Keyless Bass Clarinet
By Jamie Balfour, Product Designer at LUMA-iD
December 16th, 2019
The bass clarinet is a musical instrument belonging to the woodwind family of instruments and is one of several types of clarinet. Though not the largest of clarinets (that honour goes to the enormous contrabass clarinet) the bass clarinet is of significant size – the central bore, that runs the length of the instrument, measures over 1 metre long.
When a player blows into a woodwind instrument, the air causes a reed to vibrate, which in turn vibrates a body of air, creating a sound.
Notes on a bass clarinet are controlled by opening and closing holes in the main body of the instrument. Because of its great length, a complex series of keys and levers are required to reach all the notes, which can limit how the instrument can be played.
In July John Telfer approached us with a proposition: could we design, and 3D print a bass clarinet that could be played without the need for keys? John wants to be able to ‘bend’ notes, but to do this he needs to be able to reach as many of the key holes as possible using just his fingers.
Our task then, was to design a shape that was long enough to achieve the right sound yet compact enough for John to reach the key holes with his fingers.
Before coming to us, John had made some prototypes to test out his ideas, using PVC tube and rope, but he needed someone with the skill to bring his idea to life.
The design of the bass clarinet has evolved a lot over the course of the project, with the CAD model going through several iterations and rebuilds. We recently printed the first full version of the clarinet, which can be seen in the video at the top of this post.