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A short introduction about the clarinet

The clarinet is a mellow woodwind instrument suited both to the symphony orchestra and the jazz ensemble. The most commonly played clarinet is the b flat clarinet, though the bass clarinet is also included in the make-up of a symphony orchestra. Whether the bass or b flat version of the instrument the mellow, even tone is what many listeners like best about the clarinet.   

While the b flat is the most commonly used clarinet, there are also clarinets in  A and C, a small clarinet in Eb and  the basset horn in F. Occasionally used in orchestral music, these clarinets are most often found in clarinet ensembles, often known as ‘clarinet-only orchestras’.

All clarinets are made up of the same number of pieces – five – and use a single reed to produce the distinctive clarinet sound. Blowing on the clarinet mouthpiece makes the reed vibrate, sending air through the instrument, the vibration of the air column making a sound. The sound is changed by covering the holes on the clarinet.  

The clarinet was the last of the orchestral woodwind instruments to be developed, being an improvement of the first single reed instrument, the chalumeau. Johann Denner, and later his son Jacob, are credited with the changes to the chalumeau in the early 18th century that brought about the clarinet as it is known today.

The first composer to include a clarinet was Mozart, who also wrote a famous concerto for the clarinet. The clarinet was embraced in the 20th century by jazz players, the most famous jazz clarinettist being Benny Goodman.



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About the Author:

Written by Natalia Forrest.


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