<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
The clarinet is a single-reed aerophone commonly found in orchestras and bands.


The clarinet is a single-reed aerophone . It is one of the woodwinds in the Western orchestra and is an important instrument in the modern band and wind ensemble.

The instrument


Clarinets are usually made of dark wood, although good quality plastic clarinets are also common. Metal keys aid fingering, which can be quite fast on this very agile instrument.

When not being played, the clarinet is normally disassembled into several parts: the reed, ligature (which holds the reed on the mouthpiece), mouthpiece, barrel (or socket), upper body section, lower body section, and bell. The single reed , a thin, rectangular piece of a reed plant, must be replaced often.

Shape, harmonics, and timbre

The basic shape of a clarinet is a cylindrical tube open at one end. This strongly affects the harmonics of the instrument in two ways. (Please see Standing Waves and Wind Instruments for more information.) One is that the sound, particularly in the lower register , has unusually strong odd-numbered harmonics . This is what gives the clarinet its rich, complex timbre .

The other effect occurs when the player overblows to get a higher note with the same fingering. Since the next harmonic available is the third harmonic rather than the second, the clarinet overblows at the 12th rather than the octave. (Please see Standing Waves and Wind Instruments and Harmonic Series if you want to understand why.) This makes fingering more complicated for the clarinet than it is for instruments like the saxophone, which overblow at the octave. Twenty-four keys are needed to produce a smooth, in-tune chromatic scale through the entire range , and there is no uniform system of fingering. A single note can have many alternative fingerings which may be more or less useful in different situations.


The most common clarinet (the B flat) has such a large range , and its timbre varies so much over its range, that its different registers have been named. The low register, where the timbre is rich and dark, is called the chalumeau register. The higher clarinet register has a very clear, direct sound, and can be extremely expressive. The extreme upper register gets a shrill, piercing tone. In between the chalumeau and clarinet ranges (usually from G to B flat in the middle of the written staff), is the weaker throat register, where players can experience a difficult-to-negotiate "break" between the two registers. (This is partly caused by fingering difficulties, see above .)

Written range of the b flat clarinet

The clarinet has a very large range of nearly four octaves. It sounds one whole step lower than written. The timbre of the instrument changes very much over its range.

Types of clarinets

The B flat clarinet is the most common modern instrument. It is a transposing instrument that sounds one whole step lower than written. Most band and orchestra clarinet sections also have one or more bass clarinets . The bass clarinet sounds an octave lower than the regular B flat clarinet - it is also a B flat transposing instrument - and is much bigger. It has an upturned bell (often silver), and, like the cello, must rest on a spike on the floor when it is played. The contrabass , or double bass clarinet is an octave lower than the bass clarinet and much bigger, standing six and a half feet high. Like the small E flat clarinet (which sounds a perfect fourth higher than the B flat), it is unusual, but can still be found. Many orchestral players have an A clarinet for playing in sharp keys, as well as a B flat instrument. Other clarinets, such as the C clarinet and the alto clarinet (about halfway between the B flat and the bass in size and range) have become rare.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, A parent's guide to band. OpenStax CNX. Jun 25, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10428/1.1
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'A parent's guide to band' conversation and receive update notifications?