Which family does the clarinet belong to?

4. Instrument families

The clarinet family of instruments is like the Bach family of composers. It's big, but not all members are equally known or loved. Lined up according to the pitch, the introduction of the family results in the following order: quartz clarinet, clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, double bass clarinet, rarely the sub-double bass clarinet and a little outside the row the basset horn, an alto clarinet, which was previously built in a curved shape with a box, but today what the bass clarinet looks like. After a quick look, now spotlight on the individual family members.

The Quart clarinet comes in three tunings: D, Eb and F. The best known tuning, also preferred in the orchestra, is Eb. Many do not call this model a quart clarinet in E flat, but simply E flat clarinet. Unlike its big sister, the Bb clarinet, it is only used individually in symphonic wind orchestras, its sound is very penetrating.

The aforementioned Bb clarinet is also known by many as "Normal" clarinet denotes and is also meant when someone says "I play the clarinet". This soprano clarinet is also available in A and C tunings. Most professional musicians have a Bb and an A clarinet. The advantage of the duo lies in their almost identical size and the ability to switch between different keys. The advantage of the C clarinet is in the tuning. It sounds like it is written down. Therefore, the musician can spontaneously pick up the instrument and play the same voice as the pianist without having to transpose.

If you say goodbye to the “soprano range”, you also move away from your preferred clarinet models.

Even if the other family members also appear in the orchestra, they are rarely represented Alto clarinet in F or Eb with a straight or upward curved bell, the bass clarinet in Bb and the double bass clarinet in B.

Especially the voices of Bass and double bass clarinet are only occupied individually, or if they are not represented, taken over by other instruments, for example the low saxophone register. As a result, the presence of the two is not absolutely necessary.

As inconspicuous and simple as a clarinet may look in a black dress, it stands out from all other wind instruments when it comes to the range comparison. The lowest note of the Bb clarinet is the E, special clarinet models can also go deeper and then reach almost four octaves up to the high c. In comparison, the saxophones or flutes have three octaves, if possible special chords for flageolet tones are disregarded.

We have already heard that the clarinet is counted among the transposed instruments, but what exactly does that mean? Simply explained: if the clarinet plays in C, the pianist has to play a B in order to create a harmony. The bass clarinet sounds in low Bb, which means it sounds a ninth lower than notated. If a lower octave is to be achieved in terms of sound, the double bass clarinet is used and, in the last step, the sub-double bass clarinet. A tonal comparison of the double bass clarinet with the "normal" clarinet would show that these two only come close, with one playing very high and one very low.