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. (To clarify: Moving back and forth at speed one will hear the failed connection, but in running passages, yellow pitches can be executed well enough that the listener won’t hear the difficulty.)

Red = Avoid these connections if you can. Many can be connected well at slow tempi, quite a lot of them are risky. Do not under any circumstances write tremoli. (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 (in tune!) (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, but if they don’t have an option and tell you it isn’t possible, you can refer them to the chart which hopefully will help clarify things.

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:


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

  1. Pingback: Index / Table of Contents (scroll down for recent blogposts) | heather roche

  2. Thanks for the work, very thorough!

    I am working on this project:
    which involves placing microphones on each of the holes in the clarinet to listen to the sound distribution. Particularly interesting are passages where two notes with a very similar pitch but with very different air distribution are played as a trill. The problem is that notes with very different air distribution often have a very different fingering which makes it difficult to trill.
    If this is something that would interest you to research, feel free to get in touch.

    Eduardo Moguillansky

  3. Jason Alder says:

    Hey Heather, my updated clarinet quarter-tone fingering chart has a D quarter-flat fingering. It’s still awkward for a lot of tremoli, but some you can get away with. And in any case, an in-tune fingering for the note! I’m still a bit confused about your color-coding though… You say red means under no circumstances should you trill, but then if there’s a blue fingering, it’s a usable trill fingering? I guess I’m not seeing why D to E-quarter sharp is a problem?–Jason_Alder.pdf

    • heatherroche says:

      Hey Jason,
      Sorry I’m trying to clear up the red, as yes, a lot of them work if you cheat somehow (generally with regards to intonation). Speaking of cheating, that quarter tone fingering is totally a cheater! It’s not in tune, at least not on the instruments I play.

    • heatherroche says:

      Are you sharing your chart in public btw? I could link to it here if you like!

  4. Stefan Beyer says:

    Hey Heather,

    Thank you for researching and sharing that impressive chart! Would those information also apply to A clarinets?


  5. Trey says:

    this chart is transposed correct? i’m a bit confused. i’ve always been told to avoid the Bb-B break like the plague. your chart seems to not address it at all, and seems like its no problem. also, just the general leaps that you’re saying are easy. from a G 2 ledger lines below the staff, to an E 3 ledger lines above. saying that a player can quickly play fast running passage between these 2 notes seems unbelievable. i love the chart and would love to use it, just think i might need some clarification on these points. thanks so much.

    • heatherroche says:

      Hi Trey,
      If you’re writing for a 16 year old clarinetist, yes you should avoid the break — but any professional will be able to handle it no problem, and the trill keys make it possible to trill over this connection.

      • Trey says:

        Thanks so much. That makes sense. Thanks for this chart, very helpful indeed.

  6. Javier Bellaco says:

    Hi Heather, why does the chart begins in G and not the lowest possible note?


    • heatherroche says:

      Hi Javier, just because that’s where the quarter tones start – I suppose I should have gone below for the other pitches actually, yes, I’m not sure why I did that…kind of silly

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