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Clarinets range from Soprano to Bass

Clarinets form an instrument family all of their own with a whole range of instruments from Soprano to Bass. The 'standard' instrument is the Bb - used in virtually all idioms from Dixieland jazz to Mozart. In addition, the repertoire of the modern symphony orchestra includes a large number of pieces written for the A clarinet, and professional level players need to be proficient on both Bb and A - often switching from one instrument to the other during the course of a performance. Therefore a well matched set of A and Bb clarinets (having the same tone and response) are essential to the orchestral clarinetist.

The Clarinet Family

The main members of the clarinet family are the Eb (soprano) clarinet, the Bb and A (already referred to), Eb (alto), and Bb (bass) clarinets. Our recommendations on all these instruments are listed in this section. In addition however there are a plethora of other clarinets in other keys (D, C, contra bass to name a few). For information and advice on these models please call. Clarinet Specifications There are a number of factors to consider when purchasing your clarinet:


Student level clarinets are made from moulded plastic (ABS). This makes them light, strong and inexpensive. More expensive instruments are made from Grenadilla wood. Grenadilla is an extremely hard durable wood from Kenya and Tanzania from trees that are between 150 and 300 years old. Better quality instruments are manufactured using the best quality wood available that is seasoned and treated over time. The only drawback with grenadilla is the fact that it is an organic material - and can be prone to cracking if exposed to extremes of temperature and/or excessive moisture. Therefore care is needed to look after your instrument. Buffet also offers a 'greenline' range - made from a fusion of grenadilla wood pulp and synthetic resin. This helps preserve stocks of endangered African hardwood trees whilst offering the tonal depth of a grenadilla body instrument. As an added advantage the instruments don't crack.


The key configuration of clarinets is fairly standard - with practically all clarinets (with the exception of German Oehler system clarinets!) adapting the 17 key, 6 ring configuration developed by Theobald Boehm in the 19th century.

The clarinet family

The clarinet family


For the acoustics of a clarinet to function correctly the toneholes need to be 'undercut' this involves cutting away part of the inner bore of the instrument underneath the tone hole. For most instruments this is done with computer controlled machines however with top level professional instruments each tone hole is hand cut by an experienced craftsman to a shape that is individually optomised for each hole.