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Single-reed woodwind instrument. It is a standard member of both orchestras and bands. It has a cylindrical bore and a flared bell, and it is usually made of African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon, more commonly called renadilla). It has a 3-octave range; its lower register is rich and its top register is brilliant. It developed from the slightly older two-key chalumeau; the German flute maker Johann Christoff Denner (1655–1707) is said to have invented it at the beginning of the 18th century. The B-flat clarinet is the standard instrument today; the A clarinet often replaces it in sharp keys. Clarinets with the fingering system devised by Theobald Boehm are standard in the U.S., Great Britain, and France; those employing an older fingering style are used in Germany and Russia. Clarinets of other sizes include the C clarinet, much used in the Classical period and often preserved in German orchestration; octave clarinets in A, used in large European bands; and sopranino clarinets in F and later E-flat. The B-flat bass clarinet, with its rich timbre, is the next most frequently employed member of the clarinet family. Contrabass clarinets are made in E-flat or in B-flat.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on clarinet, visit Britannica.com.