Transposed piccolo/clarinet/trumpet has "<key> <instrument>", not "<instrument> in <key>"

• Sep 15, 2019 - 06:47
Reported version
S5 - Suggestion


In reply to by Howard-C

My instrument is clarinet and based on my experience, we need both conventions. They sometimes mean different things. "Clarinet in Bb" sometimes means "Play this on a Bb clarinet", but sometimes it means "This part is transposed into Bb. Play it on a any clarinet you feel is sensible, transposing as necessary." Whereas "Bb clarinet" or "A clarinet" means "Play it on the specified instrument", possible with the implied addendum "if you have one".

Take for example something I currently have to hand, a clarinet part for Peter and the Wolf in the Kalmus edition which can be seen on IMSLP: (note, non-PD in US) . While this has been modified (butchered?), the original version was clearly named "Clarinet in Bb". However, you will find that the part goes down to concert Db below middle C (written Eb) and that is not possible on a standard Bb clarinet which stops at D natural (written E). Therefore unless the player has a rare Bb clarinet with an Eb extension, at least some of the part must be played on an A clarinet. The butchery of the Kalmus version in the IMSLP scan is someone's attempt to insert written transposed sections to avoid having to transpose on the fly. But the point is, in this case the part name just indicates the transposition of the written part, it does not specify the instrument, or if it is trying to specify the instrument, it asks for the impossible.

Also, in non-anglophone countries where it is more usual to specify the instrument transposition using solfege (clarinet in Sib, clarinet in La, saxophone in Es etc.), it is ALWAYS done that way round, never Sib clarinet, La clarinet, Es saxophone etc.

In reply to by SteveBlower

So you have found many evidences of "Clarinet in B♭" and few of "B♭ Clarinet" ;-)

I'm a clarinetist too and I don't really think this complicated. The composition uses a Clarinet in A, so playing the same notes on a Clarinet in B♭ (in an orchestra) is 100% wrong behaviour, the only way to play it on Clarinet in B♭ is to play a transposed version (where issues take place). Given the fact of this, why is there any semantic difference between these two namings? Those clarinetists who are willing to afford two clarinets don't care whether the part name has the connotation of "play this on the specific instrument", while the others still cannot play the same notes of a part with a different transposition even if the part name doesn't indicate "play it on a certain type of clarinet".

I see that there's this "in" which probably gived you different feelings of the two names, but besides this trivial difference in grammar, I don't see why they have sort of different meanings. I mean, they can have different meanings, such as "part played by a B♭ Clarinet" for "B♭ Clarinet" and "clarinet part in B♭" for "Clarinet in B♭", or the opposite, but come on, do they really affect what people think of the name? Either way, you can only play the part on the type indicated, playing it on another type leads to a complete failure. This doesn't necessarily mean you cannot play a Clarinet in A part on a B♭ Clarinet when you are doing an interview or taking an examination, but this is already too far away from the topic.

What matters, really, is how often each of them has been used, a traditional preference. If we can find enough evidences of both names used widely, then listing them both on the instrument list isn't a thing we cannot consider. But this definitely seems redundant if one of them has been used in most circumstances.

In reply to by Howard-C

I have found evidence of many examples of both usages. As Marc says Bb clarinet is by far the most common for wind band parts, but as I pointed out clarinet in*" Sib, or La or Es or Do is **very common in non-anglophone scores and parts and in some anglophone as well.

All of the names you put in bold are French or maybe Italian. I see C (Do) clarinet once in a while, all of the rest I see a lot in English and all are available in MuseScore.

In reply to by mike320

Workaround No Yes

Yes, but the proposal (as per the thread title) is to have instrument names and hence part names as rather than in . Marc asked for discussion. I offered to participate in the discussion and share my experience of what I see in clarinet parts.

My discussion points are:
- both usages are common
- the usages are often interchangeable but sometimes have specific and distinct different meanings
- which usage is more common is dependent on locale as well as Marc's point about context (wind band vs orchestra).

In conclusion, I don't see that there is or can be a consensus on which usage is "right". Each is right in particular contexts.

PS: The bolding in my previous post suffered from my clumsy fingers when typing on my phone. It should have been "clarinet in Sib, or La or Es or Do is very common in non-anglophone scores"

I see both A Clarinet and Clarinet in A so it's a matter of taste. The former is probably almost exclusively in English. The bold was a convenient way to refer to part of your comment.

I never see Clarinet in Db indicating that the key of the piece is Db and the musician can choose which clarinet to play it on. I have seen things like solo pieces written as Song in Db for Clarinet and the musician can pick the clarinet they play it on. There is sometimes a preferred instrument named, but since there are no other instruments, it doesn't matter which you choose.

In reply to by mike320

No. Clarinet in Bb does not mean that the key of the piece is Bb. it means that the transposition of the part is to Bb. The piece can be in Db, and if the part is named Clarinet in Bb, the key signature of the part would be 3 flats.

Look at my example of Peter and the Wolf. The name of the part is Clarinet in Bb but it is obvious that it can't be played throughout in a Bb clarinet as the range goes down to Db concert. Unless one stick's a toilet roll tube in the bell, that note does not exist on a Bb Clarinet. The name of the part indicates to the player that it is transposed to Bb. But seeing a written Eb, the player must use an A clarinet, at least for the critical sections, and transpose by playing notes a semitone higher than written. That is why someone kludged together the part with interpolations transposed for A clarinet that is in the IMSLP scan.

