Parts of the Clarinet

The clarinet is one of the woodwind instruments with a single reed and cylindrical bore. The clarinet as a musical instrument is considered fragile and has many different parts. There are various components that make up the clarinet parts but all clarinets consist of five major parts. The clarinet parts are mouthpiece, barrel, upper joint, lower joint and the bell. The tenons of a clarinet keep the five sections in clarinet parts fitting tightly together to make an airtight connection.

The clarinet possesses four cork-covered tenons to hold the five pieces of the instrument together in playing configuration. Each tenon protrudes from one end of a section and is shaped perfectly to fit firmly into the next section, making an airtight connection.

Every clarinet part is important, has a purpose and vital to the overall performance of the instrument. If the smallest part like screw, pad or cork is missing or faulty the ability of clarinet to speak is severely limited or impossible. Thus the parts must be there and must also be clean, aligned and in perfect position for maximum response and sound. The usual names of the parts of the clarinet and what function they perform are discuss below:

The Reed

The reed, generally made from bamboo cane, is a very important part of a clarinet in order to create the desired sound. The reed vibrate when blown and produce the sound that clarinet voice out. All reeds for clarinets come in different strengths, and these are ranging from 1, weaker strength more suited to beginners, right through to 5, tougher and designed for professional players. Size 1 will be the softest reed while a 5 will be the hardest. Harder reeds are those that can be more strenuous on your cheek muscles, but softer ones are those that can be more fragile.

The parts of clarinet reeds are the tip, the sides, and the crest. The tip is the thinnest and most sensitive area, and is the part of the reed you have to be most careful with. The tip is responsible for the high frequency swinging and the attack behaviour of the reed. Reeds are made of organic material and come under a lot of stress as they are played. Inspect your reeds for signs of warping, cracks or splitting and discard any worn out reeds before they affect your tone.


We should treat our reeds as carefully as possible. After playing them one should keep them in special boxes to prevent environmental effects on them. They must be stored in a way that the thin, still moist tip does not develop “crinkles” or waves. You can remove the reed from the mouthpiece by loosening the ligature and sliding it off.


A ligature is a device which holds a reed onto the mouthpiece of a clarinet. It’s not only holds the reed in place on the mouthpiece it can also help shape the clarinet’s sound quality depending on the material from which it is made. In order for ligature to work properly, the ligature must secure the reed firmly against the mouthpiece while at the same time allowing the reed to vibrate freely.

There are ligatures in many variations. There are classical metal ligatures, leather bands and rubber ligatures, spirals and other constructions. Ligatures are usually made of metal and plated in nickel, silver, or gold and are adjustable using small screws. The type of ligature you choose depends heavily on the type of sound you want to produce. However, metal ligatures produce a rich, full sound and are best used in large concert halls, or for soloists who need to be heard. Ligatures made from fabric produce a softer sound that works well for smaller venues or group performances.


A clarinet mouthpiece is nothing more than the end of a cylindrical tube with a flattened end. A clarinet mouthpiece looks like the end of a cylindrical tube with a flattened end, where a reed is fastened either with a ligature or a cord.  The reed is fixed onto the mouthpiece with a ligature that uses screws or a simple cord. Mouthpiece allows the reed’s vibrations to pass through to the body of the instrument. It is usually made of hard rubber (ebonite), plastic, glass or crystal, sometimes of metal. 

Clarinet Mouthpieces can completely change the character of an instrument and are an easy way to quickly upgrade a clarinet. The mouthpiece also shapes the instrument’s tone through its interior shape and, to a limited extent, from the materials used in its construction.


The barrel connects the mouthpiece to the body of the instrument and it is also called socket. It was originally integral to the upper section of the clarinet and later became separated. The barrel is can be used to fine tune the instrument and it can greatly impact the tone, response, projection and every other aspect of your clarinet’s performance. For this reason what may seem to be the best clarinet at refurbish may just simply have the best barrel, and perhaps the best bell.

