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Alto clarinet

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The alto clarinet is a wind instrument of the clarinet family. It is a transposing instrument usually pitched in the key of E♭, though instruments in F (and in the 19th century, E) have been made. It is sometimes known as a tenor clarinet; this name especially is applied to the instrument in F. In size it lies between the soprano clarinet and the bass clarinet, to which it bears a greater resemblance in that it typically has a straight body (made of Grenadilla wood, or since the 1950s sometimes black plastic), but a curved neck and bell made of metal. In appearance it strongly resembles the basset horn, but usually differs in three respects: it is pitched in E♭, it lacks an extended lower range, and it has a wider bore than most basset horns.

The keys of the alto clarinet are similar to the keys on smaller clarinets, and are played with virtually identical fingerings. The alto clarinet, however, usually has one key not found on most soprano clarinets, which allows it to reach a low (written) E♭. The range of the alto clarinet is from the G♭ in the second octave below middle C (i.e. bottom line of the bass staff) to the middle of the second octave above middle C.

Invention of the alto clarinet has been attributed to Ivan Mueller and to Heinrich Grenser.

[edit] Use in musical ensembles

The alto clarinet has not been commonly used in orchestral scoring. (An important exception is Igor Stravinsky's Threni. It is used mostly in concert bands, where it often doubles other parts such as alto saxophone parts, and in clarinet choirs. A few jazz musicians, Hamiet Bluiett, Vinny Golia, J. D. Parran, Petr Kroutil and Joe Lovano among them, have made use of the alto clarinet.

[edit] Abandonment in some ensembles

Since at least the late 1940s, there has been discussion over whether the alto clarinet could or should be eliminated from the standard wind band. Sawhill, Clarence E. "The Problem of the Alto Clarinet" and Rohner, Traugott. "Shall We Eliminate the Alto Clarinet?". The arguments usually used include its relatively low volume, unremarkable tone, and the fact that its part is nearly always doubled by other instruments. (One notable exception is an alto clarinet solo in Percy Grainger's famous piece Lincolnshire Posy.) Many junior high school and high school bands have ceased using the instrument for these reasons.

This article was started using a Wikipedia clarinet article
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