20 Easy Bass Clarinet Multiphonics

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After the run-away success of 27 Easy Clarinet Multiphonics, it was only a matter of time before I got around to writing its sister bass clarinet post. Once again I conducted a survey of bass clarinet players to discover the multiphonics that work most easily. I had 21 respondents (fewer than the 36 who responded to the first survey, but this makes sense, fewer bass clarinet players out there), who played through 40 multiphonics that I consider easy, and 2 that I consider difficult.

The breakdown of participation looked something like this:

Screenshot 2020-01-15 at 15.34.14

This worked out a little bit different from the previous post, there was a much higher percentage of respondents who identified as new music specialists. This makes sense: these are the players more likely to own professional bass clarinets and to play them regularly.

I also tracked what instrument the respondents played, which looked like this:

Screenshot 2020-01-15 at 15.38.41.png

Most of the respondents were Selmer players. Interesting, mostly because I am not a Selmer player. The results (perhaps as a result of how different different bass clarinet models are from each other) were much more spread out. There were no multiphonics that 90% of players found totally easy across the board.

However, there were plenty of 80%-ers, so what I’m going to do is present a table with the 80%-ers and one with the 60%-ers. These should be fairly reliable, and I hope the chart proves useful to composers (and perhaps to bass clarinet players just getting started with these effects!).

Much thanks goes to the 21 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!). I foolishly only collected e-e-mail addresses and not names, so I have to guess a bit here. With links to their websites, and in no particular order, thanks goes to Jason Alder, Tom WardBret Pimentel, Ethan LaRoux, Alex Ward, Katherine Browning Gregory Oakes, Karlo Margetic, Paul Roe, Paul Evernden, Sarah Watts, Eileen Mack, Yoni Silver, Andrew Sparling, Jack Liang, etc..(If you think you’re missing off this list, let me know.)

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 flagged up a couple of these as not having the right pitches – I’ve double checked and edited where the error was mine, but in a few cases the model of clarinet does seem to make a difference, to the degree of at most a whole tone.

Right, on to the charts.

The very easy multiphonics (over 80%):

# Pitch/Fingering Audio Video Explanation
300 300
301 301
302 302
303 303
305 305
306 306
309 309
310 310

The reasonably easy multiphonics (over 60%):


# Pitch/Fingering Audio
5 5
19 19
41 41
58 58
59 59
73 73
131 131
256 256
307 307
308 308
311 311


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2 Responses to 20 Easy Bass Clarinet Multiphonics

  1. Yaar says:

    Hi Heather, what an amazing blog! small question- what does the arrows mean in the pitch indications? much thanks for all of this (:

    • heatherroche says:

      I think technically it means raised by an 8th tone – but practically it just means a little bit higher or lower, but not as much as a 1/4 tone :)

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