Instrument Exploration: Clarinet!
Target age range: K-6
1. The clarinet is a long, straight, cylindrical tube, meaning it is shaped like a cylinder. The clarinet is usually made of African hardwood and has a bell that flares at the bottom. At the top of a clarinet, there is a mouthpiece with a single reed attached by a ligature. When a player blows on the reed, it vibrates and creates a sound. So even though it is a complex instrument, there are three main parts:
• Mouthpiece with a reed
Look at the images below and think about how these three parts would fit together to make a clarinet. The bell in a clarinet does not have a clapper (or the piece of metal inside) to make it ring. Remember, the cylinder, the bell, and the mouthpiece of a clarinet are all made of wood.
The clarinet belongs to the woodwind family because its sound is made when wind (or breath) makes a piece of wood vibrate.
2. Look at the parts of the clarinet on the diagram below. Can you draw your own picture of a clarinet? Here is a really good step-by-step guide to help you draw your own clarinet. Can you label at least a few of the parts? Be sure to include the mouthpiece, the keys, and the bell.
3. Here is a piece for solo clarinet. As you listen, think of three words that describe the sound of the clarinet. Write them down, say them out loud, or tell somebody what you think the clarinet sounds like.
4. The clarinet has a nickname. Sometimes it's called a "licorice stick." Can you think of why it might have this nickname? Look at your picture of a clarinet and then at the picture to the right if you need a hint.
5. Listen and watch two clarinetists and a pianist play the Slavonic Dance, Op. 46, II. Allegretto Scherzando, by Dvorak.
Notice that the tempo, or speed of the music, changes.
6. Listen to a famous clarinetist, Anthony McGill, share some of his thoughts on teaching and performing music.
Listen to him here, playing Solo de Concours by Andre Messager. The clarinet has a very wide range, meaning it can play very high notes and very low notes. Notice the melodic contour, or the shape of the melody, in this piece.
7. Write down or tell someone three things you learned about the clarinet.
Have a question or suggestion? Contact Katie Condon, music education specialist.