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B♭ Clarinet (Boehm system)
Woodwind instrument

Wind Woodwind

Hornbostel-Sachs classification 422.211.2-71
(Single-reeded aerophone with keys)
Playing range
Written range (though it is possible to play higher):
Clarinet range.svg
Related instruments

The clarinet is a musical instrument in the woodwind family. The name derives from adding the suffix -et (meaning little) to the Italian word clarino (meaning a type of trumpet), as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed.

Clarinets comprise a family of instruments of differing sizes and pitches. The clarinet family is the largest such woodwind family, with more than a dozen types, ranging from the BB♭ contrabass to the A♭ soprano. Of these many are rare or obsolete, and music written for them is usually played on one of the more common types. The unmodified word clarinet usually refers to the B soprano clarinet, by far the most common clarinet.

A person who plays the clarinet is called a clarinetist or clarinettist. The clarinet was invented in Germany by Johann Christoph Denner around the turn of the 18th century, by adding a register key to the earlier chalumeau. Over time, additional keywork and airtight pads were added to improve tone and playability. Today, the clarinet is used in both jazz and classical ensembles, as well as in chamber groups and as a solo instrument.




The cylindrical bore is largely responsible for the clarinet's distinctive timbre, which varies between its three main registers: Chalumeau, clarion, and altissimo. Because of the cylindrical bore design, the clarinet technically has an infinite range of octaves extending from the altissimo register; therefore, when younger clarinet students "squeak", they are actually hitting higher notes in the altissimo register that they have not yet learned to control. The tone quality can vary greatly with the musician, the music, the clarinet (material, manufacturer, etc.) and the strength of the reed. The differences in instruments and geographical isolation of players in different countries led to the development, from the last part of the 18th century onwards, of several different schools of clarinet playing. The most prominent of these schools were the German/Viennese traditions and the French school, centered around the clarinetists of the Conservatoire de Paris.[1] Through the proliferation of recorded music, examples of different styles of clarinet playing have become available. The modern clarinetist has an eclectic palette of "acceptable" tone qualities to choose from, whether they be dark, bright, or anything in between.[1]

Bass clarinet

The A clarinet and B clarinet have nearly the same bore, and use the same mouthpiece.[2] Orchestral players often use both A and B instruments in the same concert, but use only one mouthpiece (and often the same barrel), which they swap between the two as needed (see 'usage' below). The A and the B instruments have nearly identical tonal quality, although the A generally has a slightly warmer sound.[2] The tone of the E clarinet is brighter than that of the lower clarinets and can be heard even through loud orchestral textures.[3] The bass clarinet has a characteristically deep, mellow sound.[1] The alto clarinet is similar in tone to the bass, and the basset horn has a tone quality similar to the A clarinet.


Clarinets have the largest pitch range of any common woodwind.[4] The intricate key organization that makes this range possible can make the playability of some passages awkward. The bottom of the clarinet’s written range is defined by the keywork on each particular instrument; standard keywork schemes allow a low E on the common B clarinet. The lowest concert pitch depends on the transposition of the instrument in question.

Nearly all soprano and piccolo clarinets have keywork enabling them to play the E below middle C (E3 in scientific pitch notation) as their lowest written note, though some B clarinets go down to E3 to enable them to match the range of the A clarinet.[5] In the case of the B soprano clarinet, the concert pitch of the lowest note is D3, a whole tone lower than the written pitch. Most alto and bass clarinets have an additional key to allow a (written) E3. Modern professional-quality bass clarinets generally have additional keywork to written C3.[6] Among the less commonly encountered members of the clarinet family, contra-alto and contrabass clarinets may have keywork to written E3, D3, or C3;[7] the basset clarinet and basset horn generally go to low C3.[1]

Defining the top end of a clarinet’s range is difficult, since many advanced players can produce notes well above the highest notes commonly found in method books. The G two octaves above G4 is usually the highest note clarinetists encounter in music.[8] The C above that (C7 i.e. resting on the fifth ledger line above the treble staff) is attainable by most advanced players and is shown on many fingering charts.[8]

The range of a clarinet can be divided into three distinct registers. The lowest register, consisting of the notes up to the written B above middle C (B4), is known as the chalumeau register (named after the instrument that was the clarinet's immediate ancestor). The middle register is termed the clarino (sometimes clarion) register[9] and spans just over an octave (from written B above middle C (B4) to the C two octaves above middle C (C6));[8] it is the dominant range for most members of the clarinet family and is audible above the brass while playing forte. The top or altissimo register consists of the notes above the written C two octaves above middle C (C6).[8] Unlike other woodwinds, all three registers have characteristically different sounds. The chalumeau register is rich and relatively quiet. The clarino register is bright and sweet, like a trumpet heard from afar ("clarino" means trumpet). The altissimo register can be piercing and sometimes shrill.


The Construction of a Clarinet (Oehler system)


Clarinet bodies have been made from a variety of materials including wood, plastic, hard rubber, metal, resin, and ivory.[10] The vast majority of clarinets used by professional musicians are made from African hardwood, mpingo (African Blackwood) or grenadilla, rarely (because of diminishing supplies) Honduran rosewood and sometimes even cocobolo.[11] Historically other woods, notably boxwood, were used.[11]

Most modern inexpensive instruments are made of plastic resin, such as ABS.[11] These materials are sometimes called "resonite", which is Selmer's trademark name for its particular type of plastic. Metal soprano clarinets were popular in the early twentieth century, until plastic instruments supplanted them;[12] metal construction is still used for the bodies of some contra-alto and contrabass clarinets, and for the necks and bells of nearly all alto and larger clarinets.[1] Ivory was used for a few 18th century clarinets, but it tends to crack and does not keep its shape well.[13]

Buffet Crampon's Greenline clarinets are made from a composite of grenadilla wood powder and carbon fiber.[14] Such instruments are less affected by humidity and temperature changes than wooden instruments, but are heavier. Hard rubber, such as ebonite, has been used for clarinets since the 1860s, although few modern clarinets are made of it. Clarinet designers Alastair Hanson and Tom Ridenour are strong advocates of hard rubber.[15] Hanson Clarinets of England manufactures clarinets using a grenadilla compound reinforced with ebonite, known as 'BTR' (bithermal reinforced) grenadilla. This material is also not affected by humidity, and the weight is the same as that of a wood clarinet.

Mouthpieces are generally made of hard rubber, although some inexpensive mouthpieces may be made of plastic.[2] Other materials such as crystal/glass, wood, ivory, and metal have also been used.[2] Ligatures are commonly made out of metal and plated in nickel, silver or gold.[2] Other ligature materials include wire, wire mesh, plastic, naugahyde, string, or leather.[16]


The instrument uses a single reed made from the cane of Arundo donax, a type of grass.[17] Reeds may also be manufactured from synthetic materials. The ligature fastens the reed to the mouthpiece. When air is blown through the opening between the reed and the mouthpiece facing, the reed vibrates and produces the instrument's sound.

Basic reed measurements are as follows: tip, 12 millimetres (0.47 in) wide; lay, 15 millimetres (0.59 in) long (distance from the place where the reed touches the mouthpiece to the tip); gap, 1 millimetre (0.039 in) (distance between the underside of the reed tip and the mouthpiece). Adjustment to these measurements is one method of affecting tone color.[18]

Most clarinetists buy manufactured reeds, although many make adjustments to these reeds and some make their own reeds from cane "blanks".[19] Reeds come in varying degrees of hardness, generally indicated on a scale from one (soft) through five (hard). This numbering system is not standardized — reeds with the same hardness number often vary in actual hardness across manufacturers and models.[16] Reed and mouthpiece characteristics work together to determine ease of playability, pitch stability, and tonal characteristics.[16]

Components of a modern soprano clarinet

Note: A Boehm system soprano clarinet is shown in the photos illustrating this section. However, all modern clarinets have similar components.

Clarinet reed, mouthpiece, and ligature

The reed is attached to the mouthpiece by the ligature, and the top half-inch or so of this assembly is held in the player’s mouth.[1] German clarinetists often wind a string around the mouthpiece and reed instead of using a ligature.[2] The formation of the mouth around the mouthpiece and reed is called the embouchure.

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The reed is on the underside of the mouthpiece, pressing against the player's lower lip, while the top teeth normally contact the top of the mouthpiece (some players roll the upper lip under the top teeth to form what is called a ‘double-lip’ embouchure).[2] Adjustments in the strength and configuration of the embouchure change the tone and intonation (tuning). It is not uncommon for clarinetists to employ methods to soften the pressure on both the upper teeth and inner lower lip by attaching pads to the top of the mouthpiece or putting (temporary) padding on the front lower teeth, commonly from folded paper.[2]

Barrel of a B soprano Clarinet

Next is the short barrel; this part of the instrument may be extended in order to fine-tune the clarinet. As the pitch of the clarinet is fairly temperature-sensitive, some instruments have interchangeable barrels whose lengths vary slightly. Additional compensation for pitch variation and tuning can be made by pulling out the barrel and thus increasing the instrument's length, particularly common in group playing in which clarinets are tuned to other instruments (such as in an orchestra). Some performers employ a plastic barrel with a thumbwheel that enables the barrel length to be altered. On basset horns and lower clarinets, the barrel is usually replaced by a curved metal neck.

