multiphonic monday – pitch bending multiphonics (Bb clarinet)

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First, a couple of general rules for pitch bending on multiphonics:

* The highest audible pitch is the one being bent, and the pitch is always bend downwards, never up.
* Bending a multiphonic often has an effect on its fragility, surprisingly this means increasing its stability in some cases.
* They don’t always work the first time, so clarinetists should try to practise them a little.
* Bending multiphonics sometimes creates different beating patterns which can be controlled (with practice).
* Not every multiphonic can be bent, some are completely destabilised by bending and break (meaning only one pitch will be heard). I’m only including some examples here. Ask the clarinetist you’re working with to help you come up with others if you are using different pitch material. (If this post ends up being popular then I’ll add some more examples down the line!)

As usual these days, fingering diagrams from Bret Pimintel‘s awesome site, and pitch diagrams handdrawn by the lovely Elena Rykova. The following are meant to serve examples, I’ve included audio of the multiphonic alone and with pitch bending, plus some information about each example.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 187  187    

Let’s start with one of the most stable examples. Here is a multiphonic in which the upper note can be lowered without any sacrificing of stability. The quality of sound also remains fairly consistent. I’ve made two takes, first at the easiest dynamic level (mf – f) and then a second at what was for me, the softest possible dynamic.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 59  59  

This multiphonic starts with an extremely high rate of vibrations. As I lower the higher pitch, the rate of vibrating stays relatively stable, only slowing slightly, so that an effect of continuous buzzing continues. In a second take, I bend too far, breaking the multiphonic, and only the fundamental remains. And in the third take, I demonstrate what happens when playing this multiphonic at an unstable dynamic range, namely, a quiet one. The effect is still present, but extremely fragile.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 184  184    

Here is a classic example of a multiphonic that begins in a relatively stable state of purity, and as I bend downwards, the vibrations increase, eventually creating a buzzing effect. I’ve made two takes at different speeds of bending. (Perhaps you can hear this, but it seems to me that it’s more difficult to bend back upwards without things becoming a bit destabilised.)

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 90  90    
 190 190    

These multiphonics begin at a lower dynamic level, very wide intervals and as such, quite fragile. In the first take, I lower the pitch, introducing the vibrating effect until it becomes quite a stable buzzing. In the second, I’ve attempted to do this faster.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 96  96    

This multiphonic produces a very unusual effect when bent at a mf dynamic. It is not the most stable multiphonic to begin with, but when bent downwards, this instability is accentuated. It was impossible for me to maintain a consistent tone, so this ‘skipping’ effect is produced.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
 174 174     

Much like the previous example, the fragility of this multiphonic is highlighted through the bending of the upper note. This time, however, the multiphonic tends to buzz as it reaches the bottom of its bend. Another unique effect.

Pitches (pre-bend) Fingering Audio (without bend) Audio (bend)
197 197  

It’s quite rare that a multiphonic with a close interval (within an octave and tagged as ‘dyads’ in the app) can be bent in this way. I argue that this is due to the fact that in order to produce these effects, the throat position is already quite open, not dissimilar to the way it is when pitch bending. Still, occasionally this remains a possibility, though the effect is fragile and the bend is rather small.

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5 Responses to multiphonic monday – pitch bending multiphonics (Bb clarinet)

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

  2. Christina says:

    Hello Heather!
    Thank you so much for your posts! I find them incredibly useful!
    One question, you might have already mentioned it but I cannot be sure at the moment, the pitch diagrams are the written or sounding pitches? I would be grateful if you could let me know!
    All best,

  3. Onur Dülger says:

    Dear Heather,

    I really appreciate your work, effort and time you spend to make this blog. It is absolutely great. I would like to ask you something about multiphonics. If you could have time to answer, I would be very happy.

    I am writing a piece which includes Bb bass clarinet. I am using lots of multiphonics combined also with some other effects. I am interested to learn two things: first is concerned with this post. Do you have a hint for Bass Clarinet multiphonics that which multiphonics are bendable? Is there a list or a book?

    Which book do you recommend for the list of multiphonics? Actually it would be great to have a post with a list of multiphonics (with fingerings) which are bendable, which can be trilled etc, just like your dyads. They are great but I think it would be also incredible if there would be something like that also for the fingered multiphonics for Bass and soprano clarinet.

    The second question is concerned with the book of Henri Bok and Rehfeldt Philip. They make me a bit confused. Henri Bok, in his list with multiphonics, begins with a lower A flat 3 (with 2 leger lines below the treble key), but it has a 8va basso under it. As far as I know it is lower than the range of the instrument. It is also mentioned that the notation is in the french system which means that it sounds major 9th lower than written. In this case what does this lower A flat 8va basso mean? On the other hand Rehfeldt Philip has in his first category of multiphonics an 8va for the upper pitches, which sounds I guess an octave higher than Bok’s multiphonics. Well, I am aware that they are different multiphonics and different books, but I don’t know if I can just take from either books which multiphonic I need. Is there a mistake or do I somehow do not understand them properly.
    Thank you so much in advance for your response
    Best wishes and nice greetings,

    • heatherroche says:

      Hi Onur,

      Well, to be honest, I would avoid Henri Bok’s book. There are a lot of transposition errors and the like in it, I find it very unreliable. For bass clarinet I prefer Harry Sparnaay’s book. And Rehfeldt for Bb clarinet.

      I actually have a big list with all of this information ready to go and have wanted to make a kind of app for multiphonics for some years, but have a hard time finding the right programmer (am on the fourth one now and still it’s not working out).

      I’m sorry that’s not much of a help to you now, but if you decide which multiphonics you’re interested in and send me a list, I could have a look to see which can be bent at least (time allowing of course!). Ideally you could ask the clarinetist you’re writing for?



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