The Clarinet

The clarinet is a musical instrument with a single reed, cylindrical bore and a flared bell. It belongs to the group known as the woodwind instruments.  The modern Clarinets are manufactured using the finest woods and with always-reliable key work, this gives performers the finest instruments to ply their trade with.

The clarinet is one of the musical instruments that were flexible both in sound and playing techniques. In order to produce sound the clarinetist blows air through the opening between the reed and the mouthpiece facing, the reed vibrates and produces the clarinet's sound. The modern clarinet uses a system of rings and keys, to allow the clarinetist fingers to play a wide range of note (sounds).

Clarinet shows quite different sounds in the different registers and more characteristic than any other wind instrument. Its dynamic or loudness ranges from practically unhearable pianissimo to a hurting fortissimo, this range can only be achieved and louder by brass and saxophones. When playing quietly, the sound becomes soft and gentle instead of becoming weak. Clarinet is not really difficult to play. Like all the instruments it just takes a little practice to learn.

History of Clarinet

The invention of the first clarinet was attributed to Johann Cristoph Denner, a Nuremberg instrument maker, in the late 17 century. He was a renowned Baroque era's woodwind musical instrument maker.  Instrument building was said to trend in the family because his father was a maker of hunting horns and game whistles.

In 1678 Johann started his business as an instrument maker, his son then also became instrument builders. Some of his instruments still exist to this day. His early clarinets looked much like recorders, made in three parts and with the addition of two keys to close the holes. Clarinet as an instrument played well in the middle register with a loud and shrill sound, that it was given the name clarinetto which means "little trumpet" (from Italian word for trumpet, clarino and -etto). A clarinet with a flared bell, like the modern clarinet is assumed to have been made by Denner's son.

Original clarinets by Denner is known to have two keys, and could play a chromatic scale. However, the design of the clarinet was improved by the end of the eighteenth century by various makers that added more keys to get improved tuning, easier fingerings, and a slightly larger range.  The two keys pave way for five or six that gave the instrument more pitch control. The clarinet was developed further in the nineteenth century and its intonation was improved by a rearrangement of the holes and addition of more keys that extended the range of the instrument. Also the later models had a mellower tone than the originals.

The most common arrangement of the keys and holes on a clarinet was inspired by the Boehm system, developed by Theobald Boehm for the flute. However, in year 1839, Hyacinthe Klose used the Boehm system to develop the clarinet's arrangement and that arrangement of keys and holes is different to the original flute arrangement.
In the history of clarinet, the next major development was the invention of the modern pad. This was great because early clarinets used felt pads to cover the tone holes and they leaked air. This called for pad-covered holes to be kept to a minimum, restricting the number of notes the clarinet could play with good tone. In 1812, a Baltic German community-born clarinetist and inventor, Iwan Müller, developed a new type of pad that was covered in leather or fish bladder.

Description and Construction of Clarinet

Clarinets (also saxophones) is instrument that use a single reed unlike the double reed use by oboe and bassoon. This reed is made from the cane of Arundo donax, a type of grass. However, all clarinet reeds are not created equally. Most seasoned clarinetist will let you know that simply changing the kind of reed you play the clarinet with can make a major difference in your sound.

The mouthpiece of the clarinet is made out of a kind of hard rubber called ebonite. The mouthpiece is actually three pieces in one: the ligature secures the reed on the mouthpiece. The player slides the ligature over the mouthpiece and tightens it to secure the reed.

The body of the instrument is made of hard wood, most early clarinets were made of boxwood or ebony, nowadays, African Blackwood which is sometimes called Grenadilla is use. Grenadilla has a higher relative density than boxwood, this property gives instruments made of it a rich and beautiful tone. Its black wood is often confused with Ebony, but not the same, this wood is capable of taking a high polish. New materials has emerged today that make uses Ivory powder and carbon fiber that was glued together with a special resin as a combination of  materials that should possess the same physical characteristics as wood with the cracking exception. Due to its powerful acoustic value, Grenadilla is the most suitable material for what musicians look for in a clarinet.

