Back to all articles

The History of the Clarinet

The clarinet was invented by Johann Christoph Denner, a Nuremberg instrument maker, at the start of the 18th century. (It’s worth noting that a similar instrument, the chalumeau, already existed at that time.) The clarinet family now includes a variety of instruments, such as the piccolo clarinet (or octave clarinet), alto clarinet, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and the basset horn. Until the first half of the 18th century, the clarinet only had two keys. More were gradually added to facilitate the playing of chromatic scales and clean notes more easily. The configuration used today was perfected by Klosé in the mid-19th century, based on the ideas of Theobald Boehm. An early version of the bass clarinet emerged in France toward the end of the 18th century, which was in turn modeled on an instrument called the Basse-Tube, created by Gilles Lot. The modern bass clarinet was created by Adolph Sax in 1838 and it was first featured in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots. Most modern clarinets are made of grenadilla and feature wider dynamic ranges to meet modern musical demands.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.