heather roche

…on isolating the lower joint (Bb/Eb)

Today’s relatively short post highlights a fun and easy to produce effect. By placing the mouthpiece inside the lower joint of the Bb or Eb clarinet, one has easy access to a completely different sound quality.

 

This should work with most setups. I do remember during my undergrad I had a mouthpiece that just didn’t fit into the lower joint, but unfortunately I can’t remember what model that was. At any rate, my Vandoren C4 fits (as do the B40 and M15 I used to play on), so in the worst case scenario, your clarinetist will just need to have a second mouthpiece on hand in order to execute the technique.

 

Keep in mind that it will take a little time to make the switch the mouthpiece to the lower joint. If you want to speed that process, I would suggest something like keeping the Eb part exclusively on the lower joint, so only clarinets need to be switched, rather than a change in setup, if that makes sense.

So first, here is the pitch material for Bb and Eb clarinets (all pitches are notated in Bb and Eb, respectively!!):

 

 

When notating these, the most important thing is to make sure the clarinetist has the fingerings. Providing them with multiple staves and both lines, so that he or she can work out intonation more easily, but notating the fingering is absolutely necessary.

And here’s what it sounds like, first on Bb (here I do a chromatic scale down and up, then a quarter tone scale):

And the same on Eb:

All the usual effects (slap tongues, flutter, etc.) will work here, plus if you cover all the holes (a fingered low E), you can do a nice wa-wa effect by either waving the left hand in front of the bell or inserting the hand into it, which sounds like this:

I was thinking I should try to play around and see if I can’t find a few multiphonics with this setup, I’m not sure how viable that is. So if anyone is really genuinely interested, can you let me know?

And one other thing: yes, if you put another mouthpiece on the upper joint, you can play the upper and lower joints simultaneously. It works reasonably well, but I find it extremely uncomfortable to have two mouthpieces in my mouth simultaneously. It’s also very draining in terms of endurance. Pieces have been written using this technique (William O. Smith has written a few I think), but I would really find it impossible to include a piece like that on a full solo programme, since it would just tire me out way too much.