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History of the Clarinet


It was during the Romantic Period when the clarinet underwent great technical development and gained prominence in music history.

During the late 1600s, before the clarinet existed, the chalumeau, considered the first true reed instrument, was used by musicians. Johann Christoph Denner and his son Jacob improved the chalumeau by inventing the speaker key. This gave the instrument a greater register and because of this, Johann Christoph Denner is recognized as the inventor of the clarinet, a predecessor of the chalumeau. Unlike other woodwind instruments, the clarinet has a cylindrical bore giving it its distinct sound.

During the late 1700s, the clarinet underwent many improvements and innovations. The cut or shape of the tone holes was experimented on to see how it will affect the sound of the clarinet. The keys were also altered, one notable name is Iwan Muller who developed the 13 keyed model.

In the mid-1800s, the Boehm fingering system which was developed by Theobald Boehm for the flute, was adapted to the clarinet by Hyacinthe Klose and Auguste Buffet. This is the fingering system that remains popular up to now, but there are also other fingering systems in existence.

Famous Clarinet Players

  • 1700s - Anton Stadler
  • 1800s - Richard Muhlfield, Heinrich Baermann
  • Recent times - Benny Goodman, Stanley Drucker, Richard Stoltzman, Pete Fountain, Eddie Daniels and Woody Herman, to name a few.

Famous Composers for the Clarinet

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