Parts Of The Clarinet
This post is all about the parts of a clarinet. The clarinet is one of the instruments in the woodwind family. It has a single reed, and the shape of its body is cylindrical.
The clarinet as a musical instrument is breakable and composed of many sectional parts.
Of course, if you have seen the clarinet before, you will notice different metallic keys attached to its body. As a result, the instrument looks hard to pick up and play.
The various components that make up the parts of a clarinet are divided into five major sections. The clarinet sections are the mouthpiece, barrel, upper joint, lower joint, and bell. These are as shown in the diagram below.
In reality, every part of a clarinet has a purpose and contributes well to the general performance of the instrument.
For instance, if the smallest part, like the keypad or the cork, is faulty, the clarinet’s performance will be severely limited.
Also, if a part like a thinning screw is missing, the ability of the clarinet to speak may be impossible.
Therefore, every part must be intact, clean, well-aligned, and in a perfect position for maximum response and sound of the instrument.
In this post, we are looking into different parts of the clarinet. Therefore, we will discuss all the sectional parts of a clarinet and their functionalities in the clarinet one by one.
Mouthpiece Part Of A Clarinet
A clarinet mouthpiece is a tube with a flattened end through which the clarinetist blows air into the clarinet. For sound creation, the reed is attached to the mouthpiece with the aid of a ligature.
The mouthpiece allows the reed’s vibrations to pass through to the body of the instrument. And for your information, the two mouthpieces are not the same.
Even production done by an assembly line with the same material and specifications does not produce an entirely uniform mouthpiece.
Above all, the mouthpiece is the most essential part of the clarinet for sound production, and it has a complex internal architecture.
Clarinet mouthpieces can completely change the character of the instrument and are an easy way to quickly upgrade a clarinet.
Its internal architecture is responsible for the quality of the sound and tone as well as comfort in playing the instrument. Also, the material used in the construction of the mouthpiece has an effect on its tone to a limited extent.
Usually, the clarinet’s mouthpiece can be made from wood, ivory, hard rubber (ebonite), plastic, glass, or crystal, sometimes metal.
However, metal, wood, and plastic mouthpieces are not suggested because every one of them has at least one serious flaw, like poor quality of tone or lack of durability.
Most professional clarinetists are rooting for the glass and crystal mouthpiece as the best. However, metal, wood, and plastic mouthpieces are not bad choices for beginners.
Actually, the reed of a clarinet is fabricated from a bamboo cane. Moreover, it is indeed an essential part of the clarinet when it comes to suitable sound production.
The vibration that the reed produces when blown creates the sound that comes out of a clarinet.
Specifically, reeds for the clarinet are fabricated to differ in strength. These are designed in a range that is from one to five (1 to 5).
At the range of 1, we have weaker strength and softer reeds. And at the range of 5, we have the tougher strength with the harder reed.
The former is designed and suitable for beginners, while the latter is actually designed and suitable for professionals. In brief, the harder reed requires more work from the muscles of your cheek, and soft reeds are considered fragile.
You can remove the reed from the mouthpiece by loosening the ligature and sliding it off. Moreover, the reeds consist of two sections, which are the vamp and stock (or bark).
The vamp section consists of the tip, rail (or edge), heart, and shoulder, while the stock part contains the heel.
The vamp is the flat section of the reed without bark that is usually seen on the mouthpiece opening.
The tip represents the tinniest side of the reed that forms its end. It controls the high-frequency swaying of the reed and its attack behaviour.
Rail is the edge part of the clarinet’s reed. The heart of the reed is the center part of the vamp section. It cuts across the tip and the shoulder, where it is wider.
The heel is the back end part of the clarinet’s reed that enters the mouthpiece. The air that flows through the clarinet body from the reed touches it last.
The Clarinet Reed’s Materials
The material used for reeds is organic in nature, and they get stressed during the playing or performance.
Therefore, examine your reeds and ensure they are in good condition while you get rid of any worn or bad ones. This is necessary because a warped, cracked, or split reed can alter the quality of your tone.
