The Turkish Clarinet

by Mitchell Estrin


The clarinet is a popular instrument in a variety of music and genres throughout the world. From its very beginnings around the turn of the 18th century, the magical sound of the clarinet has captured the musical imaginations of composers and performers in many cultures around the world.

In recent articles, I have covered a number of familiar topics relating to the clarinet in Western classical music, as well as in jazz and klezmer music. Thinking about the important role of the clarinet in music around the world reminded me of my experiences visiting Turkey and the amazing music and clarinet players I heard during my travels. I quickly learned that the clarinet is hugely popular in Turkey!

The classical clarinet players that I met in Turkey used the same basic equipment that I did - Boehm System B-flat and A clarinet with a hard rubber classical style mouthpiece and cane reeds. The Turkish folk clarinet players that I encountered performed on Albert System G clarinets made of both wood and metal. These instruments are pitched a minor third lower than the typical B-flat clarinet. The G clarinet is used in traditional Turkish folk music and its deep vocal and resonant timbre is both beautiful and unique. As with klezmer, Turkish folk music evolved from the culture, traditions, and inflections of the language. I was mesmerized by the sound of the Turkish clarinet from my first hearing, which was a chance encounter with a street musician in Istanbul.  

I asked the Turkish clarinet players I met where one could get a G clarinet and they directed me to a street in Istanbul with many music shops. I window shopped and found the stores that had wind instruments. I play tested a few instruments and purchased a professional model R KOR G clarinet. When I first tried the G clarinet, I was surprised to feel the very wide spread required for the fingers, especially in the right hand. The mouthpiece was also very different from what I was used to playing, with a very large tip opening of 185 (1/100mm), so a much softer reed was required than I normally used.  For comparison, my Vandoren M15 has a tip opening of 103.5. The largest tip opening made by Vandoren is the 7JB which has a tip opening of 170. The mouthpiece bore was just slightly smaller than my Vandoren, and aside from the large tip opening, the facing was not too unusual (as measured by my Erick Brand gauges). 

Mitchell Estrin's Turkish Clarinet

Photos by Mitchell Estrin

Playing Examples

To give you an idea of the magical sound of the Turkish G clarinet, here are a few links to get you started. I hope you enjoy hearing these artistic performances on the amazing Turkish G clarinet!

Estrin Circle

About Mitchell Estrin

Mitchell Estrin is Professor of Clarinet at the University of Florida and Music Director and Conductor of the University of Florida Clarinet Ensemble. He is the past President of the International Clarinet Association and author of the biography Stanley Drucker Clarinet Master published by Carl Fischer. Estrin performed as a clarinetist with the New York Philharmonic for over twenty years in hundreds of concerts and on 19  tours. As an international concert artist, he has performed in 37 countries on 4 continents. As a studio musician, Estrin has recorded dozens of motion picture soundtracks for Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, MGM, 20th Century Fox, United Artists, and Warner Brothers on feature films. They include FargoBeauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Interview With a VampireHome Alone 2Pocahontas, Doc HollywoodRegarding HenryThe Untouchables, and more. His television credits include recordings for ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, HBO, TBS, and ESPN. Learn more about Mitchell Estrin

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