Clarinet and Flute: Similarities and Differences

You’re probably wondering what the similarities and differences between the flute and clarinet? The most obvious one is that the flute is smaller than the clarinet! Even though the flute and clarinet both belong to the woodwind family, they have a lot of differences. Read more about this week’s blog post about how the flute and clarinet are different from one another?

The flute is one of the oldest, most popular and widely used woodwind instruments. As a child, the flute is one of the many woodwinds and brass instruments introduced in primary school. The flute belongs to a large family of flutes (as piccolo, recorder, fife, bansuri etc.). Early members of the flute family can be traced back to Baroque music recorders that were pitched to various pitches and varying colors of the sound. The flute is a close relative to the baroque recorder that consists of a tube with holes made from either metal or wood.

Theobald Boehm (1794-1881) was a German inventor and musician, constructed and developed an improved version of what we know today as the modern concert flute in 1847. Notable modifications were made to the keys and metal tube that helped make it more efficient and capable to producing a wider range and improved tuning. To produce sound, you would need to put together three pieces of the instrument: head, body, and foot joint.

The anatomy of the clarinet is different from the flute. First of all, clarinet is a single-reed instrument, which means that in order to produce sound that besides of the mouthpiece, natural cane or synthetic reed is needed. Without it, you are not able to produce any sound on the instrument. More advanced players spend hundreds of hours to look for reeds that work for their individual setup. When you travel, you should take additional luggage to put there all your reeds. No worries, it was a joke, but seriously, clarinet players have much more gadgets for the instruments as reeds, accessories for working on reeds, boxes with reeds, etc. than flute players that do not cane reeds to produce sound.

The father of the clarinet is Johann Christoph Denner, who invented this instrument in Germany around year 1700. The family of clarinet contains different pitches clarinet, from which the most popular are B-flat clarinet, A clarinet, piccolo, basset horn, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet. The variety of instruments allow to use it in classical and contemporary music, klezmer, jazz, marching bands, woodwinds orchestra and more.

First steps on flute and clarinet

It is easier to start to play flute. Why? The flute is less demanding physically, lighter than clarinet, has less complicated fingerings, and it doesn’t have to rely on a reed to produce sound. While learning the flute may appear easier in the beginning, remember that flutists spend a lot of time every day to warm up their embouchure to create a beautiful, clear sound.

If you start to play clarinet, it is useful to have a neck strap to help support and alleviate stress from your right hand. For younger players who just begin the clarinet, it is a common problem feel discomfort on the right thumb. One of the first steps to learn how to play the clarinet is how to put reed on the mouthpiece to be able to produce a sound.

Differences and Similarities

FLUTECLARINET
Non-transposing instrument (pitched in C)Transposing instrument (pitch depends on the instrument, could be in B, E flat, etc.)
LightQuite heavy
No wooden reedSingle reed
Made from metal, rarely from woodMade from wood
Held horizontally during playing

 

Held vertically during playing
Widely used as classical and contemporary music, jazz
Woodwinds instruments
Rich literature for the instruments

To sum up, both flute and clarinet has advantages and disadvantages. Both the flute and clarinet are popular instruments that produce beautiful sound and is used to variety of musical  genres.

Barbara Borowicz is an international artist and professor at the Music Academy in Krakow (Poland). She completed her Ph.D. from the Academy of Music in Krakow (Poland) in the clarinet class of Professor Andrzej Godek. She studied at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Ceclia in Rome with Alessandro Carbonare and at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. A special place in her solo repertoire has Polish music, which she has actively performed in Poland and abroad, including compositions written for her. Barbara is an Artist for Henri Selmer Paris, Vandoren and Silverstein Works. For more information, please visit www.barbaraborowicz.com

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