Upper Joint of a Boehm-System Clarinet

The main body of most clarinets is divided into the upper joint, the holes and most keys of which are operated by the left hand, and the lower joint with holes and most keys operated by the right hand. Some clarinets have a single joint: on some basset horns and larger clarinets the two joints are held together with a screw clamp and are usually not disassembled for storage. The left thumb operates both a tone hole and the register key. On some models of clarinet, such as many Albert system clarinets and increasingly some higher-end Boehm system clarinets, the register key is a 'wraparound' key, with the key on the back of the clarinet and the pad on the front. Advocates of the wraparound register key say it improves sound and it is harder for condensation to accumulate in the tube beneath the pad.[20]

The body of a modern soprano clarinet is equipped with numerous tone holes of which seven (six front, one back) are covered by the fingertips and the rest are opened or closed using a set of keys. These tone holes allow every note of the chromatic scale to be produced. On alto and larger clarinets, and a few soprano clarinets, some or all of the finger holes are replaced by key-covered holes. The most common system of keys was named the Boehm System by its designer Hyacinthe Klosé in honour of flute designer Theobald Boehm, but it is not the same as the Boehm System used on flutes.[21] The other main system of keys is called the Öhler system and is used mostly in Germany and Austria (see History).[1] The related Albert system is used by some jazz, klezmer, and eastern European folk musicians.[1] The Albert and Oehler systems are both based on the earlier Mueller system.[1]

Lower Joint of a Boehm-System Clarinet

The cluster of keys at the bottom of the upper joint (protruding slightly beyond the cork of the joint) are known as the trill keys and are operated by the right hand.[16] These give the player alternative fingerings which make it easy to play ornaments and trills.[16] The entire weight of the smaller clarinets is supported by the right thumb behind the lower joint on what is called the thumb-rest.[22] Basset horns and larger clarinets are supported with a neck strap or a floor peg.

Bell of a B soprano clarinet

Finally, the flared end is known as the bell. Contrary to popular belief, the bell does not amplify the sound; rather, it improves the uniformity of the instrument's tone for the lowest notes in each register.[23] For the other notes the sound is produced almost entirely at the tone holes and the bell is irrelevant.[23] On basset horns and larger clarinets, the bell curves up and forward, and is usually made of metal.[1]

Boehm Keywork and sample fingerings of a modern soprano clarinet

Theobald Boehm did not directly invent the key system of the clarinet. In fact, Boehm was a flautist who created the key system that is now used for the Transverse Flute. It was Klosé and Buffet that applied Boehm's system to the Clarinet. Although the credit goes to those people, it was Boehm's name that was given to that particular key system.

The current Boehm key system consists of generally 6 rings, on the thumb, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th holes, a register key right above the thumb hole, easily accessible with the thumb. Above the 1st hole, there is a key that lifts two covers creating the note A in the throat register (high part of low register) of the clarinet. A key at the side of the instrument at the same height as the A key lifts only one of the two covers, producing G# a semitone lower. The A key can be used in conjuction solely with the register key to produce A#/Bb.


Vibration of the air column in the soprano clarinet[24]

Sound is a wave that propagates through air as a result of a local variation in air pressure. The production of sound by a clarinet follows these steps:[23]

  1. The air in the bore of the instrument is at normal atmospheric pressure and moves towards the bell (or the first open hole). The minuscule space between the mouthpiece and the reed allows only a small amount of air to enter the instrument. This creates a low-pressure area in the mouthpiece. The difference in pressure between the two sides of the reed increases, causing the reed to press against the mouthpiece.
  2. The wave of low-pressure air moves down the bore and arrives at the first open hole
  3. The outside air, at normal atmospheric pressure, is sucked in by the low pressure inside. The air which was previously leaving the clarinet through the hole changes direction quickly and enters the bore.
  4. The incoming air normalizes the pressure within the bore, starting at the open hole and moving back towards the mouthpiece
  5. Once all of the air in the bore is at atmospheric pressure (moving towards the mouthpiece), the difference in pressure between the two sides of the reed decreases and the reed returns to its original position.
  6. The moving column of air is stopped by the sudden collision with the pressurized air coming from the player's mouth. A wave of high-pressure air moves towards the first open hole.
  7. When the high-pressure air arrives at the open hole, the air coming into the bore abruptly changes direction and goes out through the hole.
  8. The high pressure normalizes and the cycle restarts

The cycle repeats at a constant frequency and emits a note related to that frequency. For example, A4 (440 Hz) is produced when the cycle repeats 440 times per second.[25]

The bore of the soprano clarinet is basically cylindrical for most of the tube with an inner bore diameter between 14 and 15.5 millimetres (0.55 and 0.61 in), but there is a subtle hourglass shape, with the thinnest part below the junction between the upper and lower joint.[26] The reduction is 1 to 3 millimetres (0.039 to 0.12 in) depending on the maker. This hourglass shape, although not visible to the naked eye, helps to correct the pitch/scale discrepancy between the chalumeau and clarino registers (perfect 12th).[26] The diameter of the bore affects characteristics such as available harmonics, timbre, and stability of pitch (the extent to which a note can be 'bent' in the manner required in jazz and other styles of music). The bell at the bottom of the instrument flares out to improve the tone of the lowest notes.

Most modern clarinets have "undercut" tone holes to further improve intonation and the sound. Undercutting means chamfering the bottom edge of tone holes inside the bore. Acoustically, this makes the tone hole function as if it were larger, but its main function is to allow the air column to follow the curve up through the tone hole (surface tension) instead of "blowing past" it under the increased velocity of the upper registers.[27]

The fixed reed and fairly uniform diameter of the clarinet give the instrument an acoustical behavior approximating that of a cylindrical stopped pipe.[23] Recorders use a tapered internal bore to overblow at the 8th (octave) when its thumb/register hole is pinched open while the clarinet, with its cylindrical bore, overblows on the 12th. Adjusting the angle of the bore taper controls the frequencies of the overblown notes (harmonics).[23] Changing the mouthpiece's tip opening and the length of the reed changes the harmonic timbre or voice of the instrument because this changes the speed of reed vibrations.[23] Generally, the goal of the clarinetist when producing a sound is to make as much of the reed vibrate as possible, making the sound fuller, warmer, and potentially louder.

Öhler system clarinets use additional tone holes to correct intonation (patent C♯, low E-F correction, fork-F/B♭ correction and fork B♭ correction)

Covering or uncovering the tone holes varies the effective length of the pipe, changing the resonant frequencies of the enclosed air column and hence the pitch of the sound.[23] A clarinetist moves between the chalumeau and clarino registers through use of the register key, or speaker key: clarinetists call the change from chalumeau register to clarino register "the break".[16] The register key, when pressed, cancels the fundamental frequency scale and forces the clarinet to produce the next dominant harmonic scale a twelfth higher, and when using at least fingers 1-2-3 1-2, taking off the first finger on the left hand, acts as sort of another register key, and doesn't overblow a twelfth, but instead a sixth. The clarinet is therefore said to overblow at the twelfth, and when moving to the altissimo register, a sixth. By contrast, nearly all other woodwind instruments overblow at the octave, or like the Ocarina and Tonette, do not overblow at all (the Rackett or Sausage Bassoon is the next most common Western instrument that overblows at the twelfth). A clarinet must have holes and keys for nineteen notes (a chromatic octave and a half, from bottom E to B) in its lowest register to play the chromatic scale. This overblowing behavior explains both the clarinet's great range and its complex fingering system. The fifth and seventh harmonics are also available, sounding a further sixth and fourth (actually a very flat diminished fifth) higher respectively; these are the notes of the altissimo register.[23] This is also why the inner "waist" measurement is so critical to these harmonic frequencies.

The highest notes on a clarinet can have a shrill piercing quality and can be difficult to tune accurately.[2] Different instruments often play differently in this respect due to the sensitivity of the bore and reed measurements. Using alternate fingerings and adjusting the embouchure helps correct the pitch of these higher notes.

Schüller's quarter-tone clarinet

Since approximately 1850, clarinets have been nominally tuned according to 12-tone equal temperament. Older clarinets were nominally tuned to meantone. A skilled performer can use his or her embouchure to considerably alter the tuning of individual notes or to produce vibrato, a pulsating change of pitch often employed in jazz.[28] Vibrato is rare in classical or concert band literature; however, certain clarinetists, such as Richard Stoltzman, do use vibrato in classical music. Special fingerings may be used to play quarter tones and other microtonal intervals.[29] Fritz Schüller of Markneukirchen, Germany built a quarter tone clarinet, with two parallel bores of slightly different lengths whose tone holes are operated using the same keywork and a valve to switch from one bore to the other.[1]


4-key boxwood clarinet, ca. 1760.


The clarinet has its roots in the early single-reed instruments or hornpipes used in the Middle East and Europe since the Middle Ages, such as the albogue, alboka, and double clarinet.[1]

The modern clarinet developed from a Baroque instrument called the chalumeau. This instrument was similar to a recorder, but with a single-reed mouthpiece and a cylindrical bore.[30] Lacking a register key, it was played mainly in its fundamental register, with a limited range of about one and a half octaves.[30] It had eight finger holes, like a recorder, and two keys for its two highest notes.[30] At this time, contrary to modern practice, the reed was placed in contact with the upper lip.[30]

Around the turn of the 18th century, the chalumeau was modified by converting one of its keys into a register key to produce the first clarinet. This development is usually attributed to German instrument maker Johann Christoph Denner, though some have suggested his son Jacob Denner was the inventor.[31] This instrument played well in the middle register with a loud, strident tone, so it was given the name clarinetto meaning "little trumpet" (from clarino + -etto). Early clarinets did not play well in the lower register, so chalumeaux continued to be made to play the low notes.[30] As clarinets improved, the chalumeau fell into disuse and these notes became known as the chalumeau register. The original Denner clarinets had two keys, and could play a chromatic scale, but various makers added more keys to get improved tuning, easier fingerings, and a slightly larger range.[30] The classical clarinet of Mozart's day typically had eight finger holes and five keys.

