Friday Reeds | Family Matters: Clarinet
Family Matters! On today’s #Fridayreed we share some information on common and obscure members of the clarinet family.
The clarinet is a transposing instrument, meaning the sounding pitch is different than the written pitch. This is a historical tradition that make it easier to move between instruments in the same family. Nowadays, only the Bb and A clarinets are used in this manner.
The B♭ clarinet is the most commonly known and played clarinet. Most often found in classical, orchestral and concert band music it also is heard in jazz, bebop, folklore, Traditional and countless other genres of music. It is capable of smooth, florid melodies, rough staccato punches, and playing lightning quick scales and arpeggios across its wide range. The beauty of the clarinet is that it is interesting from the dark low register to the bright high register!
The A clarinet is used almost exclusively used in classical and orchestral music. The A clarinet share most tonal qualities and playing styles with the Bb clarinet – they also use the same reed! Have you tried your Bb Signature series, European cut on your A clarinet?
E♭ soprano clarinet
The E♭ Soprano clarinet is a smaller clarinet, and thus higher-pitched. Used in concert band and orchestral music, it plays higher notes far easier, adding a brilliant sound to the ensemble. It is challenging to control tuning and tone due to the small size of the reed and mouthpiece.
The Bass clarinet is most commonly used in classical, concert band, orchestra, jazz, and modern music. It is pitched one octave lower than the Bb clarinet, Due to its heavy weight, it is traditionally played with a strap or sitting on a peg. Some of them even have extra keys to lower the pitch even more! It is deep and rich sounding, and quite heavy in the low and middle registers. It is just as versatile as the higher clarinets and it’s slowly coming more common.
Although more obscure, it still may be heard in a concert band, clarinet choirs or military bands. Pitched in E♭ it is between a bass clarinet and a Bb clarinet. It is sometimes used as a substitute for the Basset Horn in classical era music! Have you played one?
Contra-Alto/ Contra-Bass Clarinet
These two clarinets are very large in size, and thus they are lower in sound. They are used to add depth and richness to a clarinet choir or concert band. Due to their larger size, they tend to have many turns in the tube and are generally made of metal to reduce the weight.
Ab Piccolo Clarinet
This Is a very rare, small, extra high clarinet. It can be heard in military concert bands, specifically in Italy or musical scores.