Extended Clarinet Techniques


A good basic guide to extended clarinet possibilities:

Phillip R. Rehfeldt, New Directions for Clarinet, Revised edition
Publisher: Univ California Press
Release date: November 1993
Paperback, available through most university music libraries, amazon.com and others.

Available clarinets:

  • Eb sopranino
  • C soprano (Albert system)
  • Bb soprano
  • A soprano
  • Eb alto
  • Bb bass
  • Eb contra-alto
  • Bb contra-bass

Extended techniques: It is possible to invent techniques other than those included here. When in doubt, ask a clarinettist!

  • Circular breathing (up to written D above the staff)
  • Slap tongue:
    1. explosive slap- (unpitched). maximum tempo: quarter note = 70
    2. woodblock slap- unpitched, dry sound. Maximum tempo: quarter note = 200
    3. pizzicato- clearly pitched melodic slap, soft or loud, entire range of horn. Maximum tempo: quarter note = 240
    4. slap tone- slap attack followed by normal tone. Maximum tempo: quarter note = 200
      N.B.- slap tongue is fatiguing if used for more than about 30 seconds. It is especially effective on low clarinets.

    mp3 demo of slaptongue on sopranino, curved soprano, straight soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxes; and alto and contrabass clarinets 4.8MB

  • double/triple tonguing
  • multiphonics- consult Rehfeldt book for details
    mp3 demo of clarinet multiphonics 2.7MB
  • altissimo ( awkward on contra- and sopranino, otherwise good) consult Rehfeldt book for details
  • microtones (above A below staff) consult Rehfeldt book for details
    mp3 demo of quarter-tones on alto sax 0.6MB
  • pitch or intensity vibrato (lip or diaphragm)
  • finger vibrato (flattement)
  • irregular vibrato
  • smear
  • glissando (slide) mp3 demo of clarinet glissando 1.0MB
  • scoop
  • fall
  • "doit" (falling up instead of down)
  • chirp
  • growl
  • scream
  • laugh
  • ghost notes
  • back-tongue/half tongue accent
  • vox-clarinet (singing drone, harmony, or unison/octave with clarinet tone through horn) mp3 demo of vox & scream on tenor sax 2.4MB
  • sing into horn (no clarinet tone, just voice)
  • embouchure alteration- (fuzzy/breathy tone, nasal/thin tone, or harsh/squawky tone)
  • key clicks (w/ mpc. open or closed)
  • hiss/colored noise, (with or w/o key clicks)
    mp3 demo of colored noise on tenor sax 1.1MB
  • flutter-tongue (with or without tone)
    mp3 demo of fluttertongue and portamento on bass clarinet 1.1MB
  • overtone/harmonic slide (shifting partials on a single fingering,
    or can be used on a trill)
    mp3 demo of harmonic series/slide (mezzo soprano sax)
  • kiss sound
  • reverse-tone (like backwards tape)
  • subtone
  • overblow
  • reed percussion (flick w/ fingernail)
  • controlled squeak (teeth on reed- ppp to fff)
  • mute in bell (darkens sound slightly, muffles low notes)
  • tubular extension of bell for lower note (Paper towel tube, poster tube)
  • timbral alteration (bisbigliando- alternate fingerings for same note)
    1. Timbral accent
    2. Timbral appogiatura
    3. Timbral tremolo (tone-color trill)
      mp3 demo of bisbigliando (baritone sax)
  • tongue-damped tone (very soft, muffled, dark sound)
  • gurgle (strangled, bubbly sound- essentially unpitched)
  • whistle into mpc.

Without mouthpiece:

  • kiss sound
  • palm-ram (on open end of barrel- fingering only w/left hand)
    mp3 demo of palm-ram and tongue-ram
  • trumpet-sounds (buzzing lips into barrel)
  • trumpet-sounds w/ voice
  • spetrofluctuation (trumpet-sound with wah-wah effect)
  • whistle into barrel
  • use game call in place of mouthpiece (mule deer grunt--VERY low, crow call, duck quack, goose honk, baby cry), requires one hand to hold call on neck of horn- other hand can change fingerings, approximate pitch.
    mp3 demo of mule deer/mezzo-soprano sax
  • flutter tongue
  • double/triple tongue w/colored breath noise

Barrel only:

  • kiss sound
  • tongue-ram (on open end of neck- can be double or triple tongued)
  • palm-ram
  • trumpet-sounds
  • trumpet-sounds w/ voice
  • spetrofluctuation (trumpet-sound with wah-wah effect)
  • whistle into neck
  • pitch slide w/ finger
  • flutter tongue
  • double/triple tongue w/ colored breath noise

Mouthpiece only:

  • siren
  • squawk
  • pitch slide w/ finger
  • slap tongue

Sopranino and sopranos, only:

  • western-style flute tone (must remove reed .- very quiet, approximate pitch only)
  • kaval/ney middle-eastern-style flute tone (must remove mpc. and barrel- very quiet, approx. pitch only)
    mp3 demo of kaval flute tone (soprano saxophone)
  • snake hiss

Bass and contrabass only:

Deconstructed/rearranged clarinets: Lots of possibilities here! A few examples:

  • contrabass mouthpiece over Bb clarinet barrel
  • top half of clarinet only (Not possible on Eb)
  • mouthpiece and bell only
  • combinations of parts of different clarinets...

Multiple clarinets:

  • sopranino, soprano or alto can be played simultaneously with any of the other horns. Remember to allow me enough time to pick up and adjust both instruments.
  • I can play with one hand fingering each instrument, or hold an open G (written) drone on one and use both hands on the other.

Live Electronics: Any horn can be put through reverb, distortion, pitch shift, harmonizer, Leslie speaker, wah-wah, etc...


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All material Jay Easton 2001-2006 unless otherwise noted