Clarinets were soon accepted into orchestras. Later models had a mellower tone than the originals. Mozart (d. 1791) liked the sound of the clarinet (he considered its tone the closest in quality to the human voice) and wrote much music for it,[32] and by the time of Beethoven (c. 1800–1820), the clarinet was a standard fixture in the orchestra.


The next major development in the history of clarinet was the invention of the modern pad. Early clarinets covered the tone holes with felt pads.[33] Because these leaked air, the number of pads had to be kept to a minimum, so the clarinet was severely restricted in what notes could be played with good tone.[33] In 1812, Iwan Müller, a Russian-born clarinetist and inventor, developed a new type of pad which was covered in leather or fish bladder.[34] This was completely airtight, so the number of keys could be increased enormously. He designed a new type of clarinet with seven finger holes and thirteen keys.[34] This allowed the clarinet to play in any key with near-equal ease. Over the course of the 19th century, many enhancements were made to Mueller's clarinet, such as the Albert system and the Baermann system, all keeping the same basic design.

Arrangement of keys and holes

The final development in the modern design of the clarinet used in most of the world today was introduced by Hyacinthe Klosé in 1839.[35] He devised a different arrangement of keys and finger holes which allow simpler fingering. It was inspired by the Boehm System developed for flutes by Theobald Boehm. Klosé was so impressed by Boehm's invention that he named his own system for clarinets the Boehm system, although it is different from the one used on flutes.[35] This new system was slow to gain popularity because it meant the player had to relearn how to play the instrument. To ease this transition, Klose wrote a series of exercises for the clarinet, designed to teach his fingering system. Gradually it became the standard, and today the Boehm system is used everywhere in the world except Germany and Austria. These countries still use a direct descendant of the Mueller clarinet known as the Öhler system clarinet.[1] Also, some contemporary Dixieland and Klezmer players continue to use Albert system clarinets, as the simpler fingering system can allow for easier slurring of notes.[1] At one time the reed was held on using string, but now the practice exists primarily in Germany and Austria.

Usage and repertoire

Use of multiple clarinets

The modern orchestral standard of using soprano clarinets in both B and A has to do partly with the history of the instrument, and partly with acoustics, aesthetics and economics. Before about 1800, due to the lack of airtight pads (see History), practical woodwinds could have only a few keys to control accidentals (notes outside their diatonic home scales).[33] The low (chalumeau) register of the clarinet spans a twelfth (an octave plus a perfect fifth), so the clarinet needs keys to produce all of the nineteen notes in that range.[1] This involves more keywork than is necessary on instruments which "overblow" at the octave — oboes, flutes, bassoons, and saxophones, for example, which need only twelve notes before overblowing.

Clarinets with few keys cannot therefore easily play chromatically, limiting any such instrument to a few closely related key signatures.[36] For example, an eighteenth–century clarinet in C could be played in F, C, and G (and their relative minors) with good intonation, but with progressive difficulty and poorer intonation as the key moved away from this range.[36] In contrast, for octave-overblowing instruments, an instrument in C with few keys could much more readily be played in any key.

This problem was overcome by using three clarinets — in A, B and C — so that early 19th century music, which rarely strayed into the remote keys (five or six sharps or flats), could be played as follows: music in 5 to 2 sharps (B major to D major concert pitch) on A clarinet (D major to F major for the player), music in 1 sharp to 1 flat (G to F) on C clarinet, and music in 2 flats to 4 flats (B to A) on the B clarinet (C to B for the player). Difficult key signatures and numerous accidentals were thus largely avoided.

With the invention of the airtight pad, and as key technology improved and more keys were added to woodwinds, the need for clarinets in multiple musical keys was reduced.[1] However, the use of multiple instruments in different keys persisted, with the three instruments in C, B and A all used as specified by the composer.

The lower-pitched clarinets sound more "mellow" (less bright), and the C clarinet – being the highest and therefore brightest of the three – fell out of favour as the other two clarinets could cover its range and their sound was considered better.[36] While the clarinet in C began to fall out of general use around 1850, some composers continued to write C parts after this date, e.g. Bizet's Symphony in C (1855), Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 (1872), Smetana's Vltava (1874), Brahms Symphony No. 4 (1885), and Richard Strauss deliberately reintroduced it to take advantage of its brighter tone, as in Der Rosenkavalier (1911).[1]

While technical improvements and an equal-tempered scale reduced the need for two clarinets, the technical difficulty of playing in remote keys persisted and the A has thus remained a standard orchestral instrument.[1] In addition, by the late 19th century the orchestral clarinet repertoire contained so much music for clarinet in A that the disuse of this instrument was not practical.[1] Attempts were made to standardise to the B instrument between 1930 and 1950 (e.g. tutors recommended learning the routine transposition of orchestral A parts on the B clarinet, including solos written for A clarinet, and some manufacturers provided a low E on the B to match the range of the A), but this did not succeed in the orchestral sphere.

Similarly there have been E and D instruments in the upper soprano range, B, A, and C instruments in the bass range, and so forth; but over time the E and B instruments have become predominant.[1]

The B instrument continues to be dominant in wind ensemble music and in jazz, with both B and C instruments used in some ethnic traditions, such as klezmer music.

Classical music

A pair of Boehm-System Soprano Clarinets – one in B and one in A.

In classical music, clarinets are part of standard orchestral instrumentation, which frequently includes two clarinetists playing individual parts — each player is usually equipped with a pair of standard clarinets in B and A (see above) and it is quite common for clarinet parts to alternate between B and A instruments several times over the course of a piece or even, less commonly, of a movement (e.g. 1st movement Brahms 3rd symphony).[37] Clarinet sections grew larger during the last few decades of the 19th century, often employing a third clarinetist, an E or a bass clarinet. In the 20th century, composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Olivier Messiaen enlarged the clarinet section on occasion to up to nine players, employing many different clarinets including the E or D soprano clarinets, basset horn, alto clarinet, bass clarinet and/or contrabass clarinet.

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This practice of using a variety of clarinets to achieve coloristic variety was common in 20th century music and continues today. However, many clarinetists and conductors prefer to play parts originally written for obscure instruments on B or E clarinets, which are often of better quality and more prevalent and accessible.[37]

The clarinet is widely used as a solo instrument. The relatively late evolution of the clarinet (when compared to other orchestral woodwinds) has left a considerable amount of solo repertoire from the Classical period and later, but few works from the Baroque era.[1] A number of clarinet concertos have been written to showcase the instrument, with the concerti by Mozart, Copland and Weber being particularly well known.

Many works of chamber music have also been written for the clarinet. Particularly common combinations are:

Concert bands

In wind bands, clarinets are a particularly central part of the instrumentation, occupying the same space (and often playing the same notes) in bands that the strings do in orchestras. Bands usually include several B clarinets, divided into sections each consisting of two or three clarinetists playing the same part. There is almost always an E clarinet part and a bass clarinet part, usually doubled.[43] Alto, contra-alto, and contrabass clarinets are sometimes used as well, and very rarely a piccolo A clarinet.[43]


Dr Michael White (front right) plays clarinet at a jazz funeral in Treme, New Orleans, Louisiana.

The clarinet was a central instrument in early jazz starting in the 1910s and remained popular in the United States through the big band era into the 1940s.[1] Larry Shields, Ted Lewis, Jimmie Noone and Sidney Bechet were influential in early jazz. The B soprano was the most common instrument, but a few early jazz musicians such as Louis Nelson Delisle and Alcide Nunez preferred the C soprano, and many New Orleans jazz brass bands have used E soprano.[1]

Swing clarinetists such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman led successful and popular big bands and smaller groups from the 1930s onward.[44] With the decline of the big bands' popularity in the late 1940s, the clarinet faded from its prominent position in jazz, though a few players (John Carter, Buddy DeFranco, Eric Dolphy, Jimmy Giuffre, Perry Robinson, Theo Jorgensmann and others) used clarinet in bebop and free jazz.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Britain underwent a surge in the popularity of traditional jazz. During this period, a British clarinetist named Acker Bilk became popular, founding his own ensemble in 1956.[45] Bilk had a string of successful records, including the popular "Stranger on the Shore".

In the U.S., the instrument has seen something of a resurgence since the 1980s, with Eddie Daniels, Don Byron, and Marty Ehrlich and others playing the clarinet in more contemporary contexts.[1] The instrument remains common in Dixieland music; Pete Fountain is one of the best known performers in this genre.[46] Bob Wilber, active since the 1950s, is a more eclectic jazz clarinetist, playing in a number of classic jazz styles.[47] Filmmaker Woody Allen is a notable jazz clarinet enthusiast, and performs New Orleans-style jazz regularly with his quartet in New York.[48] - Jean-Christian Michel, french composer and clarinetist has initiated a jazz-classical cross-over on the clarinet with the drummer Kenny Clarke

Rock and pop

In rock and pop music, the clarinet is used very rarely. Some examples of its use are:

Other genres

Clarinets also feature prominently in klezmer music, which entails a distinctive style of playing.[56] The use of quarter-tones requires a different embouchure.[1] Some klezmer musicians prefer Albert system clarinets.[13]

The popular Brazilian music styles of choro and samba use the clarinet.[57] Prominent contemporary players include Paulo Moura, Naylor 'Proveta' Azevedo, Paulo Sérgio dos Santos and Paquito D'Rivera.

