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Etude 5: Multiphonics
From Harmonic to Multiphonic
In a nutshell: to perform a harmonic we actually filter one harmonic out of the harmonic series by applying the vocalization of one specific vowel. Now, to perform a multiphonic we go one step further and we need to filter two sounds out of the harmonic series by the vocalization of two vowels. By combining two vowels we acoustically prepare the mouth cavity, but also the breath flow and the embouchure, to support two sounds simultaneously.
Exercise for Singing Vowels
In a second study in this exercise we sing the vowel of [ee], imagining the [ee] sound in the higher part of the mouth cavity. Now we first gradually add and later gradually remove the [o] sound, which we locate again in the lower part of the mouth cavity, until we end again with only the [ee] sound.
When speaking we often used the lips to produce the different vowels (though this is quite language-specific). However with this study our focus is to change only the mouth cavity, especially by changing the position of the back of the tongue. Here we should avoid to involve the lips, keeping them in a relaxed and nearly closed position. Have a look in a mirror to check that you are not making any significant lip-changes when when performing this [o] and [ee] exercise.
Audio samples: of vocals Shomyo
2/ Fork-Fingerings: all tone-holes are closed until a certain spot, whereafter one or more tone-holes are open, followed again by one or more closed tone-holes. We may know the fork-fingering from the recorder. A fork-fingering on the flute creates an diffused and mixed ending of the vibration, so it will always create a less clear sound: a bamboo tone. Also it will have some unexpected series of harmonics, totally depending on the exact fingering (and there are thousands of fingering possibilities!).
Are Multiphonics pleasant?
A sample of this can be be found on the arabic nay flute, where we can hear parallel octaves in a most expressive way (also used in some fingering samples later in this chapter). By the way, it is most interesting to note that the nay flute has the rim not horizontally like our flute, but vertically positioned. This demands a high embouchure, instead of wide. You can see this demonstrated in the photo of the nay player Abdo El-Chamy (Egypt).
The Nay performed by Abdo-El-Chamy in Cairo, Egypt
open- and closed-hole flutes
For similar reason I actually had opened my left-hand thumb-key on my 18K Kotato flute, to create an 'open thumb key'. So with a total of now six open holes I have even more combinations of open holes available, which I all can manipulate directly with the finger or the thumb.
Audio samples: Multiphonics
- Play a long note on the lower pitch. Use the vowel [o] to support this sound. Imagine the [o] located in the lower part of the mouth cavity.
- Play a long note on the higher pitch. Use the vowel [ee] to support this sound. Imagine the [ee] located in the higher part of the mouth cavity.
- Play slowly and legato from the lower to the higher pitch. While doing so, change the vowel from [o] to [ee]. Next take a breath and do the opposite: play slowly and legato from the higher pitch towards the lower pitch while changing the vowel from [ee] to [o]. This is certainly not an easy step, but indeed most challenging and interactive.
- Now, intend to play both pitches simultaneously. Concentrate first on the lower pitch, supported by the [o] vowel located in the lower part of the mouth cavity. Additionally play the higher pitch supported by the [ee] vowel located in the upper part of the mouth cavity. Avoid any additional lip-tension.
In exercise (B) we see two samples with each the four basic steps to study. You can recognize the first fingering as a basic fingering, consequently creating more consonant intervals (in this case a fifth). The second fingering however is a typical fork-fingering and indeed creating a more dissonant and intense interval (here a ninth).
Etude 5: Multiphonics
A most fruitful Tool!
For the Contemporary Flutist Online
Etude 1: Wind Tones
Etude 2: Harmonics
Etude 3: Difference Tones
Etude 4: Bamboo Tones
Etude 5: Multiphonics
Etude 6: Whisper Tones
Etude 7: Singing Unison/Parallel
Etude 8: Polyphonic Singing
Etude 9: Diverse
Etude 10: Circular Breathing
Etude 11: Flute and Movement
Etude 12: Graphic Notation & Impro