Musical Instruments / Clarinet


A Brief History

The clarinet is a woodwind instrument which was developed from single-reed instruments that were used in the medieval Europe and the Middle East. A Baroque instrument known as chalumeau is considered to be the predecessor of the modern clarinet. In the early 18th century, German woodwind instrument maker Johann Christoph Denner (1655-1707) added the Baroque version a register key but it was eventually added more keys and by the time of Mozart, the clarinet had five keys and eight finger holes.


The word clarinet is thought to be derived from Italian “clarinetto” which translates into a small trumpet. According to German music theorist Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748), it was named “small trumpet” because it sounds from afar similar to a trumpet. The word clarinet is believed to enter English from French “clarinette”.

Clarinet Family and Usage

There are many types of clarinets, however, over time many have became obsolete. Today, the most commonly used type of clarinet is the so-called B♭ soprano clarinet which is used in classical music as well as other genres. Next to classical music, the instrument is most commonly used in jazz, klezmer music, samba, choro and the traditional music of Greece and Turkey.

Prominent Clarinettists