Super Fragile, Quiet, Slow-Moving Half-Hole Multiphonics for Bass Clarinet

It’s been a while, but, inspired by a conversation with composer Haukur Þór Harðarson yesterday I found 10 gorgeous, very soft, and fragile bass clarinet multiphonics that you can manipulate by slowly moving back and forth between a covered and half-hole position. These are not trills! They are gorgeous, subtle, slow-moving shifts. The pitches barely change, so I’ve only notated the starting position – and as ever, these are in written (not sounding) pitches. They’re a little airy, I think finding the position just requires a certain way of playing that makes getting a pure sound difficult.

The half-holing is always done with the left-hand index finger – the key itself has a little hole in it that’s usually covered (unless the player is playing in the altissimo register), so all the clarinetist will do is slide their finger down and back again.

Number 9 is quite interesting because I found there were two different positions with two different high notes – a G# and an F – with quite different results. Numbers 1 and 3 also have quite clear low pitches coming in, the other ones not as much. Numbers 5-7 are almost identical in terms of pitch, but the colour changes between them in such a nice way, I had to include all three.

Get your headphones out, these multiphonics are quiet, and they can only be played quietly. So either amplify them or use them in extremely quiet music.

Top tip: you also might notice that they all use the register key—whatever your clarinet, in general, this is always going to mean a more fragile multiphonic.

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