Similarities Between the Flute and Clarinet

The original flute was made of wood.

Clarinets and flutes have several common features that complement each other. Both instruments are from the same instrument family and have the same articulation and dynamic capabilities. These instruments will often double the same line in the orchestra to create strong melodies and smooth harmonies. Learning the similarities between clarinet and flute gives the listener a more profound understanding of the role they play in the orchestra.


Flutes and clarinets share the common bond of belonging to the woodwind family of instruments. The woodwind family typically includes instruments that use wooden reeds to produce sound. The flute provides an exception to this rule since the construction consists of steel, silver or various other metals; however, it belongs to the woodwind family because of its role in orchestral music and the original wooden construction. The flute and clarinet will often play similar parts and double each other in the orchestra.


Keys exist on both the clarinet and flute. When all the keys of either instrument are open, the air column travels a very short distance as it escapes through the open keys. This effectively shortens the distance that the air has to travel, thereby increasing the pitch. When all the keys are depressed, air will travel to the end of the instrument, meaning the air column must travel further, decreasing the pitch. The sound does not come from the end of the instrument, but from the key holes. This characteristic allows each instrument to play several octaves worth of pitches.


Several articulations exist on both the flute and the clarinet. Both instruments have the capability to use double-tonguing techniques that double the speed of each articulation. Clarinets and flutes may also both use flutter tongue techniques in which the tongue quickly vibrates to create a buzzing sound on the instrument. Additional, key clicks, hard accents, legato and slurring techniques appear commonly in clarinet and flute literature.


Dynamics vary between instruments. A trumpet playing piano (Italian for "softly") has significantly more volume than a flute playing a piano dynamic. When clarinets and flutes play simultaneously, the dynamics match up equally. The flute and clarinet construction creates comparable dynamics that allow both instruments to play balanced lines. One clarinet has the capability of matching the sound of a flute whether the instrument is playing piano or forte (Italian for "loud").


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