The clarinet is a family of woodwinds, the most common being the B flat soprano. This instrument is known for its deep, resonant low pitches, and bright, clear high pitches. In fact, the clarinet has the largest range of any woodwind. With plenty of variety, the clarinet is a popular choice with musicians just starting out.
The clarinet is a relatively new instrument, and there are few clarinet compositions from the Baroque era. There is however a large repertoire of classical solo pieces from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that showcase the clarinet’s distinctive timbre.
The classical orchestra often features two or three clarinets, which play separate melodies and harmonies. Large contemporary orchestras feature up to 30 clarinets, from the small, high-pitched sopranino, to the large contrabass, which produces notes even lower than the double bass. Indeed, the clarinet is an instrument family of great variety, from dark and rich, to shimmering and bright, from soft and delicate, to loud and cutting.
The clarinet was a crucial member in early jazz groups of the 1910s. The clarinet’s popularity withstood the Swing and Big Band musical trends of the 30s and 40s. After this time, the clarinet’s prominence decreased.
However, clarinets often appear in modern jazz ensembles. Its straight slender body and single mouthpiece make it the ideal instrument for producing the quintessential lyrical, swooping sounds of New Orleans jazz.
Popular and Folk Music
While it isn’t common, the clarinet is used in some pop and rock songs.
The clarinet is extremely popular in folk music from around the world, most notably in Albanian folk music from the 18th century. In this wonderful genre, the clarinet is an essential instrument of the Saze, an ensemble that plays at weddings, festivals and other celebrations.
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The clarinet is an instrument of incredible pitch variety. Give it a go!
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