The clarinet is a single reed woodwind instrument developed in 1690 by J.C. Denner of Nuremberg. Denner developed the clarinet by adding two keys to the chalumeau (the clarinet’s ancestor) which increased the instruments range by over two octaves. Originally the clarinet wasn’t playable in all keys but in 1843 Hyacinthe Klose adapted the Boehm flute key system to the clarinet making it a fully chromatic instrument. The clarinet is cylindrical in shape with a flared bell at the end.
As on other wind instruments, the notes of the clarinet above the first octave are achieved by overblowing. However, unlike the flute and oboe, which overblow at the interval of an octave, the clarinet overblows at the interval of a twelfth, which means there is a gap of a fifth between the notes played normally and the overblown notes. To fill this gap, additional side holes where added, however, this makes the tone somewhat weaker at this point and a little awkward to finger. All members of the clarinet family have excellent volume control and are capable of extremely soft playing, known as sub-tone.
The clarinet is a transposing instrument, meaning its sounding pitch is different to its written pitch. It comes in a variety of sizes and keys. These include the standard clarinet, which comes in B flat, A, and E flat, the bass clarinet in B flat, the contra-alto clarinet in E flat, and the contrabass clarinet. The bass, contra-alto, and contrabass clarinets differ from the standard clarinet in that the end is turned up and the mouth piece curves toward the player. The first composer to use the clarinet in a symphony was Mozart and it is now a standard instrument in the orchestra.