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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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.


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:


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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Dyad Multiphonics for Bb Clarinet Part II – a second look at Philip Rehfeldt’s chart

When Philip Rehfeldt wrote his seminal New Directions for Clarinet in 1976, he included a number of multiphonic charts for both Bb and Bass clarinets. These charts aren’t bad, although quite regularly I don’t get the same pitches he does, and I always found his categorisation system a little odd. (The bass clarinet multiphonics in these charts are actually more problematic, and I wouldn’t advise using them!)

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!)

I wanted to show you the 29 multiphonics from his chart (many of which have appeared on this blog before) that we put in the category of “dyad multiphonics with spectral aspects”. I’ll talk about our three other categories in future blog posts.

I think one of the things I’ve struggled with is talking about multiphonics that have multiple attributes: but they all do. And the colour of the multiphonic, depending on which pitch is highlighted by the player, can change a lot. All of these multiphonics create “close” dyads (within a 10th) and also have further spectral possibilities, which you can move between. Rehfeldt struggled with this too: he writes that once you’ve achieved an embouchure position for a multiphonic, you don’t move. But I disagree. Being flexible about which pitches you can bring out allows for a lot more possibilities – and practising these gives the player a lot of control.

A lot of the same multiphonics appear in my post on dyad multiphonics for Bb clarinet. This is very much an extension of that post,  but if you’re interested in writing these sounds, I definitely suggest using both!

A lot of these multiphonics are quite difficult, and do require the clarinetist has some prior experience with multiphonics. None of them are on my Easy Multiphonics post, so do be aware of that if you’re writing for inexperienced players.

Within the pitch charts, please don’t forget that the bottom pitch (fundamental) will remain, and then you can choose between the upper pitches, they don’t sound all at once, these are not complex multiphonics. Choose the upper pitch that you want for each instance of that multiphonic, you can not have them all at once.

In the audio files, I’ve tried to show how easy it is (or not) to make each one sound as a chord, and also to show how you can move between them. I’ve also actually organised the multiphonics by pitch, for the first time ever, thanks to Scott having cut out all of Rehfeldt’s multiphonics for me to play with, Top Trumps style:

# Pitches Fingering Sound Notes?
#94 3-03 3-03f
#12 3-01 3-01f Also appears in 27 Easy Bb Multiphonics.
#6 3-02 3-02f
#39 3-04 3-04f
#28 3-05 3-05f
#14 3-06 3-06f
#200 3-07 3-07f This one is really rather fragile in the high register (have a listen to the recording)
#96 3-08 3-08f Stubborn in the low register and fragile up high – use with caution.
#95 3-09 3-09f
#111 3-10 3-10f
#91 3-11 3-11f
#335 3-12 3-12f
#176 3-13 3-13f
#336 3-14 3-14f
#337 3-15 3-15f
#338 3-16 3-16f
#339 3-17 3-17f Debatable whether this is really a dyad or whether I’m doing an “ultra-underblow” – which I’ll discuss in a future post!
#97 3-18 3-18
#315 3-19 3-19f
#44 3-20 3-20f
#317 3-21 3-21f
#316 3-22 3-22f
#340 3-23 3-23f
#341 3-24 3-24f Quite stubborn
#334 3-25 3-25f Can get quite a strong loud one with the A (listen to the recording)
#38 3-26 3-26f Can be difficult to place. When I hit the Bb, you’ll also hear an E above that, this seems to just emerge as part of the spectrum, I’m not controlling it! (But can’t get rid of it either.)
#342 3-27 3-27f VERY stubborn dyad with the E.
#343 3-28 3-28
#344 3-29 3-29f
Posted in dyads, multiphonic | 3 Comments