Instrumentation notes – Clarinet

  • Tenor of the woodwind choir
  • Single reed made of wood
  • Family:
    B-flat and A clarinet – sounds major 2nd lower/minor 3rd lower than written
    B-flat bass – sounds major 9th lower than written
    E-flat (rare) soprano – sounds minor 3rd higher than written
    D soprano – sounds major 2nd higher than written
    E-flat alto – sounds octave plus a major 6th lower than written
    B-flat contrabass – sounds 2 octaves plus major 2nd lower than written
    E-flat contrabass – sounds an octave a major 6th lower than written
    Basset Horn in F – sounds a 5th lower than written
  • Written range of family:
    clarinet family range
  • Sound:
    Lower range from bottom E – F-sharp is chalumeau register; very dark and rich. Adds warmth and body.
    Mid range: G, G-sharp, A and B-flat above mid-C are throat tones and pale/fuzzy.
    Higher range: Octave above mid C to high C (2 octaves above mid C) – clarino range – bright and lively. Above high C flute like and maybe shrill at forte. Adds brilliance/focus.
  • Character: Agile, double/triple/flutter tonguing all possible. Staccatos not as pronounced as other woodwind.
  • Technique: major/minor 2nd trills are possible. Tremolos good but small intervals easier. Very wide dynamic range (widest of woodwind). Very extreme pp (‘motto voce’) available in all registers. 2-slurred then 2 tongued/staccato notes in succession very characteristic articulation. Very wide tone colour in different registers. Best at doubling at octave or in unison.

Reference:
Blatter, A (1997). Instrumentation & Orchestration. 2nd ed. USA: Schirmer. Pgs 105-110

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