Write for A clarinet

• Sep 19, 2019 - 22:35

I notice that there is no A clarinet setting in the wizard. I guess I can write for B flat clarinet and just transpose the whole thing up a 1/2 step. Why no setting for this (commonly used) instrument? Is there something that I am missing?


It's there. Type "A clar..." in the "Search" box at the bottom of the dialog. Not all are shown by default; you can also click "All" at the dropdown over the instrument list to see them all.

Interesting. Just for my own edification, Where is A clarinet still common? I knew a woodwind specialist who had one but never had the need to play it. I had a very old trumpet that I got from relatives that had the tuning slide marked with an A setting. A instruments used to be common in the US, but it's been some time. I didn't keep the trumpet. I did keep the C saxophone I got from the same relatives. I could Google it, I suppose.

In reply to by bobjp

I don't speak from experience, as I neither own nor play any clarinet, but the A clarinet is still standard in much orchestral repertoire. I don't know that composers still write for it, but it is still necessary to play much of the romantic orchestral works.

Interestingly enough, a nearby symphony orchestra performed a piece last season in which a pair of archaic clarinet cousin instruments were required. Apparently they are as rare as hen's teeth, and only a few of them are available here in Canada. They arrived via a highly secure courier, and with an outlandish insurance waiver.

In reply to by toffle

Thanks. Yes, compositions by European composers used A clarinet and trumpet as well as other like instruments, through the first part of the 20th century. But it's not unusual for players to not play parts in the key their music says. I.E, a trumpet player will use his C trumpet for Bb parts. There were also 2 or 3 different fingering systems for clarinet.
It is interesting to me that there are orchestras that recreate Baroque music using recreations of period instruments. Meanwhile, the string instruments they replicate have all been modified to play modern music. There is only one Strad with an original neck length and bracing.

In reply to by BSG

Actually both K622 and K581 were written for Stadler's basset clarinet in A. This has a range extended down 4 semitones to a (written) low C. Unfortunately the scores were lost (Stadler said they were in his briefcase when it was stolen, However, Mozart's widow Constanza, said that Stadler pawned them). The non-basset clarinet versions that are most commonly played were cobbled together after Mozart's death by his publisher. Reconstructed versions for basset clarinet which may or may not be accurate were published in the latter part of the last century.

In reply to by marty strasinger

Not just easier for the player, but also, in principle, better intonation. If an instrument is not tuned absolutely to "equal temperament" (and few are), it will sound different in different keys because the frequency ratios are different for some intervals versus others. A Bb clarinet is most in tune in Bb, and in general is better in tune in flat keys than sharps, whereas for A clarinet it is the other way around. Not that this is huge consideration in practice for most people.

As for how "common" the A clarinet is, context is everything. In the world of professional orchestra players yes, it is common, most own one and use it regularly. Outside that world, not so much. In this respect it is like lots of other instruments - the banjo, say, which is perfectly common in bluegrass and some other American folk genres but virtually never encountered elsewhere unless your name is Bela Fleck.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marty, I think tone quality is based more on the player than the instrument. No two players produce the same tone, even on the same instrument. Pro trumpet players will carry a Bb, C, D/Eb, and a G or A piccolo. Not because of what the part calls for, but what they can best play the part on.
We can debate the ins and outs of this. There is much to be left up to the players and conductor. I think it is a problem to be too picky, lest the music not be performed at all.

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