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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000050.txt from 1998/03

From: George Kidder <>
Subj: Re: Clarinet as a Tuning Instrument
Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 10:32:29 -0500

Indeed, why? Why not choose some other note as the index?

It seems to me (dangerous words) that the obvious answer has to do with the
transposition - that the wind instruments you name have music written with
this transposition. I also suspect that this obvious answer is wrong, since
any other convention could have been adopted. However, there may be another
reason better related to the instrument itself. If I remember clarinet
history (any many of you out there can correct me if needed) the earliest
clarinets were 1) played primarily in the "clarinet" register, and 2) had
keys to produce the middle B as a throat tone (top of the , but no B-key at
the bottom of the clarinet register. Thus the lowest note of the most-used
register was a written C, which sounded Bb, C, A, etc., giving the name to
these different instruments. If the clarinet has been thought of as a lower
register instrument, this same logic would have given us a scale based on
low F, a different set of names, a different way of writing clarinet music,
and possibly a different name for the instrument itself.

We see visages of this concentration on the clarion register in the names we
give to keys on modern instruments; e.g., the C#/G# key has often been
referred to as the G# key (from its clarion pitch) but almost never as the
C# key.

As for the saxs, these names are probably just taken from the corresponding
clarinet usage, without the problem of having different note-names for the
same fingering in the different registers.

As I say, this is pure speculation on my part. Comments, Roger or others?

Roger Garret wrote:

>Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 20:53:44 -0600 (CST)
>From: Roger Garrett <>
>Subject: Re: Clarinet as a Tuning Instrument
>Ok Folks, My first big question to the listserv, and it is an interesting
>A Brass instrument is called a C, Eb, F, etc tuning instrument because of
>the lowest fundamental pitch it sounds. For example, an F horn is called
>an F horn because the lowest fundamental pitch it sounds is an F.....of
>which all the overtones are based. An Eb Horn.....same thing. An Eb or
>BBb tuba...same thing. A Db trumpet...same thing.
>A Bb clarinet, on the other hand, is based on the fingered C which sounds
>a Bb concert. Now....why is it not called a D clarinet because it's
>lowest sounding pitch is a Concert D? The overtone series does not impact
>in any could vibrate at 12ths, 13ths. 5ths, whatever......
>What about saxophones? An eb alto has a lowest fundamental pitch of a Bb
>(Db concert)...why is it not a Db instrument?
>My reason for asking? A friend called me up after 10 years and asked, and
>I couldn't answer his question....but I told him I would ask on this
> me help him find an answer!!!
>Roger Garrett
George W. Kidder III
Professor of Biology
Illinois State University
Normal, IL 61761-4120

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