Different styles of clarinet keys
While the clarinet is now available in a pretty much standard form around the world, there are two different versions of the B flat clarinet that are in use today, with the difference being in the clarinet keys. This difference in keys needs to be understood, as it can have an impact on clarinet fingering, and different styles of playing.
Considered by most players to be the easier finger to use, the Boehm model (also known as the French model) is commonly used in France and English speaking countries. This system was adopted for the system of keys developed for the flute by Théobald Boehm.
It was August Buffet who made the first clarinet with a Boehm key system in 1839, with Klosé’s seminal work on clarinet method written four years later to utilize the new key system. Today, the Boehm key system for the clarinet has seventeen keys (plus seven open tone holes), making twenty-four tone holes all together along with six ring keys.
The other widely used key system for the clarinet is the Oehler model, sometimes known as the German model. This type of keywork system is mainly used in German speaking countries. More complicated than other keywork, it does result in a more acoustically true tone, though many clarinetist feel that the improved sounds is not enough to compensate for its a complicated playing technique, using 22 keys, five rings and finger plates.
Another keywork system, the Albert system, is gaining popularity among jazz players, and is also used by some Eastern European musicians. However, it is yet to be embraced by most ‘traditional’ style clarinet players.
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