What was the role of the clarinet in a classical orchestra of the
early 20th century? What about in jazz music from the same time?
Request for Question Clarification bytlspiegel-ga
Please let me know if this would be a fully satisfactory answer to your question.
Jazz vs. Classical Music
"In Classical music, both large orchestras and small ensembles are used.
But generally, the greatest and most prominent compositions are for
the larger symphony orchestra. The largest part of the orchestra is
the string section consisting of violins, violas, cellos and string
basses. These instruments were invented very early in medieval times
but really matured into their present form during the late 18th
century. The wind instruments, comprised of brass and woodwinds, took
longer to mature. The brass section in particular did not posses the
ability to play chromatically (in all keys) until the advent of valves
which allowed the length of the instrument to be changed while
playing. This occurred around the middle to late 19th century.
Consequently, the brass instruments are less prominent in the music of
Bach, Mozart and Beethoven along with their contemporaries. Late 19th
and early 20th century composers make use of a very large orchestra
with all the fully developed wind instruments."
Passagen – The clarinet history by Erin Bray
"The clarinet, still in its infant stages through the Baroque and much
of the Classic periods, did not come to the fore in literature until
the early 19th century. There were many improvements to be made on the
clarinet before it could perform the demands that players and
composers alike desired."
Evolution of the Orchestra in the Classical Period
"Clarinet became popular from the second half of the 18th century and
established a place in the orchestra. Its potential as a solo
instrument was recognised in opera, symphony, concerto and oratorio.
When the clarinet first began to occupy a place in the score, it was
not so much side by side with the oboes as in place of them. Clarinets
step into the place vacated for the time being by the oboes. It is
interesting to note that when Mozart added the clarinet part to
Symphony No. 40 (K550), he rewrote the oboe parts so that they never
play together except in tuttis. Clarinets were found to be better
partners for horns than oboes. Mozart was the first to exploit the
rich lower register of the clarinet."
Star of the woodwind family
"Although the clarinet found its life and soul in the classical
orchestras and chamber ensembles, the immense popularity of the
instrument rose by leaps and bounds with the advent of jazz."
Answers.com – orchestra and orchestration
The Eighteenth-Century Classical Orchestra
"During the latter half of the 18th cent. the classical orchestra was
gradually established through the disuse of the continuo and the
acceptance of the clarinet. The abandonment of the continuo led to
much greater independence in the string parts, which now had to fill
the harmony unaided. Instead of both violin parts doubling the melody
and the violas, cellos, and basses doubling the bass, there were now
four distinct parts. The clarinet, like the flute, first appeared as
an alternate for the oboe, but in the late works of Haydn and Mozart
the orchestra was standardized, with pairs of flutes, oboes,
clarinets, bassoons, French horns, trumpets, and kettledrums in
addition to the strings. All the wind instruments, especially the
woodwinds, could carry the melody, providing desired changes of
Characteristics of Early Jazz Why Did Jazz Originate in New Orleans Around 1900?
I. Characteristics of Early Jazz (@1900-1930)
A. Featured collective improvisation (trumpet, clarinet, and trombone)
1. The role of the trumpet was to play the melody with embellishments
2. The role of the clarinet was to ornament the melody above the trumpet
B. Performed by a small jazz combo of 6 ? 7 players
1. Front Line consisted of one trumpet, one clarinet, and one trombone
"As already stated in the origins of jazz, New Orleans musicians at
the turn of the 20th century had to rely on improvisation to keep
their patrons happy. In other words, they had to find some way to
keep the music going for hours on end so the patrons could enjoy
"Necessity dictated the size of the ensemble. Because the brothels
and bars were so small, only a few musicians could be accommodated in
the ?stage? area. Thus the standard Dixieland combo was from 5-7 in
number. (Trumpet, clarinet, trombone, drums, piano/guitar/banjo, and
The best-known New Orleans musicians at this time were:
"Sidney Bechet (clarinet/soprano saxophone), Johnny Dodds (clarinet)"
Early Jazz in Comparison with Swing
Early Jazz (Dixie/Dixieland) @1900-1230
Main Woodwind Instrument: clarinet
Swing (Big Band) @1900-1930 @1925-1950
Main Woodwind Instrument: sax
Wikipedia – Clarinet
"Clarinets are also commonly found in jazz, especially in its earlier
forms such as the Big Band music of the 1930s and 1940s.
The clarinet was a central instrument in early jazz starting in the
1910s and remaining popular through the big band era into the 1940s.
Larry Shields, Ted Lewis, Jimmie Noone and Sidney Bechet were
influential in early jazz. The B flat soprano was the most common, but
a few early jazz musicians such as Louis Nelson Deslile and Alcide
Nunez prefered the C soprano, and many New Orleans jazz brass bands
have used E flat sopranino.
Swing clarinetists such as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Woody Herman
led perhaps the most successful popular music groups of their era.
With the decline of big bands' popularity in the late 1940s, the
clarinet faded from its prominent position in jazz, though a few
players (Buddy DeFranco, Jimmy Giuffre, Perry Robinson and others)
used clarinet in bebop and free jazz."
Clarification of Question bykhadgal-ga
Thank you so much for your answer. I think you can post it as an
answer since it covers my question and is very informative.