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A saxonette is a soprano clarinet in C, A, or B♭ that has both a curved barrel and an upturned bell, both usually made of metal. It has the approximate overall shape of a saxophone, but unlike that instrument it has a cylindrical bore and overblows by a twelfth. The instrument is also known as the 'Claribel' and 'Clariphon'.
Saxonettes were first produced by the Buescher Band Instrument Company between 1918 and 1921. They are almost always simple (Albert) system, and most are in C. It is known that they were made in B♭ and A also, and Boehm system examples exist as well. Several stencils have also turned up that can be shown as being the same as Buescher models already in existence. Among these are the 'Supertone' and the 'Gretsch'.
Other than the barrel and bell, there is no difference between a saxonette and a soprano clarinet (of the same fingering system). In fact, some manufacturers sold instruments having both clarinet- and saxonette-style barrels and bells.
The curvature of the bell has little effect on the sound of the instrument. In particular, very few notes on a woodwind instrument vent through the bell, so its effect on most notes is negligible. Switching from a straight wood barrel to a curved metal one is more likely to influence the instrument's sound for several reasons: differences between metal and wood resonances, likely differences in variation of the cross sectional area of the bore, and differences in the player's embouchure due to the different angle of the mouthpiece with respect to the body of the instrument. Perhaps the main reason for preferring a saxonette to a straight clarinet is visual: the saxonette looks distinctive and unusual.
Several examples have surfaced in recent years, notably one by Buescher in C in the Boehm system. This was sold on eBay early 2005. There is one other Boehm system on the Internet, on a Japanese page (now offline), that looks very different from that already found.
Curved bells and barrels have also been sold as aftermarket accessories.
- The clarinet with a curved bell and a curved top was called a "clariphone" by Dr. Albert Rice, a foremost authority on clarinet history. He related this to me after hearing me play my Buescher instrument in B♭ on the Rhapsody in Blue cadenza at a musical society meeting in South Dakota. Brown, Redondo Beach, CA
- http://hem.passagen.se/eriahl/saxonette.htm - a page devoted to the Saxonette.
- Paraschos, a manufacturer of curved (wooden) clarinet barrels
- , a photobucket account with over 150 pictures of Saxonettes.
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