Taper is the inside shape of the barrel and this can be straight, standard, reverse or double. The size of a straight taper are the same on both sides while a standard taper is slightly smaller at the top of the barrel than at the bottom. Reverse taper barrels are the opposite of the standard, with a bottom opening slightly smaller than the top. A double taper is rare, but means that the center of the barrel inside is smaller than on the ends. The shape of the barrel and the choice of the wood used affect the quality of sound it generates.

The Keys

Keys are the silver rings we press to cover the holes in clarinet in order to change the pitch of the sound we generate by blowing through the reed. In order words, we produce musical noes from clarinet with our fingers on the keys. By pushing the silver “rings” and covering the holes the instrument produces different sounds of different pitches. This is why if you don’t push down any buttons and blow, you play a G, but if you push down (say the first ring on the upper joint) you play an E.

In order to work properly, a key must close the tone-hole completely tight, when closed, no air should go through it. It should give as little resistance to the air flow as possible when open, this requires a key-pad to open to a distance that is at least a third of the diameter of the tone-hole. The action of the keys should be smooth and not too loud.


The keys are made from metal, usually German silver (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 (takes some effort to keep shiny), sometimes nickel or gold is used. Gold looks differently and is expensive, but said to be good for gliding.

Key Pads

Key pad is a small disc covered with a soft material that ensures that the key seals the tone-hole properly, just as your fingertip would: noiseless and airtight. Pad cups are also known as key cups. Inside every clarinet key cup is a pad. Each pad must touch the tone hole at every point of the compass, with a first light touch. If a pad comes loose, it may be easy to reinstall the pad as a temporary measure.

Barrel Ring

The barrel ring is a metal ring that connects the mouth piece to the upper half of the instrument. It may be purely aesthetic or they might not be there at all. The barrel rings constrict the ends of the barrel and stop pressure from the tenon and cork from splitting the barrel. The materials (gold, silver or black nickel) for the rings, and the finishes offered have a notable influence on the sonority and the sensation felt by the musician.

The Upper Joint

This is the clarinet’s midsection. Below the barrel is the upper joint, which has some of the metal keys and keyholes on it. The upper joint of the clarinet is above the lower-joint and holds the keys for the left hand. The upper half of the clarinet (without resister key plays Bb-C). This two joints (upper and lower joints) come together in 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.

The Lower Joint

Below the upper joint is the lower joint. The lower joint shares some of the keys and keyholes with the upper joint. It holds the keys for the right hand. The lower half of the clarinet plays lower notes without the register key. Play B-E without the register key with the register key, it plays B (continuing after the Bb from the upper joint) to F# without the need of the upper joint.


At the back of the lower joint and towards the very top is the thumb rest, which supports the entire weight of the clarinet. This thumb rst sits on your right thumb, just above the knuckle.

The Bell

The bell is the widely flared end of the clarinet and It is located on the bottom of the instrument, and is named after a musical bell. The bell is the clarinet part where the majority of the air escapes (beside the uncovered holes). If you place your hand under it as someone plays, you can feel the air pressure the player is producing to push the sound out of the instrument. The larger clarinets (e.g., the alto and the bass clarinet) have a metal bell.

Clarinet bell makes tone quality of the clarinet better and shares the use of the barrel. Contrary to popular belief, the bell does not amplify the sound; rather, it improves the uniformity of the instrument’s tone for the lowest notes in each register.

The Bridge Key

This is the keys which bridge the key system from the upper to lower joints. One key on the upper joint rides above the companion key on the lower joint.

Register Key

Register key is the clarinet part that enables the instrument to play a higher range of notes by the opening (pushed by your thumb). When the register key is pressed, it opens a hole in the side of the instrument, producing a pressure node at that point. This destroys the fundamental mode and the frequency jumps to the third harmonic. Press this key and the clarinet instantly plays 12 notes higher.

Clarinet register key gives the instrument to play a higher range of notes by the opening (pushed by your thumb). When the register key is pressed, it opens a hole in the side of the instrument, producing a pressure node at that point.

Unlike Saxophones, Oboes, and Bassoons, the clarinet is the only woodwind that isn’t built in octaves, so it has no octave key. Register key is also known as the vent key and left thumb is use to play it.

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