…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:

The first type is a little easier to explain quickly, and the possibilities for using it (especially on the Bb clarinet – on the bass since the holes are more or less covered this technique could be used much more widely) are somewhat limited. Here’s a diagram of the most convenient pitch possibilities (in Bb!). Of course the notation here looks like normal trill notation – so just be sure to write ‘double trill’ above the measure, or to come up with some other way to make it clear that this should be a rapid double trill! onekeydoublesAnd here is what they sound like, in the above order:

The second type I mentioned above is best served by loads of good examples, notated for your convenience. This list is by no means complete. It was quite a bit of work compiling what I did do, and unfortunately I don’t have a snazzy research fellowship to work on things like this (hint hint? please?), so what you get is what’s hopefully a fairly useful list of possibilities, which any clarinetist will be able to perform. I’ve printed the notation and recorded each run, and you can download the entire chart as a .pdf here.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that my shorthand for the fingerings used is a little weird. You, as a clever composer, could probably find a better way to do this, but if you don’t, you’ll need to include this fingering chart in order that the clarinetist understand what my shorthand means:

doubletrillfingeringJust let me make this clear. You either need to include fingering diagrams for each of the changes (so each double trill will have at least two fingering diagrams), or you can use my shorthand but you then MUST include the above diagram in your instructions. If you make a black and white version, please make sure the lines are clear (though most clarinetists should figure it out without problems). Finally on to the chart, each line is followed by an audio clip where I play through the notated example in order.

A quick word about the first three examples and the dyad multiphonics (some of the combinations are multiphonic fingerings resulting in chords). You’re going to be able to hear them, but not all of them all of the time, there’s always just the suggestion of the dyad (the top notes are almost identical with these, so you’ll mostly hear that popping out). These are a little tricky to do, so you should also hear a slight awkwardness when I’m playing them, especially for the ones that start on F’# – the dyads here are particularly tough to bring out!


















As I’ve said before, this post hasn’t aimed to be comprehensive, but to just give you some tools to get started with. You could add a lot of different effects to these double trills, like singing and playing or flutter tongue. Most of them could also be overblown, giving a wild (as in, not easy to control!) multiphonic effect. Hope you enjoy and as usual feel free to comment or email with questions!

This entry was posted in clarinet techniques, double trills, dyads, multiphonic, on composing for the clarinet, performance, trill, trills and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to …on double trills for Bb clarinet

  1. Hi Heather ! Congratulation ! Great job ! Very useful and a very clear presentation. Just a remark : on my computer, the soundfiles are very low, I’m hardly able to hear any sound, especially for the low pitches examples. And a question : is the same technic possible on the bass clarinet ? Thanks a lot for your blog.

    • heatherroche says:

      Nicholas, Thanks!
      I don’t really have that problem but I always have my laptop plugged in with good headphones or sometimes speakers, have you tried that?

      The technique is definitely possible, and most of these examples should work similarly, though sometimes the mechanics of the instrument will get in the way (so I’d be careful with the low ones, especially if the middle finger key is in use).

  2. Pingback: Index / Table of Contents | heather roche

  3. Pingback: …on close dyad multiphonics for Bb clarinet | heather roche

  4. Pingback: …on close dyad multiphonics for bass clarinet | heather roche

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