The keys of the clarinet are usually made out of an alloy material called German silver. This is made from copper, zinc, and nickel. The alloy looks exactly like a pure silver, but it does not tarnish. Some special designed instruments can be made with pure silver keys, and costly models are also available with the gold-plated keys. The key pads of the clarinet require cardboard and felt or leather. It pitched an octave lower than the B clarinet and possesses a powerful sound in the lower registers.

The bell is located at the bottom of the instrument, and is named after a musical bell. This is because the end of it curves outwards to increase the clarinet’s sound.

Types of Clarinet

There are a variety of clarinet types including the piccolo clarinet, the E-flat clarinet, the soprano clarinet (in D and C), the A clarinet, B-flat clarinet, the alto clarinet, contra-alto clarinets, the basset-horn clarinet, the bass clarinet, the basset clarinet, and the contra-bass.

The Clarinet that is most commonly used in today’s world is known as the B-flat (B-soprano) clarinet. It is naturally used for solo and orchestral roles, and is also a major force in music for wind instruments. A huge number of repertoire of music was recorded written for the Bb clarinet, so the instrument is the most popular choice for beginning students, and it can also serve as a good crossover instrument, which permit players to easily pick up other instruments like the saxophone or flute at a later time. The B-flat clarinet is known to be about 60 cm (23.6 in) long and poseses a range of more than three octaves.

The next most common is the clarinet in A. The A type of clarinet (A- clarinet) is a cardinal orchestral instrument, and many pieces like solo and chamber-music have been written for it as well. It is used occasionally in music piece for wind instruments. The A clarinet and B flat clarinet are very identical in size (only half a tone apart) and they also have the same bore diameter, this allow you to use only one mouth piece for both instruments. The fingering arrangement on an A clarinet is the same as that on a B clarinet.

The bass clarinet is much bigger than the rest of the clarinets, this means it’s quite heavy often being too heavy for some players to carry with playing. A neck strap is often used to take some of the weight off. Unlike other types of clarinet, bass clarinet's bell is turned upward, and this gave it a look that is identical to a saxophone.  Bass clarinets usually come in two variations. Some instruments will have a range to low Eb, with that lowest key on the bell, while others will have a range extending to a low C. Though it is not common as the soprano models, the bass clarinet does have a sizable repertoire, and it can be heard in classical, orchestral, jazz, and even pop music.

Clarinet Uses in Music

Clarinets as a musical instrument are frequently used in the production of chamber music in combinations with other instruments, such as the clarinet and piano duet, the clarinet and the piano with another instrument or vocals, the clarinet quintet that includes the string quartet and the clarinet, and several others.

The clarinet is a versatile member of the orchestra, the principal treble woodwind of the concert band and it was the last instrument to be included in the symphony orchestra. The clarinet is a transposing instrument, its part in the score is written at a different pitch from the one actually sounded. The clarinet is used sometimes to balance the flute sound that is known to be high or to blend the wood section by adding more middle voices. Due its functional range, the clarinet is regularly utilized to interpret many different moods in orchestral pieces.

Maintenance of your Clarinet

To keep your instrument in a good condition, you need to take good care of it in the right way. These are some ways you can rightly take care of your clarinet.

When you are not using your clarinet, keep it closed in its case to help protect it and to prevent it from the possibility of damage. Also ensure you keep your reeds in a reed guard to allow them to properly dry out and to avoid any chipping or cracking.

No gum or soft drinks before playing. Sugar mixed with saliva builds up on the pads and causes them to stick, making it difficult to play the instrument. After playing, take your reed off, squeeze the excess water out of it and place it in your reed guard. Because as you play, your clarinet do collect moisture inside from the warm air that is coming out of your mouth. This warm air as a moisture can accumulate in your keypads and if you do not clean it after each playing session, it can result to air leaks in the clarinet.

The outside of the clarinet should also be wiped off with a clean cloth to remove fingerprints. This will prevent the instrument from tarnishing and will also hp in keeping it in good working condition. Make sure you clean your mouthpiece once a week using warm soapy water and your mouthpiece cleaning brush. This will sanitize the mouthpiece and also remove any foreign materials.

Never use pliers or hammers on your instrument. Improper use of household tools is a common cause of unnecessary damage to instruments and do not leave a woodwind instrument in a hot car, or in your trunk. Extreme temperatures can damage your instrument.


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