Construction: The clarinet consists of a cylindrical tube with a single reed - a beating reed, the members of its family differing from the oboe family in all these particulars, (and in their consequently smoother tone.)

As the reed at one end of the tube serves to close it at that end, the pipe acts as a stopped one, sounding an octave lower than it would do if open; this explains why the pitches of the flute and clarinet differ markedly, the one instrument being acoustically an open pipe and the other a stopped.

Like other cylindrical tubes, that of the clarinet overblows at the interval of an octave and a fifth (compared with the flute and oboe, which overblow at the interval of an octave). The notes of its first octave are obtained in the usual way, and the gap of the fifth that occurs before the overblowing begins has then to be filled in by certain means which are not entirely satisfactory inasmuch as the tone is weaker here than elsewhere in the range of the instrument. The best parts of the range are those above this gap, and the lowest few notes of the instrument.

The complete (notational) range of what may be called the normal clarinet (i.e. the treble instrument, the one in A or B flat as mentioned below) is of three octaves plus a sixth from E in the bass stave upwards; all the instruments, however, are transposing instruments (q.v.) so that their actual range differs by a few notes from their notational one. The power of pianissimo and of crescendo is greater in the clarinet than in any other wind instrument. Several varieties of single tonguing are possible giving different degrees of staccato.

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