The clarinet is prominent in Bulgarian wedding music, an offshoot of Roma/Romani traditional music.[58] Ivo Papazov is a well-known clarinetist in this genre. In Moravian dulcimer bands, the clarinet is usually the only wind instrument among string instruments.[59]

The clarinet also plays an important role in Macedonian old town folk music called chalgija ("чалгија"). It has the leading role in wedding music where solos on the clarinet mark the high point of dancing euphoria.[60] One of the most renowned Macedonian clarinet players is Tale Ognenovski, who gained worldwide fame for his virtuosity.[61]

In Greece the clarinet (usually referred to as "κλαρίνο" - "clarino") is prominent in traditional music, especially in central and northwest Greece (Thessaly and Epirus).[62] The double-reed zurna was the dominant woodwind instrument before the clarinet arrived in the country, although many Greeks regard the clarinet as a native instrument.[13] Traditional dance music, wedding music and laments include a clarinet soloist and quite often improvisations.[62] Petroloukas Chalkias is a famous clarinetist in this genre.

The instrument is equally famous in Turkey, especially the soprano clarinet in G. The soprano clarinet crossed via Turkey to Arabic music, where it is widely used in Arabic pop, especially if the intention of the arranger is to imitate the Turkish style.[13]

Turkish clarinet

Groups of clarinets

Contrabass and contra-alto clarinets

Groups of clarinets playing together have become increasingly popular among clarinet enthusiasts in recent years. Common forms are:

  • Clarinet choir, which features a large number of clarinets playing together, usually involves a range of different members of the clarinet family (see Extended family of clarinets). The homogeneity of tone across the different members of the clarinet family produces an effect with some similarities to a human choir.[63]
  • Clarinet quartet, usually three B sopranos and one B bass, or two B, an E Alto Clarinet, and a B Bass Clarinet, or sometimes four B sopranos.[64]

Clarinet choirs and quartets often play arrangements of both classical and popular music, in addition to a body of literature specially written for a combination of clarinets by composers such as Arnold Cooke, Alfred Uhl, Daniel Theaker, Lucien Caillet and Václav Nelhýbel.[65]

Extended family of clarinets

There is a family of many differently-pitched clarinet types, some of which are very rare. The following are the most important sizes, from highest to lowest:

Name Key Commentary Range (concert)
Piccolo clarinet A Now rare, used for Italian military music and some contemporary pieces for its sonority;[66] Clar sop Ab reel.JPG
Sopranino clarinet E Characteristic timbre, used in concert band repertoire because its tonality is considered "compatible" with other instruments, especially those in B.[1] Clar sop Eb reel.JPG
Sopranino clarinet D Obscure because of its limited repertoire in Western music.[1] Clar sop D reel.JPG
Soprano clarinet C Rare because its timbre is considered too bright.[67] Clar sop C reel.JPG
Soprano clarinet B The most common type: used in most styles of music.[1] Clar sop Bb reel.JPG
Soprano clarinet A Has a richer sound than B, frequently used in orchestral and chamber music.[1] Clar sop A reel.JPG
Basset clarinet A Clarinet in A extended to C, used primarily to play Classical-era music.[68] Rarely used today.
Basset-horn F Mozart's Clarinet Concerto was originally written for basset-horn, which was common near the end of the 18th century.[69] Cor basset F reel.JPG
Alto clarinet E Used in chamber music and wind ensembles.[2] Clar alto Eb reel.JPG
Bass clarinet B Used in contemporary music, concert band and jazz; sometimes used in orchestral music.[1] Clar bas Bb reel.JPG
Contra-alto clarinet (also called E Contrabass Clarinet) EE Used in clarinet choirs and sometimes in orchestras and wind ensembles.[1] Clar ctalto Eb reel.JPG
Contrabass clarinet BB Used in clarinet choirs.[1] Clar ctbas Bb reel.JPG

Experimental EEE and BBB octocontra-alto and octocontrabass clarinets have also been built.[70] There have also been soprano clarinets in C, A, and B with curved barrels and bells marketed under the names Saxonette, Claribel, and Clariphon.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Lawson, Colin James. The Cambridge companion to the clarinet. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pino D. The clarinet and clarinet playing. Dover Publications, 1998.
  3. ^ Richards, E. Michael. "The Clarinet of the Twenty-First Century". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  4. ^ Reed, Alfred. "The Composer and the College Band". Music Educators Journal, Vol. 48, No. 1 (September - October, 1961), pp. 51-53
  5. ^ Cockshott, Gerald; D. K. Dent, Morrison C. Boyd and E. J. Moeran (October 1941). "English Composer Goes West". The Musical Times (Musical Times Publications Ltd.) 82 (1184): 376–378. 
  6. ^ Shigeru Yamaryo. Yamaha Corporation. Key mechanism for a bass clarinet. Patent number: 4809580. Filing date: 16 October 1987. Issue date: 7 March 1989
  7. ^ Cailliet, Lucien (1960). The Clarinet and Clarinet Choir. New York: G. Leblanc Corp. 
  8. ^ a b c d Lowry, Robert (1985). Practical Hints on Playing the B-Flat Clarinet. Alfred Publishing. 
  9. ^ Sadie, Stanley (1984). New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Macmillan Press. pp. 391. <
  10. ^ Rendall, F. Geoffrey (1971). The Clarinet (Third Edition). pp. 11–15. 
  11. ^ a b c Jenkins, Martin; Sara Oldfield and Tiffany Aylett (2002). "International Trade in African Blackwood". Fauna & Flora International. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  12. ^ "The Silver Clarinet Story". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  13. ^ a b c d Hoeprich, Eric (2008). The Clarinet. Yale University Press. 
  14. ^ "Greenline Clarinets". Buffet Crampon. Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  15. ^ "Materials". Hanson Clarinets. Retrieved 2007-06-22. ; Ridenour, Tom. "The Grenadilla Myth". Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f Pinksterboer, Hugo (2001). Tipbook Clarinet. Hal Leonard Corporation. 
  17. ^ Obataya E, Norimoto M. "Acoustic properties of a reed (Arundo donax L.) used for the vibrating plate of a clarinet". J. Acoust. Soc. Am. Volume 106, Issue 2, pp. 1106-1110 (August 1999)
  18. ^ Baines, Anthony. Woodwind instruments and their history. Dover Publications, 1991.
  19. ^ Intravaia, Lawrence J; Robert S. Resnick (Spring 1968). "A Research Study of a Technique for Adjusting Clarinet Reeds". Journal of Research in Music Education (MENC) 16 (1): 45–58. 
  20. ^ "The bore". Accessed 2009-7-2.
  21. ^ Ridley, E.A.K. (September 1986). "Birth of the 'Boehm' Clarinet". The Galpin Society Journal 39: 68–76. 
  22. ^ Horvath, Janet (September 2001). "An Orchestra Musician's Perspective on 20 Years of Performing Arts Medicine". Medical Problems of Performing Artists 16 (3): 102. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h "Clarinet acoustics: an introduction". University of New South Wales. Accessed 2009-7-2.
  24. ^ Synthesis of acoustics University of New South Wales.
  25. ^ Cavanagh, Lynn. "A brief history of the establishment of international standard pitch a=440 hertz". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  26. ^ a b Baines, Anthony. Woodwind instruments and their history. W.W. Norton & Co, 1957
  27. ^ Gibson, Lee. "Fundamentals of Acoustical Design of the Soprano Clarinet". Music Educators Journal, Vol. 54, No. 6 (Feb., 1968), pp. 113-115
  28. ^ Drushler, P (1978). "The clarinet vibrato". Woodwind Anthology (Illinois). 
  29. ^ Heaton, Roger. The Contemporary Clarinet. doi:10.2277/0521476682.  In Lawson (ed.), Colin (1995). The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet. Cambridge University Press. pp. 174–175. 
  30. ^ a b c d e f Karp, Cary (1986). "The early history of the clarinet and chalumeau". Early Music (Oxford University Press) 14 (4): 545–551. 
  31. ^ Hoeprich, T Eric. "A Three-Key Clarinet by J.C. Denner". The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 34, (Mar., 1981), pp. 21-32
  32. ^ Hacker, Alan. "Mozart and the Basset Clarinet". The Musical Times, Vol. 110, No. 1514 (Apr., 1969), pp. 359-362.
  33. ^ a b c Bray, Erin (2004-11-16). "The clarinet history". The clarinet family. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  34. ^ a b Clarinet History, 1812.
  35. ^ a b Ridley, EAK. "Birth of the 'Boehm' Clarinet". The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. 39, (Sep., 1986), pp. 68-76
  36. ^ a b c Longyear, RM. "Clarinet Sonorities in Early Romantic Music". The Musical Times, Vol. 124, No. 1682 (Apr., 1983), pp. 224-226
  37. ^ a b Del Mar, Norman. Anatomy of the Orchestra. University of California Press, 1983.
  38. ^ Burnet C. Tuthill, "Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano: Annotated Listings", Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 20, No. 3. (Autumn, 1972), pp. 308-328.
  39. ^ Weerts, Richard K. (Autumn, 1964). "The Clarinet Choir". Journal of Research in Music Education (MENC) 12 (3): 227–230. 
  40. ^ Street, Oscar W.. "The Clarinet and Its Music". Journal of the Royal Musical Association (1915: Royal Musical Association) 42 (1): 89 – 115. 
  41. ^ Suppan, Wolfgang. 2001. "Wind Quintet." The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  42. ^ a b Costa, Anthony. "A BIBLIOGRAPHY OF CHAMBER MUSIC AND DOUBLE CONCERTI LITERATURE FOR OBOE AND CLARINET". Ohio State University. Dissertation. 2005.
  43. ^ a b Erickson, Frank. Arranging for the Concert Band. Alfred Publishing, 1985.
  44. ^ Schuller, Gunther. The swing era. Oxford University Press, 1989.
  45. ^ Kaufman, Will; Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson (2005). Britain and the Americas. ABC-CLIO. 
  46. ^ Compagno, Nick. "A Closer Walk with Pete Fountain". Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  47. ^ Wilber, Bob (1988). Music Was Not Enough. Oxford University Press. 
  48. ^ "New Orleans Trombone, Jerry Zigmont - Jazz Trombone, Eddy Davis & His New Orleans Jazz Band featuring Woody Allen, Cafe Carlyle, Woody Allen Band". Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  49. ^ George Martin with William Pearson (1994). With a Little Help from My Friends: The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Boston: Little, Brown. pp. 34. ISBN 0-316-54783-2. 
  50. ^ Selvin, Joel (1998). For the Record: Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History. New York: Quill Publishing. ISBN 0-380-79377-6.
  51. ^ "Rick’s comments about the 1988 tour and live album". Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  52. ^ Denberg, Jody (March 31, 2000). "Gung Ho". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  53. ^ Chung, Sandra (July 11, 2001). "Life After ‘Kid A’". The Tech (MIT). Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  54. ^ The Stranger (Deluxe Edition). Billy Joel. Album notes. COLB 30801. 2008-07-08. A&R Recording Inc, N.Y.
  55. ^ "Brand New Day". Chapters. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  56. ^ Slobin, Mark (1984). "Klezmer Music: An American Ethnic Genre". Yearbook for Traditional Music (International Council for Traditional Music) 16: 34–41. 
  57. ^ Livingston-Isenhour, Tamara Elena; Thomas George Caracas Garcia (2005). Choro. Indiana University Press. 
  58. ^ Rowlett, M (2001). The Clarinet in Bulgarian Wedding Music. Florida State University. 
  59. ^ Broughton, Simon; Mark Ellingham, Richard Trillo, Orla Duane, Vanessa Dowell (1999). World Music. Rough Guides. 
  60. ^ "Tale Ognenovski and Chalgiite MRTV - Nevestinsko oro". Retrieved 2010-01-29. 
  61. ^ "Tale Ognenovski, Musical Genius, Clarinetist And Composer". Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  62. ^ a b Pappas, John (1998). "Greek Folk Instrument Groups". Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  63. ^ Weerts, Richard. "The Clarinet Choir". Journal of Research in Music Education (MENC) 12 (3): 227–230. 
  64. ^ Seay, Albert E. (September - October, 1948). "Modern Composers and the Wind Ensemble". Music Educators Journal (MENC) 35 (1): 27–28. 
  65. ^ "Clarinet Quartet Project". Clarinet Institute. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  66. ^ Clarinette en la
  67. ^ Clarinette en Ut
  68. ^ Albert R. Rice, The Clarinet in the Classical Period. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  69. ^ Lawson, Colin James (1996). Mozart, clarinet concerto. Cambridge University Press. 
  70. ^ Green, Grant D. (2005). "Octocontrabass & Octocontralto Clarinets". Retrieved 2009-07-21. 