To summarise "in Bb" refers to a transposition, "Bb clarinet" refers to an instrument. In a lot of cases the distinction doesn't matter, but sometimes it does

There are some Bb clarinets that have extra keys that allow them to play written Eb, apparently Prokfiev expected the musicians playing the piece to have this type of instrument. You assessment of this piece is absurd.

I found the complete score at ( In the original score it starts in concert C (D for the Bb clarinet), then moves to Ab (Bb on the Bb clarinet) as in the part you attached so there is no transposition on the fly required as your assessment mandates. Also, there is no instrument change indicated on the score, it simply says Clarinet and the score is completely written in concert pitch. The part you have found has obviously been pieced together from two different editions and presumably the person who did this had a Bb clarinet capable of playing Eb, otherwise they would have used their A clarinet for the section with that note and only needed to play an E natural.

@SteveBlower: "Instrument in Bb" and "WorkTitle in Bb" are not the same things, that latter denotes a key signature fort a piece, the former a (transposing) instrument

As I said, there are B-flat clarinets with a low E-flat key. Looking on the internet I see several discussion of people who have such a clarinet, like at I also see discussions where the existence of an E-flat key on a soprano clarinet is denied. I suspect those denying it's existence have simply never seen it. I'm not saying the key is common, but it does exist. I would never write for it. When I've needed that note, I've always put the clarinetist on the A clarinet.

The score I saw was only a conductor's score with no indication of an A or Bb clarinet being specified. The part that was posted had the clarinetist switching between Bb and A clarinets and chose the Bb clarinet for the concert Db in question. It's a pieced together part with measures coming from multiple prints, one for an A clarinet the other for a Bb clarinet. From what I can see, Prokofiev intended the clarinetist to play on the A clarinet but that's not really relevant. The part being discussed (with the link above) clearly switches instruments and follows the key signatures in the conductor's score so there is no transposition on the fly necessary and the existence of an Eb on the part proves nothing.

In reply to by mike320

Yes, I have that score. It is not transposed for any instrument and the instrument list gives no indication that a particular variety of instrument is called for. It just says Clarinetto, just as it says Tromba and 3 Corni.

Regarding my "absurd" assessment. The part that I posted is from a different edition to the score you refer to. The part is published by Kalmus, but is heavily doctored. It is not the original Kalmus publication. However, one can see that as the interpolations are all transpositions for an A clarinet, the original part did not have instrument changes. Further evidence is found on page 9 between rehearsal marks 51 and 52. Whoever pieced together the transposed sections (not Kalmus I guess) missed the written Ebs. Note also the part name in the top left hand corner of the first page and at the top of each page is "Clarinet in Bb". I am using the fact that a part named "Clarinet in Bb" descends to a concert Db as evidence that it is not intended to be played throughout on a Bb clarinet.

And yes, I know that there are instruments around that have Eb extensions. I depped with an opera company recently and the player in the chair next to me had had one fitted to his Bb. And I mentioned them in my first post. But I think it unlikely that Prokofiev expected a player to have one. They are rare beasts.

The next step in my argument is that this demonstrates that a part name of {instrument} in {key} does not necessarily (although it might) mean it is to be played on a . In some cases it just indicates the transposition of the part.

The other thread of my argument is what I thought was a consistent non-anglophone usage of for example, Clarinet in Sib or Clarinet in La. i.e. "{instrument} in {key}". You say you have seen "Do Clarinet" which would be a counter example. Out of interest do you have a ref for such an example? But I think this must be very rare.

Returning to the main point at issue, discussion of Howard-C's proposal, and the question, "What is the common usage?" My experience is that both "{instrument} in {key}" and "{key} {instrument}" are common usages. One is more common in some contexts, the other is more common in other contexts.

I've seen a few scores written for the C clarinet but I can't remember one off the top of my head. I suspect they were probably from the first half of the 18th century or maybe a Haydn piece. One I'm thinking of had a small orchestra. C clarinets are rare and music written for them is also rare.

Edit: I found an example of a C Clarinet in Dvorak's Symphonic Variations. It's probably not the score I was thinking of.

Also, I agreed that Instrument in key and Key Instrument are both attested and is a matter of taste for the publisher or composer. As long as the names are consistent I really don't care which is used.

In reply to by mike320

Plenty of parts for C clarinet around. E.g. last movement of Beethoven 5, most of Mendelssohn Reformation to mention a couple I have played recently. I bought myself a C clarinet a few months ago (to add to the other 7 of various sizes) I own. That saves the transposing brain strain and has a slightly more "perky" sound that I like. I was asking about the example of a part named "Do Clarinet" (rather than "Clarinet in Do") that you mentioned.

I wouldn't be able to tell you a score that said Do Clarinet vs Clarinet in Do specifically. Actually, as I said, you are more likely to see C (or Bb or A) clarinet in English rather than other languages where you normally see Clarinet in La (or Sib or Do). I don't really pay that close attention to how it's written because it means the same thing, I'm just aware that other languages normally write Instrument in key.

In reply to by mike320

But the reality is that the names are not consistent, a few like horns have Horn in xx while the majority have xx Instrument. I think some score style can be involved: to use the former or the latter, and either choice leads to consistent naming.