The c clarinet: the student's choice
The clarinet family has many members other than the well-known B flat and bass clarinet. An instrument that is used less in modern times though still favored as a student clarinet for beginners by some teachers is the C clarinet.
A clarinet pitched in C is a popular choice for students as there are no issues of transposition as there are with a B flat instrument. This is because when a student plays a note written as C is sounds as a C (‘sounds as written’) rather than the situation with a B flat version of the clarinet where a note written as C sounds as a B flat when played.
A relatively new clarinet in C that was specifically developed for young students is the Lyons. Not only is this a clarinet that is in C and avoids the problems of transposition, it is smaller and lighter than a regular clarinet, making it suitable for young students.
Some teachers prefer students to start on a B flat since that is the more ‘regular’ of instruments and most clarinet parts are written to take this into account, but other recommend a Clarinet in C for beginners. Discuss with your clarinet teacher their reasons for recommending either type of clarinet.
There are some orchestral parts written for the C version of the clarinet, though these are now often transposed and played on a B flat instrument. Some purists still insist however on playing the C version of the clarinet for parts in Richard Strauss’ ‘The Knight of the Rose’ or Liszt’s ‘Faust’ as originally intended.
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