Further reading

  • Nicholas Bessaraboff, Ancient European Musical Instruments. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1941.
  • "Woodwind Instruments and Their History" by Anthony Baines, Dover Publishing
  • Jack Brymer, Clarinet. (Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides) Hardback and paperback, 296 pages, Kahn & Averill. ISBN 1-871082-12-9
  • David Pino, The Clarinet and Clarinet Playing. Providence: Dover Pubns, 1998, 320 p.; ISBN 0-486-40270-3
  • F. Geoffrey Rendall, The Clarinet. Second Revised Edition. London: Ernest Benn Limited, 1957.
  • Cyrille Rose, Artistic Studies, Book 1. ed. David Hite. San Antonio: Southern Music, 1986.
  • Nicholas Shackleton, "Clarinet", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed 21 February 2006), (subscription access).
  • Buffet Crampon Greenline website
  • Jennifer Ross, "Clarinet", "Ohio: Hardcover Printing Press, 1988.
  • Fabrizio Meloni, Il Clarinetto, ill., 299 pages, Zecchini Editore, Italy, 2002, ISBN 88-87203-03-2.
  • Bărbuceanu Valeriu, "Dictionary of musical instruments", Second Revised Edition, Teora Press, Bucharest, 1999
  • "Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics" by Arthur H. Benade, Dover Publishing

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Clarinet in Eb.jpg


The Clarinet

The clarinet is a musical instrument in the woodwind family. The name derives from adding the suffix -et meaning little to the Italian word clarino meaning a particular trumpet, as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed.

Clarinets actually comprise a family of instruments of differing sizes and pitches. It is the largest such instrument family, with more than two dozen types. Of these many are rare or obsolete, and music written for them is usually played on one of the more common size instruments. The unmodified word clarinet usually refers to the B♭ soprano, by far the most common clarinet. Another common clarinet is the B♭Bass Clarinet. There are many varieties of clarinets including a smaller E♭clarinet.

Since approximately 1850, clarinets have been nominally tuned according to 12-tone equal-temperament. Older clarinets were nominally tuned to meantone, and a skilled performer can use his or her embouchure to considerably alter the tuning of individual notes.


The Reed

Reeds for the clarinet come in different strengths. They are usually numbered in steps of 1/2. Softer reeds are numbered lower than harder reeds. A fairly typical reed hardness for beginners is 2 or 2 1/2, while a typical professional classical player may use reeds from 3 1/2 to 4, depending on the player.

A reed is a thin, long piece of cane that is fixed at one end by a ligature and free to vibrate at the other. The clarinet uses what is called a single reed and it is directly responible for the sound that is emitted from the instrument. (Apel, W.,(1972) Harvard Dictionary of Music Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University.) [2]

The Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece is the most important piece of the clarinet, as it produces the clarinet's sound. The reed and ligature are pieces attached to the mouthpiece.

The Ligature

The ligature holds the reed to the mouthpiece and is generally made of metal or leather.

The Embouchure

The embouchure used to play the clarinet can be described as the shape a mouth makes after mouthing Eee-ooo, with the lips stretched and a small opening at the very front of the mouth.


Wikipedia-logo.png Run a search on Clarinet at Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Insert reference material
  2. Apel,W., (1972) Harvard Dictionary of MusicMassachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CLARINET, or Clarionet (Fr. clarinette; Ger. Clarinette, Klarinett; Ital. clarinetto, chiarinetto), a wood-wind instrument having a cylindrical bore and played by means of a single-reed mouthpiece. The word " clarinet " is said to be derived from clarinetto, a diminutive of clarino, the Italian for (I) the soprano trumpet, (2) the highest register of the instrument, (3) the trumpet played musically without the blare of the martial instrument. The word " clarionet " is similarly derived from clarion," the English equivalent of clarino. It is suggested that the name clarinet or clarinetto was bestowed on account of the resemblance in timbre between the high registers of the clarino and clarinet. By adding the speaker-hole to the old chalumeau, J. C. Denner gave it an additional compass based on the overblowing of the harmonic twelfth, and consisting of an octave and a half of harmonics, which received the name of clarino, while the lower register retained the name of chalumeau. There is something to be said also in favour of another suggested derivation from the Italian chiarina, the name for reed instruments and the equivalent for tibia and aulos. At the beginning of the 18th century in Italy clarinetto, the diminutive of clarino, would be masculine, whereas chiarinetta or clarinetta would be feminine,' as in Doppelmayr's account of the invention written in 1730. The word " clarinet " is sometimes used in a generic sense to denote the whole family, which consists of the clarinet, or discant corresponding to the violin, oboe, &c.; the alto clarinet in E; the basset horn in F (q.v.); the bass clarinet, and the pedal clarinet.

The modern clarinet consists of five (or four) separate pieces: (1) the mouthpiece; (2) the bulb; (3) the upper middle joint, or left-hand joint; (4) the lower middle joint, or right-hand joint (5) the bell; which (the bell excepted) when joined together, form a tube with a continuous cylindrical bore, 2 ft. or more in length, :according to the pitch of the instrument. The mouthpiece, including the beating or single-reed common to the whole clarinet family, has the appearance of a beak with the point bevelled off and thinned at the edge to correspond with the end of ' See Gottfried Weber's objection to this derivation in " Ober Clarinette and Basset-horn," Caecilia (Mainz, 1829), vol. xi. pp. 36 and 37, note.

Nos. 3 and 4 are sometimes made in one, as for instance in Messrs Rudall, Carte & Company's modification, the Klussmann patent.

the reed shaped like a spatula. The under part of the mouthpiece (fig. 2) is flattened in order to form a table for the support of the reed which is adjusted thereon with great nicety, allowing just the amount of play requisite to set in vibration the column of air within the tube.


