Clarinet Range

Typically, there are four Clarinet Ranges: Chalumeau, Throat Tones, Clarion and Altissimo.


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1. Chalumeau – low e to side, chromatic f# (first space on treble staff).

The clarinet descended from an older instrument called the chalumeau, which also includes the cylindrical bore and single reed of the clarinet. Johann Christoph Denner around 1690 added the register key to the chalumeau and is credited as inventing the clarinet by adding this key.

The chalumeau range on the modern clarinet is known as the low range.

Click the circa 1680 Chalumeau below for a good history of the clarinet.

2. Throat tones – open g to b-flat/a# (middle line on treble staff). As fingerings occur on the clarinet, the throat tones physically occur high on the clarinet upper joint and in one case, open g, requires no fingers at all. These notes are physically closest to the Throat on the human being, aside from notes requiring the register key.

Many feel a real lack of control on these notes as they are commonly flat sounding. If sharp, it is easy to pull out at the barrel to lower the pitch.

3. Clarion – b to high c (two ledger lines above the treble staff). Once Mr. Denner added the speaker key (register key) to the chalumeau, suddenly, a whole new range occurred. As the clarinet was invented and used in performance especially playing in this range, many concert goers were confused and thought it was the clarino, or natural trumpet.

The trumpet in the seventeeth century was known as the natural trumpet because it had no valves, slides, or pistons. The art of playing the natural trumpet was known as "clarino" playing, which reached its peak in the works of Bach and Handel.

Hence, clarino, clarion and then clarinet.

4. Altissimo – high c# up to the highest high c (the space above the fifth ledger line above the treble staff). If you climb higher on a mountain, what are you increasing? Altitude. The highest range on clarinet (as on many other instruments) is known as the altissimo range.