Etude in C for clarinet

The title is deceptive because this study actually explores the seven tonalities in which C occurs as chord tone (From bII (D flat) to V (G) .

Therefore it’s an etude on modes with C as tonic.

the principle is motive   reworked with a new alteration down to five flat  or up to one sharp.

This principle applies to different figures, different articulations and variegations

on every register



To avoid monotony each motive is not systematically tranposed in all modes; the goal of this study being a mean to review the main clarinet difficulties in a short time and a warming up tool. 


This etude is freely available here


Fenghuang- The phoenix -is a orchestral piece based on some aspects of the Chinese mythology and the Chinese symbolism
This pièce is available on free-scores
The beginning of the piece evokes dualism-

  •  Phoenix male -female who share the twelve tones of the scale
  • – Phoenix -Dragon

The second idea stems from the Yi-king inspiration; it displays a kind of  apparent permanence despite internal changes that lead to sudden disruption that may lead to destruction and rebirth from its ash of the phoenix.

Pentatonic scale is an excellent tool to express permanence but is challenging for variations. Color according to the dichromatism principles of the Chinese symbolism is here the adopted solution.



The Saxhorns group is the example  of confusing writing   previously discussed

This group has historically been  subjected to addition and subtraction of instruments but the most common range includes

Flugelhorn Eb (or sopranino)

Flugelhorn Bb ( soprano or contralto )

Alto Saxhorn Eb ( or Ténor Horn)

Baritone Bb  ( or Tenor Horn)

Basse Bb

Contrabass Eb
Contrabass BBb

Their theoretical range is similar to the trumpet one .Actually only Flugelhorn (Bb) and Baritone have a satisfying full range   when played by a concertist.

All flugelhorns and Alto Saxhorn (Eb) share the same standard range but the Eb small flugelhorn is really efficient in a smaller range (One octave (E-E) .

Since these instruments are dedicated to the upper parts they logically use the treble clef

Bass and contrabass saxhorns (standard range below) playing the bass line are logically written with bass clef.

However Baritone (also  named tenor and therefore written with treble clef) sharing Bass register a single sound are differently written ,while Bb Bass using the same written note and clef  as BBb contrabass sound differently .


1 Flugelhorn Eb -2 Flugelhorne Bb 3 Alto (tenor Eb horn)                                          4-Contrabass Eb 5-Contrabasse BBb


An historical  ambiguïty   results  from  the old classification;   Baritone  beeing   considered as a  Bass should had been written with  bass clef

Tonalities and transposing instruments

Music notation software have solved most transposition problems. However the choice of a piece tonality according to a transposing instruments panel remains an  issue; so does the choice of a transposing instrument according to the tonality of the piece.

Transposition is a simple transfer of the fifths cycle.Let’s imagine a sliding rule:The fixed (yellow) part reads tonalities of the piece while the sliding (blue) part reads the instrument tonalities.

So willing to write an obsolete Db piccolo part for an Bb (2b) melody

I place the instrument C facing Db(piccolo tonality) on the fixed part ;to Bb (piece tonality) tallies (A) instrument(blue) tonality.



This needless  method for a single instrument becomes a  precious tool  when several  transposing instruments are involved.

First of all it should be reminded that the writing confines tonalities  to 7 accidentals(From  Cb(7b) to C#(7#)) in order to keep a  relative legibility; Beyond  those limits we  use enharmonic writing




« Forbidden » zones are in red but enharmonic choice  is also advisable  if an easier alternative tonality is available.

For  example , let’s take an  Ab Maj (4b) piece

For an A  clarinet the chart reads     7b  key signature

The best choice would be to switch to a Bb clarinet (2b)


But ,should we use an A clarinet for any reason ,we ‘d choose the  B Maj (5#) enharmonic writing.

Below is a correspondence chart

Neglecting the classical  double flats/sharps notation we  suppose an unlimited number of flats/sharps instead.

The result is always  12.



Double sharps equivalence



Notice the reverse direction of increasing flats and sharps

Harmonics on violin and its family

1: Background

Division of string by whole numbers produces an higher gentle sound named harmonics or flageolet
Division by whole number from 2 to 6 produces intervals and harmonics that yield a major triad (neglecting octaves)
Fundamental sound (or open string) is notated 1

The intervals are from the fundamental sound
Division of the string yields a shorter part and a longer part and therefore harmonics share only half the length of the string .

