Index / Table of Contents (scroll down for recent blogposts)

Index: A-Z List of Clarinet Techniques Discussed in my Blogposts – click to be shown a new page listing each post that mentions the desired technique

air sounds glissandi spectral multiphonic
aluminum foil multiphonic tongue ram
articulation no mouthpiece trills
bending preparations trumpet embouchure
double tongue register key water
double trills shaking  whistling
dyads singing
flute embouchure slap tongue
flutter tongue speaking


Table of Contents


The Basics:

…on clarinet articulation covers everything from single and double tonguing, slap tongue, tongue rams, and fluttertongue through to flute and trumpet embouchures, and clarinet shaking. (Tongue ram, and flute and trumpet embouchures, are also techniques wherein the mouthpiece is removed from the clarinet. Other mouthpiece-less techniques can be found in this post.)

…on writing air sounds for clarinets deals with all the different ways you can manipulate air on a clarinet: air versus pitch, vowel sounds, outside of the mouthpiece, without the mouthpiece, inhaling versus exhaling, various articulation effects, etc.

…on soprano clarinet glissandi The details (and restrictions) of using them, in both directions, and how feasible bending is. It also talks briefly about spectral multiphonic glissandi (another post that talks briefly about spectral multiphonics is the air sound post, wherein I talk about spectral harmonic ‘whispers’ which are essentially very quiet airy spectral multiphonics).

…on singing and playing covers all the possibilities of singing and playing, dynamics, how to deal with different pitch material in the voice and clarinet, glissandi, and combining singing with other extended techniques


Special Techniques: 

Bass clarinet preparations. Lots of ways you can cover the bell of the bass clarinet.

All the possibilities for creating beautiful transitions, trills and multiphonics using only the register key.

On the use of double trills.

Bass clarinet techniques without the mouthpiece is a continuation of some techniques discussed in the articulation post. This second post moves beyond tongue rams, and flute and trumpet embouchures, to singing, whistling and croaking into the bass clarinet.

On close interval dyad multiphonics for Bb clarinet.

On only using the lower joint of the Bb or Eb clarinet.


Other Popular Posts:

On using the iPad in performance – advantages and disadvantages and a fairly complete how-to

Advice for young composers


…on close dyad multiphonics for Bb clarinet

This is one of the most beautiful multiphonic effects we have at our disposal, and despite having come across it in many pieces, I’ve been surprised that it isn’t better known. I’ve given a few workshops in Denmark in the last few months, and on playing these I mostly saw expressions of surprise.

Part of the problem is a lack of resources. Philip Rehfeldt’s book, which is still our standard resource for writing for clarinet, only lists five or six of these effects, whereas dozens are possible. Another problem is that they are for the most part quite difficult to play, though they can all be practised and learned.

I’ll present a few examples and a good fingering chart of the dyads I’ve managed to find. Composers, please read through this information carefully, even when I start to give advise to performers on how to play them, because the information given there can help you to use the effect.

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…on singing and playing

Before I get started with today’s post I just wanted to let you know that I’ve finally created an index and table of contents for the blog, so when you’re looking for information on a specific technique, you should just click on the Blog/Index button in the top menu and this will appear.

I have always had a tendency to dismiss the singing and playing technique when I speak about it. I’ve usually told composers that the voice acts only as a disturbance between the instrument and the sound it produces; one tends to hear the distortion and not the sung pitch. A huge part of this is that I do not like the sound of my voice, I don’t feel comfortable singing and playing, I hate the pressured feeling it puts on my vocal chords when I produce sound while playing the clarinet and the way it makes it more difficult to find the pitch I want.

So today’s exercise (exercise for me, with any luck an informative post with loads of fun examples for you) serves to try to correct and/or expand my view of this technique. And to stop, you know, hating it so much.

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More techniques for a mouthpiece-less bass clarinet

Most of these techniques I’ve covered already, in my post on clarinet articulation. If you look there you’ll find information on tongue rams without the mouthpiece (and with, for that matter), flute embouchure (which only works – for me – on the soprano clarinets), and trumpet embouchure.

Just a quick little reminder: when using techniques without the mouthpiece, always make sure there’s enough time for the clarinetist to safely take off and replace the mouthpiece when necessary. I can do it pretty fast, but I’m always much happier when I have a few extra seconds (especially when putting it back on) to double check the position of the reed.

And if you’re serious about writing for the bass clarinet without its mouthpiece, you need to know this piece, Globokar’s Voix Instrumentalisée. I’m going to refer to his work a few times, but knowing that score is already going to be more comprehensive than this post. He wrote the book (so to speak) on bass clarinet without mouthpiece techniques.

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…on double trills for Bb clarinet

It’s the sixth post in my series on clarinet techniques, and today’s is on double trills.

