E-flat Alto Clarinet

Alto Clarinet

E-flat Alto Clarinet range

The Alto Clarinet is a larger clarinet in E-flat pitched a major sixth below the written notes.  Traditionally, this has been the instrument used in the band.  However, the Alto Clarinet has had a troubled life in the band world.  As early as the 1950s, band directors were calling for its removal.  Continue reading “E-flat Alto Clarinet”

Basset Horn or F Alto Clarinet

Basset Horn

Basset Horn range

The Basset Horn is a curious member of the clarinet family.  Traditionally, it is a small bore (roughly equal to the bore size of the B-flat and A Clarinets) instrument pitched in F (a fifth lower than written).  Again, traditionally, the Basset Horn was to be played by B-flat/A Clarinetists with the same mouthpiece used on those instruments.  However, in practicality, most modern instruments do not conform to this ideal.  Continue reading “Basset Horn or F Alto Clarinet”

B-flat Clarinet

B-flat Clarinet

B-flat Clarinet range

There is a saying in the band world that something is “as bland as B-flat.”  For me, this is exemplified in the abundance of B-flat Clarinets in our modern band.  I have seen bands with twenty or more.  I have also seen bands with as few as three or four.  In the days of the early bands (or at least the early bands as we see them today), the B-flat Clarinet was thought of as the equivalent of the Violin.  Their range is somewhat similar and they have similar facilities in technique, but to me the sound is miles apart. Continue reading “B-flat Clarinet”

C Clarinet

C Clarinet

C Clarinet range

This instrument has been making a revival over the past few years.  It is the only clarinet that does not transpose.  It is typically grouped along with the B-flat and A instruments as a “soprano” clarinet.  In fact, the C Clarinet uses the exact same mouthpiece as does the B-flat or A.  Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert all used the C, though this may have just been out of convenience of key (though I doubt this as the sound of the C Clarinet in nearly all cases makes a huge improvement).  It all but disappeared during the Nineteenth Century until Mahler and Strauss rediscovered the unique sound of the instrument.  Continue reading “C Clarinet”

D Clarinet

D Clarinet

D Clarinet range

I will only mention this instrument in passing.  It is pitched a minor second below the E-flat Clarinet and theoretically forms a pair with the smaller E-flat (akin to the relationship between the B-flat and A Clarinets).  However, in the US, the D Clarinet is almost non-existent. Its use in Europe is more common, but still rare. Traditionally, it has been said that its home is “east of the Rhine.” Continue reading “D Clarinet”

E-flat Clarinet

E-flat Clarinet

E-flat Clarinet range

This is the smallest clarinet in common use.  Its high pitched squeal is well-known in both the band and orchestral literature.  Early band composers utilized the small E-flat Clarinet (as well as the now extinct high F Clarinet) as a staple of their writing.  One needs only to look at Berlioz’s Funeral and Triumphal Symphony to see how he constantly uses the E-flat Clarinet as one of the main melody instruments.  Continue reading “E-flat Clarinet”