from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The clarinet is a woodwind instrument with a partly cylindrical and partly conical bore. Like the saxophone, its mouthpiece is equipped with a simple reed . The name of the instrument (from Italian clarinetto : "small clarino") is traced back to the fact that in the high register it sounds similar to the high clarin trumpet , which it partially took over in the 18th century .

In terms of notation , the clarinet (in Bb or A) is a transposing instrument , because a major second or a minor third is notated higher than it sounds.

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Bb clarinets French and German fingering system
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Bass clarinet , basset horn , clarinets in D, Bb, A, high G and Eb (German system)

italian:  clarinetto , english:  clarinet , french:  clarinette

classification Aerophone , woodwind instrument with a single reed
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High clarinets notated: lowercase E to C4 (possibly also higher)
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Bb clarinet sounding: lowercase D to B3 (possibly also higher)

Related instruments Chalumeau , Tárogató , oboe , saxophone
inventor Johann Christoph Denner
Time of origin from 1700
Important composers
(by date of birth)
Johann Melchior Molter , Carl Stamitz , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Franz Krommer , Louis Spohr , Carl Maria von Weber , Johannes Brahms , Claude Debussy , Carl Nielsen , Max Reger , Igor Stravinski , Alban Berg , Paul Hindemith , Francis Poulenc , George Gershwin , Aaron Copland , Dmitri Dmitrijewitsch Schostakowitsch , Jean Françaix
Known Clarinetists :
1. historical (until 1900) Anton Stadler , Johann Simon Hermstedt , Heinrich Joseph Baermann , Iwan Müller , Carl Baermann , Richard Mühlfeld
2nd 20th century (alphabetical) Woody Allen , Acker Bilk , Eduard Brunner , Jack Brymer, Hans Deinzer , Giora Feidman , Rudolf Gall, Heinrich Geuser, Paul Gloger, Benny Goodman , Alan Hacker, Franz Klein, Dieter Klöcker , Karl Leister , Jost Michaels , Eddie Miller , Ernst Ottensamer , Gervase de Peyer , Artie Shaw , Monty Sunshine , Richard Stolzmann (taken from the list of clarinetists )
3. current Sabine Meyer , Martin Fröst , Sharon Kam , Charles Neidich , Shirley Brill , en: Alessandro Carbonare , fr: Eric Hoeprich , Sebastian Manz , Taira Kaneko, Andreas Ottensamer , Suzanne Stephens , Theo Jörgensmann , Joel Rubin , David Krakauer
Well-known manufacturers Buffet Crampon France, Buffet Crampon Germany , Yamaha Corporation , Jupiter , Selmer Company France, Conn-Selmer, Inc. USA, Amati-Denak , Herbert Wurlitzer , Schwenk & Seggelke , Leitner & Kraus , F. Arthur Uebel , Backun Musical Services , Stephen Fox (en)

Layout and function

Clarinet parts

Material and parts of the clarinet

The body of the clarinet was originally made of boxwood ; today grenadilla wood is mostly used. It is much harder and denser than boxwood, but also heavier. Instead, some clarinet makers also use mopane or bubinga with similar, if not quite as pronounced, properties. Cocobolo and rosewood , which is sometimes also referred to as rosewood, are rather unsuitable for the body due to their lack of hardness. Inexpensive instruments are made of ABS plastic or ebonite , rarely made of metal. In 1994, Buffet Crampon developed a composite material consisting of powder from grenadilla waste and carbon fibers and labeled the clarinets made from it with the label "Green-Line", whereby the price corresponds to that of grenadilla clarinets. The newest and most expensive material for the upper and lower part is a carbon- coated wooden core made of grenadilla or cocobolo. The different materials each have their own sound characteristics. The key mechanism is usually made of silver-plated or gold-plated nickel silver , rarely brass or nickel .

The total length of the Bb clarinet is approximately 66 cm, the A clarinet 71 cm. The corresponding Bassett versions are approx. 18 cm longer. The inner bore is approximately between 14.6 and 15.7 mm wide; the conicity (difference between the smallest and widest diameter) of the German clarinet is 3 mm, the French 7 mm (mainly or exclusively on the lower part), see fig. Handle systems . In addition to the material, the type of drilling is important for the sound.

In order to be easier to manufacture, transport and maintain, the clarinet consists of five separate parts, which are plugged into each other with cork-coated pegs :

  • the mouthpiece (together with the reed and the reed attachment), also called the beak ,
  • the pear (also called barrel or keg ),
  • the upper part ,
  • the lower part
  • and the (bell) funnel or bell (also called beaker or lintel ).
Mouthpiece of a Bb clarinet (complete)
Mouthpiece with ligature (left) and leaves (right)

The funnel is crucial for the sound of the lowest notes.

Carbon-coated clarinet, core made of grenadilla or cocobolo ( Backun, Canada)

The tone holes and keys are on the top and bottom . In contrast to the cylindrical upper part, the lower part has a slightly conical shape in its lower half, i.e. it is narrowly scaled . At its upper end there is also a small handle with which the instrument is held on the right thumb while playing.

The beak-shaped mouthpiece is made of hardened rubber, previously also made of wood. Modern mouthpieces are made of plastics such as ebonite or acrylic , also made of glass, metal or plastic. The actual sound generator is the approximately 12.5 mm wide, simple reed (called “leaf” or “leaf” for short, see also tongue ), which is attached to the mouthpiece (also called beak). It is almost always made of cane wood ( pile cane , Arundo donax ), rarely made of plastic , which can also be reinforced with carbon or glass fibers . To fasten the clarinetist metal holder, plastic holder are depending on the desired sound and after the custom (both Ligatures called or ligatures) used or in the German system also about 50 cm long blade cords with which mouthpiece and reed are wrapped.

Adaptation to the current pitch

To tune the instrument, clarinetists use pears of different lengths on the one hand, and on the other hand the pear can be pulled a few millimeters out of the upper section in order to intonate deeper. The Bonn clarinetists Henry Paulus and Matthias Schuler developed a continuously tunable clarinet pear in 2008 and acquired a patent in numerous countries (EU, USA, Japan and China), which is expected to be valid there until 2028. This clarinet pear no longer has to be pulled out, but can be adjusted using a grooved rotating ring, similar to a zoom lens (that's why they call their invention "Z-pear"). Usually the Bb clarinet is first tuned to the notated b 1 (sounding a), if necessary b and b 2 are compared. Checking the lower fifth E or the E minor triad are further indicators of the cleanliness of the intonation. In extreme cases, in addition to the pear extract, the upper section can also be pulled out of the lower section (correction in the middle) if the mood is much too high. In contrast to symphony orchestras or chamber music ensembles, wind orchestras (because of the brass) often join in on the sounding b. In that case the clarinetists play notated c.

However, clarinets are very sensitive in terms of pitch, as they overblow in the duodecim and thus the upper notes quickly become impure. The instrument is no longer right - as the musician says - 'in itself'. [The Schreiber company gives the following information for their Reform Böhm clarinets: Standard pear 442 Hz, with the long 440 Hz and the short 444 Hz.] This corresponds roughly to the common tuning tones in many countries, namely the USA. Some musicians can use the approach to play a few vibrations higher or lower, but compared to flutes, oboes or bassoons, which can also 'extend' further if necessary - and then correct them slightly with the approach - the scope on the clarinet is very limited .

The German wind school likes to cover individual keys with the right hand on the critical “short” notes (g - b); this is how they sound “rounder”. These notes tend to be too high and are made a little deeper. Other auxiliary grips can also be used, but they are slightly different for each instrument. A light reed makes the notes a little deeper and a harder reed a little higher.


Vibration situation for the fundamental and the first two overtones in a tube closed on one side

The reed attached to the mouthpiece begins to vibrate due to the flow of air blown into the instrument by the musician. This creates an oscillation in the air column (see also woodwind instrument # tone generation ). The clarinet behaves like a cylindrical tube closed on one side (closed at the mouthpiece, open at the funnel). This means that only a quarter of the wavelength is in the pipe. Therefore the clarinet sounds an octave lower than the flute with the same tube length, which is a tube that is open on both sides and half of the wave is in the tube.

The wavelength and thus the frequency of this oscillation depends on the length of the oscillating air column, which is changed by opening and closing the tone holes . The blowing-over is enabled by a speaker key (Duodezklappe). In addition, the player uses the lower lip and airflow to control the vibration of the reed, influencing both the sound and intonation.

Because the clarinet is a cylindrical tube that is closed on one side, the spectrum of the clarinet in the Chalumeau register (see below) predominantly has overtones of an even order (= partials of an odd order). This results in its rather dark sound in the depth, comparable to the struck pipe organ stops.

For the same reason, the clarinet blows over into the duodecime (i.e. from 1/4 wavelength to 3/4 wavelength) and not into the octave like the flute or the saxophone, which has different ratios due to the conical tube. As a result, the clarinet has a large range (an entire octave more than, for example, the saxophone, oboe or recorder). The third register blows over two octaves and a third (i.e. at 5/4 of the wavelength). The entire range of the clarinet is almost four octaves.

The overtone series of the individual registers also characterizes their name. This is how the deep, muffled register is called the Chalumeau register, as it corresponds to the sound of the Chalumeau , which has not yet been able to blow over into a higher register. Sometimes the register is also called the shawm register ( shawm and chalumeau have the same etymological root), but this is misleading because the sound of the shawm is known to be loud and open. The middle register is called the clarin register and is reminiscent of the sound of brass instruments played in high registers (clarin bubbles). The high register is called the flageolet register, which indicates the character of a flageolet flute.

The articulation of the clarinet is usually done by flicking the tongue (also known as tongue thrust ), but for particularly soft notes it can also be done by the controlled interrupted air flow alone.

Roll connection of two flaps in the German and Reform Böhm systems
Clarinets with different fingering systems
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German clarinet (original Oehler with 22 keys, 5 rings and a lid, developed in 1905)
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French clarinet (original Böhm with 17 keys and 6 rings, developed 1843)
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Reform Böhm clarinet (with 20 keys and 7 rings, developed 1949)

Handle systems

The two predominant handle systems are, on the one hand, the German handle system, which is mainly used in Germany and Austria , and, on the other hand, the French system, which is now widely used internationally (Böhm system). The fingering for the Böhm system is described in a separate article . The difference between the systems lies not only in the fingering for the individual tones, but also in the inner bore and the design of the associated mouthpieces, with effects on the sound. Regardless of the variants of individual manufacturers, the difference between the narrowest inner diameter at the top of the upper piece and the furthest at the bottom of the lower piece (conicity) is 3 mm for a B flat clarinet of German design (including the Viennese clarinet), which is about 1 mm on the upper piece and distribute about 2 mm on the bottom piece. In a Bb clarinet of the French type, the inner bore of the upper piece and the upper part of the lower piece runs cylindrical, in order then to merge into a relatively strong conical bore, the end diameter of which is 7 mm larger than the initial diameter. In the case of the Reform Böhm clarinet, which is briefly described below, whose inner bore is supposed to be more like that of the German clarinet, the difference is still approx. 4.5 mm.

The German fingering system is derived from the historical fingering; the basic fingerings of the modern Oehler clarinet are still essentially the same as those of the five-key clarinet that was played in Mozart's time. Over time, the number of keys increased, initially up to the clarinet with 13 keys and 6 finger holes presented by Iwan Müller at the beginning of the 19th century. Further innovations of the Müller clarinet were the fork mechanism for the b and the f ", but above all perfectly closing leather cushions instead of felt cushions combined with recessed tone holes with raised conical rings and replacement of the tilting mechanism of the keys with spoon keys, as well as a significant improvement in intonation the new mechanics and a different arrangement of the tone holes, so that this clarinet could be played in almost any key without problems. He also invented the ligature and the thumb rest. The latter created the possibility of blowing under sight instead of blowing over sight , where the mouthpiece is from today's Visibility upside down, so with the leaf upwards, see illustration on the left "Early Clarinet". In 1905 Oskar Oehler improved the Müller clarinet, which then had 22 keys, 5 rings and a grip cover and also got a more elegant look Fingering system (in the form of the Müller clarinet) was before the invention of the Böhm system spread in all countries; it has only been referred to as “German” since the Böhm system became the standard in France at the end of the 19th century.

The Böhm system is based on Theobald Böhm's developments for the flute. It was not developed by Theobald Böhm himself, but by Hyacinthe Klosé . The main difference lies in the fact that the fork fingerings for Bb and F have been moved to Bb and F sharp and the fingerings of the little fingers are consequently redundant, so that the Böhm clarinet does without the rolling connections between the keys that are typical of the German clarinet.

In addition to differences in fingering, the French clarinet traditionally differs from the German clarinet in that the inner bore has a larger taper, as explained above, more undercut finger holes, a slightly wider mouthpiece and an overall lighter construction. This makes the sound of the Böhm clarinet sharper, more flexible and richer in overtones. The sound of the German clarinet appears purer, more sonorous and warmer. The sound ideal, however, is not directly linked to the fingering system: the Albert system clarinet , developed in Belgium as early as 1850, is essentially a clarinet with a French sound ideal and a classic “German” fingering. The clarinets used in Eastern European folk music and in some areas of jazz usually have a simple German fingering system, but a very bright sound even compared to the French clarinet. Clarinets with the technically superior Böhm grip system have also been built since the late 1940s, but with a different inner bore (see above) and a different mouthpiece they come very close to the German ideal of complaint and are sold under the name Reform Böhm clarinets . Some clarinetists use mouthpieces with a French cut on a German clarinet, which leads to a dark, soft sound, other German-style mouthpieces on a French clarinet to get closer to the German sound. Since the width of the orifice, the bottom of the mouthpiece, the reed and, last but not least, the player themselves all contribute significantly to the sound result, a warm sound can of course also be produced on classical French clarinets and a sharper sound on German clarinets.

In addition to the systems mentioned, there are others, such as the “Pupeschi system” or the “Mazzeo system”, which, however, could not be implemented.

Outside of Germany and Austria, Böhm clarinets are used almost exclusively today. The German system was also widespread in Eastern Europe until the middle of the 20th century , but was largely replaced by the Böhm system in the second half of the 20th century. For a long time the Reform Boehm system was very popular in the Netherlands ; in the meantime (2017), however, the solo clarinettists of the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra play bohemian clarinets. One of the few well-known clarinetists in a German orchestra of first choice who played a Böhm clarinet was the Swiss Eduard Brunner .


Double bass and double alto clarinet (French system)
Range of different clarinets: Bb, A, Eb, basset horn, bass and double bass
Clarinet in Eb (Boehm)

The clarinet family has numerous representatives in different sizes, because the cylindrical bore and the flexible key system are particularly suitable for structural experiments. Richard Strauss already reported in his revision of Berlioz's Instrumentation Theory of a performance of Mozart's G minor symphony with a pure clarinet orchestra , which was composed of instruments in the most varied of moods. Almost all clarinets are transposing instruments and must therefore be notated accordingly.

Forms and moods common today

In modern usage there are primarily four sizes: the “normal” clarinet in Bb, in classical music also a clarinet in A tuned a semitone lower, from romantic classical music a bass clarinet in Bb, and from late Romanticism also one high clarinet (small clarinet or Eb clarinet ) in Eb.

The Bb clarinet is the most popular and is also used in jazz and folk music. It sounds a whole tone lower than noted. In the symphony and opera orchestras it is joined by the A clarinet , which sounds a minor third lower than notated. The alternating use of these two types is mainly due to technical reasons, they are almost identical in terms of sound: passages in B- flat keys can be performed more easily on the B-flat instrument, the A-clarinet is better suited to playing sharp keys. Some composers, however, emphasize the tonal difference and not the easier fingering - they use the A clarinet for a softer or warmer sound and do not take into account the more difficult fingering. The different sound characteristics can be summarized as follows: […] the Bb clarinet appears more brilliant and powerful due to its richer overtone spectrum, while the A clarinet has a more pronounced, dark, edgy character.

Some Böhm clarinets are built with a 'deep es' (Mi ♭ grave) and extended mechanics (so-called Vollböhm system). Clarinetists can play the entire current repertoire on one instrument with just one clarinet . You also avoid having to switch to a cold instrument, which often leads to intonation problems. However, they sometimes have to make music in very difficult keys, which only the Böhm instrument can easily do. Reprints of Breitkopf & Härtel's orchestral parts in the USA, in particular, have often included transposed clarinet parts. Or the musicians had to transpose prima vista , which, surprisingly, was often well mastered. This custom is - better said it was - more widespread in the Romance countries. In Romania in the 70s and 80s it was often the rule in medium-sized orchestras due to lack of money. (At the same time, older players still played the German system there, but with a very French tone.)

Another advantage of this extension downwards is that the 'short b' can be played overblown as an 'Eb' and thus sounds fuller than this - usually very critical note. Although this downward expansion of the range is not very widespread - except for the bass clarinet - individual composers have nevertheless expected it. Even Gustav Mahler , in his 7th Symphony attached a note to this effect (paragraph 262). Ottorino Respighi demands this 'deep es' in his tone poem ' Pini di Roma ' in the 1st and the bass clarinet (two bars before the number 10 / Ricordi score, page 30).

For high voices with special sound effects, the Eb clarinet ("soprano clarinet") has been used since the middle of the 19th century , the shrill tone of which is used in marching bands and Bohemian-Moravian folk music, but also in large symphony orchestras. Because of its penetrating sound, it is normally only used individually in an orchestra. Analogous to the movement of Bb and A clarinet, a clarinet in D is also built for the Eb clarinet, but today its part is usually performed on the Eb clarinet.

The bass clarinet in Bb, which sounds an octave lower than the Bb clarinet , is mainly at home in orchestras and symphonic wind music, and occasionally also in jazz . Their pitch range is often extended beyond the 'low e' to a maximum of the 'c', so that their lowest note is the sounding contrabb. In contrast to the normal clarinet, the bass clarinet is usually not built in A.

Nowadays, C-clarinets and D-clarinets are rarely used in symphony orchestras if the corresponding passages are not to be transposed to B-flat or E-flat clarinets.

High clarinets

Rarer high instruments are the high G clarinet (there is also a low G clarinet), the “picksüße Hölzl”, which is played exclusively in Wiener Schrammelmusik , and the C clarinet , which was still widely used in the 19th century was and was used, for example, by Antonio Salieri in his operas, but today it is the only non- transposing family member that is usually replaced by the Bb clarinet - this means that C voices have to be transposed, i.e. played a whole tone higher from the sight .

The high A flat clarinet played the highest clarinet part in early wind music and is now being replaced by the E flat clarinet, as is the high D clarinet , which was used, for example, in Johann Melchior Molter's baroque clarinet concerto or in Viennese dance music ( Johann Strauss ) is found. All these designs are no longer mass-produced today.

Instruments in old locations

Alto clarinet in Eb, Boehm system
Modern basset clarinet made of Mopane, French system, with bell pointing upwards ( Schwenk & Seggelke )

The basset horn in F was used primarily by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in some of his operas ( Die Zauberflöte ), chamber music works and in his Requiem , followed by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Richard Strauss (in Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten ). Today it is experiencing a renaissance in the newer quartet literature for clarinets. The range of the basset horn is expanded with the so-called basset keys down to the notated C (sounding F) (just as the bass clarinet and basset clarinet are expanded to notated C or C). This means that the range is a full four octaves. Mainly in Concert that takes alto clarinet in it the role of the central position between normal and bass clarinet. This is usually built without basset keys, but sometimes it is extended to notated D (sounding F) in order to be able to reproduce basset horn parts.

Various instruments of the clarinet family (German system) played by the Tribal Clarinet Trio : left low G clarinet ( Theo Jörgensmann ), middle double bass clarinet ( Ernst Ulrich Deuker ), right basset horn ( Etienne Rolin )

The basset clarinet (in A, B or C) is the instrument similar to the basset horn , for which Mozart composed his clarinet quintet KV 581 and his clarinet concerto KV 622 , works whose deepest passages were octaved shortly after Mozart's death, so that they can also be played on a normal To be able to play A clarinet and whose original scores are only available in reconstructed versions today. The basset clarinet, so-called later, was invented several times, first around 1770. The instrument of Mozart's friend and lodge brother Anton Stadler (1753–1812), who also premiered the two works, was developed and manufactured in 1788 by the Viennese court instrument maker Theodor Lotz and made by Stadler further improved. As prescribed by Mozart, in addition to the tones of the normal clarinet, it also had the lower tones E-flat, D, C sharp and C. Some instrument makers have recently made modern custom-made products of this design so that newer recordings can convey a more authentic picture of these works .

Low G clarinets are used in Greek and Turkish folk music . The instruments have the German fingering and a straight design, they are available in both wood and metal. The mechanics are mostly designed according to Albert, but you can also find the modern form. The tuning is a pure fourth lower than noted, so it can be assigned to the old register.

More deep clarinets

The double bass clarinet in Bb sounds two octaves lower than the Bb clarinet and is used in large-scale works of the 20th and 21st centuries, for example in Arnold Schönberg's Five Orchestral Pieces Opus 16 , György Ligetis Lontano and Iannis Xenakis ' Jonchaies as well as in film music . Often the double bass clarinet doubles the voice of the double bass. Occasionally the double bass clarinet is also found in wind orchestras. In Concert deep clarinet register next to the bass clarinet is occasionally to further strengthen contra-alto clarinet It used the sounds one octave lower than the alto clarinet in Eb. These very deep clarinets are also used in some musicals (for example A Chorus Line , The Producers ).

Of the even lower subcontra alto clarinet in Eb (sounding two octaves lower than the alto clarinet in Eb) and the subcontra bass clarinet in Bb (sounding three octaves lower than the clarinet in Bb), only a few copies exist worldwide.


Four views of a quarter tone clarinet

The Canadian clarinet maker Steven Fox constructs clarinets that are tuned in the Bohlen-Pierce scale . Due to the high compatibility of this scale with clarinets, these can also be made much simpler with regard to the key mechanism.

  • In the 1930s, Friedrich Stein developed the stone clarinet , which had a new type of key system on two metal tubes and was built by the Mönnig brothers in Markneukirchen .
  • Quarter-tone double clarinet: The composers' preoccupation with micro- intervals and quarter-tone music , which took place in Central Europe from the beginning of the 20th century, led to the desire for structural support for these tones, especially for wind instruments. The instrument maker Fritz Schüller (1883–1977) constructed a quarter-tone double clarinet , which consisted of two adjacent clarinets tuned a quarter-tone apart, but which was equipped with only one mouthpiece and one key system. With an additional lever it was possible to switch back and forth between the two tubes, so that it was possible to play a quarter-tone scale without much effort.
  • The Sudden Smile Clarinet is a combination of a clarinet mouthpiece and a recorder body and could more appropriately be described as a chalumeau . It is approx. 35 cm long and is in C. A complete chromatic scale of 2 12 octaves is available to the player.
  • In the meantime there are also the Tupian Chalumeaus , which offer the possibility to play up to 2 12 octaves without keys thanks to a special fingering technique similar to flutes . These instruments are available in all common keys from high F to low D.


The history of single reed instruments goes back to ancient times. Since ancient Egyptian times, in classical antiquity as well as in the Middle Ages, a large number of different instrument shapes, often with a double sound tube, has been proven. In the reeds of these instruments, the vibrating tongue is created by an incision in the stalk of a reed (idioglottes reed).

In regions with a lively traditional music tradition, such instruments have partly been preserved up to modern times (for example Sipsi ).

The chalumeau

The chalumeau has only been documented since the end of the 17th century and is therefore only slightly older than the clarinet. Compared to earlier single- reed instruments, some of which were also referred to as chalumeau / shawm , with the chalumeau the reed can be detached from the mouthpiece (heteroglottic reed). The chalumeau has a cylindrical tube. It has no overblown key and was only used in the basic register, i.e. in a range of a major ninth. Overblown tones can be generated, but the sound is unsatisfactory and often impure. Similar to the recorder, it has eight finger holes , sometimes supplemented by one or two keys to expand the range. Chromatic notes are played with fork handles.

The clarinet in the 18th century

Denner's clarinet

Around 1700 German instrument makers began to develop the Chalumeau further. The most important achievement on the way to the clarinet was made by the German instrument maker Johann Christoph Denner . His further development of the chalumeau consisted in making an instrument that was provided with an additional flap for overblowing . Because this instrument had a loud, clear sound in the middle and high register , reminiscent of that of the baroque trumpet (also known as clarino because of the "clarin playing" ), Mayer named it in the "Museum musicum" (1732) as a clarinetto , i.e. small Trumpet , inscribed. Since the first clarinets did not succeed in simultaneously performing the low and the overblown register in a satisfactory sound and intonation, the first clarinets were almost exclusively played in the overblown register and chalumeaus were still built for the low register. The lowest register of the clarinet is still called the Chalumeau register today . The Denner clarinet only had two keys, but various other manufacturers soon added more to make additional notes playable. The classical instrument, as Mozart knew and loved it, had (without the basset extension) eight finger holes and around five keys and was easy to play in all registers.

Further developments

The B-C sharp trill one-point connection by Rudolf Uebel in comparison with the usual variant.

The next important development step was the invention of the clarinet by Iwan Müller described above under fingering systems, which can be described as a revolution in clarinet construction. In the course of the 19th century, other keys were added to this system, which was popular around the world.

In 1839, Hyacinthe Klosé designed a completely new arrangement of the holes and keys, which was heavily influenced by the calculations made by Theobald Böhm , which he had applied to the construction of the flute . He named his invention the Böhm system after him . Since this fingering was designed in a completely new way and the musicians who were used to the Müller system had to completely relearn it, however, it only slowly caught on. In the meantime, however, the Böhm clarinet has become the international standard instrument, apart from the German-speaking area. See also: handle systems .

A later example of a technical innovation in the German clarinet is the one-point connection for the B-C sharp trills. Rudolf Uebel, Friedrich Arthur Uebel's nephew , had this patented in 1949. The illustration shows two lower pieces by Arthur Uebel clarinets from the 1990s: The two-point connection is the younger instrument here; the design changed back to the original variant.

The Viennese clarinet

The Viennese clarinet differs from its German sister in that it has another hole, thicker walls and a different mouthpiece path. Viennese leaves are wider and stronger than German leaves and have a different leaf core.

The Viennese clarinet - along with other Viennese instruments such as the Viennese oboe , Viennese horn , Viennese timpani, Viennese percussion - gives Austrian orchestras their typical Viennese sound style .

Use of the clarinet in music


From the numerous works for clarinet and piano , especially the two are sonatas by Brahms , the Fantasy Pieces of Robert Schumann and the Four Pieces of the Alban Berg emphasized. Felix Draeseke , Camille Saint-Saëns , Max Reger , Arnold Bax , Paul Hindemith , Francis Poulenc ( sonata for clarinet and piano ), Josef Schelb , Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland composed further sonatas .

There is also a rich literature of clarinet concerts, including the well-known Clarinet Concerto KV 622 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Even Carl Maria von Weber , Ludwig Spohr , Mendelssohn , Franz Krommer , Johann Melchior Molter and members of the Stamitz family wrote popular and frequently mentioned today Klarinettenkonzerte. By Antonio Salieri it exists, a so-called Picciola Sinfonia for concert Clarinet and Orchestra, which his opera as an introduction to the second part , the Negro is. Claude Debussy , Igor Stravinsky , Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland later composed works for solo clarinet with orchestral accompaniment. The Clarinet Concerto by Carl Nielsen also deserves a mention . The clarinet concerto by Jean Françaix (1968) marks a high point in technical and musical sophistication, which is seldom performed because of the high demands placed on the soloist and the orchestra.

New impulses have been set in recent years. a. the Swedish solo clarinetist Martin Fröst and the Finn Kari Kriikku . Both soloists have commissioned concerts, premiered and played in numerous concerts around the world and recorded them on CD. For Fröst wrote u. a. Kalevi Aho , Anders Hillborg and Rolf Martinsson (Concert Fantastique) , for Kriikku u. a. Unsuk Chin , Kimmo Hakola , Jouni Kaipainen , Magnus Lindberg , Kaija Saariaho and Jukka Tiensuu concerts.

The completely unaccompanied clarinet was given solo compositions by many composers, especially in the 20th century. The most prominent representatives here are the Three Pieces (1919) by Igor Stravinsky , Moods of a Faun (1921) by Ilse Fromm-Michaels , L'abîme des oiseaux (1941) from the Quatuor pour la fin du temps by Olivier Messiaen , the Capriccio ( 1946) by Heinrich Sutermeister , Luciano Beriossequence IXa (1980) as well as the solo sonatas by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1920) and John Cage (1933) and Germaine Tailleferre (1957).

