“Ultra-Underblow Mutiphonics”: Part 2 of the recategorisation of Philip Rehfeldt’s chart

Recently, as part of the AHRC-funded project, The Garden of Forking Paths, which I’m consulting on for the next 15 months, Scott McLaughlin and I decided to spend a few hours trying to see if we could reorganise Rehfeldt’s Bb clarinet multiphonics in a way that made more sense for us. Instead of his six categories (which are based on a mix of dynamic possibilities and function, which I found inconsistent), we came up with four, which accurately describe the function of each multiphonic. (He wrote a nice blogpost that sums up our first session, which you can check out here if you’re interested!)

This post is going to look at fingered multiphonics with spectral aspects (i.e. two or more overblowable pitches) that can also be ultra-underblown. This is a technique that Scott and I have been exploring, whereby I try to maintain some fix on the mouthpiece while simultaneously pulling the chin down towards my chest as far as possible, creating a multiphonic sound that’s somewhere between a clarinet and a distressed goose.

I’ve made a YouTube video where I explain how I do this technique and demonstrate it here:

Interestingly, these pitches are often very close to octave relationships.

This sound might not be for you, but we’re all about exploring the full gambit of sonic possibilities here! A lot of the pitch relationships will look like nice dyads, but it’s really important you are aware of the sound (listen to the recordings). These come out honky and at mf-f dynamics!

You’re also going to hear a lot of fragile sounds (I can’t stress how important it is to listen to each sound file and not just use the pitch charts!). Not only in the ultra-underblown multiphonics, but also in those where I’m accessing really high harmonics (say from the A up). I really like this fragility. I like working on it, and I know the changing, unpredictable or unknown elements of these multiphonics is something Scott and I have been exploring a lot. (But I know a lot of clarinetists who do not like things to be unpredictable on stage, so, know your collaborators!) Occasionally with the really high ones you’ll hear that I’m not quite managing to get both to sound simultaneously. My theory is here that if I just work on these enough I’ll manage, so I wanted you to know what might be possible (maybe with a clarinetist who is better than me in the altissimo range?).

Not all fingerings produce this sound, so it was critical for creating our distinctions as we were reorganising the Rehfeldt chart. Equally, this is not the total number of fingerings that do produce this sound, only the ones from the Rehfeldt chart that did. Crucially, none of the multiphonics from the first post in the series, here, can do this.

As ever, the chart is transposed, and represent 3-4 different multiphonic possibilities, so you need to decide which top pitch you want to hear, don’t just include the whole diagram. Pitches that use the ultra-underblown technique are highlighted in yellow (but it’s always the first pitch above the fundamental). Sometimes I managed to get two different underblown multiphonics, those are indicated. The pitches are slightly flexible, as they are quite bendable! In the recordings I first play the overblown pitches and then do the ultra-underblow.

# Pitches Fingering Sound Notes?
#345 uubp001 uub001
#346 uubp002 uub002
#347 uubp003 uub003
#348 uubp004 uub004
#74 uubp005 uub005
#349 uubp006 uub006
#350 uubp007 uub007
#47 uubp008 uub008
#351 uubp009 uub009
#352 uubp010 uub010
uubp011 uub011
uubp012 uub012
uubp013 uub013
uubp014 uub014
uubp015 uub015
uubp016 uub016
uubp017 uub017
uubp018 uub018
uubp019 uub019
uubp020 uub020
uubp021 uub021
uubp022 uub022
uubp023 uub023
uubp024 uub024
uubp025 uub025
uubp026 uub026
uubp027 uub027
uubp028 uub028
uubp029 uub029
uubp030 uub030
uubp031 uub031
uubp032 uub032
uubp033 uub033
uubp034 uub034
uubp035 uub035
uubp036 uub036
uubp037 uub037
uubp038 uub038
uubp039 uub039
uubp040 uub040
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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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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.


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:


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.


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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