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Types of Clarinets


Types of Clarinets

Clarinet and another member of the woodwind family, the flute.

Photo Courtesy of Ronnie Bergeron from Morgue Files
The clarinet has undergone many changes and innovations through the years. From its first inception during the late 1600s to today's clarinet models, this musical instrument has certainly been through a lot. Due to the improvements it underwent, there are many different types of clarinets made throughout the years. Here are some of the well known types of clarinets from the highest to the lowest voice:

Sopranino Clarinet in A-flat - More commonly used in Europe and Australia as a part of their military band. This type of clarinet is very rare and considered a collector's item by some.

Sopranino Clarinet in E-flat - Also called baby clarinet due to its small size. In the past it took the place of the cornet or high trumpet. This is the type of clarinet used in Berlioz’s "Symphonie Fantastique".

Sopranino Clarinet in D - It is shorter than the C clarinet and is easier to play than the E-flat clarinet. This is the type of clarinet used by Richard Strauss in "Till Eulenspiegel."

Clarinet in C - This type of clarinet is suitable for children because of its small size. It is shorter than the B-flat clarinet and pitched the same as pianos and violins. It's more suited for beginners to use.

Clarinet in B-flat - This is the most commonly used type of clarinet. It is used in a variety of music ensembles such as school bands and orchestras. It has a range of 3 1/2 to 4 octaves and used in various music styles including jazz, classical and contemporary.

Clarinet in A - Mostly used in symphony orchestras, this type of clarinet is longer than the B-flat clarinet and is pitched a half note below. Used by both Brahms and Mozart in their chamber music.

Bassette Clarinet in A - This is one of the rare types of clarinets. It is constructed similar to an A clarinet. There are two kinds of bassettes: the straight clarinet and the bent horn. Used in Mozart's "Quintet for Clarinet and Strings" and Mendelssohn's "Duo concertant."

Bassette Horn in F - Similar in size as the Alto clarinet but pitched in F. In the past this type of clarinet was bent in the middle but now it is straight with a metal neck. Used by Mozart in his "Requiem."

Alto Clarinet in E-flat - Suitable for smaller music ensembles and is pitched in E-flat, an octave lower than the baby clarinet in E-flat. It is larger in size and players of this type of clarinet often use a strap or a floor peg.

Bass Clarinet in B-flat - A heavy type of clarinet that needs a floor stand to be played. It has a larger bell and a curved neck. There are two variants of this type: one goes down to lower C and the other goes down to low E-flat. Used by Maurice Ravel in his "Rapsodie Espagnole."

Contra Alto Clarinet in E-flat - This type of clarinet sounds one octave below the alto and has two forms: straight and loop. It has a deep register but seldom used in symphony orchestras.

Contra Bass Clarinet in B-flat - This type of clarinet sounds one octave lower than the bass. It has either a straight shape, which is about 6 feet in length, and a U-shaped , which is about 4 feet in length. May either be made of metal or wood.

There are still other types of clarinets but the ones I listed above are the most known among the clarinet family.

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