The clarinet first appeared in about 1690-1700. Its origins are rooted in an older instrument - the chalumeau. The Chalumeau was a single-reed wooden instrument used by shepherds and was very difficult to play in tune. Although no Chalumeau survives today, it is said to have looked like a recorder, with its sound similar to the lower octave of the modern clarinet. The clarinet is the most recent addition to the woodwind family, which includes the bassoon, flute, oboe and piccolo. It became the last woodwind instrument to be included in the symphonic orchestra, introduced in the latter half of the 18th century.


Facts and Features

1.    The name ‘clarinet’ comes from the word ‘clarino’, Italian for a high-range trumpet, because the sound of a clarinet’s upper register is not unlike a trumpet.
2.    The clarinet as we know it was developed in Nuremberg, Germany by Johann Christoph Denner during the 17th century.  
3.    There are two clarinet key work systems in use: the German Oehler system and the French Boehm system. The Boehm system is more widely used.  
4.    There are 12 types of clarinets, all ranging in pitch and size. 
5.    The clarinet is also a very popular instrument in Jazz music.

Famous Players

Anton Stadler (1752-1812) 
Johann Simon Hermstedt (1778-1846)
Dieter Klöcker (1936-2011)
Karl Leister (1937-)
Richard Stoltzman (1942-)

Music to Listen to

Brahms - Clarinet Sonata No. 2 in E-flat major
Debussy - Première Rhapsodie
Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
Mozart – Clarinet Concerto in A
Stamitz – Clarinet Quartet

Find Out

1.    List three differences between the French and German clarinet systems.  
2.    What holds the reed in place in a clarinet?