The mouthpiece, which is subject to continual fluctuations of dampness and dryness, and to changes of temperature, requires to be made of a material having great powers of resistance, such as cocus wood, ivory or vulcanite, which are mostly used for the purpose in England. A longitudinal aperture 1 in. long and in. wide, communicating with the bore, is cut in the table and covered by the reed. The aperture is thus closed except towards the point, where, for the distance of in., the reed is thinned and the table curves backwards towards the point, leaving a gap between the ends of the mouthpiece and of the reed of r mm. or about the thickness of a sixpence for the B flat clarinet. The curve of the table and the size of the gap are therefore of considerable importance. The reed is cut from a joint of the Arundo donax or sativa, which grows wild in the regions bordering on the Mediterranean. A flat slip of the reed is cut, flattened on one side and thinned to a very delicate edge on the other. At first the reed was fastened to the table by means of many turns of a fine waxed cord. The metal band 'adjusted by means of two screws, known as the " ligature," was introduced about 1817 by Ivan Muller. The reed is set in vibration by the breath of the performer, and being flexible it beats against the table, opening and closing the gap at a rate depending on the rate of the vibrations it sets up in the air column, this rate varying according to the length of the column as determined by opening the lateral holes and keys. A cylindrical tube played by means of a reed has the acoustic properties of a stopped pipe, i.e. the fundamental tone produced by the tube is an octave lower than the corresponding tone of (Albert Model). an open pipe of the same length, and over blows a twelfth; whereas tubes having a conical bore like the oboe, and played by means of a reed, speak as open pipes and overblow an octave. This forms the fundamental difference between the instruments of the oboe and clarinet families. Wind instruments depending upon lateral holes for the production of their scale must either have as many holes pierced in the bore as they require notes, or make use of the property possessed by the air-column of dividing into harmonics or partials of the fundamental tones. Twenty to twenty-two holes is the number generally accepted as the practical limit for the clarinet; beyond that number the fingering and mechanism become too complicated. The compass of the clarinet is therefore extended through the medium of the harmonic overtones. In stopped pipes a node is formed near the mouthpiece, and they are therefore only able to produce the uneven harmonics, such as the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, &c., corresponding to the fundamental, and the diatonic intervals of the 5th one octave above, and of the 3rd and 7th two octaves above the fundamental. By pressing the reed with the lip near the base where it is thicker and stiffer, and increasing the pressure of the breath, the air-column is forced to divide and to sound the FIG. I. - Clarinet FIG. 2. - Clarinet Mouthpiece. a, the mouthpiece showing the position of the bore inside; b, the single or beating reed.

harmonics, a principle well understood by the ancient Greeks and Romans in playing upon the aulos and tibia.' This is easier to accomplish with the double reed than with the beating reed; in fact with a tube of wide diameter, such as that of the modern clarinet, it would not be possible by this means alone to do justice to the tone of the instrument or to the music now written for it. The bore of the aulos was very much narrower than that of the clarinet.

In order to facilitate the production of the harmonic notes on the clarinet, a small hole, closed by means of a key and called the " speaker," is bored near the mouthpiece. By means of this small hole the air-column is placed in communication with the external atmosphere, a ventral segment is formed, and the air-column divides into three equal parts, producing a triple number of vibrations resulting in the third note of the harmonic series, at an interval of a twelfth above the fundamental. 2 In a wind instrument with lateral holes the fundamental note corresponding to any particular hole is produced when all the holes below that hole are open and it itself and all above it are closed, the effective length of the resonating tube being shortened as each of the closed holes is successively uncovered. In order to obtain a complete chromatic scale on the clarinet at least eighteen holes are required. This series produces with the bell-note a succession of nineteen semitones, giving the range of a twelfth and known as the fundamental scale or chalumeau register, so called, no doubt, because it was the compass (without chromatic semitones) of the more primitive predecessor of the clarinet, known as the chalumeau, which must not be confounded with the shawm or schalmey of the middle ages.

The fundamental scale of the modern clarinet in C extends from - to the speaker key, whereby each of the fundamental notes is reproduced a twelfth higher; the bell-note thus jumps from E to B#, the first key gives instead of F its twelfth C#, and so on, extending the compass to ---, which ends the natural compass of the instrument, although a skilful performer may obtain another octave by cross-fingering. The names of the holes and keys on the clarinet are derived not from the notes of the fundamental scale, but from the name of the twelfth produced by overblowing with the speaker key open; for instance, the first key near the bell is known not as the E key but as the B. The use of the speaker key forms the greatest technical difficulty in learning to play the clarinet, on account of the thumb having to do double duty, closing one hole and raising the lever of the speaker key simultaneously. In a clarinet designed by Richard Carte this difficulty was ingeniously overcome by placing the left thumb-hole towards the front, and closing it by a thumb-lever or with a ring action by the first or second finger of the left hand, thus leaving the thumb free to work the speaker key alone.

There is good reason to think that the ancient Greeks understood the advantage of a speaker-hole, which they called Syrinx, for facilitating the production of harmonics on the aulos. The credit of the discovery of this interesting fact is due to A. A. Howard,3 of Harvard University; it explains many passages in the classics which before were obscure (see AuLos). Plutarch relates 4 that Telephanes of Megara was so incensed with the syrinx that he never allowed his instrument-makers to place one on any of his auloi; he even went so far as to absent himself, principally on account of the syrinx, from the Pythian games. Telephanes was a great virtuoso who scorned the use of a speaker-hole, being able to obtain his harmonics on the aulos by the mere control of lips and teeth.

The modern clarinet has from thirteen to nineteen keys, some being normally open and others closed. In order to understand why, when once the idea of adding keys to the chalumeau had been conceived, the number rose so slowly, keys being added one or two at a time by makers of various nationalities at long intervals, it is I Aristotle (de Audib. 802 b 18, and 804 a) and Porphyry (ed. Wallis, pp. 249 and 252) mention that if the performer presses the zeuge (mouthpiece) or the glottai (reeds) of the pipes, a sharper tone is produced.

2 Cf. V. C. Mahillon, Elements d'acoustique musicale et instrumentale (Brussels, 1874), p. 161; and Fr. Zamminer, Die Musik and die musikalischen Instrumente in ihrer Beziehung zu den Gesetzen der Akustik.. . (Giessen, 1855), pp. 2 97 and 298.

3 " The Aulos or Tibia," Harvard Studies, iv. (Boston, 1893).

4 De Musica, 1138.

necessary to consider the effect of boring holes in the side of a cylindrical tube. If it were possible to proceed from an absolute theoretical basis, there would be but little difficulty; there are, however, practical reasons which make this a matter of great difficulty. According to V. Mahillon,' the theoretical length of a B5 clarinet (French pitch diapason normal A =435 vibrations), is 39 cm. when the internal diameter of the bore measures exactly 1.4 cm. Any increase in the diameter of the cylindrical bore for a given length of tube raises the pitch proportionally and in the same way a decrease lowers it. A bore narrow in proportion to the length facilitates the production of the harmonics, which is no doubt the reason why the aulos was made with a very narrow diameter, and produced such deep notes in proportion to its length. In determining the position of the holes along the tube, the thickness of the wood to be pierced must be taken into consideration, for the length of the passage from the main bore to the outer air adds to the length of the resonating column; as, however, the clarinet tube is reckoned as a closed one, only half the extra length must be taken into account. When placed in its correct theoretical position, a hole should have its diameter equal to the diameter of the main bore, which is the ideal condition for obtaining a full, rich tone; it is, however, feasible to give the hole a smaller diameter, altering its position by placing it nearer the mouthpiece. These laws, which were likewise known to the Greeks and Romans,' had to be rediscovered by experience in the 18th and 19th centuries, during which the mechanism of the key system was repeatedly improved. Due consideration having been given to these points, it will also be necessary to remember that the stopping of the seven open holes leaves only the two little fingers (the thumb of the right hand being in the ordinary clarinet engaged in supporting the instrument) free at all times for key service, the other fingers doing duty when momentarily disengaged. The fingering of the clarinet is the most difficult of any instrument in the orchestra, for it differs in all four octaves of its compass. Once mastered, however, it is the same for all clarinets, the music being, always written in the key of C.

The actual tonality of the clarinet is determined by the diatonic scale produced when, starting with keys untouched and finger and thumb-holes closed, the fingers are raised one by one from the holes. In the Bb clarinet, the real sounds thus produced are being part of the scale of Bb major. By the closing of two open keys, the lower Eb and D are added.

The following are the various sizes of clarinets with the key proper to each: Eb, a minor third above the C clarinet. B5, a tone below „ „ The high F, 4 tones above „ „ The D, i tone above „ „ The low G, a fourth below „ „ The A, a minor third below The B# i semitone below „ „ The alto clarinet in Eb, a fifth below the Bb clarinet.

The tenor or basset horn, in F, a fifth below the C clarinet.

The bass clarinet in B5, an 8ve below that in B5.

The pedal clarinet in Bb, an 8 ve below the bass clarinet.

The clarinets in Bb and A are used in the orchestra; those in C and Eb in military bands.


Although the single beating-reed associated with the instruments of the clarinet family has been traced in ancient Egypt, the double reed, characteristic of the oboe family, being of simpler construction, was probably of still greater antiquity. An ancient Egyptian pipe found in a mummy-case and now preserved in the museum at Turin was found to contain a beatingreed sunk 3 in. below the end of the pipe, which is the principle of the drone. It would appear that the double chalumeau, called arghoul by the modern Egyptians, was known in ancient Egypt, although it was not perhaps in common use. The Musee Guimet possesses a copy of a fresco from the tombs at Saqqarah (executed under the direction of Mariette Bey) assigned to the 4th or 5th dynasty, on which is shown a concert with dancing; the instruments used are two harps, the long oblique flute " nay," blown from the end without any mouthpiece or embouchure, and an instrument identified as an arghoul' cit. pp. 160 et seq.; and Wilhelm Altenburg, Die Klarinette (Heilbronn, 1904), p. 9, who refers to Mahillon.

