The clarinet is a common instrument in orchestras, school bands, marching bands and Dixieland bands. While many people know what a clarinet looks and sounds like, few people know about the bass clarinet.
What is commonly known as a clarinet is actually a soprano clarinet. There also is an alto clarinet and a bass clarinet, along with many other less common clarinets. The bass clarinet is a common instrument in many of the same musical ensembles as the soprano clarinet.
Just as a soprano voice is much higher in pitch than a bass voice, a soprano clarinet is much higher in pitch than a bass clarinet. The role of the bass clarinet often is to reinforce the bass instruments in the ensemble.
Bass clarinets are commonly made of plastic or African hardwood with the keys, bell and rods constructed of nickel, silver or other composite metal. The mouthpiece, which holds the reed, is made of plastic, resin, hard rubber or other composite material. The reed is made of cane.
Keys and Holes
The arrangement of the keys and holes on the bass clarinet was developed by Hyacinthe Klosé in 1839. The holes and keys can be placed in any number of different combinations, but the standard system developed that is still in use today was found to be the most logical system to learn.
All bass clarinet players first begin studying the soprano clarinet. The most common place to begin studying the clarinet is in school during the fifth or sixth grade.