Clarinet Music

The Best Of Clarinet Music

The clarinet has a distinct sound that brings a mellow tone. Mainly used in the classical and jazz genres, clarinet music is as popular today as it ever was. School children who learn the recorder often progress to the clarinet. There are different types of the instrument with their own pitch, including soprano, bass and alto.

It is in the woodwind family and has the widest pitch range of that group. Professional musicians use clarinets made from African hardwoods. These tend to be expensive but cheaper plastic resin ones are available too, so parents don't have to worry about it being an expensive hobby. The instrument uses a single reed, traditionally made from a type of grass but most shops will sell reeds from synthetic materials, again bringing down the price.

An orchestra normally contains two or three clarinetists and there has been a lot of clarinet music written as orchestral pieces or as chamber music. It is also favored as a solo instrument, featured in clarinet concertos by Mozart and Carl von Weber. American composer Aaron Copland has also composed for the clarinet. There are plenty of examples of 20th century clarinet music by leading composers, including Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky and Olivier Messiaen. Popular formats for the clarinet include the Clarinet Quintet, made up of a clarinet and a string quartet. The Wind Quintet consists of clarinet, oboe, flute, bassoon and horn.

The clarinet has also played a big part in the development of jazz. Early jazz featured the virtuosity of players such as Sidney Bechet and clarinet music is an integral part of New Orleans jazz bands. The Dixieland sound was very popular but was overshadowed when bebop and free jazz dominated the airwaves. It came back however and remains popular with the public, if not the critics.

It enjoyed a big revival in the 1950s and early 1960s in the UK with a British brand of Dixieland records enjoying chart success. The movement, known as Trad Jazz, was led by Acker Bilk and his band and they had a number one hit with Stranger On the Shore.  With his trademark bowler hat and black and white striped waistcoat, Acker Bilk made clarinet music fashionable again.

Another period of great success for the instrument was in the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s. Swing music swept across the dance halls of America to the sound of clarinetists Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman. The film director Woody Allen took his name from Herman and has his own jazz band, helping to popularize clarinet music once more.
 
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