Chalumeau (from Gk. kalamos, Lat. calamus: ‘reed’)
- Colin Lawson
A single-reed instrument of predominantly cylindrical bore, related to the clarinet (it is classified as an Aerophone). The term originally denoted a pipe or bagpipe chanter, but from the end of the 17th century was used specifically to signify the instrument discussed below.
It seems likely that the chalumeau evolved in the late 17th century from attempts to increase the volume of sound produced by the recorder; the retention of the latter’s characteristic foot-joint is evidence of the close physical relationship between the two instruments. Two diametrically opposed keys were soon added above the seven finger-holes and thumb-hole of the chalumeau, bridging the gap between the highest note and the lowest overblown 12th. The relatively large dimensions of the vibrating reed and the mouthpiece to which it was tied, however, were principally designed to produce the fundamental register. The clarinet itself evolved when the thumb-hole was repositioned, the mouthpiece was reduced in size to facilitate overblowing, and the foot-joint was replaced by a bell to improve the projection of sound. Since the clarinet functioned rather unsatisfactorily in its lowest register, the chalumeau was able for a time to retain its separate identity....