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Dear composers – when I started this blog I had just finished my PhD, and had lots of free time to work on the blog and answer your questions, as I was just starting to find my way in freelance new music playing. Now, unfortunately, it’s getting difficult. I receive many e-mails from composers with scores and questions every week, and while answering them is a great pleasure for me, I no longer have the time to keep up with them. If you don’t get a response to your e-mail, please understand, it’s better if I spend the time working on new posts (or, you know, practising ;). I’m very sorry about this, but I wish you all much luck and fun with your clarinet writing!

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

Table of Contents

The Basics:

On multiphonics:

Special Techniques: 

Specifically for Clarinetists:

On Repertoire:

…on a historical approach to the sound of the clarinet

 Other Popular Posts:

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Plastic tube scordatura

As you may have gleaned from recent posts, I’m part of an AHRC-funded research project at the University of Leeds this year with Scott McLaughlin, called the Garden of Forking Paths. Scott and I have been toying with the idea of playing with different barrel lengths, to see what kind of multiphonics might come out of it – this month we’ve been experimenting with a kind of “budget” version, using a bit of plastic tubing (an idea I had from working with William Kuo, who is a big fan of a bit of plastic tubing).

So, by extending the clarinet at the top, the proportions of the instrument are warped, and so the resulting scale isn’t simply transposed down, but stretched out. I made the tube as long as possible without losing use of the register key, but reaching into the altissimo is so-far impossible (maybe this would improve with practice? do I want to spend the time trying to find out? I don’t know?).

But the multiphonics are fantastic. I think so, anyway. They are brash and complex, and you can adjust the beating in a lot of them by moving the “barrel” around.

I wonder if this would be a really effective way to write microtones for less experienced clarinet players? Because learning the quarter tone fingerings is very time consuming, especially if you’re not going to make playing new music a daily thing.

I’d just like to know what you think! Is this something you could imagine using?

So the pipe that I use is 18mm in diameter and 16cm in length – and is inserted in place of the barrel, as shown:



All of the pitches are transposed into Bb here – the first line is the fingered pitch, and the second the resulting pitches. You’ll need to show both lines in your score when you write with this.


And it sounds like this:

Or alternatively, a bit of silliness with it on Instagram:

And then I have 10 good multiphonics for you. There are definitely more, I could probably spend a few happy hours coming up with another 30-50, but these were some of my favourites. Hope you enjoy them!

# Pitches Fingering Audio
1 multiphonic1p multiphonic1
2 multiphonic2p multiphonic2
3 multiphonic3p multiphonic3
4 multiphonic4p multiphonic4
5 multiphonic5p multiphonic5
6 multiphonic6p multiphonic6
7 multiphonic7p multiphonic7
8 multiphonic8p multiphonic8
9 multiphonic9p multiphonic9
10 multiphonic10p multiphonic10
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Underblown Bb Clarinet Multiphonics

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Posted in performance

Dyad Multiphonics for Bb Clarinet Part II – a second look at Philip Rehfeldt’s chart

When Philip Rehfeldt wrote his seminal New Directions for Clarinet in 1976, he included a number of multiphonic charts for both Bb and Bass clarinets. These charts aren’t bad, although quite regularly I don’t get the same pitches he does, and I always found his categorisation system a little odd. (The bass clarinet multiphonics in these charts are actually more problematic, and I wouldn’t advise using them!)

Recently, as part of the AHRC-funded project, The Garden of Forking Paths, which I’m consulting on for the next 15 months, Scott McLaughlin and I decided to spend a few hours trying to see if we could reorganise Rehfeldt’s Bb clarinet multiphonics in a way that made more sense for us. Instead of his six categories (which are based on a mix of dynamic possibilities and function, which I found inconsistent), we came up with four, which accurately describe the function of each multiphonic. (He wrote a nice blogpost that sums up our first session, which you can check out here if you’re interested!)

I wanted to show you the 29 multiphonics from his chart (many of which have appeared on this blog before) that we put in the category of “dyad multiphonics with spectral aspects”. I’ll talk about our three other categories in future blog posts.

I think one of the things I’ve struggled with is talking about multiphonics that have multiple attributes: but they all do. And the colour of the multiphonic, depending on which pitch is highlighted by the player, can change a lot. All of these multiphonics create “close” dyads (within a 10th) and also have further spectral possibilities, which you can move between. Rehfeldt struggled with this too: he writes that once you’ve achieved an embouchure position for a multiphonic, you don’t move. But I disagree. Being flexible about which pitches you can bring out allows for a lot more possibilities – and practising these gives the player a lot of control.

A lot of the same multiphonics appear in my post on dyad multiphonics for Bb clarinet. This is very much an extension of that post,  but if you’re interested in writing these sounds, I definitely suggest using both!

A lot of these multiphonics are quite difficult, and do require the clarinetist has some prior experience with multiphonics. None of them are on my Easy Multiphonics post, so do be aware of that if you’re writing for inexperienced players.

Within the pitch charts, please don’t forget that the bottom pitch (fundamental) will remain, and then you can choose between the upper pitches, they don’t sound all at once, these are not complex multiphonics. Choose the upper pitch that you want for each instance of that multiphonic, you can not have them all at once.

