27 Easy Bb Clarinet Multiphonics

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Two months ago, I decided I wanted to do a post on easy Bb clarinet multiphonics. I wanted to compile a list that composers felt they could use without worrying about whether the clarinetist would be able to execute them. I knew I couldn’t possibly do this alone, so I created a survey: 36 clarinetists from various musical backgrounds took part, and played through 44 different multiphonics (40 that I myself consider to be easy, and 4 that I consider hard – my “control” sample, if you will). These multiphonics were taken from my own home-made database, which has a total of 208 multiphonics. And from our experiment, 27 multiphonics have made the final cut: the easiest of the easy.

Update: I am slowly making videos to explain the further possibilities of every one of these easy multiphonics – please check out the “video explanation” column, and follow my channel on YouTube for more of this content. (WordPress won’t let me embed into a Table for whatever reason unfortunately.)

Twenty-seven multiphonics composers can use without worrying about whether they can be produced or not!

The breakdown of participation looked something like this:

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 17.10.27

For each multiphonic, the clarinetist would have to mark their ease of play on a score out of 5:

1 – Very easy. Can more or less play straight away, speaks well with pitches mostly balanced.

2. Easy. Took a few tries, but can get a consistent result now.

3. Takes a few tries, and this speaks at least 50 percent of the time when I try to play it.

4. Difficult. Doesn’t speak easily.

5. Can’t get this multiphonic to speak at all.

The response from an exceptionally easy multiphonic would look something like this:

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 17.14.03

with over 70% of respondents listing that multiphonic as “Very easy”, and another 16% as “Easy”. I’ll present this chart in terms of three categories of easy multiphonics: those that achieved a score of over 90%, those over 80% and those over 60%.

Interestingly, the 4 hard multiphonics I put in weren’t hard for everyone – but the results ended up being a lot more scattered, like for multiphonic #105:

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 17.17.23.png

Much thanks goes to the 36 clarinetists who kindly took the time to fill out the form and play through a rather large number of multiphonics (some of my favourite players are on this list — if this list, composers, doesn’t leave you feeling excited about new music for clarinet and all those who are dedicated to it, nothing will!). With links to their websites, and in no particular order, thanks goes to Andy Mellor, Jena Nahnsen, Jason Alder, Markus Wenninger, Alastair Penman, Tom Ward, Michael Perrett, Alexander Wravitz, Melissa Goodchild, David Ciucevich, Elizabeth Millar, Bret Pimentel, Ethan LaRoux, Alex Ward, Matthew Jansen, Gregory Oakes, Vicki Hallett, Shawn Earle, Karlo Margetic, Paul Roe, Nelson Malleus, Caleb Rose, Rane Moore, Laurence Scott, Jack Liang, Patrick Englert, and Natasha Chong. (If you think you’re missing off this list, let me know – if you didn’t put your full name on the chart, I didn’t list it!)

Quite a few of the respondents also offered some great advice in their comments:

  • If you’re having a hard time producing one, it could be worth trying a different reed.
  • Another tip is to first play the top and bottom pitches of each multiphonic, so that you have a clear sense of the sound you’re aiming to produce
  • Using multiphonics is a great way to teach young players breath support, embouchure and oral cavity shaping (and these 27 will hopefully be a great place to start!).

A few people have flagged the question of clarinet make, and whether you play a Buffet, Selmer, or Leblanc will make a difference. I — perhaps foolishly — didn’t collect any data on this. Make probably does make a difference, but I suspect not in the case of the multiphonics I’m publishing today, since the success rate for different players was in general fairly high. (Obviously these are all intended for Boehm-system clarinets, as is everything on my website.) Perhaps this is a good area for future research!

A few people flagged up a couple of these as not having the right pitches – thanks to those that took the time to do this, as I’ve fixed the three here that were just a result of my own errors.

Right, on to the charts.

The super easy multiphonics (over 90%):

# Pitch/Fingering Audio Video Explanation
92 easy 92
153 easy 153
173 easy 92

The very easy multiphonics (over 80%):

# Pitch/Fingering Audio Video Explanation
12 easy 12
28 easy 92
94 easy 92
111 easy 92
115 easy 92
145 easy 92
203 easy 92
205 easy 92
226 easy 92

The easy multiphonics (over 60%):

# Pitch/Fingering Audio Video Explanation
13 easy 92
24 easy 92
29 easy 92
53 easy 92
77 easy 92
78 easy 92
82 easy 92
84 easy 84
99 easy 92
121 easy 92
139 easy 92
147 easy 92
194 easy 194
202 easy 92
204 easy 92
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12 Responses to 27 Easy Bb Clarinet Multiphonics

  1. Pingback: Favorite blog posts, September 2018 | Bret Pimentel, woodwinds

  2. Hi, composer working on a piece atm here! I didn’t see anything in the article about how to interpret these. When the note is in parentheses is that a sung note? Are these written in transposition or concert pitch? If this could be clarified I’d greatly appreciate it! I’d love to play with a couple of these but need to know what I’m looking at exactly! :)

    • heatherroche says:

      Everything on my blog is always transposed, always always! Sorry I didn’t put that on this post, but it’s on most of them, so I usually catch most people :) Notes in parantheses are pitches you (or at least I) can hear but can’t be isolated.

    • heatherroche says:

      The audio files should make it pretty clear there’s no singing and playing (as that sounds very different, see my post on singing and playing)

  3. Thanks for this. Very useful.

    Edgar Williams, composer

  4. Clarinettist turned saxophonist turned composer here: thanks for doing this work and making it public! I wish there was documentation for all instruments to the extent there is with Kientzy for the saxophones (although Kientzy isn’t as careful about classifying them by ease of production and I don’t find all of his fingerings equally reliable. Having the audio examples here is also very helpful, as you can’t always predict the timbre from the pitch content.

  5. Pingback: Neue Musik - erweiterte Spieltechnik im Instrumentalunterricht!

  6. Rael Jones says:

    Great blog post – thanks

  7. Afonso Serro says:

    Hi, thank you so much, these charts are very very interesting. I am a composer currently looking for clarinet multiphonics, as I am new to this, Im having a hard time figuring out which note is actually being fingered, im guessing the bottom note? As the fingering tab shows most of the holes being closed. May I suggest making the fingered note with a diamond shaped note head? Also as Edgar put it, it took me a while figuring out that the notes are transposed. thank you again!

    • heatherroche says:

      You need to supply the actual fingering chart – that does represent the fingered notes, but just giving the fundamental will not work for these multiphonics!

  8. Andres Madiel says:

    Why there are some notes between parenthesis? Are they like optional sounds that can be executed too with certain air pressure?

    • heatherroche says:

      Hi Andres, those are pitches which I found quite obvious to hear but could NOT isolate! The pitches outside brackets are more easily to execute without the multiphonic (but this also is a bit different from multi to multi, what is possible)

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