Friday Reeds | History of the Clarinet

Do you know where the clarinet comes from? How it has come to be what it is today? On this #FridayReed we share that all with you!

The clarinet evolved from an instrument called the chalumeau, which is a single reed, woodwind instrument of the Baroque era typically heard in folk music.

The first clarinet was said to be invented in the early 1700s by Johann Denner and his son.

Fun fact: The name comes from a performing style and register of the early Baroque trumpets called the “clarion”. It was thought the early clarinets sounded like the sound of a faraway trumpet, thus the modern name “clarinet”.

It is thanks to the clarinet that we have the invention of modern-style pads for woodwind instruments, as before they were developed for clarinet, pads tended to be made of felt, and were not airtight!

The clarinet has had a place in classical music since Mozart’s time, and was standard in all symphony orchestras by the early 1800’s. However, it is not strictly a classical instrument! It has been used in jazz music since its beginning in New Orleans in the 1910s, with players like Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw bringing it to the fore front in the swing era of the 1930s. The clarinet also plays a prominent role in Klezmer, Brazilian, traditional Greek, and traditional Turkish music. In fact, many musicians including some #LegereArtists, are now modernizing the instrument by making electronic and house music.

The B♭ soprano clarinet is the most commonly throughout all styles of music. Of course, there are other variants of the instrument, like the smaller E♭ sopranino clarinet, the A clarinet usually for playing in different keys, and the bass clarinet used to achieve the lower notes.  There are the larger instruments as well. The alto, contra-alto, and contrabass clarinets, typically found in concert band music.

Which clarinets do you play? How did you choose the clarinet? Tell us in the comments below!