Instrument Exploration: Clarinet

cn instrument thumbnails
Julie Works/Pixabay

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will learn to identify the clarinet by sight and sound.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Clarinet

ENGAGE students

EXPLAIN. “The clarinet is a long, straight, cylindrical tube, meaning it is shaped like a cylinder. The clarinet is usually made of African hardwood and has a bell that flares at the bottom. At the top of a clarinet, there is a mouthpiece with a single reed attached by a ligature. When a player blows on the reed, it vibrates and creates a sound. So even though it is a complex instrument, there are three main parts:

  • Cylinder

  • Bell

  • Mouthpiece with a reed

“Look at the images below and think about how these three parts would fit together to make a clarinet. The bell in a clarinet does not have a clapper (or the piece of metal inside) to make it ring. Remember, the cylinder, the bell, and the mouthpiece of a clarinet are all made of wood. The clarinet belongs to the woodwind family because its sound is made when wind (or breath) makes a piece of wood vibrate.”

Clarinet parts
Wikimedia Commons

DRAW. “Look at the parts of the clarinet on the diagram below. Can you draw your own picture of a clarinet? Here is a really good step-by-step guide to help you draw your own clarinet. Can you label at least a few of the parts? Be sure to include the mouthpiece, the keys, and the bell.”

Construction of a clarinet
Sotakeit/Wikimedia Commons

EXPLORE sounds

LISTEN. “Here is a piece for solo clarinet. As you listen, think of three words that describe the sound of the clarinet. Write them down, say them out loud, or tell somebody what you think the clarinet sounds like.”

ASK. “The clarinet has a nickname. Sometimes it's called a ‘licorice stick.’ Can you think of why it might have this nickname? Look at your picture of a clarinet and then at the picture if you need a hint.”

Clip Art Library

WATCH. “Listen to a famous clarinetist, Anthony McGill, share some of his thoughts on teaching and performing music.”

LISTEN. “Listen to McGill again here, playing Solo de Concours by Andre Messager. The clarinet has a very wide range, meaning it can play very high notes and very low notes. Notice the melodic contour, or the shape of the melody, in this piece.”

REFLECT. Write down or tell someone three things you learned about the clarinet.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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