' See Macrobius, Comm. in somnium Scipionis, ii. 4.5 " nec secus probamus in tibiis de quarum foraminibus vicinis inflantis. on sonus acutus emittitur, de longinquis autem et termino proximis, gravior: item acutior per patentiora foramina, gravior per angusta." See Victor Loret, L'Egypte au temps des Pharaons - la vie, la science, et l'art (Paris, 1889), illustration p. 139 and p. 143. The author gives no information about this fresco except that it is in the The next octave and a half is obtained by opening from its resemblance to the modern instrument of the same name. This is believed to be the only illustration of the ancient double chalumeau yet found in Egypt, with the single exception of a hieroglyph occurring also once only, i.e. the sign read As-it, consisting of a cylindrical pipe with a beak mouthpiece bound round with a cord tied in a bow. The bow is taken to indicate the double parallel pipes bound together; the same sign without the bow occurs frequently and is read Ma-it,' and is considered to be the generic name for reed wind instruments. The beatingreed was probably introduced into classic Greece from Egypt or Asia Minor. A few ancient Greek instruments are extant, five of which are in the British Museum. They are as nearly cylindrical as would be the natural growing reed itself. The probability is that both single and double reeds were at times used with the Greek aulos and the Roman tibia. V. Mahillon and A. A. Howard of Harvard have both obtained facsimiles of actual instruments, some found at Pompeii and now deposited in the museum at Naples, and others in the British Museum. Experiments made with these instruments, whose original mouthpieces have perished, show that with pipes of such narrow diameter the fundamental scale and pitch are the same whether sounded by means of a single or of a double reed, but the modern combination of single reed and cylindrical tube alone gives the full pure tone quality. The subject is more fully discussed in the article AuLOS. 2 The Roman tibia, if monuments can be trusted, sometimes had a beak-shaped mouthpiece, as for instance that attached to a pipe discovered at Pompeii, or that shown in a scene on Trajan's column. 3 It is probable that when, at the decline of the Roman empire, instrumental music was placed by the church under a ban - and the tibia more especially from its association with every form of licence and moral depravity - this instrument, sharing the common fate, survived chiefly among itinerant musicians who carried it into western Europe, where it was preserved from complete extinction. An instrument of difficult technique requiring an advanced knowledge of acoustics was not, however, likely to flourish or even to be understood among nations whose culture was as yet in its infancy.

The tide of culture from the Byzantine empire filtered through to the south and west, leaving many traces; a fresh impetus was received from the east through the Arabs; and later, as a result of the Crusades, the prototype of the clarinet, together with the practical knowledge necessary for making the instrument and playing upon it, may have been re-introduced through any one or all of these sources. However this may be, the instrument was during the Carolingian period identified with the tibia of the Romans until such time as the new western civilization ceased to be content to go back to classical Rome for its models, and began to express itself, at first naively and awkwardly, as the IIth century dawned. The name then changed to the derivatives of the Greek kalamos, assuming an almost bewildering variety of forms, of which the commonest are chalemie, chalumeau, schalmey, scalmeye, shawm, calemel, kalemele. 4 The derivation of the name seems to point to a Byzantine rather than an Arab source for the revival of the instruments which formed the prototype of both oboe and clarinet, but it must not be forgotten that the instruments with a conical bore - more especially those played by a reed - are primarily of Asiatic origin. At the beginning of the 13th century Musee Guimet. It is probably identical with the second of the mural paintings described on p. 190 of Petit guide illustre au Musee Guimet, par L. de Milloue.

1 See Victor Loret, " Les flfltes egyptiennes antiques," Journal asiatique (Paris, 1889), [8], xiv. pp. 129, 130, 132.

See also A. A. Howard, " Study on the Aulos or Tibia," Harvard Studies, vol. iv. (Boston, 1893); F. C. Gevaert, Musique de l'antiquite; Carl von Jan, article " Floete " in August Baumeister's Denkmdler des klassischen Alterthums (Leipzig, 1884-1888), vol. i.; Dr Hugo Riemann, Handbuch der Musikgesch. vol. i. p. 90, &c. (Leipzig, 1904); all of whom have not come to the same conclusions.

4 Wilhelm Froehner, La Colonne trajane (Paris, 1872), t. ii. pl. 76.

" Aveuc aus ert vestus Guis Ki leur cante et Kalemele, En la muse au grant bourdon." J. A. U. Scheler's Trouveres belges. in France, where the instrument remained a special favourite until it was displaced by the clarinet, the chalumeau is mentioned in some of the early romances:" Tabars et chalemiaux et estrumens sonner " (Aye d'Avignon, v. 4137); " Grelles et chelimiaus et buisines bruians " (Gui de Bourgogne, v. 1374), &c. By the end of the 13th century, the German equivalent Schalmey appears in the literature of that country, - " Pustinen and Schalmeyen schal moht niemen da gehoeren wal " (Frauendienst, 492, fol. 5, Ulrich von Lichtenstein). The schalmey or shawm is frequently represented in miniatures from the 13th century, but it must have been known long before, since it was at that period in use as the chaunter of the bag-pipe, a fully-developed complex instrument which presupposes a separate previous existence for its component parts.

We have no reason to suppose that any distinction was drawn between the single and double reed instruments during the early middle ages - if indeed the single reed was then known at all - for the derivatives of kalamos were applied to a variety of pipes. The first clear and unmistakable drawing yet found of the single reed occurs in Mersenne's Harmonic universelle (p. 282), where the primitive reed pipe is shown with the beating-reed detached from the tube of the instrument itself, by making a lateral slit and then splitting back a little tongue of reed towards a knot. Mersenne calls this the simplest form of chalumeau or wheat-stalk (tuyau de bl(1). It is evident that no significance was then attached to the form of the vibrating reed, whether single or double, for Mersenne and other writers of his time call the chaunters of the musette and cornemuse chalumeaux whether they are of cylindrical or of conical bore. The difference in timbre produced by the two kinds of reeds was, however, understood, for Mersenne states that a special kind of cornemuse was used in concert with the hautbois de Poitou (an oboe whose double reed was enclosed in an air chamber) and was distinguished from the shepherd's cornemuse by having double reeds throughout, whereas the drones of the latter instrument were furnished with beating reeds. It is therefore evident that as late as 1636 (the date at which Mersenne wrote) in France the word " chalumeau " was not applied to the instrument transformed some sixty years later into the clarinet, nor was it applied exclusively to any one kind of pipe except when acting as the chaunter of the bagpipe, and that independently of any structural characteristics. The chaunter was still called chalumeau in 1737.5 Of the instrument which has been looked upon as the chalumeau, there is but little trace in Germany or in France at the beginning of the 17th century. A chalumeau with beak mouthpiece and characteristic short cylindrical tube pierced with six holes figures among the musical instruments used for the triumphal procession of the emperor Maximilian commemorated by a fine series of plates, 6 engraved on wood by Hans Burgkmair, the friend and colleague of A. Diirer. On the same plate (No. 79) are five schalmeys with double reeds and five chalumeaux with single-reed beak mouthpieces; the latter instruments were in all probability made in the Netherlands, which excelled from the 12th century in the manufacture of all musical instruments. No single-reed instrument, with the exception of the regal, is figured by S. Virdung, 7 M. Agricola $ or M. Praetorius.9 A good idea of the primitive chalumeau may be gained from a reproduction of one of the few specimens from the 16th or 17th century still extant, which belonged to Cesare Snoeck and was exhibited at the Royal Military Exhibition in London in 1890.'° The tube is stopped at the mouthpiece end by a natural joint of See Ernest Thoinan, Les Hotteterre et les Che'deville, celebres facteurs de flutes, hautbois, bassons et musettes (Paris, 18 94), p. 15 et seq., and Methode pour la musette, &c., par Hotteterre le Romain (Paris, 1737).

6 The whole series of 135 plates has been reproduced in Jahrb. d. Samml. des Allerh. Kaiserhauses (Vienna, 1883-1884).

7 Musica getutscht and auszgezogen (Basel, 1511).

8 Musica Instrumentalis Deudsch (Nuremberg, 1528 and 1545).

9 Syntagma Musicum (Wolfenbiittel, 1618). This work and those mentioned in the two previous notes have been reprinted by the Ges. f. Musikforschung in vols. xi., xx. and xiii. of Publikationen (Berlin).

10 See Descriptive Catalogue, by Capt. C. R. Day (London, 1891), pl. iv. A and p. I10, No. 221.

the reed, and a tongue has been detached just under the joint; there are six finger-holes and one for the thumb. An instrument almost identical with the above, but with a rudimentary bell, and showing plainly the detached tongue, is figured by Jost Amman in 1589.1 A plate in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopedie 2 shows a less primitive instrument, outwardly cylindrical and having a separate mouthpiece joint and a clarinet reed but no keys. A chalumeau without keys, but consisting apparently of three joints - mouthpiece, main tube and bell, - is figured on the title-page of a musical work 3 dated 1690; it is very similar to the one represented in fig. 3, except that only six holes are visible.


- 0 I^ 2

3456 7


In his biographical notice of J. Christian Denner (1655-1707), J. G. Doppelmayr 4 states that at the beginning of the 18th century " Denner invented a new kind of pipe, the socalled clarinet, which greatly delighted lovers of music; he also made great improvements in the stock or rackett-fagottos, known in the olden time and finally also in the chalumeaux." It is probable that the improvements in the chalumeau to which Doppelmayr alludes with- (b) out understanding them consisted (a) in giving the mouthpiece the shape of a beak and adding a separate reed tongue as in that of the modern clarinet, unless this change had already taken place in the Netherlands, the country which the unremitting labours of E. van der Straeten 5 have revealed as taking the lead in Europe from the 14th to the 16th century in the construction of musical instruments of all kinds; (b) in the boring of two additional holes for A and B near the mouthpiece and covering them with two keys; (c) in replacing the long cylindrical mouthpiece joint by a bulb, thus restoring one of the characteristic features of the tibia, 6 known as the 6Aµos. There are a few of these improved chalumeaux in existence, two being in the Bavarian national museum at Munich, the one in high A, in a bad state of preservation, the second in C, marked J. C. Denner, of which V. Mahillon has made a facsimile' for the museum of the Brussels Conservatoire. There are two keys and eight holes; the first consists of two small holes on the same level giving a semitone if only one be closed. If the thumb-key be left open, the sounds of the fundamental scale (shown in the black notes below) rise a twelfth to form the second register (the white notes) This early clarinet or improved chalumeau has a clarinet mouthpiece, but no bulb; it measures 50 cm. (20 in.), whereas the one in A mentioned above is only 28 cm. in length, the long cylindrical tube between mouthpiece and key-joint, afterwards turned into the bulb, being absent. Mahillon was probably the first to point out that the so-called invention of the clarinet by J. C. Denner consisted in providing a device - the speaker-key - to facilitate the production of the harmonics of the fundamental. Can we be sure that the same result was not obtained on the old chalumeau 1 Wappenbuch, p. III, " Musica." 2 Paris, 1767, vol. v. " Planches," pl. ix. 20, 21, 22.