Also, we should treat our reeds with the utmost care to prevent them from being damaged.
Therefore, after playing, try and keep your reeds inside dedicated boxes that can protect them from the harmful environmental conditions.
And also ensure you store them in a way that will prevent the damp tips from “crinkling” or “waves”.
A ligature is an object that grasps the reed onto the mouthpiece part of a clarinet. The proper placement of the ligature ensures the reed is firmly attached to the mouthpiece. Also, it ensures a free space for the reed to vibrate as much as possible without hindrance.
The ligature not only holds the reed in place on the mouthpiece but also fine-tunes the quality of the sound. It adds more resonance and effect to a clarinet’s tone and sound depending on the material used for the ligature.
Ligature Specifications, Materials, and Designs
Ligature comes in different specifications, materials, and designs. Specifically, the point of contact between the mouthpiece and the reed marks the difference in the design of the ligature. In terms of material, we have different types of ligature.
For instance, there are classical metal ligatures and also rubber ligatures. Likewise, we have some made from plastic, spirals, and other materials.
However, ligatures are usually made of metal with nickel, silver, or gold plating. The metal-plated ligature always comes with adjustable small screws.
Again, the type of material used to make the ligature has an impact on the sound and response of a clarinet. Thus, before you choose a ligature, you need to take into consideration the tone and sound you want.
However, metal ligatures produce a rich, full sound and are suitable for big concert halls and also for soloists that want to be heard.
On the other hand, fabric ligature is known for a softer sound. That is good and suitable for usage in a smaller hall and also for group performance.
The barrel is the part of the clarinet that connects the mouthpiece to the body of the instrument, and it is also called a socket. It was originally integral to the upper section of the clarinet and later became separate.
The barrel can be used to fine-tune the instrument, and it greatly impacts the tone, response, projection, and every other aspect of a clarinet’s performance.
For this reason, what may seem to be the best clarinet at refurbishing may just simply have the best barrel, and perhaps the best bell.
The Barrel Taper
The taper is the inside shape of the barrel, and it can be standard, straight, reverse, or double. The standard taper is a little bit wider at the bottom than at the top.
On the other hand, the size of a straight taper is the same on both sides.
The reverse taper has the opposite configuration of the standard taper, with a top opening that is somewhat wider than the bottom.
Contrarily, a double taper is unusual because it has a center that is smaller than both sides. Of course, the shape of the barrel and the choice of the wood used affect the quality of the sound it generates.
The Barrel Ring
The barrel ring is a metal ring that connects the mouthpiece to the upper half of the instrument. It may be purely aesthetic, or they might not be there at all.
The barrel rings tighten and make the ends of the barrel narrower. Also, it prevents pressure that is coming from the tenon and cork from pulling the barrel apart.
However, the material used, either black nickel, silver, or gold, for the rings and the way the finishes were crafted have a noteworthy impression on the sonority and the sensation perceived by the musician.
The Upper Joint Parts of the clarinet
The upper joint is the clarinet’s midsection. Specifically, it is the section below the barrel and above the lower-joint. And on it are some of the keyholes and metal keys for the left hand. Moreover, it is the upper half of the clarinet (without the register key, it plays Bb-C).
The Lower Joint Parts of the clarinet
The lower joint is the section directly below the upper joint and above the bell of a clarinet. It shares some of the metal keys with the upper joint and holds the keys and keyholes for the right hand. The lower half of the clarinet plays lower notes without the register key.
The upper side of the back of the lower joint houses the thumb rest that reinforces the whole weight of the instrument.
The thumb rest is designed with a surface that prevents slipping and accommodates a positive grip when the instrument is playing. You place the thumb under the clarinet thumb rest, just over the first knuckle of the thumb.
NOTE: The upper joint and lower joints come together in the assembly to form the body of the clarinet. The upper and lower joints could be made from one piece, but having them separate makes cleaning and transport much easier.
For instance, the mouthpiece generates the sound while keys vary the sound to a different pitch.
