|Flautissimo - Reviews - Besprechungen|
|Bass Recorder Comparison -- Yamaha Maple YRB-61M versus Zenon Cherrywood 5500B,Dan Chernikoff, 2001-11-01|
|I recently ordered two new F-Bass recorders from Courtly Music, on approval. I thought I'd post a description of the instruments and my own personal opinions on them. Note that this is just my personal evaluation of two specific instruments and based on my own playing habits, hand size, arm length, etc. Your mileage will vary! Plus keep in mind I'm an amateur recorder player (off and on for last 20 years), somewhere in the intermediate to upper-intermediate level, and have only been playing bass for about a year. |
Both cases are nice looking; the Yamaha's comes with a key lock. Looking inside, the Yamaha case is form-fitted to the instrument's body. In fact it fits very tightly inside, and requires a small amount of force to remove each section. Very secure and protected. The Zenon case is comprised of separate compartments to hold each piece of the instrument. They are over-large in width, and the instrument rattles around inside quite a bit. In fact when it arrived the F/F# key levers were bent slightly (I assume during shipping) and interferred with each other, but easy to (carefully) bend back into proper position. Yamaha case has black velour inside, Zenon has a thinner, yellow-colored velour. Both come with a very long metal cleaning rod attached inside the case, a generous tub of cork grease, and fingering chart/instruction sheet written in Japanese.
Instrument AppearanceThe Yamaha is a very impressive looking instrument. Outwardly looks just like pictures I've seen of the original bass made by Denner. Dark wood stain, nice complex baroque turning. The windway ramp is a much lighter color (unstained natural wood color, I assume). Shiny brass-colored keys with smooth, curvy shapes. The top surface of the head joint is polished. The shiney brass bocal has cork on each end, and has a complex S-shape. There is an elegant wooden mouthpiece that you insert onto one end of the bocal, and the other end goes into the top center of the headjoint cap. The bocal is curved so that it comes out to the back and to the side of the instrument. There is a notch in the larger turning on the foot piece, in which they inserted the screw to hold the pivot point for the F/F# key levers. Fit and finish on the instrument is excellent. Curved windway. Undercutting of the tone holes is apparent.
The Zenon is a lighter color -- almost yellow but still attractive looking. (I've seen other Zenons that were much darker in color). Distinct grain lines. Oiled but not stained. The turnings are a bit simpler but still have a Baroque look. The keys are less graceful; they are flat and have cutouts where the fingers press. The F/F# key has a long pair of flat levers. This is a direct-blow instrument, with a slight dishing-out around the "beak" on the head cap to accommodate player's lips. Fit and finish is not as good -- the cutout for the ramp is a bit lopsided, and the filing on the G/G# double hold is ragged. Straight windway, tone holes are not undercut. There is a cedar insert cut into the block for the windway. Bore seems smoother/shinier inside than the Yamaha.
It took me a few days to figure out how to hold the Yamaha. The trick is to rotate the foot joint so the key levers are way out to the side -- much like I need to do with the plastic Yamaha tenor. The thumb rest is placed about a 1/2 inch too high for me and that makes it a bit tricky to get the best hand placement, as well. Playing it without the bocal (i.e., removing the cap, reversing the head, and blowing directly into the windway) is doable, but makes the reach a bit long and I find I start leaking the lower holes more on fast passages. The right-hand toneholes are very large, and you need to be precise in your hand position and finger placement or you leak and the low F won't sound. Playing with the bocal is definatly a good idea, the reach and finger placement becomes much more natural and easy. However, the bocal, because of it's S-shaped curve, really fills up with spit fast (but note that I tend to salivate alot when playing). When I blew the bocal out after 10-minutes of playing I was amazed how much moisture came out (made me feel like a french horn player!). The low notes will sound reliably if you get your hand position perfect and don't leak holes. The upper register is very responsive and can be played without any problems, at a nice even air pressure/volume. High F is touchy, but easier than on the Zenon (and you need to use a very tiny thumb opening).
Deciding on "the best instrument" is a very personal thing, and you really have to try several yourself in order to know which is best for you. I ended up choosing to keep the Zenon, mostly because of its remarkable ease at playing the low notes, because the keywork is placed better (for my hand-size) and operates quieter, and because it is direct blow (I feel that gives me more control, and I was worried about mosture problems in the bocal since I play so "wetly"). The fact that it cost 20% less than the Yamaha was a nice bonus, but not really a deciding factor.
[I hope this long diatribe was useful and of interest. Apologizes for the