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   history   singing
aluminum foil   ‘how to’s for clarinetists   slap tongue
articulation  multiphonic   speaking 
bending     no mouthpiece   spectral multiphonic
double tongue    preparations   tongue ram
double trills  quarter tones   trills
dyads   register key   trumpet embouchure
flute embouchure   repertoire   water
flutter tongue  shaking    whistling

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

…on writing Bb clarinet harmonics helps you to understand how clarinet harmonics work and how you can use them in your music to create harmonic colour trills.

A complete tremolo/moving passages chart (including quarter tones) for Bb/Eb/A clarinets – this post uses a kind of ‘traffic light’ system to help composers write tremoli and fast moving passages, while avoiding impossible intervals.


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. And for bass clarinet.

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


How-to Posts for Clarinetists:

How to improve your double tongue.

How to slap tongue


On Repertoire:

…on a historical approach to the sound of the clarinet

A Collaborative History of the Clarinet:


Other Popular Posts:

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

Advice for young composers

Three Octave Tremolo/Moving Passages Chart w/ Quarter Tones for Bb Clarinet

This post is for composers who, when writing fast passages or tremoli (including quarter tones), aren’t sure what combination of pitches is going to work. The clarinet is tricky in this regard, as there’s no simple way to explain it, and other than learning how to play the instrument yourself, you have no way of checking what works and what doesn’t.

Until now!

I’ve created for you a chart that demonstrates quite clearly (I hope) in three octaves the relationships between all the pitches, including quarter tones. You should be able to use the chart without any changes on Eb and A clarinets, but I’ll have to eventually make another one for bass clarinet. You can download the complete chart as a .pdf here. 

So let me explain the chart, which is transposed (in Bb)!

Each entry looks a little like this.



The first note in the system is the starting pitch. Every coloured pitch that follows the double bar line indicates the distance from the starting pitch.

Green = You can write a trill/tremolo between these pitches.

Yellow = The combination can be used in fast running passages, but not in trills.

Red = Avoid, do not write! (especially in the case of the D quarter flat in the second octave – this quarter tone has no viable fingering!)

Blue = These blue marks above some of the yellow and red pitches indicate special trill fingerings. Often these trill fingerings can not be used in running passages, but it means that even though you can’t write a D to an E quarter sharp in a running passage (as in the above example), you can use it as an isolated trill. You shouldn’t need to add the fingering to your score, these special fingerings are almost always a combination of the right hand trill keys, which most clarinetists should be able to figure out without any difficulty!

You’ll notice that there is no series starting from the D quarter flat on the fourth line. That’s because there is no viable fingering for this pitch and it should be avoided in all cases! I was thinking of drawing this every time the D quarter flat appeared, but thought that might be overkill (so to speak). But do try to keep it in mind:



A Collaborative History of the Clarinet: Weber / Baermann

Heinrich Baermann (1784-1847), trained at Potsdam, served in a military band, and after a tour that took him through England, France, Italy and Russia he arrived in Munich in 1811, widely famous. While there, it was arranged that Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), who was visiting Munich in the midst of a tour planned to establish his reputation (Spitta 2010) would present some concerts for the Court, and he engaged Baermann to help him; for the occaision he wrote his Concertino (1811) for clarinet. Its melodies refected the human voice and Baermann’s personality; Baermann’s ‘…bright genial character and sterling worth soon won the young Weber’s heart. Carl Maria, always ready with his sympathies, attached himself in the warmest friendship to this excellent fellow—a friendship which lasted through their lifetimes. In their communion as artists, or in long years of separation, never was this friendship weakened….’ (Max Maria von Weber, qtd. Weston 2002; 121) The Concertino was so well received that the King immediately commissioned two full-scale clarinet concertos (Warrack 1968).

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how to slap tongue

It took me an embarrassingly long time to learn to slap tongue. We’re talking about years here. Years of being plagued by the doubt that I’d never be able to do it, and hearing people say things like, “you’ll never have a career in new music if you can’t slap tongue” (which is these days probably true) and “some people can slap and some people can’t; maybe you just can’t” (which is absurd and never listen to someone who says something like this to you).

