upper joint stopped air technique

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This technique, which follows in the footsteps of two posts, namely that on air noises and the one about playing with only the lower joint, is further dedicated with many thanks to the fantastic composer Johan Svensson, who introduced me to this technique earlier this year.

In this technique, we are isolating the upper joint of either the Bb or Bass clarinets, and stopping the bottom end of the joint with the right hand as in the following photographs:

By blowing into the clarinet (either with or without the mouthpiece), we can create a high pressure situation, which when relieved by opening one of the available keys, creates a short and accented blast of white noise. It’s not all that loud, alas, so this is still no way to keep up with flute air noises (cue me, shaking my fist at the heavens), but I think it sounds great. Not only that, but when we allow ourselves some pitch (with the mouthpiece on, of course), then we have some nice opportunities to play with multiphonics…

For a little introduction to the technique, here’s a short video clip:

A few things to watch out for:

  • Volume: As I said, this isn’t loud, and within any kind of ensemble context you’re going to want to be careful.
  • Clarinet changes: It’ll take longer to prepare this technique than to switch clarinets, you need to give the clarinetist adequate time to carefully remove the lower joint and set it aside. I’d make sure they have a good ten seconds to do this.
  • Pain: Especially with the bass clarinet, I noticed that my right wrist got sore in the time that it took to record the examples for this post. I’d guess that using this technique exclusively for a long solo piece might be a bit tough on the player

So the first sounds examples I want to share with you are with the mouthpiece (and in the case of the Bb clarinet, the barrel as well) removed.

Without the mouthpiece

First, Bb clarinet examples. In each audio file I follow the following fingering pattern:

01 c sharp02 c03 d04 index05 g sharp06 a07 register

First, just air: 

With flutter: 

Alla tromba: 

And just air with tongue ram to end the sound (examples are of random pitches, but they all work): 

And now the same with the bass clarinet. Keep in mind that the air moves more quickly through the instrument, the clarinetist will need to breathe more often. (I think you can hear me taking a breath in the middle of the examples.) The pattern of fingerings is as follows:

01 c sharp02 c04 index05 g sharp06 a07 register

Just air: 


Alla tromba: 

And some tongue ram ending examples: 

With the mouthpiece

For this section I’ll use a table to keep things organised. You’ll notice that there’s one fingering possibility that can’t be used on the bass clarinet, due to the mechanism. The register key examples both have some fantastic fuzzy octave multiphonics attached to them, which are worth a listen. They are, however, not as easy to produce as the other multiphonics here, so I’d avoid direct attacks and give them some time to sound. You’ll also notice with the register key that there’s a high air content component to the sound. This is just a natural product of using that key in this way. I can’t do anything to alter it!

Fingering Pitches Bb Bb Pitches Bass Bass
01 c sharp Bb - Csharp     bass - c sharp  
 02 c  Bb - C    Bass - C
 03 d  Bb - d  
 04 index  Bb - index    Bass - index  
 05 g sharp  Bb - Gsharp    bass - G sharp  
 06 a Bb - A  Bass - A  
07 register  Bb - Register Bass - register
 08 thumb Bb - thumb  bass - thumb  


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1 Response to upper joint stopped air technique

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

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