There are basically two ways that I think of using a double trill: either by the combination of a fundamental fingering with the rapid alteration of one key with a finger of each hand (producing two different pitches)  or by combining a fundamental fingering with the rapid alteration of two different keys with different hands (producing three or four pitches). Here’s a very short video clip so that you can see the difference between the two, and what the clarinettist does to produce them:

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…on clarinet articulation

Bit of a monster post for you today, so I won’t waste too much time with introducing it. Basically I’m going to cover all the different ways the tongue and throat can be involved when playing the clarinet. From the basics of tonguing (tenuto, staccato, changing consonants), to extended techniques (flutter tongue, slap tongue), to stuff you don’t see all that often (shaking the clarinet, flute and trumpet embouchures)… I’m going to try to cover it all. If there’s something I’ve forgotten, or there’s something that’s not clear, please leave a comment!

(I apologise for the sound quality of a few of these examples. My Interface stopped speaking to my laptop towards the end of my recording session, so there are 4 examples where I’ve had to just record using my laptop microphone. If I get it working again I’ll update the sound files!)

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…on using the register key

Something that’s started to interest me recently when it comes to clarinet writing and collaboration with composers, is the generation of material. I love these long collaborative meetings where you just sit together and generate material for its own sake. And I love seeing what makes it into the piece later, and what doesn’t. That’s basically what my whole PhD was about.

It seems to me that a lot of the time when working with composers, generating material comes down to things like “well, that’s great, but can you do and b… at the same time?” It’s all about layers, and isolation of various bits of the instrument and then layering all those isolations. Fun stuff. And it’s about developing an understanding about how certain aspects of the instrument function and how you can use them. Sometimes this is about taking one note and adding layers of different articulations, singing, multiphonics, etc. on top.

Today, I’m going to show you how manipulations of the register key can generate some beautiful and interesting effects, and while the effects are beautiful in themselves, I think/hope that for composers who are interested in isolating various aspects of technique, this could also prove to be interesting on that level.

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… on bass clarinet preparations

I started thinking more seriously about preparing the bass clarinet after Aaron Einbond used it in his (awesome) piece, Resistance, for prepared bass clarinet and live electronics. I originally assumed that it wouldn’t be so useful: one can only prepare the bass clarinet by preparing the bell, and therefore only the lowest note (the written C) is affected. That said, there are actually a lot of different things one can use to prepare the bass clarinet with, and a lot of interesting sound material one can develop by making use of these preparations. So grab some good headphones, or good speakers as there are a load of audio examples in this post and my laptop speakers at least aren’t really up to them…

A few things to remember:

  • Changing preparations takes a little time. I’d say probably a little more time than changing from Bb to A clarinet, as one has to be quite careful in most cases that the preparation is properly covering the bell.
  • I’ve never managed to find a way to change preparations while standing. It’s totally awkward to try to reach for the bell while harnessed into the instrument, and always seemed like too much of a risk to take the instrument out of the harness in the middle of the piece. So I’ve always had to play Einbond’s piece sitting down.
  • Make sure the clarinetist in question is okay with having various things attached to the bell, or put inside the bell. My ratty old bell doesn’t seem to mind it and I’ve never scratched it or needed any kind of repair because of my preparation experiments, but its possible not everyone will feel the same way I do.
  • Bluetack is your friend. This is what I use to seal the vent hole, and it’s what I use to protect the instrument from the metal edges of the bulldog clip. If you’re a composer, bring some along when you want to try these things out with a clarinetist.
  • When I talk about opening and closing, or sealing, the vent hole, this is what I’m talking about:


  • If the clarinetist has never manually covered the vent hole in performance before, it takes a little practise to get used to where it is. You can have socks on, but it doesn’t work with shoes. I generally aim to shove the joint of my big toe into the vent hole. If the vent hole needs to be covered for the duration of the piece, it can be done so with bluetack or whitetack or some other similar substance:


And now for the preparations…


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…on soprano clarinet glissandi

During my undergrad, I loved glissandi. I learned how to do them before anyone else in my class (a combination of stubbornness and being a repressed jazzer), and in my third year we did a performance of Kagel’s 1898, the performance of which featured a fairly death-defying downwards glissando. Not sure I’ll ever forget the look on our conductor’s face the first time I managed it, nor the way he said, “How do you do that?”

I guess the point is that glissandi are fun. But they’re quite hard to understand for composers, because they aren’t easy in all registers and what individual performers can or can not do affects a lot. It’s a big issue really, and to be truly comprehensive, I should have done months of research. But as with last week’s post, what I’m going to do is I’m just going to share a little knowledge and understanding, and then provide as many examples as I can. Questions? Please leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

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