Although it is not often seen today, the chalumeau has played an important role in the development of todays clarinet. Originally the chalumeau was created by placing a reed onto a old style recorder. As the technology to develop more complex key systems progressed, the chalumeau was slowly transformed into todays clarinet.

The chalumeau is a cross between a clarinet and a recorder. Like the clarinet, the chalumeau is a woodwind instrument with a single reed in the mouthpiece.

Unlike a clarinet, the chalumeau does not have a register key so it is mostly used within its fundamental range, just a bit over an octave.

There are 4 sizes of chalumeau:

  • Soprano

  • Alto

  • Tenor

  • Bass


It is unknown when, or who invested the chalumeau, but its first recorded existence was in from Germany in 1687. Uncertainty surounding the origins of the chalumeau is due to many versions of historical pipes with reeds stretching back to the 12th century.

The name chalumeau comes from a French word from the 12th century. It refers to various types of pipes. Some of these pipes are made from cane with a reed cut out of the cane pipe.

In the 17th century, the chalumeau was improved by Johann Christoph Denner of Nuremberg,. This improved baroque chalumeau is the historical connection between the recorder and clarinet.

Modern chalumeau

Due to the rare nature of this instrument, there are now only 8 known examples of original chalumeau in existance. Modern craftsmen who have studied the chalumeau now produce similar replicas


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