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 most flexible musical instruments both in sound and playing techniques. In order to produce sound the clarinettist 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. It dynamic or loudness ranges from practically unhearable pianississimo to a hurting fortississimo, 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.

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

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. This instrument played well in the middle register with a loud, shrill sound, so it was given the name clarinetto meaning "little trumpet" (from Italian word for trumpet, clarino and -etto). A clarinet with a flared bell, like the modern clarinet, may have been made by Denner's son.

Original Denner clarinets had 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 gave way to five or six, giving the instrument more pitch control. The clarinet developed further in the nineteenth century. Its intonation was improved by a rearrangement of the holes, more keys were added, and the instrument's range was extended. Later models had a mellower tone than the originals.

The most common arrangement of keys and holes on a clarinet was inspired by the Boehm system, developed by Theobald Boehm for the flute. In 1839 Hyacinthe Klose used the Boehm system to develop the clarinet's arrangement. The clarinet arrangement is however different than the original flute arrangement.

The next major development in the history of clarinet was the invention of the modern pad. Because early clarinets used felt pads to cover the tone holes, they leaked air. This required pad-covered holes to be kept to a minimum, restricting the number of notes the clarinet could play with good tone. In 1812, Iwan Müller, a Baltic German community-born clarinetist and inventor, developed a new type of pad that was covered in leather or fish bladder.

Description and Construction
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 players will tell you that simply changing the kind of reed you use can make a major difference in your sound.

The clarinet mouthpiece 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. Today new materials has emerged that uses Ivory powder and carbon fiber glued together with a special resin as a combined material that should have the same physical characteristics as wood, except that it is not cracking. Because of its powerful acoustic value, Grenadilla is the most suitable material for what musicians look for in a clarinet.

The keys are usually made out of an alloy called German silver. This is made from copper, zinc, and nickel. It looks like pure silver, but does not tarnish. Some fine instruments may be made with pure silver keys, and expensive models are available with gold-plated keys. The key pads 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-flatclarinet, the soprano clarinet (in D and C), the B-flat clarinet, the A clarinet, the basset clarinet, the basset-horn clarinet, the alto clarinet, the bass clarinet, and the contrabass and contra-alto clarinets.

The Clarinet that is most commonly used today 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 very large repertoire of music is written for the Bb clarinet, so the instrument is the most common choice for beginning students, and it can also be a good crossover instrument, allowing players to easily pick up the saxophone or flute at a later time. The B-flat clarinet is about 60 cm (23.6 in) long and has a range of more than three octaves.

The next most common is the clarinet in A. The A clarinet is an essential orchestral instrument, and many solo pieces and chamber-music works have been written for it as well. It is only seldom used in music for wind instruments. The A and B flat clarinet are very similar in size (only half a tone apart) and both have the same bore diameter, so you will use only one mouth piece for both instruments. The fingering on an A clarinet is the same as 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 clarinet types, the instrument’s bell is turned upward, giving it an appearance similar 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. While not as 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 are commonly used in the creation of chamber music in combinations such as the clarinet and piano, the clarinet, piano, and another instrument or vocals, the clarinet quintet which includes the clarinet and string quartet, 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. Sometimes the clarinet is used to balance the high sounds of the flutes or to add more middle voices to the woodwind section. Because of its versatile range, the clarinet is often featured to portray 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. If you do not clean this moisture out after each playing session, it can accumulate in your keypads and cause air leaks.

The outside of the clarinet should also be wiped off with a clean cloth to remove fingerprints. This will stop your instrument from tarnishing and keep it in good working order. 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.

No comments: