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The clarinet

(Source: Leonardo Musical Site)

History and use of the clarinet

A little history ...


The origin of the clarinet is somewhat obscure. Its most direct ancestor is the torch of the Middle Ages, instrument overcame a small tube which is fixed a beating reed. The clarinet as such would have been created for the first time in Nuremberg in 1690 by a luthier named Jean-Christophe Denner.

Early clarinets did not possess at the outset that very few keys, which limited technical possibilities and above required the possession of several clarinets, clarinet almost a dial tone !


Today, the clarinet features thirteen keys and uses the so-called system BOEHM, named after its inventor who had the idea of joining a moving rod by a ring system, allowing both a natural spacing of holes compared to the hand, and fingering facilities.

Note also that the evolution of the clarinet is not completely uniform because the two systems coexist, giving two models of clarinet slightly different: the so-called "German" and the so-called "French". The French system is currently the most widespread.

The use of the clarinet ...

Anyone who has ever heard the full and warm sound of a clarinet may perhaps wonder at the origin of the word "clarinet". The word "clarinet" is indeed a derivative of "Clarino" which was ... a small trumpet! But we know that the early clarinets were "small" clarinets and the people of this era seem to have been impressed by the shrill, sharp, shrill perhaps this new instrument. Thus the first concerto dedicated to him, namely MOLTER concertos are written for clarinet in D, and more in the range of the instrument most acute.


These brilliant MOLTER concertos are perhaps the only plays baroque known for the clarinet, for very soon the aspirations of the era classic should arise, for example, with concertos by Johann Stamitz, Carl Stamitz, Mercader ... There already is, passages in the writings of the clarinet although it is often encompassed in an arpeggio or a range , the passages are still sung almost exclusively reserved to the highs.

It was not until Mozart to the full extent of the clarinet is highlighted. It was he who really gave the clarinet its pedigree. It was indeed excited about this instrument as soon as he heard for the first time, as evidenced by a letter written to his father ("Father, you can not imagine the sound of the clarinet ...") but also as evidenced by the number (and quality too ...) that he will dedicate works: the most famous concerto K622 course, but the quintet with strings, the trio said "bowling trio" with viola and piano, a large number of entertainment for three basset horns ( see the clarinet family ), and many works of chamber music for winds, including the clarinet (The Great Partita for 13 wind instruments, the octets, quintets etc. ...).

The Golden Age, but the clarinet is undoubtedly the Romantic period . It sees it as the ideal confidant for the emotions of the soul, its dark timbre is perfectly suitable for domestic dramas of composers, but knowing also demonstrate the vehemence when necessary. SCHUMANN, BRAHMS great room and wrote sonatas for her . Carl Maria von Weber in a more extrovert kind, attracted by possible technical prowess, it left an impressive number of concertos, duets, quintets etc. ... The clarinet is then part of the symphony orchestra and there is an important and very personal. BERLIOZ noted for example that the clarinet is the only instrument able to swell the sound and make it disappear into infinity.

It was then that, in parallel to develop the first military bands that would later become the orchestras of harmony (orchestras composed solely of wind and percussion). Its importance is central and that the clarinet is supposed to replace the violins. The technological advances of the instrument at the beginning of the twentieth century opens for clarinet new horizons. There is no hesitation to give solos and features difficult, sometimes very difficult as evidenced by the works of Ravel (Daphnis and Chloe, for example). We also discover the whole family of the clarinet. The clarinet for his side now drilling into the upper sometimes melancholy in the grave, and bass clarinet alongside his cavernous and mysterious bring new colors to perfectly exploited the orchestra Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky. In Europe the TSE is the king of instruments: SMETANA, BORODIN, BARTOK use it copiously.

Today, finally, contemporary composers have exploded technical possibilities of the instrument, the performer, pushing its limits. In the first grades, grades with extreme sounds almost inaudible, followed by sounds so powerful it ears and then in the range , with a systematic and at heights of more high shrill; in the technique then, with features including large intervals tempi always higher, and finally the use of new effects (slap, flatterzunge, quarter tone, vibrato, ...).

The clarinet is ubiquitous today in all styles of music ( jazz , classical, contemporary, pop, folk), and if one believes Pierre Boulez, an instrument with a bright future.

The family of clarinets ...

From highest to lowest:


Bb Clarinet

Bass Clarinet
  • The clarinet in Ab: it is so small that the fingers are touching and the reed we split lip. She was formerly employed in the Military Music in Italy (Bandas). It is very rare and virtually unused today although some comtemporary composer is given to honor ("Space deployed" by Gilbert AMY). His tone is strident and shrill.

  • The small clarinet in Eb, it is at the fourth above the clarinet in Bb, but the treble is more difficult to control than on the Bb. Some special fingerings sometimes help them out with an accuracy less satisfying but direct attack at the right height, wide, round and are often instrumental prowess. His interest lies rather in its tone in its range. It is very suitable passages sarcastic, crackers, and a little vulgar ("Till Eulenspiegel" by Richard Strauss ), but also with melancholy passages in the midrange and the bass instrument.

  • The small clarinet in D: composers like Richard Strauss or Stravinsky's use but most of the time these musicians prefer to play orchestral excerpts in Eb transposing. She used, in fact, little more than the Molter concertos and this is perhaps a bit unfortunate because the sound is softer than the MiIb (as well as the clarinet in A is darker than the Bb),.

  • The clarinet in UT: also fell in dessuétude although again many works are written for this instrument as the operas of Rossini . The sound is somewhat aggressive, and prefer to transpose clarinet keeping the Bb clarinet.

  • Clarinets in Bb: it is the most used instrument is the clarinet and clarinet with which it begins.

  • Clarinets in A: There is a half-tone difference with her sister Bb but the sound changes. The LA is préférerable if you want something dark, sweet, interior. The Bb is préférerable if you want something shiny, direct, penetrating. That's why LA is much used in chamber music by Mozart, Brahms, Schumann but forsaken the Bb in the concertos of WEBER, SPOHR etc. ...
    The clarinet in LA need more air, more pressure than the Bb, and gives a little impression of inertia in the attacks and nuances. It is a great way to develop his sound for the Bb. It should be noted that there is a clarinet concerto in A special MOZART called basset clarinet, and down to serious DO (4 notes in the most severe). The original version of the Mozart concerto included some notes below the low E, (C # or the real), current limit of the clarinet in LA now).

  • The alto clarinet in F: old Basset Horn. At the fourth below clarinet in Bb, its sound is much more introvert. Its curved shape at the flag could be confused with a saxophone. It is mainly used in works of Mozart, and especially in his Requiem, which begins with a solo two basset horns.

  • The alto clarinet in Eb: we find this instrument in some of Harmony Music (Holland for example) and in sets of clarinets.

  • The bass clarinet in Bb: it sounds an octave below the Bb clarinet. His grave is remarkable, both dark and cavernous, somewhat resembling certain register soft organ. Its sharp focus much less, can express the point of violence. The shrill about it is much used in comtemporary music for its effect sub-ethereal, unearthly (Michel Portal) ... The multiphonics, flatterzunge, slap and other effects abound in his comtemporary literature.
    Design feature: additional keys in the bass, provide access to Eb, and even on some model to D, C and C #.

  • The bass clarinet alto Eb: it sounds a fifth below the bass clarinet. The low register is a deep sound extraordinary, cavernous, distant. It is mainly used as a set of clarinets.

  • The contrabass clarinet in Bb: it sounds an octave below the bass clarinet. His bass pedals resemble the sounds of the organ but with less power. I saw a metal, but it is also wood. The contrabass clarinet is mainly used in chamber music. It is mainly used in all clarinets, and he makes a fantastic sound foundation.

Creation date : 07/02/2009 13:43
Last update : 17/03/2009 09:08
Category : - Instruments-Woods
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Baroque period

The baroque period covers a large period in the history of music. It extends from the early XVIIth century at about the middle of the XVIIIth century, more or less uniform across the countries considered. As a necessarily schematic, aesthetics and inspiration baroque follow those of the Renaissance and above those of classicism.

Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz is a composer, a writer and a French critic, born December 11, 1803 at La Cote Saint Andre, Isere, died March 8, 1869 in Paris.
It is considered one of the greatest representatives of European Romanticism, although it should challenge the term "romantic" that meant nothing to him.
It is defined in fact as a classical composer. His music had the reputation of not respecting the laws of harmony, accusation which does not resist to a deepened reading of its scores.
It reveals, paradoxically, that Berlioz respects the historical foundations of harmony dating from the XVIth century (rules governing opposite and joint movements), but sometimes it frees additional rules appeared later and aesthetically questionable (rules modulation cadential among others).


Classical period

The Music "Classic" includes music written by agreement between the death of Johann Sebastian Bach is 1750 and the beginning of the Romantic period or the 1820s. By extension, called  "classical music" all european art music, music from the Renaissance to contemporary music. It is therefore necessary to separate the classical music, composers whose headlights are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Christoph Willibald Gluck, and classical music opposed to popular music in the West or elsewhere (referred to "Indian classical music," for example).

The harmony

In its broadest sense, the word harmony means traditionally one of the four elements of music - the others being the rhythm, the melody and timbre.
Harmony is the deliberate use of frequencies simultaneously, with a view to provide relief and depth to the song or instrumental performance : she represents the aspect vertical music, while the melody is the aspect horizontal.

The jazz

The jazz is a music type born in the United States at the beginning of the XXth century. Existent of the crossroads of the blues, the ragtime and European music, the jazz is considered to be the first specific musical form to have developed in the United States.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart, better known by the name of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born in Salzburg, a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, January 27, 1756 - died in Vienna Dec. 5, 1791) is generally considered one of the largest Composers of European classical music.
Although he died at thirty-five years, it leaves an important work (626 work are listed in the Catalog KV) which embraces all genres of his time.
According to the testimony of his contemporaries was the piano to the violin as a virtuoso.


The octave in music

The etymology of the word octave just music: it takes eight grades to have a frequency twice as high.
Indeed, the one to play in tune, it must produce a frequency of 440 Hz to play the octave above, it is necessary to produce a frequency of 880 Hz, ie, exactly twice.
In music, an octave is the interval between two sounds whose fundamental frequency of one is twice the frequency of the other. Divided into several sub-intervals, it allows to define the ranges.

Maurice Ravel

Joseph Maurice Ravel (Ciboure, Pyrenees-Atlantiques, March 7, 1875 - Paris, December 28, 1937) was a French composer of the modern era.
His work is the result of a persistent search for perfection and a legacy ranging from Rameau to the pioneers of jazz, reflects a unique style that, after participating at the beginning of the century Impressionist movement, turned to a more neoclassical stripped.
Recognized as a master of orchestration and a meticulous craftsman, a man of complex personality has never parted with a sensitivity and expressiveness that, according to Le Robert, made him recall his work in both " games the most subtle of intelligence "and" the outpourings of the most secret heart. "
Not very prolific (eighty-six original works, twenty-five works orchestrated or transcribed), producing music of Ravel is characterized by a diversity of genres and a significant proportion of works recognized as a major.
These include the symphonic ballet Daphnis et Chloe (1909-1912), Bolero (1928), two concertos for piano and orchestra (for the Left Hand, 1929-1931, in G major, 1930-31) and orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky (1922) are those who have contributed most, for decades, internationally renowned musician.


Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss is a composer and conductor born in Munich, Germany June 11, 1864 and died in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, September 8, 1949.
There is no relationship between Richard Strauss and Johann Strauss the two (father and son), from Vienna and dubbed the kings of the waltz.
The few waltzes composed by Richard Strauss are not present in his works only as a nod to Viennese tradition, a reference to an earlier period (for example in the operas Der Rosenkavalier and Arabella) and as part connoting the eroticism and sensuality.
Strauss addressed almost all types: instrumental music for orchestra, solo instrument (whose concerto) or works for chamber ensemble, symphonic poem, opera, song, ballet.
If his name is known to the public, is primarily through the three operas Salome, Elektra and The Rosenkavalier, except through the symphonic poem Thus Spake Zarathustra (1896), including the Prologue, famous throughout the world, was used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick, exacerbating the misunderstanding about the aesthetic sense of what real musical commentary of a philosophical text.
These pages are famous Strauss Yet only a small part of a consistently strong production that covers a wide range of genres, styles and characters.


The romantic period

Before the romantic period, the musicians were employed by guards, nobles or religious and had to produce works in accordance with the wishes of their masters. The Romantic period has marked a significant change that has probably changed the whole musical life for years to come. For the first time was the public who requested music. The artists could finally take their inspiration and their personal interests to express themselves freely. They occurred in concerts and selling their works to survive, but if the public did not like their creations, the musicians did not profit. A large number of songs and instrumental works were performed only small gatherings, such as during evenings and were discovered by the rest of the public that a generation after the death of the musician. According to some observations, the old system gave more freedom in general. The composers produced what was requested by their protector. They copied more or less the same kind of music played by other musicians so they can protect themselves against the possibility of being confronted with an audience objected, because it tended to like what he knew. Without it, no one might not be appreciated. Today, for example, the opposite, the company generally prefers to hear works by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and works by contemporary composers.

Gioacchino Rossini

Gioacchino Rossini (Gioachino or - in the civil Giovacchino Antonio Rossini), born in Pesaro, February 29, 1792 and died in Paris on November 13, 1868, is one of the greatest composers of the nineteenth century, both in importance and extent of his repertoire as for its quality.
Above all, his name is connected with the opera. Today's most popular works are The Barber of Seville (The Barber of Seville by Beaumarchais), and La Cenerentola (from Cinderella), Overture (The Thieving Magpie), L'italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) and Guillaume Tell.
The year 1830 represents a break in the life of Rossini. He stopped writing operas but always composed, at its own rhythm, sacred music and instrumental music until his death in 1868.


The Symphony Orchestra

A symphony orchestra is a musical ensemble consisting of four families of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.
It comes from the string orchestra of the baroque period which was gradually expanded the oboe, bassoon, sometimes horns, trumpets, and timpani.
The classical period with Gossec, Haydn and Mozart often seen winds s'architecturer by two (2 flutes, 2 oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets).
The desks of the Romantic period s'ordonnancent rather with the addition of three more or less systematic instruments like the piccolo, English horn, bass clarinet, saxophone, contrabassoon, trombones and tuba.
It is also the time who knows the great evolution of percussion.
In the early twentieth century, the symphony can be large, generally, more than eighty musicians, sometimes exceeding the number hundred instrumentalists.
Since the late seventeenth century, its main function is dedicated to the performance in the concert hall, symphonic works and concertos, secular or sacred.
This course is also used for accompaniment in the pit in the opera houses, performances of opera or dance.
The composers of film scores, incidental music heiresses, they too use all the resources and expressive music of the symphony orchestra.


In western music, the word means a tone scale music belonging to the tonal system.

  • Caught in a broad sense, the word "tone" can refer to the tonal system as a whole.
  • The word can also take the direction of height, its fundamental to some instruments.
  • The word tone can be used as a synonym for tone.

A tone is defined as the set of intervals, melodic and harmonic as well, between hierarchical levels of a given scale compared to its fundamental level, called tonic. A tone is characterized by both the tonic and its mode.
Each key is constructed from the diatonic scale.

The tone is also a means to locate a musical instrument in relation to C reference.
The flute, violin or piano are in C, that is to say that when the C is played, it really means to do. The B-flat trumpet sounded really flat so when playing a do. The horn (in F) is heard when playing an F do.

The tone is very important because it will allow transposition and transcription of partitions in C in tones of instruments with different pitches.

Some instruments and their tone:

  • Ut: Piano, strings, flutes and piccolo, oboe, bassoon, C trumpet, trombone, tuba, bass tuba.
  • D flat: the old piccolos.
  • Re: Trumpet in D.
  • Eb: alto saxophone and baritone, small bugle, horn in E flat, alto (small tuba), clarinet, bass tuba.
  • F: Cor.
  • Sol: Trumpet in G.
  • The: Oboe d'amore, the trumpet.
  • Bb: soprano saxophone, tenor tuba (euphonium and baritone), B-flat trumpet, flugelhorn, clarinet, bass tuba (bombardon).