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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000263.txt from 1997/09

From: Mike Nichols <>
Subj: Re: treble clef
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 1997 14:43:31 -0400

On Sat, 6 Sep 1997, Mark Charette wrote:

> Are you sure, Bert? It seems to me that the alto clef would
> have been a better fit. The viola, an older instrument
> with similar range, uses an alto clef for written music.

It also uses the treble clef when it gets up into high notes. Using an
alto clef for clarinet music would eliminate the ledger-line problem for
the lower range of the instrument, but would not facilitate playing in the
upper range. So much of clarinet music is played in the clarion register,
though, that for most of the time clarinet music would still be notated in
treble. Only in the chalameau register would it become practical to
notate in alto clef, and even then it seems a bit like overkill.

Alto clef makes sense on viola for two reasons. One, the viola has a
slightly lower range than clarinet (it extends down to a C--another ledger
line to have to read [or to write, for that matter--it's often hard to fit
that many lines on a sheet of manuscript]). Two, viola is more likely to
be played at the lower end of its range because of its function as a
member of the string choir. Violas usually play beneath the violin
section, so they don't often need to play higher than an alto clef can
handle, and when they do, they switch to treble clef. (Violas can hit a
high A above the treble staff [the A just above the fourth ledger line].
That would be a nightmare with an alto clef.)

Mike Nichols

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