Dr Theofilo Muffat, " Componimenti musicali per it cembalo," in Denkm¢ler d. Tonkunst in Osterreich, Bd. iii.

4 Historische Nachricht von den Niirnbergischen Mathematicis Kiinstlern, &c. (Nuremberg, 1730), p. 305.

5 Histoire de la musique aux Pays Bas avant le XIX e siecle. 6 For a facsimile of one of the Pompeii tibiae, see Capt. C. R. Day, op. cit. pl. iv. C. and p. 109.

7 Catalogue descriptif (Ghent, 1896), vol. ii. p. 211, No. 911, where an illustration is given. See also Capt. C. R. Day, op. cit. pl. iv.

B and Errata where the description is printed.

before keys were added, by partially uncovering the hole for the thumb ?

The Berlin museum possesses an early clarinet with two keys,. marked J. B. Oberlender, derived from the Snoeck collection.. Paul de Wit's collection has a similar specimen by Enkelmer.. The Brussels Conservatoire possesses clarinets with two keys by Flemish makers, G. A. Rottenburgh and J. B. Willems $; the: latter, with a small bulb and bell, is in G a fifth above the C clarinet. The next improvements in the clarinet, made in 17 20,, are due to J. Denner, probably a son of J. C. Denner. They consisted in the addition of a bell and in the removal of the speaker-hole and key nearer the mouthpiece, involving the reduction of the diameter of the hole. The effect of this change of position was to turn the B b into B b, for J. Denner introduced into the hole, nearly as far as the axis of the bore, a small metal drainage tube' for the moisture of the breath. In the modern clarinet, the same result is attained by raising this little tube slightly above the surface of the main tube, placing a key on the top of it, and bending the lever. In order to produce the missing B, J. Denner lengthened the tube and pierced another hole, the low E, covered by an open key with a long lever which, when closed, gives the desired B as its twelfth, thus forming a connexion between the two registers. A clarinet with three keys, of similar construction (about 1750), marked J. W. Kenigsperger, is preserved in the Bavarian national museum, at Munich. Another in Bb marked Lindner 1° belongs to the collection at Brussels. About the middle of the 18th century, the number of keys was raised to five, some say 11 by Barthold Fritz of Brunswick According to Altenburg" the Eb or D# key is due to the virtuoso Joseph Beer (1744-1811). The sixth key was added about 1790. by the celebrated French virtuoso Xavier Lefebure (or Lefevre),, and produced G. Anton Stadler and his brother,, both clarinettists in the Vienna court orchestra and instrumentmakers, are said to have lengthened the tube of the Bb clarinet, extending the compass down to C (real sound Bb). It was for the Stadler brothers that Mozart wrote his quintet for strings, with a fine obbligato for the clarinet in A (1789), and the clarinet. concerto with orchestra in 1791.

This, then, was the state of the clarinet in 1810 when Ivan Miller, then living in Paris, carried the number of keys up to thirteen, and made several structural improvements already mentioned, which gave us the modern instrument and inaugurated a new era in the construction and technique of the: clarinet. Miller's system is still adopted in principle by most. clarinet makers. The instrument was successively improved during the 19th century by the Belgian makers Bachmann, the: elder Sax, Albert and C. Mahillon, whose invention in 1862 of the C# key with double action is now generally adopted. In Paris the' labours of Lefebure, Buffet-Crampon, and Goumas are preeminent. In 1842 H. E. Klose conceived the idea of adapting to, the clarinet the ingenious mechanism of movable rings, invented by Boehm for the flute, and he entrusted the execution of this, innovation to Buffet-Crampon; this is the type of clarinet. generally adopted in French orchestras. From this adaptation has sprung the erroneous notion that Klose's clarinet was constructed according to the Boehm system; Klose's lateral. divisions of the tube do not follow those applied by Boehm to the flute.

In England the clarinet has also passed through several progressive stages since its introduction about 1770, and first of For a description with illustration see V. Mahillon's Catalogue. descriptif (Ghent, 1896), vol. ii. p. 215, No. 916.

° See Wilhelm Altenburg, op. cit. p. 6.

10 See V. Mahillon, Catal. descript. (1896), p. 213, No. 913.

11 H. Welcker von Gontershausen, Die musikalischen Tonwerkzeuge (Frankfort-on-Main, 1855), p.

(a) (1697-1766), who added keys for C# and D#.

(From Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopedic.) FIG. 3.1767.

(a) Front, (b) Back view.

cit. p. 6.

all at the hands of Cornelius Ward. The principal improvements were due to Richard Carte, who took out a patent in 1858 for an improved Boehm clarinet which possessed some claim to the name, since Boehm's principle of boring the holes at theoretically correct intervals and of venting the holes by means of open holes below was carried out. Carte made several modifications of his original patent, his chief endeavour being to so dispose the key-work as to reduce the difficulties in fingering. By the extension of the principle of the ring action, the work of the third and little fingers of the left hand was simplified and the fingering of certain difficult notes and shakes greatly facilitated. Messrs Rudall, Carte & Company have made further improvements in the clarinet, which are embodied in Klussmann's patent (fig. 4); these consist in the introduction of the duplicate G# key, a note which has hitherto formed a serious obstacle to perfect execution. The duplicate key, operated by the third or second finger of the right hand, releases the fourth finger of the left hand. The old G# is still retained and may be used in the usual way if desired. The body of the instrument is now made in one joint, and the position of the G# hole is mathematically correct, whereby perfect intonation for C#, G# and F is secured. Other improvements were made in Paris by Messrs Evette & Schaeffer and by M. Paradis, 1 a clarinet-player in the band of the Garde Republicaine, and very great improvements in boring and in key mechanism were effected by Albert of Brussels (see fig. I).

The clarinet appears to have received appreciation in the Netherlands earlier than in its own native land. According to W. Altenburg (op. cit. p. 11), 2 a MS. is preserved in the cathedral at Antwerp of a mass written by A. J. Faber in 1720, which is scored for a clarinet. Johann Mattheson, 3 Kapellmeister at Hamburg, mentions clarinet music in 1713, although Handel, whose rival he was, does not appear to have known the instrument. Joh. Christ. Bach scored for the clarinet in 1763 in his opera Orione performed in London, and Rameau had already employed the instrument in 1751 in a theatre for his pastoral entitled Acante et Cephise. 4 The clarinet was formally introduced into the orchestra in Vienna in 1767, 5 Gluck having contented himself with the use of the chalumeau in Orfeo (1762) and in Alceste (1767). 6 The clarinet had already been adopted in military bands in France in 1755, where it very speedily completely replaced the oboe. One of Napoleon Bonaparte's bands is said to have had no less than twenty clarinets.

For further information on the clarinet at the beginning of the 19th century, consult the Methods by Ivan Muller and Xavier Lefebure, and Joseph Froehlich's admirable work on the instruments of the orchestra; and Gottfried Weber's articles in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopaedia. See also BASSET HORN; BASS CLARINET and PEDAL CLARINET. (K. S.)

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A concert Bb Clarinet
  1. Introduction Development stage: 100% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
  2. General Information Development stage: 100% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
  3. History Development stage: 100% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
  4. Clarinet Basics Development stage: 100% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
  5. Building tone, rhythm, and improve playing style
    1. Tone Development stage: 100% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
      1. Airflow Development stage: 100% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
      2. Embouchure Development stage: 100% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
      3. Creating Good Tone QualityDevelopment stage: 25% (as of Nov 18, 2005)
    2. Tonguing Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
    3. Technique Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
    4. Fingering Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 29, 2006)
      1. Fingering Chart Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 29, 2006)
      2. Crossing the 'Break' Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 29, 2006)
  6. Intermediate Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 29, 2006)
    1. Double Tonguing Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 29, 2006)
    2. Vibrato Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 29, 2006)
    3. Reed Adjustments Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 29, 2006)
  7. Equipment Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
    1. Reed Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
    2. Mouthpiece Development stage: 25% (as of Nov, 18, 2005)
    3. Clarinet Models Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
    4. Other Equipment Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
  8. Clarinet Repertoire Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)
  9. Bibliography Development stage: 25% (as of Nov 16, 2005)

Simple English



Playing range

The clarinet is a woodwind instrument.

The clarinet has one reed. The reed is made of wood. The reed is attached to the mouthpiece with a clamp called a ligature, which is usually made out of metal. Blowing through the mouthpiece makes the reed shake, and therefore makes the noise. The body of the clarinet is a cylindrical tube with holes. The holes are covered by the fingers to make musical notes. There are also buttons pressed by the fingers which allow pads over holes to open or close so all notes of the chromatic scale can be played. [[File:|thumb|Clarinet being played (in front)|left]] One kind of keyed clarinet is called the Albert clarinet. Another kind is called the Boehm clarinet.

The Boehm clarinet is much used by classical orchestras and by jazz musicians. In North America, the most popular clarinet is the clarinet pitched in B-flat. This clarinet is used in concert, marching, and school bands. The A-clarinet is also used by musicians for orchestra.

A beginner clarinet player usually can play a note within the first ten minutes of instruction. Making a sound with the clarinet is easier than making a sound with many other musical instruments. Most instrumental music teachers consider it to be a good instrument for young players. The fingering system is very similar to the flute and the saxophone, so changing from playing the clarinet to one of these instruments is not too difficult after the student is comfortable playing the clarinet and has reached a certain level.

A famous piece that features a clarinet is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's work 622, which has the clarinet playing a melody with the rest of the orchestra playing along.

= Notable players


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