THE CLARINET: FROM THE ORIGINS TO THE FAMILY
The "chalumeau" or "primitive clarinet", derived from the cennamella, was a conical reed tube, pierced with seven holes and like the clarinet had a simple swing reed. The technique with which the reed was applied on the "chalumeau" did not allow the production of harmonics. Johann Christoph Denner was the inventor of the following transformations, so he is considered the father of the clarinet.
⦁ built in the year 1690 an instrument with eight holes and 2 keys: one for the harmonics and the other for the "A in the second space". The piece of the ancient bit had been replaced with a mouthpiece and with a well blunt reed similar to the present one.
⦁ In the year 1701, he modified the distances of the holes, added the sound hole, and the bell or pavilion then missing. This first type of clarinet, perfected, was tuned on the Ut (C).
The men who contributed to the development of the clarinet were: the son of Christoph Denner who lengthened the tube of the instrument built by his father and opened another hole, which, thanks to a long lever, allowed the instrument to emit the "low E" and its harmonic "B" in the third line.
Giuseppe Beer, founder of the first clarinet school in Germany, put to the clarinet the "fa diesis grave" and it's harmonic "do diesis", and another key called "stake" for the issue of the notes "sol diesis grave" and "re diesis in Quarta linea". Further refinements were made by Saverio Lefèvre with the addition of the sixth key for the emission of the "low do diesis" and "acute G sharp".
Simiot of Lyon added two more keys to the trills, and Ivan Muller, in 1810 presented the Paris Academy of Arts with a "13-key omnitonic clarinet".
However, the Technical Commission of the Arts of Perugia did not take pains to express a negative opinion on the conception of Muller.
They again brought additions and modifications to the Muller system clarinet: Buffet, Grampon, Albert, Barret, Quaranta, Pupeschi, Carta, and others.
NB: The Clarino has nothing to do with the clarinet. This instrument, used between the 17th and 18th centuries, served to complement the acute extension of the trumpet family. Although made of metal, the sound was very sweet and gave the impression of a wooden instrument. Its timbre was between the current oboe and the clarinet. The round one-reed mouthpiece was in B flat.
The wood traditionally used to build the clarinet is ebony, which gives it its characteristic black color. Other woods used are grenadilla (today the most used), Cocobolo, and rosewood (or rosenwood) from Honduras; a widely used wood is also oak. Grenadilla wood, originating from Mozambique, has become the most widely used not because of its superior acoustic qualities, as some mistakenly believe, but thanks to its compactness, excellent workability, and ability to maintain the dimensions in which it is worked. This last characteristic is extremely important as even minimal variations in the measures of the internal bore have a great influence on the intonation and sound quality of the clarinet. Each type of wood confers peculiar characteristics to the sound of the instrument built with it, as well as having different characteristics of workability and durability.
However, for beginners, clarinets are built in plastic materials such as ABS, which are cheaper and less demanding. Another relatively modern material is an ebonite-reinforced grenadilla compound, also known as reinforced bithermal. This material is particularly interesting for its weight which is very similar to that of wood and for the fact that it is not affected by humidity and is, therefore, less subject to deterioration due to use. For the same reason, the material with which the mouthpieces are also manufactured is also chosen, usually ebonite for reasons of economy, and can be combined with plastic.
Another material that was frequently used is metal clarinet, its timber is slightly brighter, and harder to blow and resonant. It was mainly used in marching bands, and today clarinetists rarely play metal clarinet, but consider it more as an artifact or collector’s item.
The last material, very curious and still used today, is glass, used above all to create collector's items rather than for real artistic use.
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