In the audio files, I’ve tried to show how easy it is (or not) to make each one sound as a chord, and also to show how you can move between them. I’ve also actually organised the multiphonics by pitch, for the first time ever, thanks to Scott having cut out all of Rehfeldt’s multiphonics for me to play with, Top Trumps style:

Pitches Fingering Sound Notes?
3-03 3-03f
3-01 3-01f
3-02 3-02f
3-04 3-04f
3-05 3-05f
3-06 3-06f
3-07 3-07f This one is really rather fragile in the high register (have a listen to the recording)
3-08 3-08f Stubborn in the low register and fragile up high – use with caution.
3-09 3-09f
3-10 3-10f
3-11 3-11f
3-12 3-12f
3-13 3-13f
3-14 3-14f
3-15 3-15f
3-16 3-16f
3-17 3-17f Debatable whether this is really a dyad or whether I’m doing an “ultra-underblow” – which I’ll discuss in a future post!
3-18 3-18
3-19 3-19f
3-20 3-20f
3-21 3-21f
3-22 3-22f
3-23 3-23f
3-24 3-24f Quite stubborn
3-25 3-25f Can get quite a strong loud one with the A (listen to the recording)
3-26 3-26f Can be difficult to place but sounds great when you find it (as you’ll hear!)
3-27 3-27f VERY stubborn dyad with the E.
3-28 3-28
3-29 3-29f


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Emergent Bb Clarinet Multiphonics: Part 1 – Overblowing

I think it’s useful, if you’re a composer, to make use of the fragile qualities of multiphonics. Some of them don’t that well as chords that sound together, but as a composer you can take advantage of this, and make use of these emergent multiphonics. This simultaneously has the added bonus of making your clarinetist look like they know what they’re doing: one pitch gracefully becomes two or three, rather than a chaotic huffing-and-puffing desperation to have the two pitches sound together.

I wanted to come up with a nice list of some multiphonics that do this effectively, and to find ones that start on as many pitches as possible. I’m going to ignore pitches below B3 (because you need to use spectral multiphonics for those, that’s your only option) and this first part covers the pitches up to and including B4. This list will by no means be conclusive, the vast majority of multiphonics have some ability to do this, it’s really just a sample. I’ve also tried to pick ones that do this quite easily, but if you’re just looking for easy multiphonics, check this out. 

A few things: the starting pitch can be held as long as is reasonable for breathing, but I’ve only held them for a second or so in the recordings. The top notes can be quite fragile – the higher the top note, the more fragile it tends to be. Listen to the recordings: they should make the colour of the sound obvious.

Some of these multiphonic fingerings can produce multiple second pitches, so I’ve included them wherever possible. Recordings should add further clarity.

This post is a kind of extended variation of stuff I wrote about for The Sampler a few years ago.

As usual these are written pitches, not sounding! And I recommend a pair of headphones, or the bottom pitches, particularly in the lower registers, can be difficult to hear.

Pitch Option 1 Fingering Option 2 Fingering Recording
bquartersharp139 139 bquartersharp158 153
c90 90 c161 139
cqsharp242 139
dquarterflat182 182
d284 284 d154 139
dqsharp166 166
dsharp215 215 dsharp184 184
equarterflat138 139 equarterflat95 139
e247 efixed e174 efixed2.gif
equartersharp258 139 equartersharp194 194
f283 283 f63 63
fsharp237 139 fsharp287 287
fsharp195 195
gquarterflat238 238 gquarterflat249 249
gquartersharp149 149 gquartersharp185 185
gsharp286 286 gsharp199 139
aquarterflat190 139 aquarterflat88 88
a57 a129 139
aquartersharp151 139
asharp125 139 asharp198 139
bquarterflat221 139
b126 126 b106 106
bquartersharplast1 139 bquartersharplast2 139
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Study with me at Goldsmiths University, London

Sometimes clarinetists ask me where I’m teaching, and I just wanted to write a quick blog post to let you know that you can now come and study with me at Goldsmiths.

Based in the heart of vibrant south-east London, Goldsmiths offers a number of fantastic programmes for music performance students, led by staff including Pete Furniss and Mira Benjamin (both of them incredible performers and pedagogues!).

For Masters students, for example, there are two interesting pathways, either in performance or in creative practice (links are directly to the Goldsmiths website). The programme covers a broad spectrum of musics from classical, to experimental, jazz, popular music, generative and electronic musics, etc.

Practice-led PhDs are also an option!

If you’re at all interested, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, or with the department itself: you are more than welcome to contact Pete directly at P.Furniss(at)

I also live locally and love this area of London, so I’m happy to give you an idea of what it’s like to live here if you’re thinking of coming from abroad. Goldsmiths is in zone 2 – which means you can be in the centre of London in 20 minutes. But the area has it’s own vibrancy, full as it is with nice pubs, good cinemas, a few great venues, etc.


Screenshot 2019-02-14 at 11.06.11Screenshot 2019-02-14 at 11.08.18

(Have more or less just nicked these photos from around the Internet of the area, so don’t know who they belong to – except the last one (which is of a sunset from the top of Telegraph Hill, just around the corner from the university), which is by Sam Walton).

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