A Clarinet

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The A clarinet is a type of single-reed woodwind instrument that belongs to the clarinet family of instruments. This aerophone is a slightly less common instrument than the typical Bb concert clarinet but is still used in orchestras today. It is approximately 1cm longer and has C in the notes unlike its Bb counterpart.
History of the A Clarinet
The A clarinet has a history that dates back to the 17th century when German instrument maker Johann Cristoph Denner invented and patented the design for the first clarinet in the late 17th century and compositions for this instrument began to appear in the early 18th century. Woodwind instruments including the chalumeau were already in widespread use, however this new instrument featured an alto key register that allowed the clarinet to cover more than two octaves. Other instrument makers later added metal keys and the clarinet was quickly adopted by composers in the 18th century like Mozart and Beehthoven. The exact moment that an A clarinet was created and first used is undocumented, however, when Denner’s invention was first mass produced many makers worked on the development of the clarinet. Composers of the 18th century like Beehthoven and Mozart popularised the use of clarinets and the A clarinet became a common feature of this classical period though today the parts can be transposed to Bb. The Bb and A clarinet are so similar that clarinetists have been known to switch instruments between the first and second movements of a piece.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£200 - £1,600

Hear the A Clarinet

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How to Play

A wind instrument played by blowing air into a mouthpiece and covering the tone holes to change the pitch of the sound produced.

In Popular Music

The most common clarinet is in Bb and most popular music recordings will have used this. However, a clarinet in (or an a clarinet) may have been used by artists such as Fats Waller, Cole Porter and old recordings of 'when the saints go marching in'.

Famous Players

Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw

Close Relations

Bb Clarinet, Alto Clarinet
Video Credit: Bret Newton - Composer
Understanding the A Clarinet




18th century






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