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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000271.txt from 2010/11

From: K S <>
Subj: [kl] What is a clarinet?
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2010 21:40:23 -0500

Jennifer -

A clarinet is a single reed wind instrument with an (approximately)
cylindrical bore. The acoustics of the combination cause the tube to
act as if the pipe was closed at one end and therefore to overblow at
the twelfth rather than the octave. For much more, read Benade.

A cylindrical bore instrument with an air "reed" (flute), fipple
(recorder) or double reed overblows at the octave. (Most recorders
have a reverse conical bore, as do most piccolos. I've never heard of
a reverse conical single reed, but, to the extent that it could be
played at all, it would sound like a clarinet and overblow at the
twelfth.) If you block the end of a flute type resonater (e.g., a
soda bottle or flute headjoint), it becomes a closed tube, plays an
octave lower and overblows at the twelfth.

A single reed instrument with a conical bore (e.g., saxophone,
tarogato) overblows at the octave.

A closed tube sounds an octave lower and suppresses even-numbered
partials. Their presence or absence causes the difference between the
characteristic tones of the clarinet and saxophone.

Attempts have been name to straddle the difference by building a
single reed instrument that is only slightly conical, known as the
Octavin. It overblows at the octave but is intended to have a
clarinet tone. The instrument was unsatisfactory and soon disappeared.
It sounds and plays like a saxophone. An attempt to make it sound
like a clarinet produces simply a bad saxophone tone. Furthermore, it
was too conical to be a good clarinet but not conical enough to be a
good saxophone.

There's been, to put it mildly, extensive discussion of clarinet
acoustics here and on the Clarinet Board. Go to and use the
search function to find Octavin and closed tube.

Ken Shaw
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