Clarinet beginner here. Most Boehm clarinets have 17 keys, but you can get 18 keys for not much more money, and there are a few very expensive clarinets with 19 keys.

What do the extra keys do, and are they useful at a beginner to intermediate level?

Key 18 is apparently a left hand Eb lever, but which Eb? Do you get an extra semitone below the lowest E on a normal clarinet? Key 19 I have no idea except that it's an extra key for the right hand pinky.

  • I'm pretty sure you can find fingering charts online for R-13, R-14, etc. models . Mar 8, 2021 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


The 18th key is usually a left hand Eb/Ab lever. This is an alternative to the right hand Eb/Ab lever and makes fingering combinations involving both fourth fingers much easier. It's become standard on higher quality instruments.

The 19th key is normally found only on so-called 'full-boehm' clarinets that have some other extra keywork as well. This gives you an extra note, the low Eb, which is sometimes useful for transposing A-clarinet parts. For most players the advantages don't outweigh the extra cost, weight and complication.
In the case of the 'Tosca' clarinet you've linked to, the extra key has a different function: it opens a hole to improve the pitch of the lowest F which is often flat.

  • Eb/Ab or Eb/Bb? Mar 7, 2021 at 4:20
  • @JohnR.Strohm Eb/(low)Ab. The Bb/Eb key for LH3 is standard on all instruments.
    – PiedPiper
    Mar 7, 2021 at 8:55

Here's a description from someone who appears to know his clarinet variants:

Chris: Yes, R14 is forked Eb/Bb, R15 is articulated G#, and R16 is both. There are additional designations for extra keys - a modern R13 Prestige would be R13 1/2 since it has a 5th LH key for alternative G#/Eb. Full Boehm with low Eb was R16 3/4. So maybe R1 was a tube with holes and no keywork at all

Another responder in that thread posted a nice link to an old Buffet Catalog page, shown here:
enter image description here

I recall fondly :-) how hugely expensive those prices seemed back then.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.