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 | 2 Comments

Emergent Bb Clarinet Multiphonics: Part 1 – Overblowing

I think it’s useful, if you’re a composer, to make use of the fragile qualities of multiphonics. Some of them don’t that well as chords that sound together, but as a composer you can take advantage of this, and make use of these emergent multiphonics. This simultaneously has the added bonus of making your clarinetist look like they know what they’re doing: one pitch gracefully becomes two or three, rather than a chaotic huffing-and-puffing desperation to have the two pitches sound together.

I wanted to come up with a nice list of some multiphonics that do this effectively, and to find ones that start on as many pitches as possible. I’m going to ignore pitches below B3 (because you need to use spectral multiphonics for those, that’s your only option) and this first part covers the pitches up to and including B4. This list will by no means be conclusive, the vast majority of multiphonics have some ability to do this, it’s really just a sample. I’ve also tried to pick ones that do this quite easily, but if you’re just looking for easy multiphonics, check this out. 

A few things: the starting pitch can be held as long as is reasonable for breathing, but I’ve only held them for a second or so in the recordings. The top notes can be quite fragile – the higher the top note, the more fragile it tends to be. Listen to the recordings: they should make the colour of the sound obvious.

Some of these multiphonic fingerings can produce multiple second pitches, so I’ve included them wherever possible. Recordings should add further clarity.

This post is a kind of extended variation of stuff I wrote about for The Sampler a few years ago.

As usual these are written pitches, not sounding! And I recommend a pair of headphones, or the bottom pitches, particularly in the lower registers, can be difficult to hear.

Pitch Option 1 Fingering Option 2 Fingering Recording
bquartersharp139 139 bquartersharp158 153
c90 90 c161 139
cqsharp242 139
dquarterflat182 182
d284 284 d154 139
dqsharp166 166
dsharp215 215 dsharp184 184
equarterflat138 139 equarterflat95 139
e247 efixed e174 efixed2.gif
equartersharp258 139 equartersharp194 194
f283 283 f63 63
fsharp237 139 fsharp287 287
fsharp195 195
gquarterflat238 238 gquarterflat249 249
gquartersharp149 149 gquartersharp185 185
gsharp286 286 gsharp199 139
aquarterflat190 139 aquarterflat88 88
a57 57 a129 129
aquartersharp151 139
asharp125 139 asharp198 139
bquarterflat221 139
b126 126 b106 106
bquartersharplast1 139 bquartersharplast2 139
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Study with me at Goldsmiths University, London

Sometimes clarinetists ask me where I’m teaching, and I just wanted to write a quick blog post to let you know that you can now come and study with me at Goldsmiths.

Based in the heart of vibrant south-east London, Goldsmiths offers a number of fantastic programmes for music performance students, led by staff including Pete Furniss and Mira Benjamin (both of them incredible performers and pedagogues!).

For Masters students, for example, there are two interesting pathways, either in performance or in creative practice (links are directly to the Goldsmiths website). The programme covers a broad spectrum of musics from classical, to experimental, jazz, popular music, generative and electronic musics, etc.

Practice-led PhDs are also an option!

If you’re at all interested, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, or with the department itself: you are more than welcome to contact Pete directly at P.Furniss(at)gold.ac.uk.

I also live locally and love this area of London, so I’m happy to give you an idea of what it’s like to live here if you’re thinking of coming from abroad. Goldsmiths is in zone 2 – which means you can be in the centre of London in 20 minutes. But the area has it’s own vibrancy, full as it is with nice pubs, good cinemas, a few great venues, etc.


Screenshot 2019-02-14 at 11.06.11Screenshot 2019-02-14 at 11.08.18

(Have more or less just nicked these photos from around the Internet of the area, so don’t know who they belong to – except the last one (which is of a sunset from the top of Telegraph Hill, just around the corner from the university), which is by Sam Walton).

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Shakuhatchi-style Bb clarinet playing

I mentioned this technique many years ago when I wrote my post on clarinet articulations. However, I didn’t go into too many details in terms of how it works, what pitches are available, etc.

Basically, by removing the mouthpiece and the barrel, tilting the clarinet slightly and blowing across the opening, one can produce a charming set of flute-like pitches.

There are a few things to keep in mind: this does actually take some practice. The lower you go in the first register, and the higher in the second register, the harder the notes are to produce. In the low register, these tend to go very airy for me – perhaps someone with more flute-playing experience might be able to do a better job of this. It also uses a different kind of endurance: the most time I’ve ever spent on this technique has been in making this blog post, and after about half an hour of doing the technique, the right hand side of my face started to turn numb and I had to take a significant break before I could carry on. So it might not make sense to use this technique for the entirety of your piece, or your clarinetist may struggle with rehearsing it.

(Remember that everything on the blog is written in transposed pitches!)

So that you can see what this looks like when I do it, here’s a video I put on Instagram earlier:

There is definitely an easy range, and I would say that this lies between these pitches, using chromatic fingerings only:

easy range

The bottom pitches are the resulting sounds, and the top line shows the fingered pitches (everything is transposed for Bb clarinet here!). You should always show both, by the way. No clarinetist should be expected to work out what fingering to play, but if you just treat this as a kind of scordatura, and show both the fingered pitches and the resultant sounds, everything should work out splendidly.

In this range, I can get a nice strong tone here (as in the example from Instagram), and the pitches are more or less stable. Below that, it gets increasingly airy as the pitches gradually become more and more difficult to produce. So I would generally recommend sticking to this easy set of pitches.

The entirety of what’s possible I’ve split into two ranges, one for the low register, and another for a second set of pitches possible by overblowing. Here are the pitches (again, bottom set are the resulting sounds of the fingered pitches on the top line).

low register

This sounds as follows (I’ve tried to play the line as slowly as possible, which as you can hear does affect my ability to get as clear and singing a sound as in the Instagram example):

The high register has some overlapping, but I think the sound quality is slightly different:

high register

And sounds thus:


Some clarinetists can only achieve this technique by keeping the barrel on. I, however, can’t manage to do it at all with the barrel attached, so I’ve had to rely on another composer-clarinetist team (in this case Matthias Krüger and the excellent Gilad Harel from Meiter Ensemble) for sending me the resulting pitches of my easy reduced range – so if you’re writing a piece for someone specific, do make sure you ask if they can do this, and in what format!

with barrel.jpg


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