Clarinets – Introduction



As I begin to write this introduction, I have my old B-flat Clarinet in my hands.  I just gave it a few good blows to reacquaint myself with its sound.  In the band world, the clarinet is the most commonly heard sound there is.  There are more clarinets in the band than there are any other instruments.  I was the favorite instrument of Mozart, and has had huge popularity ever since.  The clarinet comes in more sizes than any other woodwinds.  Were I so inclined, I could readily purchase clarinets in nearly every key of a diatonic scale (A-flat, G, E-flat, D, C, B-flat, A, G, F, E-flat – yes, clarinets exist in every single one of those keys!).

It is possible to think of the clarinet family as we would the taxonomy of living species.  The genus Clarinet has many species, and several of those species have further subspecies.  Just as in wildlife, the true taxonomy of some of these beasts is debated.  Many of these species and subspecies, again like our wildlife, are in danger of going extinct (and six members of the family already have expired). Genus – Clarinet

A rather curious way of looking at musical instruments, I’m sure, but it does give us the breadth of the family.  Each “subspecies” is a valid instrument in its own right and has a unique voice.  In the traditional band setting we used only those instruments pitched either in E-flat or B-flat.  Instruments that fell outside of these pitch classes were excluded (though many were and are still used in orchestras).

The Complete family


5 thoughts on “Clarinets – Introduction

  1. Matthew Banks

    I am intensely curious about this clarinet in low G. As you noted, You tube does not give us an impression of how a western clarinetist would play it. Please input information as soon as you can! Also, what led you to categorize this subspecies as “invasive”. I only ask out of curiosity.

    1. Easy part first. In wildlife, an invasive species is an animal or plant that is not native to a region but pops up in the local flora and fauna. A good example of this is pigeons anywhere but southern Europe. They just don’t belong. I used this terminology with the G Clarinet because it is traditionally associated with Turkish music and not with Western concert music.

      As for how a Western clarinetist would play it, your guess is still as good as mine. My goal is to buy one one day and figure it out.

    1. Yes. It was the high clarinet of choice east of the Rhine prior to around 1850. Use maybe up to 1900. As far as I know, it was never made in a Boehm system.

      1. Alexander Kindel

        Apologies if you’d already had it listed. I thought I’d checked before I posted, but I see it now.

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