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%):

156

# 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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Emergent Bb Clarinet Multiphonics: Part 2 – Underblowing

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This is part 2 of a two-part series on Emergent Multiphonics (i.e. those that start on one note and blossom).

Admittedly that is most multiphonics so it may seem a little bit cheeky to propose this as a blog post except that here I’ve organised them very carefully by starting pitch, so that composers interested in using multiphonics for their pitch material can do so with a bit of confidence.

I think it’d be wise to read part one, if you haven’t already, as there’s a lot of useful information there which I won’t bother repeating. The first series showed multiphonics that start on the bottom note and overblow, and this series shows multiphonics that start on the top note and allow the lower note(s) to emerge. These multiphonics are slightly rarer, perhaps more fixed in their quality, but in my opinion are often the more beautiful of the two.

There is some crossover with other posts here, most notably that on dyad multiphonics, and that on underblown multiphonics (though I’ve only done these for the bass and eb clarinets so far!). I refer you to those for cross-referencing purposes! :)

Interestingly, with the last post I wasn’t trying to show all of the options: with so many possibilities for overblowing, I simply tried to give 2-3 top pitches for each fundamental. In this post, in a lot of cases, these are the only options for these pitches.

Hope you enjoy and make use of this list!

Pitch Option 1 Fingering Pitch Option 2 Fingering Recording
b3 3
b2 2
c40 40
c16 16
csharp17 17 csharp46 46

dfirstone dnatural1st d134 134
dsharp197 197
dsharp14 14
e69 69 e147 147
e28 28
f166 166 f233 233
f110 110
fsharp274 274
g62 62
g13 13 g324 324
gsharp9 9 gsharp63 63
gsharp216 216
a83 83 a84 84
a20 20 a29 29
asharp174 174 asharp248 248
asharp50 50
b102 102
b97 97
c91 91
c57 57
csharp121 121 csharp85 85
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9 multiphonics that overblow from the second harmonic

If you’ve spent a bit of time on this blog you probably will have come to notice that multiphonics always involve a fundamental pitch — which is always the lowest pitch — plus 2-4 other pitch options, which are generally overblown from said fundamental and can be isolated more easily than they are played together. I think this was made particularly obvious by my recent post, a second look at Philip Reyfeldt’s chart.

However, recently, Scott McLaughlin and I found nine unique multiphonics. These multiphonics have a fundamental that hovers around a D#, plus a pitch in the second register (near the F). But, if you overblow to the multiphonic in the altissimo register, this pitch combines with the “F” in the second register, NOT the lowest fundamental. I could only find nine multiphonics that do this.

Untitled

Quite a few of them use the low G# key. Strangely, using the same fingering but replacing the G# with either the F, F# or E keys almost always did not produce similar multiphonics, they all consistently overblow from the low fundamental.

They are quite difficult, especially the second overblow. It’s really hard to balance the sound (as you’ll hear in the examples), but I actually really like this fragile quality. It’s necessary to play them at very quiet dynamics. I’d say piano for the lower dyad and piannissimo for the top.

So I hope you enjoy these nine fascinating multiphonics as much as we do!

(Apologies, I didn’t have my Zoom with me, so these are just recorded on my laptop – but I think you get the idea…)

 

Pitches Fingering Sound
IMG_EC2D9131C0BE-1.jpeg funique1
unique2 funique2
unique3 funique3
unique4 funique4
unique5 funique5
unique6 funique6
unique7 funique7
unique8 funique8
unique9 funique9
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Plastic tube scordatura

As you may have gleaned from recent posts, I’m part of an AHRC-funded research project at the University of Leeds this year with Scott McLaughlin, called the Garden of Forking Paths. Scott and I have been toying with the idea of playing with different barrel lengths, to see what kind of multiphonics might come out of it – this month we’ve been experimenting with a kind of “budget” version, using a bit of plastic tubing (an idea I had from working with William Kuo, who is a big fan of a bit of plastic tubing).

So, by extending the clarinet at the top, the proportions of the instrument are warped, and so the resulting scale isn’t simply transposed down, but stretched out. I made the tube as long as possible without losing use of the register key, but reaching into the altissimo is so-far impossible (maybe this would improve with practice? do I want to spend the time trying to find out? I don’t know?).

But the multiphonics are fantastic. I think so, anyway. They are brash and complex, and you can adjust the beating in a lot of them by moving the “barrel” around.

I wonder if this would be a really effective way to write microtones for less experienced clarinet players? Because learning the quarter tone fingerings is very time consuming, especially if you’re not going to make playing new music a daily thing.

I’d just like to know what you think! Is this something you could imagine using?

So the pipe that I use is 18mm in diameter and 16cm in length – and is inserted in place of the barrel, as shown:

IMG_5183

 

All of the pitches are transposed into Bb here – the first line is the fingered pitch, and the second the resulting pitches. You’ll need to show both lines in your score when you write with this.

chromaticscale

And it sounds like this:

Or alternatively, a bit of silliness with it on Instagram:

And then I have 10 good multiphonics for you. There are definitely more, I could probably spend a few happy hours coming up with another 30-50, but these were some of my favourites. Hope you enjoy them!

# Pitches Fingering Audio
1 multiphonic1p multiphonic1
2 multiphonic2p multiphonic2
3 multiphonic3p multiphonic3
4 multiphonic4p multiphonic4
5 multiphonic5p multiphonic5
6 multiphonic6p multiphonic6
7 multiphonic7p multiphonic7
8 multiphonic8p multiphonic8
9 multiphonic9p multiphonic9
10 multiphonic10p multiphonic10
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Underblown Bb Clarinet Multiphonics

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This post is closely related to the post on using the register key, the post on  bass clarinet underblown multiphonics and also to the post on Eb clarinet underblown multiphonics. It might be worth reading those, as well as the posts on spectral multiphonics for Bb, bass and contrabass clarinets, and Bb and Bass dyads to have a complete overview of this aspect of clarinet playing. (Basically read all the posts about multiphonics? There are quite a few more…)

If you’re looking for a nice example of a piece that uses these (plus a rather wide range of dyad multiphonics), check out Martin Rane Bauck’s Kopenhagener Stille. The section where he makes exclusive use of these multiphonics starts at 8:18 (but the whole piece is terrific!).

As usual these are in written (transposed) pitches. The fingering for each multiphonic in the first two sets is actually the same as the fingering for the top note, so you can notate these by just writing u.b. or underblow. If you’re worried about confusing the clarinetist, include a link to this page in your legend.

As with the Eb and bass clarinet equivalents of this technique, these are best performed at quiet dynamics.

firstset

The last few here are a bit theoretical most of the time, but you can hear the low note, just (you might need headphones.

Going upwards from the C sharp, the multiphonics are quite fragile, and a bit louder, but very effective:

altissimo

There is also quite a wide range of alternative fingerings for these, should a) something not really work very well or b) you be looking for a slightly different colour. These may well be some of my favourites, actually…

bonus multiphonics

bonus multiphonics

 

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