Altissimo Quarter Tone Studies

One for the bass clarinet players today…

I was working on writing up some short exercises to help with working on the altissimo, particularly quarter tones, and thought that actually these might be useful for any advanced bass clarinet students who want to work on them. These studies are definitely meant for advanced bass clarinet students/players, but perhaps also useful to those just starting to learn to double in terms of seeing what’s possible.

They do, however, assume a certain amount of quarter tone knowledge. If you’re struggling, I highly recommend checking out Jason Alder’s quarter tone bass clarinet chart.

I’ve scribbled in fingerings here for a lot of the pitches you might need, just to make your job a little bit easier while learning these. I personally find it hard to get these fingerings to stick in my head, and needed to come up with some studies to help me work on them.

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If you end up using these, I’d love to have some feedback: I’m definitely keen to write some more of these if they’re useful for you, and positive and negative feedback are both useful! What works, what doesn’t, which of them helped the most… I’ve definitely been thinking about writing a method for bass clarinet at some point in life, so consider these early sketches.

Anyway you can download a .pdf of the three studies here.

Thanks also very much to Luciano Giambastiani and Madison Greenstone for their feedback on these!

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Posted in clarinet techniques, how-to, quarter tones | 2 Comments

new hand werk CD – kurzwelle

cover_front.jpeghand werk has a new CD out today — kuzwelle — and you can stream/download it on bandcamp. Four great new pieces by Francisco C. Goldschmit, Max-Lukas Hundelshausen, Elnaz Seyedi and Matthias Krüger. This project was made possible by ON Neue Musik Köln.

And in case you’re not aware of hand werk, this is my “day job” so to speak – what I’m doing when I’m not working on the blog (ha!). We’ve been around since 2011 and have been playing unconducted chamber music for Pierrot sextet (and quite regularly putting our instruments down to play aubergines and the like) all over Europe ever since.

If you’re interested in how we work, I also wrote an article about movement and contemporary chamber music for Divergence Press.

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contrabass clarinet mouthpiece and neck

Just a fun little contrabass clarinet-related post for you today, but a few nice sounds here, just using the mouthpiece (with reed) and the neck of the contrabass clarinet. (Again, I play a paperclip, so these techniques are only applicable to this specific instrument!)


First, there are essentially two pitches available, a low E quarter flat and a high A quarter sharp (transposed pitches here – because it would make sense to keep everything in Bb I think, so that your player isn’t transposing when switching between this and normal playing techniques).

Normal extended techniques like slap and flutter tongue work perfectly well here:

Using the hand, there are two nice techniques, one is to gradually cover the opening of the neck with one hand at an angle, producing nice bends of either the bottom or top note (you can also bend the top note using the embouchure, but this doesn’t work very well on the bottom):

You can also play a really beautiful fragile multiphonic, and the pitches of this can be bent. Here I play it with three different positions, open, slightly bent, and about 3/4 closed:

The other hand position is to kind of bounce the hand over the covering while playing. You can combine this with normal pitches or also with the multiphonic:

Finally, you can also do something where you start on the top pitch and then allow the pitch to “fall”, as in the following example:

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Posted in bending, contra, multiphonic, performance | 1 Comment

Multiphonics – one note at a time

I’ve done a guest post for The Sampler, the UK’S “leading online destination for new music” on writing multiphonics, specifically how to think about writing multiphonics that enter one note at a time.

I talk about multiphonics like this one here: a:

If you’re interested, click here!

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Four Octave Tremolo/Moving Passages Chart with Quarter Tones for Bass Clarinet

This is the bass clarinet version of my previous post (for Bb/A/Eb clarinets) on the same subject.

I’ve created for you a chart that demonstrates quite clearly (I hope) in three octaves the relationships between all the pitches, including quarter tones. You can download a .pdf of the full chart here.

So let me explain the chart, which is transposed (in Bb)!

Each entry looks a little like this.

example

The first note in the system is the starting pitch. Every coloured pitch that follows the double bar line indicates the distance from the starting pitch.

Green = You can write a trill/tremolo between these pitches.

Yellow = The combination can be used in fast running passages, but not in trills. To clarify: Moving back and forth at speed one will hear the failed connection, but in running passages, yellow pitches can be executed well enough that the listener won’t hear the difficulty. Of course, do keep in mind that not all yellow connections: generally speaking the bigger the jump the more difficult it gets. These are all possible leaps, but do take their difficulty into consideration. The best way to get a clear idea of what kind of effort these leaps take is to listen to as much clarinet repertoire as possible!

Red = Avoid these connections if you can. Many can be connected well at slow tempi, quite a lot of them are risky. Do not under any circumstances write tremoli. (Especially in the case of the D quarter flat in the second octave – this quarter tone has no viable fingering!)

Blue = These blue marks above some of the yellow and red pitches indicate special trill fingerings. Often these trill fingerings can not be used in running passages, but it means that even though you can’t write a D to an E quarter sharp in a running passage (in tune!) (as in the above example), you can use it as an isolated trill. You shouldn’t need to add the fingering to your score, these special fingerings are almost always a combination of the right hand trill keys, which most clarinetists should be able to figure out without any difficulty, but if they don’t have an option and tell you it isn’t possible, you can refer them to the chart which hopefully will help clarify things.

In the Bb clarinet chart I think I did things in a way that was intended to be more specific, but ended up just being confusing. Any tremoli that were only possible with a “faked” fingering, I marked in yellow or red, and listed the fake fingering above. Here, I’ve tried to simplify, so any possible trills are in green, and if there’s a fake fingering necessary, I’ve given a little hint for it above.

If you’re a clarinetist and trying to work out fingerings (especially for the super altissimo quarter tones), a resource you may find useful is Jason Alder’s fantastic fingering chart. I find it extremely useful, although there are still a few fingerings there that don’t work for me, and a few others that I use that he doesn’t list. There’s no criticism here — in the  altissimo there are just so many options. Also, Jason can play quite a bit higher than I can – I become extremely unreliable after that high G, but it’s asked for so infrequently that I’ve become rather lazy about working towards improving my range after that point. Anyway clarinetists may be interested to see what’s possible here.

You’ll notice that there is no series starting from the D quarter flat on the fourth line. That’s because there is no viable fingering for this pitch and it should be avoided in all cases! I was thinking of drawing this every time the D quarter flat appeared, but thought that might be overkill (so to speak). But do try to keep it in mind:

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