Chamber music

In pure wind chamber music there is hardly a formation without a clarinet. In harmony music , wind octets and sextets are usually two, in the woodwind quintet there is one clarinet part. Another important line-up is the modern clarinet ensemble with clarinets, basset horns, Eb clarinet, bass clarinet and saxophones or the clarinet quartet consisting of two clarinets, basset horn and bass clarinet. The clarinet also plays an important role in the quintets for piano and wind instruments by Mozart and Beethoven .

In mixed chamber music (winds and strings), the clarinet quintet , which combines the sound of the solo wind instrument with a string quartet , should be mentioned above all . The quintets by Mozart and Brahms are particularly noteworthy here. In the larger mixed line-up, such as in the Schubert Octet or Beethoven Septet , the clarinet often shares the main part with the first violin . Famous trios were written by Mozart (clarinet, viola, piano) and Brahms (clarinet, violoncello, piano). Olivier Messiaen casts clarinet, violin, cello and piano in his Quatuor pour la fin du temps (quartet for the end of time) .

Perhaps the best known piece for two clarinets is the Sonata for Two Clarinets FP7 by Francis Poulenc .

see also : List of woodwind quintets (with clarinet)


Clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic (1917).

Apart from a few solo appearances, for example in works by Antonio Vivaldi or Jan Dismas Zelenka , the Chalumeau was never really integrated into the baroque orchestra . It was only with the further development of the clarinet that the instrument was able to assert itself alongside the other woodwinds. In the symphony orchestra the clarinetists usually sit in the second row of woodwinds next to the bassoonists ; with the first winds of both groups (solo clarinet and solo bassoon) sitting next to each other.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart heard symphonies by Carl Stamitz in Mannheim in 1778 and wrote to his father:

“Oh, if we only had clarinetti! - you do not believe what a symphony with slacks, oboes and clarinets can have a wonderful effect! "

This quote, however, refers to the Salzburg court orchestra, which did not use clarinets until 1804. Clarinets were used in the Prince Archbishop's military music from 1769 at the latest. Mozart tried at least from that date, and to integrate this instrument in Austria in the orchestra, and it is with thanks to him that in the symphonies heard of Beethoven Clarinet already for horn section and equivalent to the oboe and flute is used. Particularly characteristic passages can be found in the most intimate moments of many Mozart operas , of course - here there are two basset horns - in his Requiem and in the slow movements of the Beethoven symphonies . At that time there were usually two clarinets in the orchestra.

For many composers of the Romantic era , the clarinet, similar to the oboe in the Baroque period, is the instrument of choice for intimate, vocal passages (for example in the symphonies of Mendelssohn or Brahms). Even in the romantic opera orchestra, she is often given expressive vocal lines . In addition, the clarinet group in the orchestra is growing, often three or more players are used, some of whom also play secondary instruments . The bass clarinet , for example, is playing an increasingly important role in the romantic opera orchestra (e.g. in the operas of Richard Wagner ). The clarinet parts from operas by Richard Strauss are so important and demanding that they are still required today as compulsory pieces for auditions. Individual composers (for example Shostakovich in his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk ) cast up to five or seven (Richard Strauss, Elektra ) clarinetists.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the new type of jazz also influenced concert music , and naturally the clarinet was increasingly used as a common jazz instrument, but it is also represented in the orchestra. A world-famous example is the beginning of the Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin . Newer composers appreciate the clarinet above all for its maneuverability in all registers.

Wind band

In wind bands and military bands, the clarinet is used, among other things, for fast solo passages. In wind music arrangements of symphonic works, the clarinets, divided into two or more groups, often take over the violin parts . There they mostly play in their upper tone range, where they stand out slightly from the other instruments. In larger wind orchestras, the Eb clarinet, the lower alto clarinet in Eb and the bass clarinet in Bb are played in addition to the predominant Bb clarinets, which are chorus. The contrabass clarinet in Eb and the contrabass clarinet in Bb are seldom found.

In Bohemian-Moravian folk music, the clarinet is usually played in two parts (Eb and Bb) and, apart from its own solo passages, has a decorative function. Since the frequent impact trills and sixteenth- note figures are reminiscent of the twittering of birds, they are often given names by songbirds, for example in the titles Song of the Lark or Blackbird Brothers .


The clarinet was a central instrument, especially in early jazz , and its popularity peaked in the Dixieland jazz and big band era of the 1930s and 1940s, when clarinetists such as Sidney Bechet , Benny Goodman , Artie Shaw , Johnny Dodds , George Lewis and Woody Herman led arguably the most successful light music groups of their time. With the decline in popularity of big bands in the late 1940s, the instrument moved away from the central position. It was mainly replaced by the saxophone .

In the Dixieland revival of the 1950s, clarinetists such as Hugo Strasser , Acker Bilk and Monty Sunshine became famous and their music even made it into the charts of popular music. The rarely used metal clarinet also found its place in popular jazz music.

Although some musicians such as Eric Dolphy , Buddy DeFranco , Tony Scott , Jimmy Giuffre , Rolf Kühn , Perry Robinson , Theo Jörgensmann or John Carter also used it for bebop and free jazz , the clarinet has not been able to achieve its old status to this day. You can hear them more often in contemporary improvisation music. Among the modern jazz clarinetists are u. a. Eddie Daniels , Paquito D'Rivera , Gebhard Ullmann , Don Byron and Lajos Dudas are worth mentioning.

