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This page shortly describes a history of clarinets and is currently the last page before the about.htm one, that's the last page with the actual conent. Although there are two other pages, namely new2.htm and picture.htm ones, but those are meant for the future writing. /UPDATE: Well, I've changed the name of the "new2.htm" page to links.htm and added some content (links to other clarinet-related sites), so now the "picture.htm" one is the only one without any content at all.





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In short, the history of the modern clarinet dates back to the 1600's when the chalumeau (pronounced shall-yu-mo) was a popular instrument in Europe. The chalumeau had two keys and a single reed. Its range was low and limited. In memory of the chalumeau,t he low range on hte clarinet of today is called the chalumeau register. Around 1700, a German instrument maker named Denner invented the clarinet by improving the chalumeau. By 1750 it had 5 keys and soon became part of the orchestra. Keys kept being added so that more notes could be played. In 1844, two French musicians named Buffet and Klosť applied the Boehm flute key system to the clarinet. This consisted of two steps. First, they placed each hole so that each note would have the same tone quality. Then, they made a key system to cover all of the holes. It was a success, and the Boehm system clarinet became popular around the world. The first alto clarinet was built in France around 1810. At that time, it appears to have been used regularly in the British military bands. It was eventually replaced in these bands, however, by the alto saxophone, invented some 30 years later by Adolphe Sax. The first bass clarinet was built in the 1770's. However it was used very little by composers until the 1830's. It was around this time that Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, improved the bass clarinet. However, further improvements came a decade later when Buffet and Klosť applied the Boehm flute key system to it. The clarinet developed from a Baroque instrument called the "chalumeau", which was similar to a recorder, but with a single reed mouthpiece similar to that of the modern clarinet and a cylindrical bore. Lacking a register key, it was played only in its fundamental register, so it had a limited range of about one and a half octaves. It had eight finger holes, like a recorder, plus two keys for extra notes. Around the end of the 17th century the chamlumeau was modified by converting one of its keys into a register key and produced the first clarinet. This development is attributed to a German instrument maker named Johann Christoph Denner. This instrument played well in the middle register with a loud, strident tone, so it was given the name clarinetto meaning "little trumpet" (from "clarino" + "-etto"). Early clarinets did not play well in the lower register, so chalumeaus continued to be made to play the low notes and these notes became known as the chalumeau register. As clarinets improved, the "chalumeau" fell into disuse. The original Denner clarinets had two keys, but various makers added more to get extra notes. The classical clarinet of Mozart's day would probably have had eight finger holes and five keys.

Before about 1800, due to the lack of airtight pads, practical woodwinds could have only a few keys to control accidentals notes outside their diatonic home scales. Because clarinets overblow at the twelfth rather than the octave, they also need keys to control more notes in each register than oboes, flutes, or bassoons do. Therefore clarinets with few keys cannot easily play an in-tune chromatic scale, limiting any such instrument to a few closely related key signatures. For example, an eighteenth century clarinet in C could readily be played in Bb, F, C, G and D (and their relative minors), but not (easily) keys outside this range. As key technology improved and more keys were added to woodwinds, the need for instruments in multiple musical keys was reduced. For octave-overblowing instruments a single instrument in C can readily be played in any key. For clarinets the use of more than one instrument in different keys persisted, with instruments in Bb and A used in addition to the C instrument in the lower soprano range. Anyways, clarinets were soon accepted into orchestras. Later models had a mellower tone than the originals. Mozart (d. 1791) liked the sound of the clarinet and wrote much music for it, and by the time of Beethoven (circa 1800-1820), the clarinet was a standard fixture in the orchestra. Since approx. the year 1850, the clarinet instruments have been nominally tuned according to 12-tone equal-temperament, while older clarinets were tuned to meantone, and a skilled performer can use his or her embouchure to considerably alter the tuning of individual notes.

The next major development in the history of clarinet was the invention of the modern pad. Early clarinets covered the tone holes with felt pads. Because these leaked air, the number of pads had to be kept to a minimum, so the clarinet was severely restricted in what notes could be played with a good tone. In 1812, Ivan Mueller, who was a Russian-born clarinetist and inventor, developed a new type of pad which was covered in leather or fish bladder. This was completely airtight, so the number of keys could be increased enormously. He designed a new type of clarinet with seven finger holes and thirteen keys. This allowed the clarinet to play in any key with near equal ease. Over the course of the 19th century, many enhancements were made to Mueller's clarinet, such as the Albert system and the Baermann system, all keeping the same basic design. The Mueller clarinet and its derivatives were popular throughout the world. And the final development in the modern design of the clarinet used in most of the world today, was introduced by Hyacinthe Klose in 1839. He devised a different arrangement of keys and finger holes which allow simpler fingering. It was inspired by the Boehm system developed by Theobald Boehm, a flute maker who had invented the system for flutes. Klosť was so impressed by Boehm's invention that he named his own system for clarinets the Boehm system, although it is different from the one used on flutes. This new system was slow to catch on because it meant the player had to relearn how to play the instrument. Gradually it became the standard and today the Boehm system is used everywhere in the world except Germany and Austria. These countries still use a direct descendant of the Mueller clarinet known as the Oehler system clarinet. Also, some contemporary Dixieland and Klezmer players continue to use Albert system clarinets, as the simpler fingering system can allow for easier slurring of notes. At one time the reed was held on using string, but now the practice exists primarily in Germany and Austria, where the tone is preferred over that produced with the ligatures that are more popular in the rest of the world.








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Copyright © Ivan Tadej Kandus. Some Rights Reserved.


Disclaimer: The technical information on this site is mostly gathered from the Internet, mainly from the article on Wikipedia (I modified the text a bit though, to suite my needs), and so it is is available/distributed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; here are also two alternative direct links to a "licnse page" on the GNU site: GNU Copyleft/GNU GPL. But anyway, for one to write an article (or anything similar for that matter), one needs to get that knowledge/information somewhere, so in my opinion the "originality" of something is a bit relative thing. The expressed opinions and events are mine, and are freely distributed for NON-PROFIT use (personal/individual, end-user, educational, charitable, non-commercial and non-military purposes), or belong to other individuals/entities where so specified (that is to come in future); trademarks, service marks, and logos are the property of their respective owners, who have no association with and do not make any endorsement of the products or services provided by this site.


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