Download A Guide to Clarinet for Dummies PDF

TitleA Guide to Clarinet for Dummies
TagsClarinet Music Technology Hornbostel Sachs Elementary Organology Woodwind Instruments
File Size662.6 KB
Total Pages8
Document Text Contents
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Flute and Music Academy © 2014

What is clarinet?

Clarinet is a single-reed instrument. It has a wide
mouthpiece and a cylindrical bore, which has the
same diameter all along the instrument (excluding
the bell at the end). There are several clarinets in
the clarinet family. They range from the tiny E-flat
clarinet, to the giant contra-bass clarinet:

 E flat clarinet: the smallest and highest

 B flat clarinet: the most common clarinet.
 Alto clarinet in E flat.
 Bass clarinet (the low clarinet) in B.
 Contra-alto and contra bass clarinet

(very low).

Clarinet is a transposing instrument. For example,
clarinets in B flat sounds one tone lower than

The clarinet can be divided into five main parts:

 The mouthpiece: the place where

the reed is fixed with a ligature
that uses screws.

 The barrel joint: connects the
mouthpiece to the upper joint and
is useful for tuning. For example, if
the pitch is too sharp, pulling out a
little bit between the barrel and
the upper joint can lengthen the
instrument to lower the pitch.

 The upper joint: with the keys
controlled mostly by left hand.

 The lower joint: with the keys
controlled by right hand.

 The bell: the place that helps to
produce a fuller sound for low

Figure 1: The clarinet family.

Figure 2: Main parts of clarinet.

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All of the parts are connected with corked tenons. Since the diameter of the bore is
standardized for all clarinets of the same type, one will be able to use different parts
manufactured by different manufacturers.

Is it difficult to learn?

II. Clarinet

The clarinet is made to sound by holding it upright in front and blow into the
mouthpiece to which is attached a reed. The reed will vibrate against the mouthpiece
when air is blown. The player will need to control the vibration of the reed with the
pressure of the lips and teeth. Thus, it is probably quite difficult to produce sound if
the player has no front teeth at all. However, there is exceptional case too. If the
young player who has no front teeth has a smaller lip, he or she might have the
ability to grip the mouthpiece and reed properly.

Similar to the flute, the players need to have thumbs and arms strong enough to
support the instrument out while playing. The standard size of Clarinet in Bb can be
quite heavy for young children to support for a long time with their tiny thumbs.
Thus, it is usually recommended for children of eight to ten years old to start
learning the clarinets. Some of the manufacturers do make student clarinets, where
the body is made from plastic and therefore it is very light in weight. Alternatively,
the clarinet in C, which is smaller and lighter, is available and ideal for small hand.
Young beginners can choose to start learning to play on a C clarinet first and slowly
progress to the larger Bb clarinet if they are interested in clarinets.

In general, clarinet is particularly easy to start, as the player will be able to make
some sound straight away at the first lesson.

How to choose?

II. Clarinet

Similar to flutes, there are three levels of clarinets in general: student (entry level),
intermediate and professional. The difference between the various levels of clarinets
is the quality of materials used and the quality of craftsmanship put into the making
of the clarinets.

 Materials:

Student clarinets are made of ABS plastic. The material offers similar qualities to a
wood clarinet while being more durable and cheaper. However, it actually against
the maintenance habits and climate changes that a clarinet player will normally face,
which might be an issue for the player to care properly for the clarinet when he or
she switches to a wood clarinet.

Intermediate and professional clarinets are made of African Blackwood, sometimes
called Grenadilla wood, which provides a fuller and richer tone. The natural colour of
the wood is very dark brown or black. Sometimes it is dyed black, so that the parts

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will appear to be the same piece of wood. Grenadilla wood clarinet needs more
proper care so that it can be used for a very long time.

Other materials that professional clarinets are made out of are Ebonite and
Rosewood. Ebonite is said to produce darker sound and projection, while rosewood
produces a more mellow sound than Grenadilla wood. Some clarinets are made of
metal, but it is very rare.

The technology nowadays made new composite materials like “Green Line” possible.
“Green Line” is a material developed by the famous manufacturer, Buffer Crampon.
Their technicians felt that it is necessary to find different alternatives to make their
clarinets (and oboes) due to the diminishing supplies of the Grenadilla wood. The
“Green Line” material is a combination of grenadilla powder with carbon fibre. It has
the same acoustic property as grenadilla wood but is more stable in varying
temperatures and most importantly, it does not crack.

The key works on a student clarinet are generally made from nickel-plated metal,
which in general, is very durable and does not tarnish very easily. However, nickel
can create allergies to certain people. On the other hand, intermediate and
professional clarinets have silver plated or silver keys. Silver plated keys tarnish
easily if compared to nickel-plated keys and need constant polishing. However,
silver-plated keys are more suitable to Singapore climate as it is less slippery than
nick-plated one.

Generally, the number of keys and rings increase for better and more expensive
model of clarinets. Also, forged keys are better than cast and welded keys, as they do
not break easily. All of the keys must cover the tone-hole tightly; allow no air to go
through when they are closed. Also, the keys must be able to open and close quickly.

 Other part of the clarinets:

1. Mouthpiece

As mentioned before, mouthpiece is the part that makes the greatest impact on
the quality of the sound. 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.

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