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The clarinet is one of the most valued of the symphony
orchestra instruments and in recent years has come into great
prominence in dance orchestras, both "hot" and "sweet." It
also has an important place in military bands where it plays
many parts that the violins play in an orchestra. The clarinet
has a resonant "reedy" tone and a very wide range of tonal
expression. It is not a loud instrument and for this reason is
well suited for home playing.
There is a great variety of music arranged for clarinet and
piano, and every clarinet player should make his or her own
collection of the pieces arranged in this way that they like best.
Clarinets are made that are pitched in the keys of B flat, A
and E flat, but the B flat clarinet is the most popular and the
most widely used. When you read and finger the note C in a
piece of music and blow into a B flat clarinet, the note that
comes out is B flat. It makes tones, that is, that are a whole
tone lower than the piano tones played from the same written
The clarinet was invented a little before the year 1800 by a
flutemaker of Nuremberg, Germany, named Johann Christoph
Denner. His first instrument had only five keys and was very
primitive as compared with the beautiful instruments of today,
equipped with key mechanisms that permit extremely brilliant
and flexible execution.
Clarinets today are usually made of Grenadilla wood, though
some are made of metal, and their mouthpieces are made of
ebony, hard rubber, crystal or plastic.