1930s Oehler Bass Clarinet

Oskar Oehler was a clarinet maker from the early 20th century. Instruments branded with his name are relatively rare, and are generally hard to find.

The Oehler System of keys ranged from relatively simple to extremely complex - with up to 27 keys on the "Full Oehler."

The vast majority of readily available Oehler system clarinets are soprano clarinets from the early to mid 20th century. Yamaha is an unusual maker since it still produces Oehler clarinet new to this day.

The main difference between the Oehler system and the more common, "standard" Boehm system is the slightly narrower bore which leads to a slightly different sound and tonal quality.


Pitch: BBb

Key System: Oehler System

Maker: Oskar Oehler

Brand Name: Oehler (?)

Place of Manufacture: Germany (?)

Approximate Date: 1930-1937

Body Material: Wood

Bore Type: Narrow

Key Metal: German Silver (?)

Keywork Quality: unknown

Serial Number: unknown

Recommended For: Professional

This article is incomplete! Please contact us with any additional information.

This bass clarinet is a very rare and unusual piece. This appears to feature a relatively simple Oehler system, and for the most part looks very similar to contemporaneous Albert system instruments. The main obvious difference is the holed ring-style key on the second hole of the upper joint, as well as the noticeably slimmer body, as compared to a Boehm system bass clarinet.

Jessica, the current owner, says her grandfather purchased this clarinet in 1937, possibly new. He played in the New York City Philharmonic.

There is an ornate vent hole in the bottom of the lower joint. This is a very unusual feature. Vent holes are relatively common in oboes, but almost unheard of for clarinets. The only other bass clarinet with a vent hole that ClarinetPages knows of is the Moenning Bros. bass clarinet from the 1930s. The absolute function of the hole is as yet unknown, but is posited to help with the intonation and/or stuffiness of chalumeau-register low notes.

There are a few clues that this was a high-end professional instrument. Apparently, it is hallmarked by Oehler himself. Since Oehler produced so few larger clarinets, it is highly likely that this was hand-finished by Oehler himself and not outsourced to his students or employees.

The clarinet comes with two necks, and has space in the case for both necks. Although soprano clarinet players will often have several barrels in their repertoire, bass clarinet players almost never have multiple necks. Today, only very high-end professional bass clarinet have an adjustable neck; all others have a single, fixed neck.

Apparently, this bass clarinet was made for someone who was good enough to require two necks.