Clarinet – The Woodwind Instrument of The Eighteenth Century

Among the various woodwind instruments, the clarinet is relatively a newcomer. It is said that the instrument was invented by Nuremberg instrument maker called Johann Christoph Denner during the starting of the 18th century.

A very similar instrument called the chalumeau was already present. However, chalumeau sounded fine particularly at lower registers, but the clarinet had rich sound quality both at low and also high registers.

Originally the name “clarinet” meant a “small trumpet” was also perhaps related to this distinctive feature of the clarinet.

Clarinet Is historical instrument with family which has grown over a time

There are number of kinds of clarinets for sale in this family having various sizes are as follows:

  • Piccolo clarinet
  • Alto clarinet
  • Bass clarinet
  • Contrabass clarinet

There can also be instruments of same size having tubes of various length.

The clarinet can produce sound with a single-reed that is attached to mouthpiece. The keys will be attached to cylindrical section called the bore and used to vary pitch. Until the 1st half of the 18th century, the clarinet had only 2 keys.

However, later more keys were gradually added to instrument for playing chromatic scales and also clean notes much more easily.

As per the ideas given by Theobald Boehm, its configuration was perfected in the middle of the 19th century.

As the instrument is Boehm’s system based, hence it is also called “Boehm clarinet.”

Brief history of bass clarinet

Existence of the first bass clarinet is known from France toward by the end of 18th century. A man called Gilles Lot first developed an instrument called “Basse-Tube”.

Since the clarinet model was created in the beginning of 18th century, the instrument which would become bass clarinet was created after 100 years but did not enjoy enough success first.

In the next century the bass clarinet which is known to us as today, having large keys with straight tubular body, first made in 1838 by Adolph Sax.

The first music piece to feature in bass clarinet was the Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots – a long solo in the 5th act. Finally, the instrument was developed into the present shape along with the B♭ clarinet, using Boehm system.

What are clarinets really made of?

Clarinets are made of a variety of materials, but mostly classical instruments were of boxwood. However, music today is different from those eras of classical music, and the need of musicians are different too.

All the instruments have also changed into wider dynamic ranges, having rich expressive power for sending notes of even most difficult passages.

Granadilla, which is one of the most used materials for clarinet making now, has a much higher relative density as compared to boxwood, making it much easier to support while performing with the body thus allowing for more amount of air volume.

While blowing gently, rather than its sound becoming too weak it will become soft and gentle. So, we can now conclude that granadilla is one of the most suitable materials for what musicians search for in clarinet these days.


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