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clarinet,musical wind instrument of cylindrical bore employing a single reed. The clarinet family comprises all single-reed instruments, including the saxophone. The predecessor of the modern clarinet was the simpler chalumeau, which J. C. Denner of Nuremberg improved (c.1700) into the clarinet. It was accepted into the orchestra during the 18th cent., and Mozart used it extensively. Major improvements of the key system during the 19th cent. employed the principles of Theobald Boehm. The clarinets in B flat and A are the standard orchestral instruments. The higher, shriller E flat clarinet is also a band instrument and is used occasionally in the orchestra. Of the larger clarinets, the B flat bass clarinet is the most important. The E flat alto and the E flat contrabass clarinets are mainly band instruments. Clarinets were once made in other keys, but all of these instruments are now obsolete. The basset-horn, a type of alto clarinet, was much used by Mozart and was revived by Richard Strauss. The clarinet is a transposing instrumenttransposing instrument,
a musical instrument whose part in a score is written at a different pitch than that actually sounded. Such an instrument is usually referred to by the keynote of its natural scale—the clarinet in A, for example—in which case A is sounded when
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See F. G. Rendall, The Clarinet (3d rev. ed. 1971).
a musical instrument of the woodwind family, developed from the reed pipe. The instrument is a tube with a small bell at one end and a beak-shaped mouthpiece at the other, to which a single reed (made from a thin strip of cane) is fixed. The length of the canal is 590–680 mm. The modern clarinet has approximately 20 keys and seven holes equipped with rings. It is made of granadilla or ebony wood or of plastic.
Clarinets are made in different pitches; the most common are the B-flat and A clarinets. It is a transposing instrument (the B-flat clarinet sounds a major second lower than written, while the A clarinet sounds a minor third lower). Its range (in notation) is from E to C’’’’. The clarinet family includes the piccolo clarinet; the alto, or tenor, clarinet (known as the basset horn); the bass clarinet; and the contrabass clarinet.