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.

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