The only thing I could think to do was to comb the internet for advice and to ask every single person I met how they learned and how they think about it. Over time I picked up some great tips, and I think I’m pretty good at teaching others how to do it now. So I’m going to share the things that worked for me, as well as a few tips that I’m not entirely sure worked for me, but might help you. There’s quite a lot of text in this post, but I wanted to get as much of this down as possible, for any other desperate clarinetists who are soaking up all the internet has to offer on the subject, as I once did.

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A Collaborative History of the Clarinet: Spohr / Hermstedt

In 1808, Duke Günther Friedrich Karl I of Sondershausen commissioned a concerto for the director of his wind band, Johann Simon Hermstedt (1778-1846), to be written by Louis Spohr (1784-1859). He wrote of his reaction to the commission, and of his admiration for Hermstedt’s playing, in his Autobiography:

‘To this proposal I gladly assented, as from the immense execution, together with the brilliancy of tone, and purity of intonation possessed by Hermstedt, I felt at full liberty to give the reins to my fancy. After, that with Hermstedt’s assistance I had made myself somewhat acquainted with the technics of the instrument, I went zealously to work, and completed it in a few weeks. Thus originated the Concerto in E-minor, published a few years afterwards by Kühnel as the op. 26, with which Hermstedt achieved so much success in his artistic tours, that it may be afrmed he is chiefy indebted to that for his fame.’ (Spohr 1865/1969; 124)


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A Collaborative History of the Clarinet: Mozart / Stadler

Further to last week’s post on taking a historical approach to the sound of the clarinet, I’ve decided to put together a little series on the blog. Since I’m rather keen on clarinetist/composer collaborations, it would only be right to recognise the long, productive and rather awesome history of these relationships within the clarinet repertoire. So to start us off, the most famous of these relationships, that between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Anton Stadler. This is surely not the most comprehensive history you’ll find, but rather a short set of notes with lots of references to some of the great literature on the subject.


Mozart became familiar with the clarinet as early as 1764, through copying C.F. Abel’s Symphony op.7 no.6, but didn’t use them until 1771 in his Divertimento K113, composed in Milan. The parts for this are quite simple, suiting the technical abilities of the orchestral players of the time, who would have most likely had five-key instruments (Page 2010).

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how to improve your double tongue

Yes! double tonguing is possible on the clarinet, and yes! you can learn to use it with similar fluency with which you use your single tongue. I first mentioned double tonguing on this blog in this post on articulation, which was mostly aimed at composers, but today’s post is a how-to aimed specifically at clarinetists.

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… on writing Bb clarinet harmonics

As composers and clarinetists, one thing we know about the clarinet is that its distinctive sound comes in large part from the fact that it only has access to odd partials in the harmonic series. This is all very well and good, except that because the clarinet is completely out of tune with itself, as composers, you can’t actually use that information.

You can’t write harmonics of certain notes, or spectral multiphonics based on those harmonics, without knowing which partials are out of tune and in which direction they lead. And guess what? There aren’t any rules for this out-of-tuneness. So what you actually need is some charts and audio examples, and that’s where I come in.

For clarinetists: Practising harmonics is an invaluable way to increase the strength and flexibility of your embouchure. It’s also a great way to understanding how the instrument works, and where alternate fingerings in the high register come from. It also helps you to stretch your altissimo register, and for anyone interested in really learning how to play very very high, I would highly recommend getting yourself a copy of this book. He explains beautifully how to reach for various harmonics, but I’ll quickly share what has for me been his most useful advice: DO NOT BITE. Do note bite down in order to produce high notes. It will work, until a certain point, but it will also limit you, tire you out and cause you pain. It will also be very difficult for you to produce legato connections between different harmonics. The thing to focus on when practising going up and down the harmonics is to think about the relaxing and contracting of the vocal cords. It is these muscles that produce the correct level of airflow and tension in order to hit those harmonics!

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…on close dyad multiphonics for bass clarinet

A couple of weeks ago, I did a post on close dyad multiphonics for Bb clarinet, if you haven’t seen that post, you should definitely check it out.

With bass clarinet, the theory is basically the same, so I’ve included the same text from the earlier post. The information here is pretty important, so do familiarise yourself with the text before using these multiphonics. It’ll help you understand better what the performer has to do in order to produce them, and performers, there are some tips here on how to practise these.

One special thing to note with the bass clarinet ones, is that they are written in French notation (a 9th higher, using the treble clef). This is absolutely my preferred notation for all bass clarinet parts.

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