The clarinet is a family of woodwind instruments. It has a single-reed mouthpiece, a straight, cylindrical tube with an slight cylindrical bore, and a flared bell. A person who plays a clarinet is called a clarinetist.
Johann Christoph Denner is generally believed to have invented the clarinet in Germany around the year 1700 by adding a register key to the earlier Baroque instrument Chalumeau, which was usually in the key of C. Over time, additional keywork and airtight pads were added to improve the tone and playability.
In modern times, the most common clarinet is the B♭ clarinet. However, the clarinet in A, pitched a semitone lower, is regularly used in orchestral, chamber and solo music. An orchestral clarinetist must own both a clarinet in A and B♭ since the repertoire is divided fairly evenly between the two. The clarinet has proved to be an exceptionally flexible instrument, used in the classical repertoire as in concert bands, military bands, marching bands, klezmer, jazz, and other styles.
Clarinet bodies have been made from a variety of materials including wood, plastic, hard rubber, metal, resin, and ivory. However, the vast majority of clarinets used by professionals are made from African hardwood, mpingo (African Blackwood) or grenadilla. Historically, most classical instruments were made of boxwood.
Mouthpieces are generally made of hard rubber, although some inexpensive mouthpieces may be made of plastic. Other materials such as crystal/glass, wood, ivory, and metal have also been used. Ligatures are often made of metal and plated in nickel, silver, or gold. The clarinet uses a single reed made from the cane of Arundo donax, a type of grass. Reeds may also be manufactured from synthetic materials.
The flared end is known as the bell. Contrary to popular belief, the bell does not amplify the sound; rather, it improves the uniformity of the instrument's tone for the lowest notes in each register. For the other notes, the sound is produced almost entirely at the tone holes, and the bell is irrelevant.
The final development in the modern design of the clarinet used in most of the world today was introduced by Hyacinthe Klosé in 1839. He devised an arrangement of keys and toneholes that simplified fingering. It was inspired by the Boehm system developed for flutes by Theobald Boehm. Klosé 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.
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