Frontier workers

  • Jean-Christian Michel is inspired by the church music of Johann Sebastian Bach and the demanding "European" jazz and plays his compositions and adaptations on the clarinet.
  • The German Clarinet Duo plays improvised chamber music in which elements of jazz and new music are combined with one another through a jazzy timing.
  • Even Woody Allen plays the clarinet (Albert) system and has (in the recordings of his film scores run Take the Money and , The Sleeper , Radio Days ) itself played the clarinet.
  • The English musician John Helliwell uses the clarinet as the main melody instrument in the rock group Supertramp .
  • Musicians like Tara Bouman or Michael Riessler are cross-border commuters who come from classical music. Both have also made a name for themselves as improvisers .
  • In the band Coppelius , clarinets are often used for solos whose sound is supposed to be reminiscent of guitar solos.

Vibrato, tremolo

In jazz and American popular music, the clarinet is traditionally played with pronounced vibrato. In classical music , country music and brass music , the clarinet is traditionally played with a tone that is as straight and constant as possible. In contrast to strings, singers, flautists and oboists, the classical clarinetists rejected vibrato playing in the 20th century. In America alone - influenced by jazz - vibrato was not infrequently used in classical music.

Other uses

  • In klezmer ( Giora Feidman , Joel Rubin ) and in Eastern European folk music ( Iwo Papasow ) the clarinet is widely used as a solo or accompanying instrument.
  • In the Balkans in particular , the clarinet is a standard instrument, even in the smallest formations.
  • The clarinet is not quite so indispensable, but still important in alpine folk music.
  • In Turkish folklore, one usually hears Albert clarinets in G made of wood or metal, played for example by Hüsnü Şenlendirici
  • It is used less often in pop music, for example in some hits by the group Supertramp. An unusual mix of Dixieland jazz and beat music can be found for example in the play When I'm Sixty-Four of the Beatles
  • In Greece , the clarinet (clarino) plays an important role in traditional dance, wedding and lament music. The Greek lamentation often includes a solo clarinet, often with improvisation.

Famous clarinetists

  • The first great clarinet star was Anton Stadler (1753–1812), for whom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote almost all of his works for clarinet, basset horn or basset clarinet "especially for him". He originally came from Prague , but because of his great popularity in many European metropolises, he led a real wandering life.
  • The Munich court musician Heinrich Joseph Baermann (1784–1847) was likely to have had a similarly inspiring effect on Carl Maria von Weber, who dedicated two concerts, a concertino and chamber music to him. His son Carl Baermann was also a clarinetist and, in addition to some concerts, wrote a clarinet school that is still in use today.
  • A contemporary of Heinrich Baermann, who was considered the most important virtuoso of his time, was Johann Simon Hermstedt . Louis Spohr dedicated his four clarinet concertos to him, who, unlike Weber, took no account of the clarinet's technical problems. This “ruthlessness” on the part of Spohr prompted Hermstedt to further develop the instrument accordingly.
  • Even Johannes Brahms, who actually stopped composing in the 1890s, was motivated by the beautiful tone of the self-taught Richard Mühlfeld (1856–1907) to compose a few more clarinet works shortly before the end of his life.
  • For Benny Goodman composed Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith their famous clarinet concertos. Even Bela Bartok devoted his Goodman contrasts for violin, clarinet and piano.

Other important musicians are included in the list of clarinetists .


Like so many other instruments, you can learn to play the clarinet privately, at music schools , conservatories or art schools . Before purchasing an instrument, it is important to consult the future teacher, who can advise the student on the choice of the system and the quality of the clarinet. In addition to teaching fingering, posture, breathing technique and approach , a good clarinet teacher should also be able to give tips on how to work the reed .

Advanced students can get their first playing practice in clarinet ensembles, wind orchestras , amateur or school orchestras. Chamber music ensembles or university orchestras are also suitable for professional studies . In order to be accepted into a symphony orchestra , the successful completion of an audition is a prerequisite , in which concert solos and difficult passages from orchestral works have to be performed. The preparation of such auditions is one of the focal points of professional instrumental studies.

Important etudes and school works for clarinet come from Kalman Opperman , Carl Baermann , Friedrich Berr , Giovanni Battista Gambaro , Hyacinthe Klosé , Fritz Kröpsch , Rudolf Jettel , Ernesto Cavallini , Paul Jeanjean , Alfred Uhl and Reiner Wehle .

Current manufacturers of importance

Luis Rossi
Oscar Adler, Buffet Crampon Deutschland GmbH (W. Schreiber), Claríssono (Martin Schöttle), Wolfgang Dietz ( Neustadt ad Aisch ), Dörfler, Martin Foag, Frank Hammerschmidt, Karl Hammerschmidt, Stefan Hofmann, Georg Hufnagel, Harald Hüyng, Richard Keilwerth, Johanna Kronthaler, Kunath Instrumentenbau, Leitner & Kraus (Neustadt ad Aisch), Stephan Leitzinger, Rolf Meinel, Gebr. Mönnig GmbH (Oscar Adler), Gustav Mollenhauer & Sons (Kassel), Bernd Moosmann, Richard Müller, WO Nürnberger (Nico Sämann) , Püchner , Lothar Reidel, Eberhard Scherzer, Schwenk & Seggelke , Steinbach, Friedrich Arthur Uebel , Guntram Wolf , Herbert Wurlitzer (Neustadt ad Aisch)
Peter Eaton (production stopped in 2018), Hanson Clarinets

Since around the 1930s, a particular clarinet made by Boosey & Hawkes (B&H) was very popular and influential in Great Britain. The model 1010 had a very wide bore of 15.2 mm, which was also completely cylindrical in shape. Famous English clarinetists such as Jack Brymer, Thea King, Frederick Thurston and Gervase de Peyer played on it and are largely responsible for the enormous popularity of this clarinet in Great Britain. The production of clarinets was stopped by B&H in 1986. As a result, many professional British clarinetists mostly switched to instruments from the French company Buffet Crampon (mostly model R13), instruments with a much smaller and not completely cylindrical bore (14.65 mm). The tradition of the 1010 was continued and improved by Peter Eaton and his small team with the Elite model. Despite their small number of copies, instruments by Peter Eaton are very popular with leading British clarinetists. Peter Eaton stopped production in 2018 for reasons of age.