Other parts have their own functions as well. So, we need to take care of all the parts of our clarinet and ensure they are in a good state for every performance.
Specifically, in this part, we will look into the body section of the clarinet. And these are the barrel, upper joint, lower joint, keys, and the bell as shown below.
Other Parts Of A Clarinet You Need To know
We have discussed the part that has to do with the mouthpiece section of the clarinet above. And as said, every part of the clarinet is important and useful in the overall performance of the instrument.
Keys are the silver rings we press to cover the holes in the clarinet in order to change the pitch of the sound we generate by blowing through the reed. In other words, we produce musical notes on the clarinet with our fingers on the keys.
Actually, the key is employed in varying the pitch of the sound produced by a clarinet. By pushing the silver “rings” and covering the holes, the instrument produces different sounds of different pitches.
For instance, if you blow through the clarinet without pressing down on any key, you will play the pitch of G.
On the other hand, if you blow and press the first ring on the upper joint, for example, you are playing a pitch of E. Thus, keys are essential parts of the clarinet in playing true music and melody.
However, for the effectiveness of the key in producing a sound of absolute pitch, the tone-hole needs to be closed tightly without leaving room for air to pass through.
In addition, it should not allow air to flow freely when in an open position.
In order to achieve this little possible airflow resistance when the key is open, a key-pad is used. The key-pad will at least open to one-third of the tone-holes’ diameter in distance.
Also, the action of the keys as they open and close should be smooth and silent.
The keys are made from metal, usually German silver (which is a white alloy of nickel, zinc, and copper) for the levers and cups, with steel springs.
Most often, the metal parts are covered with a thin silver layer (which takes some effort to keep shiny). Sometimes, nickel or gold are used. The gold look is absolutely different, but it’s expensive and also good for gliding.
Key Pads, Bridge Key and Register Key
On the clarinet, we still have special keys like the bridge key and register key. They were discussed below along with the pads used on the keys, known as keypads
I. Key Pads
The keypad is a small disc covered with a soft material that ensures that the key seals the tone-hole properly. This is the same when we use our fingers to close the tone hole, making it airtight and noiseless.
Pad cups are also known as key cups. Inside every clarinet, the key cup is a pad.
Each pad must touch the tone hole at every point of contact with a light touch. The keypads of the clarinet are commonly made of soft materials like leather, cardboard, and felt.
However, elastic materials like silicone and other synthetic materials have been in use for some time now.
II. The Bridge Key
This is the key that connects the clarinet’s key system from the upper joint to the lower joints. The upper joint has the bridge key, which is closer to the D key.
The bridge key on the upper joint is connected in such a way that it rides above its companion key on the lower joint.
Connecting the bridge key correctly is very important, as well as the need to avoid being over-adjusted and under-adjusted
III. Register Key
Of course, there is a special key called the register key on the clarinet. The register key is a long key situated at the back of the clarinet just above the tone ring that produces the note F. It causes the note to be played 12th notes higher.
That means your low B-flat note fingering will play the higher F note when you press the register key. The register key is also known as the vent key, and the left thumb is used to play it.
The bell is the widely flared end of a clarinet. It is located on the bottom of the instrument and is named after a musical bell. Besides the uncovered holes, the bell is the clarinet part where the majority of the air escapes.
In order to confirm the air coming out of the bell, you can place your hand under the bell while someone is blowing or playing the instrument.
Obviously, you will feel the pressure of the air the player is generating to propel the sound of the clarinet out. The larger clarinets, like the alto and bass clarinet, have a metal bell that curves and points up.
The bell is also one of the components of the clarinet that improves the quality of the clarinet’s tone. Also, it shares some functionality with the barrel.
On the contrary, the amplification of the sound is not done by the bell in any way, as most people believe. However, the bell enhances the stability of the tone of the lowest note a clarinet produces in each register.
As we have already discussed in this post, the clarinet comprises five major parts. These parts are:
The upper joint
The lower joint
We have discussed all the parts of a clarinet one by one in this article, and we hope you can identify the different parts of the clarinet and their functionalities.
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