The bass clarinet sounds one octave lower than the B-flat soprano clarinet. The two instruments share the same fingerings, and like the soprano, the bass is made of wood except for the bell and neck which are metal. Because of its size and weight, the bass is supported by a metal peg which extends to the ground.
Some experimental bass clarinets were made in the late eighteenth century but good modern basses were not manufactured until the 1830s. Even though the instruments were available, composers did not write extensive parts for the bass clarinet until the late romantic era. Richard Wagner (1813-1883) and Richard Strauss (1864-1949) were two of the first major composers to include the bass clarinet in their compositions.
The bass clarinet has been very important in twentieth century music. Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) wrote a major part for the bass in his ground-breaking piece, Pierrot Lunaire. Many modern composers followed his lead and often gave the bass clarinet the role of primary low woodwind, sometimes in place of the bassoon.