While we all enjoy alto clarinet jokes, the unjustly maligned black sheep of the clarinet family is a potentially fine instrument that has urgently needed attention from both instrument makers and serious players. Properly made and well played, it has no playing deficiencies, and has a distinctive voice, more open than the basset horn and more akin to a high pitched bass clarinet, with a wide dynamic and expressive range.
The S. Fox alto clarinet has a range to written low D (concert F), allowing it to play basset horn parts. A downward-pointing clarinet-style bell provides clearer, more focussed tone in the middle of the range and stronger bottom notes than conventional models. It has a curved, solid-bodied barrel (instead of a metal neck).
As with the S. Fox basset horn, the mechanism has plateaux except for open holes for the left and right hand third fingers, an automatic register/throat Bb mechanism, and a low B natural vent. An articulated C#/G# key is optional. Bottom D is played by a key for the right thumb, with an additional key for the left hand little finger optional.
A conventional alto clarinet
mouthpiece is used. A floor peg is provided for support.