Facts About The Clarinet – The Woodwind Instrument Of its Class

Clarinet the woodwind instrument

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 notes (sounds).

ALSO READ: Types of Clarinet

Clarinet shows quite different sounds in the different registers and more characteristic than any other wind instrument. Clarinet dynamic or loudness ranges from practically inaudible 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. The 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 17th century. He was a renowned Baroque era’s woodwind musical instrument maker.  Instrument building was said to trend in the family. This is because his father was a maker of hunting horns and game whistles.

clarinet key and holes development
Keys and Hole Development (Image Source)

In 1678 Johann started his business as an instrument maker, his son then also became instrument builders. In short, parts of his instruments are still in existence today. His early clarinets looked much like recorders. It was 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 the Italian word for trumpet, “clarino”, and -“etto”). A clarinet that was made and have a flared bell, like the modern clarinet is presumed to be made by the son of Denner.

Original clarinets by Denner are popular with two keys and the capacity to run a chromatic scale. However, the design of the clarinet improved by the end of the 18th century. The time various makers added more keys in order to have improved tuning, easier fingerings, and a somewhat larger range.  The two keys pave way for five or six keys 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.

ALSO READ: Kora – The African Lute

The most common arrangement of the keys and holes on a clarinet was inspired by the Boehm system. Further developed by Theobald Boehm for the flute. However, in the year 1839, Hyacinthe Klose used the Boehm system to develop the clarinet’s arrangement. Their arrangement of keys and holes is different from 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 a 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 an instrument that uses 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 clarinetists 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. In actual fact, the mouthpiece of a clarinet comes in three pieces in one pack. It has the ligature that makes the reed on the mouthpiece safe. The player moves the ligature smoothly over the mouthpiece and make it tight to safeguard the reed.

Clarinet parts
Clarinet in Segment (Image Source)

The body of the instrument is made of hardwood, most of the earlier clarinets were made of boxwood or ebony. Nowadays, African Blackwood which is sometimes called Grenadilla is used. 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 have emerged today that make uses of Ivory powder and carbon fiber. These were 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.

ALSO READ: Parts of the Clarinet

The keys of the clarinet are usually made out of an alloy material called German silver. The alloy and product from copper, zinc, and nickel. The alloy looks exactly like pure silver, but it does not tarnish. Some specially designed instruments can be made with pure silver keys. The costly models are also available with the gold-plated keys. The keypads 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.


At Phamox Music, we go all out for exactness and honesty. For this purpose, if by any means you found any possible glitch, be it factual, editorial or something that we need to update, kindly contact us.


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One thought on “Facts About The Clarinet – The Woodwind Instrument Of its Class

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