Learning how to play an instrument is a great way to deepen your appreciation for music. Each instrument, whether struck, plucked, or blown, offers a unique timbre or sound that caters to various styles of instruments. The clarinet is an aerophone, or instrument that you must blow through to produce sound. A fixture in classical music, marching band, and certain styles of jazz, the clarinet has one of the widest ranges of any instrument. Having a library of easy clarinet sheet music will enhance your education and help you appreciate the unique qualities of this horn.
Exploring the Classic Clarinet Sound
Clarinets are woodwinds and players produce sound by blowing through a single reed. Unlike oboes and saxophones, clarinets have a cylindrical bore that provides their characteristic sound. The most common type is the B-flat soprano clarinet. Its natural range extends from the written E below middle C to the third written C above middle C, giving it one of the largest ranges of common woodwinds.
The B-flat clarinet has three registers, each with a characteristic sound that adds to the horn’s stylistic versatility:
- Chalumeau: Extending from the lowest written E to the written B-flat above middle C, this register is named for the clarinet’s predecessor. These tones tend to be warm and dark.
- Clarion: Extending from the written B-flat above middle C to the second written C above middle C, this register is often compared to the sound of a trumpet heard from far away.
- Altissimo: Italian for “very high” or “extra high”, this register extends from the second written C above middle C to the third. These notes can be piercing and even shrill at times.
Learning to play means mastery of the instrument in each of these registers, which includes performing works that leverage this woodwind’s extensive range.
Reading Clarinet Sheet Music
Most clarinets are transposing instruments. When a clarinet plays a written note, it has a different pitch from other instruments playing the same written note. For example, on a B-flat clarinet, a C sounds like a B-flat on piano or guitar. This is why clarinet sheet music is often noted as a B-flat instrument. Sheet music for the clarinet and piano accompaniment will show different key signatures for the instruments. Other B-flat instruments include the trumpet, cornet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, and bass clarinet.
Performing Solo or With Others
Transposing isn’t an issue when reading a lead sheet or playing solo music. As a clarinetist, you can read songs written in the treble clef. When playing with other instruments, it’s important to have parts that are transposed. If a clarinetist and an oboist or flutist were to read and play the same sheet music without transposing, the sounds would clash. B-flat clarinet players have to play a note that is one whole step higher than C instruments like the flute, oboe, and piano.
Musicnotes provides a large library of sheet music for clarinets. You can find works from nearly every genre that are pitched specifically for B-flat instruments such as the clarinet. From show tunes to modern pop smashes, you can find easy clarinet sheet music that harnesses the instrument’s unique sound for your listening and playing pleasure.