World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0001445866
Reproduction Date:

Title: Multiphonic  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Extended technique, Prepared guitar, Free jazz, Moodswinger, Col legno
Collection: Extended Techniques, Musical Performance Techniques
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A multiphonic is an extended technique on a monophonic musical instrument (one which generally produces only one note at a time) in which several notes are produced at once. This includes wind, reed, and brass instruments, as well as the human voice.

Multiphonics on wind instruments are primarily a 20th-century technique, first explicitly called for in Sequenza I for solo flute by Luciano Berio and Proporzioni for solo flute by Franco Evangelisti, both composed in 1958, though the brass technique of singing while playing has been known since the 18th century and used by composers such as Carl Maria von Weber. Commonly, no more than four notes will be produced at once, though for some chords on some instruments it is possible to get several more.


  • Technique 1
    • Woodwind instruments 1.1
    • Brass instruments 1.2
    • String instruments 1.3
    • Vocal multiphonics 1.4
  • How multiphonics work 2
  • Notation 3
  • Use in literature 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Woodwind instruments

Multiphonic played on an oboe using alternative fingering.
The frequency spectrum of this sound.

On woodwind instruments—for example saxophone, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, flute, and recorder—multiphonics can be produced either with new fingerings, by using different embouchures, or voicing the throat with conventional fingerings. There have been numerous fingering guides published for the woodwind player to achieve harmonics. Multiphonics on reed instruments can also be produced in the manners described below for brass instruments.

It is said to be impossible to recreate exactly the conditions between one player and the next, due to minute differences in instruments, reeds, embouchure, and other things. This, however, is not entirely true; the multiphonic will depend on the room temperature and other such things, but essentially multiphonics sound the same due to the harmonic structure of the multiphonic. A multiphonic fingering that works for one player may not work for that same player on a different instrument, or a different player on the same instrument, or even after switching reeds. This often results from slightly different construction of two instruments from different makers.

Brass instruments

In brass instruments, the most common method of producing multiphonics is by simultaneously playing the instrument and singing into it. When the sung note has a different frequency than the played note (preferably within the harmonic series of the played note), several new notes that are the sums/differences of the frequencies of the sung note and the played note are produced; leading to the popular term trumpet/trombone/horn growl. This technique is also called "horn chords". The tone sung doesn't necessarily have to be in the played tone's harmonic series, but the effect is more audible if it is. The tone quality of brass multiphonics is influenced strongly by the voice of the player.

Another method is referred to as "lip multiphonics", in which a brass player alters the airflow to blow between partials, in the harmonic series of the slide position/valve. The outcome is just as stable as any multiphonic and perfectly structured. When the frequencies add together or subtract from each other (essentially merge), the fundamental is recreated. For example: A 440 and A 220. This would combine to make 660, creating a new fundamental of the second lowest B of the piano.

A third method, known as 'split tones' or double buzz, produces multiphonics when a player makes his/her lips vibrate at different speeds against each other. The most common result is a perfect interval, but the range of intervals produced can vary broadly.

Demonstration of throat singing on trombone.

Problems playing this file? See .

String instruments

String instruments can also produce multiphonic tones when strings are bowed between the harmonic nodes. This works best on larger instruments like double bass and cello. [1] Other multiphonic extended techniques used are prepared piano, prepared guitar and 3rd bridge.

Vocal multiphonics

The technique of producing multiphonics with the voice is called Overtone singing.

There is another technique done in whistling, where the whistler hums in their throat while whistling with the front parts of their mouth.

How multiphonics work

In general, when playing a wind instrument, the tone that comes out consists of the fundamental—the pitch usually identified as the note being played—as well as pitches with frequencies that are integer multiples of the frequency of the fundamental. (Only pure sine wave tones lack these overtones.) Normally, we perceive only the fundamental pitch as being played.

By controlling the air flow through the instrument and the shape of the column (by changing fingering or valve position), a player may produce two distinct tones not part of the same harmonic series, and thus perceive them independently.


