Clarinet Information

clarinet | chalumeau | reed | Boehm System | varieties of clarinet

Clarinet. Single-reed woodwind instrument with cylindrical tube developed c. 1690 by J. C. Denner of Nuremberg, who, by adding 2 keys to the chalumeau, increased that instruments range by over 2 octaves. It was not playable in all keys until 1843 when Klose adapted the Boehm flute key system to the clarinet. The first composer to use the clarinet in a symphony was Mozart.

As the reed blocks one end of the tube, the pipe acts as a 'stopped' one, sounding an octave lower than it would have done if left open. Like other cylindrical tubes, the clarinet overblows at the interval not of its first upper partial, the interval of an octave (as the flute and oboe do), but at its 2nd (the interval of a 12th). The notes of the instrument's first octave are obtained in the normal way and the gap of a 5th before the overblowing begins has to be filled by additional side-holes which leave the tone weaker at this point and the fingering somewhat more awkward. All members of the family have great powers of pianissimo and of crescendo and diminuendo - greater than those of any other wind instrument. Double, triple, and flutter tonguing are possible.

chalumeau. (Fr.) Reed. Simple rustic reed pipe, ancestor of clarinet, with 6 to 8 finger holes. Also applied to shawm and to double-reed bagpipe chanter. Also wind instrument that came into use in 17th and 18th centuries. Term used to describe lowest register of clarinet.

reed. Sound producing agent (of thin cane, plastic, or metal) of various mouth-blown wind instruments, such as the oboe and harmonica, certain organ pipes, etc. A reed which vibrates against an air slot is a Beating Reed; one which vibrates through such a slot (i.e. from one side to the other) is a Free Reed. Reeds may be either single, as in the clarinet family, or double (in the latter the two halves of the mouthpiece itself being pieces of reed vibrating against each other). On an organ, the reed stop controls pipes which have reeds.

Boehm, Theobald (Boehm System, Boehm Flute) (b Munich, 1794; d Munich, 1881). German flautist and composer, remembered principally for the system whereby he replaced the clumsily-placed holes of his instrument by keys enabling the cutting of the holes in their proper acoustical positions, yet leaving them in easy control of the fingers. He made his first 'ring key' flute in 1832, while a player in Munich court orchestra, and in 1847 brought out an improved metal flute with 15 holes and 23 levers and keys. This system has been adapted for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. Boehm was also a goldsmith and ironmaster. From 1833 to 1846 he superintented reorganization of Bavarian steel industry.

Varieties of clarinet include:
(a) Clarinet in C, Bb, or A
(b) Bass Clarinet
(c) High Eb Clarinet
(d) High D Clarinet
(e) Alto Clarinet - in Eb and F
(f) Contrabass Clarinet
(g) 3 obscure modern instruments related to the clarinet family by possessing a single reed are the Clarina, the Heckelclarina or Heckelclarinette, and the Holztrompete.