Buffet Crampon , Henri Selmer , Georges Leblanc (until 2008)

Buffet Crampon is the market leader for professional bohemian clarinets. The R13 model, developed around 1950 by the instrument maker Robert Carrée, is the world's most successful professional clarinet and is practically the standard in the USA. The RC (or RC Prestige (14.71 mm)) model, developed in 1975, is more popular in Europe. The most important competitors in the market are certainly Yamaha and Henri Selmer, and Backun in North America for several years. The French company George Leblanc was very important until it was bought by Buffet Crampon in 2008. Buffet Crampons model R13 served as a model for some Leblanc and Yamaha models.

Fratelli Patricola , Romeo Orsi, LA Ripamonti
Josef, Yamaha
Backun Musical Services , Stephen Fox
Gerold Angerer, Otmar Hammerschmidt, Herbert Neureiter, Rudolf Tutz
Czech Republic
United States
Ridenour Clarinet Products, Chadash Clarinet, Conn-Selmer , Martin Freres Company


  • Wilhelm Altenburg : The clarinet. Their origin and development up to the present time, in acoustic, technical and musical relation . CF Schmidt publishing house, Heilbronn 1904
  • Eugen Brixel : The clarinet and the saxophone. (= Publication series for young musicians. Issue 1). Music publisher Stefan Reischel, Oberneunkirchen Öst 1983.
  • Jack Brymer: The clarinet. Fischer paperback, Frankfurt am Main 1983, ISBN 3-596-22986-3 .
  • Günter Dullat: Clarinets. Main features of their development. Erwin Bochinsky, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-923639-44-9 .
  • Jürgen Elsner, Diethard Riehm, Walther Krüger: Clarinets. In: MGG Online, November 2016 ( Music in the past and present , 1996)
  • Eric Hoeprich: The Clarinet. Yale University Press, New Haven / London 2008, ISBN 978-0-300-10282-6 .
  • Gerhard Krassnitzer: Multiphonics for clarinet with a German system and other contemporary playing techniques. Edition Ebenos, Aachen 2002.
  • Oskar Kroll: The clarinet. Bärenreiter, Kassel 1965, ISBN 3-7618-0086-X .
  • Colin Lawson (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to the Clarinet. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1995, ISBN 0-521-47668-2 .
  • Peter Ninaus: Requirements for wind lessons using the example of the clarinet. Grin, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-638-67545-1 .
  • Conny Restle , Heike Fricke (Ed.): Fascination Clarinet. Prestel, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7913-3180-9 .
  • Albert R. Rice: Clarinet. In: Grove Music Online , July 25, 2013.
  • Thomas Sattler-Fujimoto: Clarinet - enjoy with all your senses. Self-published, Wiesbaden 2007.
  • Erich Valentin: Handbook of musical instrument science. Gustav Bosse, Regensburg 2004, ISBN 3-7649-2003-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: clarinet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Clarinets  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Johann Gottfried Walther : Musical Lexicon […]. Wolffgang Deer, Leipzig 1732, p. 168 ("Clarinetto, is an [...] instrument invented at the beginning of this Seculi by a Nuremberg [...]"; see also The Clarinet in the 18th Century )
  2. Overview - European Patent Register. Retrieved February 12, 2020 .
  3. Z-pear. Paulus und Schuler GbR, accessed on May 18, 2019 .
  4. Stephanie Angloher, the German and French clarinet system. A comparative study on sound aesthetics and didactic communication, inaugural dissertation to obtain a doctorate in philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich , 293 pages, Herbert Utz Verlag GmbH, Munich 2007, here p. 20
  5. Stephanie Angloher, the German and French clarinet system. A comparative study on sound aesthetics and didactic communication, inaugural dissertation to obtain a doctorate in philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich , 293 pages, Herbert Utz Verlag GmbH, Munich 2007, p. 23 f
  6. Jürgen Meyer: On the acoustics of the clarinet . In: Conny Restle, Heike Fricke (Ed.): Fascination Clarinet . Prestel Verlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7913-3180-9 , pp. 184 .
  7. ^ Score, Edition Eulenburg, preface by Alan Hacker
  8. H-Cis single point connection: Link to the entry in the patent database .
  9. Daniel Hörth (2003): French, German and Austrian mouthpiece-track-reed combinations in clarinets in comparison ( online ( Memento from November 17, 2015 in the Internet Archive )) (pdf)
  10. Kurt Birsak: Salzburg, Haydn, and the Clarinet, in: The Clarinet Vol. 27 (1999), No. 1, pp. 36-40
  11. Koray Degirmenci: Creating Global Music in Turkey . Lexington Books, 2013, ISBN 978-0-7391-7546-0 , pp. 76 (English, limited preview in Google Book search).
  12. Elaine Landau: Is the Clarinet for You? Lerner Publications, 2010, ISBN 978-0-7613-5421-5 , pp. 13 (English, limited preview in Google Book search).
  13. a b c d Jennifer May Brand: From Design to Decline: Boosey & Hawkes and Clarinet Manufacturing in Britain, 1879-1986. (PDF) In: Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of Goldsmiths, University of London for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. November 2012, accessed December 9, 2018 .
  14. ^ Lawson, Colin (Ed.): The Cambridge companion to the clarinet . 1st ed. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge [England] 1995, ISBN 0-521-47066-8 .
  15. a b c Peter Eaton Clarinets and Clarinet Mouthpieces. Retrieved December 6, 2018 .
  16. ^ A b c d Gibson, O. Lee (Oscar Lee): Clarinet acoustics . Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 1994, ISBN 0-253-32576-5 .
  17. Hoeprich, Eric: The clarinet . Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2008, ISBN 978-0-300-10282-6 .
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on June 15, 2005 in this version .