Multiphonics may be notated in score in a variety of ways. When exact pitches are specified, one method of notation is simply to indicate a chord, leaving the performer to figure out what techniques are necessary to achieve it. Common on woodwind music is to specify a particular fingering underneath the required note; as different fingerings produce different qualities of sound, a composer who is concerned about the precise effect created may wish to do this. (It should be noted, though, that the same fingering can cause different result on instruments from different manufacturers, due to variations in construction.) Approximate pitches may be specified by wavy lines or in cluster notation to designate acceptable ranges of sound. There is, however, a wide range of notation used to designate multiphonics, with several individual composers preferring notations not in common use.

Use in literature

The first real use of multiphonics in literature are of the brass "horn chord" style. Carl Maria von Weber used this technique in horn compositions, leading up to his well-known concertino for horn of 1815.

\new Staff \relative c
  \time 4/4
  r2 \clef "bass^8" c~\fermata |
  c4 c-.( b-. a-.) |
  g2  |
  1\fermata |
  \fermata |
  \clef "treble_8"
  1*1/4    |
  1*1/2 \fermata |
  R1 |
  R1^\fermataMarkup |
  \bar "||"
  \time 3/4

Woodwind multiphonics and brass lip multiphonics did not make appearances in classical music until the 20th century, with pioneering compositions such as Luciano Berio's Sequenzas for solo wind instruments using them extensively.

The technique is used in jazz as early as the 1940s, with Illinois Jacquet an early proponent of the practice. Multiphonics were also widely used by John Coltrane; and jazz flautist Jeremy Steig uses multiphonics extensively.

Some composers who use multiphonics are:

Some musicians who use multiphonics are:

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Detlef Gojowy, "Coates, Gloria", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Adrian Thomas, "Serocki, Kazimierz", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  6. ^ Ian Mitchell, "Smith, William O(verton) [Bill]", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  7. ^ Richard Toop, "Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928– )", in Music of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde: A Biocritical Sourcebook, edited by Larry Sitsky, with a foreword by Jonathan Kramer, 493–99 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002): 497. ISBN 0-313-29689-8.
  8. ^ Ian Clarke's website:
  9. ^ Ian Clarke's page on WorldHeritage: http://articles/Ian_Clarke_%28flautist%29
  10. ^ Ian Clarke's performing his own composition The Great Train Race:
  11. ^ David Lasocki, "Vetter, Michael", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  12. ^ Ian Mitchell, "Smith, William O(verton) [Bill]", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  13. ^ Detlef Gojowy, "Coates, Gloria", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  14. ^

Further reading

  • Gerald Farmer, Multiphonics and Other Contemporary Clarinet Techniques, Shall-u-mo Publications, Rochester, NY, 1982
  • Murray Campbell: "Multiphonics". Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy. Accessed 24 Jan 05. (subscription access)
  • Richard E. Berg and David G. Stork, The Physics of Sound. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1982.
  • Ian Mitchell, "Smith, William O(verton) [Bill]", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001.
  • Kurt Stone, Music Notation in the Twentieth Century. W.W. Norton, New York, 1980
  • Robert Dick, The Other Flute. Oxford University Press, 1975
  • Nora Post, Multiphonics for the Oboe
  • Paul Keenan, Document accompanying Ph.D. Lip Multiphonics and Composition
  • John Gross. Multiphonics for the Saxophone: A Practical Guide; 178 Different Note Combinations Diagrammed and Explained, Advance Music, 1999. OCLC 475411398
  • Randall Hall, Multiphonic Etudes for Solo Saxophone. Reed Music, 2009
  • Jean-Marie Londeix, Hello! Mr. Sax. Alphonse Leduc, 1989

External links

  • The Woodwind Fingering Guide, containing multiphonic fingerings
  • Nora Post, "Multiphonics for the Oboe"
  • "What is multiphonics?", with audio examples
  • The Virtual Flute
  • Multiphonics for the bassoon, from the International Double Reed Society website
  • Multiphonics For Tuba
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.