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The clarinet is part of the woodwind family, is played with a “reed” and has keys and finger holes to produce the different pitches. It has been around since the 18th century and was used extensively in the orchestra and smaller “chamber” orchestras. It is now used in popular music, jazz, and in woodwind ensembles. The clarinet family, like the saxophone, has many different sizes and sounding ranges from the A-flat soprano (highest sounding) to the Double B-flat (lowest sounding) with another 10 types in between. The most common clarinet is the B-flat soprano clarinet.


The Italian word Clarinet is derived from the word clarino (trumpet) and –et (little) because it sounded much like the trumpets of its time. The chalumeau predates the clarinet and started in the 1100’s. Six hundred years later, Johann Christoph Denner is credited with the invention of the modern day clarinet. He added keys instead of the holes of the chalumeau, much like a recorder, and improved the intonation of the clarinet. The clarinet is made from wood, but other materials like plastic and metal have also been used in producing clarinets as these materials have become available.


Clarinet can easily be started with someone who has the ability to hold and cover the holes/keys while blowing on the mouthpiece. This is a common starting instrument in most band programs and many individuals will switch to the saxophone (Alto, Tenor, and Baritone Saxophone) once they have “grown” into the larger instruments. Lots of the fingerings and positions of the hands are similar on the saxophone and clarinet, making this an easy transition.


LeBlanc, Buffet, Selmer, Vito, Schreiber, Yamaha and Jupiter are a partial list of clarinets that are found new and used in most music stores. Be careful when choosing a used clarinet, the price may sound good but it may need serious work. It is best to have a professional look at a used instrument and determine what will be needed to make it play correctly. A poor instrument that does not play well is frustrating for the beginner who may not know when it is performing poorly.


Larry Combs, Eddie Daniels, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw and Richard Stoltzman are considered the elite of the clarinet community. They vary from the classical genre to jazz and popular music. It is found in bands like Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Arcade Fire, Radiohead and Billy Joel!


The clarinet all starts with the basic understanding of the instrument that will transcend to each different genre and each musician can excel and gain speed and technical abilities with many years of practicing. There are many sites that discuss the clarinet, check out this site

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