay, Phil's position on this one at least seems reasonable. I guess a more cut-to-the-chase question is this: what is the lowest realistic new price that we could ever expect to see for any great bass, plastic OR wood, of at least satisfactory quality. Not too particular about tone color here; just make sure it responds well when being played and produces a decent volume of sound. (in other words, the Yamaha plastic F-bass easily makes the satisfactory mark)
A quick look on the Net revealed some great basses available for $2000. They probably are of higher quality than I would demand, though. It would be nice if a model was introduced that sold for under $1500 new.
Sorry for only just noticing the question about square instruments. I would hazard a guess that square instruments can be made with hand tools, whereas more conventional instruments would require tools that are not easily available. The problem being to bore out a conical hole. Even woodworking lathes will not do the job. I suspect there is still a lot of work required to get a suitable finish though so it is still not helping on the price front.
I have just bought a new Yamaha plastic tenor recorder and I am having trouble with low C and sometime D. The low C plays an octave higher. I have checked that there are no leaks from the key pads. It is likely an embouchure problem as I play various other instruments (perhaps too many) with widely varying embouchure requirements. These include clarinet, both soprano and bass, tenor sax, flute and oboe. Any thoughts ? Thanks.
Probably should have started a new thread for this one, but anyway....the low notes on a tenor are normally pretty difficult to get out. You need an open and well supported airway coming out of your lungs, but don't push too hard from below. Firm but gentle. Don't worry; you're not the only one who's had trouble with these notes. Just practice them a couple minutes each day with your breathing in mind. If you're still having trouble in a couple weeks ask here again and we might be able to find out what's going on.
If I screw up on a low C, it's usually because I'm overblowing. When I get frustrated playing one I stop, start blowing very softly, then work up how hard I blow until I have a full sound, then play the note again a few times. That helps, unless it turns out that I have just mispositioned a finger =P.
Personally I'm all for a plastic great bass. We have a recorder ensemble at our school that uses plastic recorders. While generally I do favor wood, I just don't want to put an expensive wood instrument in the hands of my middle school students. I won't even let them use my Aulos Plastic Bass. However, I would love to add a great bass to our ensemble. Admittedly, the price tag has been a major deterrent; I would hate to give an expensive wood bass to one of my middle school students only to have it broken. Plastic is much more durable and affordable - at least affordable when produced in bulk.
Furthermore, I think the wood vs. plastic debate is an important debate with smaller instruments. However, the tone of larger (low pitched) instruments do not seem affected as much as smaller instruments. Look at the Bb Contra Bass Clarinets which are often made of metal instead of wood or plastic. I suspect this has to do with the larger/longer sound waves.
I think the best way to get a manufacturer to build a plastic great bass is to start a petition of folks who would purchase one if it were available (add my name to the list - I'll probably take 3 or 4 for my school). If the manufacturer sees that they can make money from it, then they will build it. There hasn't been a large demand of recorders beyond soprano or alto (as these are what most elementary schools are using).
I think we need to start expanding our recorder ensembles to include the wide variety of recorders available. The students hate playing recorder in elementary at our school, but when they move to middle school and can play the different sized recorders they have a renewed interest. I also think we need to move away form Sopranino, Alto, and Bass reading music printed in concert pitch and take a page from Band and Orchestral literature and starting writing parts in "F" or transposed, like a clarinet part. I recognize this would give us less flexibility with music, but would make it much easier for students to play in ensembles. I do this for my students - it becomes a great physics of music lesson on how length affects pitch, transposition, and concert pitch.