The starting point can be either the nut or the bridge . So,the fifth (1/3 of the string ) appears as well at the 2/3 of the string.

From the middle as axis, harmonics are mirrored symetrically

Exemple On the G string :We can see that

      • only one way produces the octave(sound number 2) because it corresponds to the half of the string(2 equal parts)
      • two possibilities for others harmonics (sounds number 3,4 and 6)
      • third (sound Number 5)is the exception that can be played according 4 different theorical places (but only one is really satisfactory ,two are difficult because very close to the fifth) and one is practically unusable .

2:-Production of harmonics

There are two kinds of harmonics :

        1. The natural harmonics that produce the major triad (The root beeing the open string) Natural harmonics are played by slightly touching the string (notated ) at the exact place of the note (except for minor third played a bit higher)   For clarity, the desired sound written in standard but smaller headed note may be added up. When the slightly touched note is similar to the desired sound (real harmonics) ,the note,in standard notation, is simply topped by °
          This particularly occurs on the upper half of the neck.

Fifths can be produced on two adjacent strings.If a change in timbre is required, the string is specified

If you are a bit clever and very obstinate, the Seventh-harmonics can be emitted but only in first position and preferably in a arpegiated dominant seventh chord due to the proximity of the already difficult fifth and the possible unsuitable octave;those three intervals been located in the small interval between Bb(slightly higher) and A (on the G string) ; The notation is as insure as intonation.

I suggest to contact the performer.

Using a artificial harmonics on the next string for seventh  of the chord  is safer with a better intonation     7art



        1. The artifical harmonics
          that allow to emit any tons.

The index finger normally stops the string while the third or fourth finger slightly touches the string at distance of fourth,fifth,major third, minor third, or octave
that produce a major triad which root is the stopped note accordingly to the interval

The interval are therefore similar to the natural harmonics ones.
However those interval are not equally available.

The fourth (that yields the octave of the root )is the commonest along with the fifth(producing the 12th 5th+octave)

The thirds are very difficult

Octave are mostly theoretical .They are only available on the upper part of the neck where intervals between fingers are smaller but very difficult and somewhat useless.

Double harmonics

Artificial and natural harmonics can be combined on two adjacent strings

  1. Octave is a combination of fifth on the lower string and fourth on the higher string.The upper note of the first interval is the lower note of the other interval creating a unisson.Unisson requires an  extension of fingers making scales in simultaneous octaves  difficult. Furthermore ,the two lower notes,forming a fifth, require a simultaneous stopping with the index finger

    Broken octaves are a bit easier to play: a motion of translation of the fingering
allows to fill the chromatic space between open string

is possible up to the following limits
    • Unisson:The fingers combination is reversed The common fifth is stopped with the pinky .
      this combination can be extended to an octave span
    • SixthsIt very difficult to make 2 harmonics ring simultaneously. The fingering is uneasy
    • Thirds: Fingering for chromatic succession of third tierces is easier than for the sixths because the progression between open strings is parallel in all parts but the difficulty to make them ring is the same.Natural scale adds difficulty with it major-minor interval succession


Natural harmonics is marked either

        • ◊ =Note slightly touchedwith optionnal addition of the result in smaller headed note
        • by a standart note topped with ° that means either
          Real harmonics (that sounds as played ) or « desired « note whatever the mean of production

Artificial harmonics The only difference is the fundamental (stopped note) marked at the bottom

Some careless composers only add ° to the desired note and let the choice of technique to the performer( sometimes in perplexity)

Recapitulation cont…

Compositions using harmonics
The Inner voice
Irish theme

La Felicita (Second Mouvement)

Aires iIbericos (Cello)

Czardas for violin solo (With careless notation)

Clef and transposition


Human voice full range would require an eleven lines staff to be represented

A readable survival of this fictitious staff lies in the grand staff

It clearly appears that the fictitious staff had to be reduced to a five lines staff to become readable.
Actually three staves were extracted from this imaginary eleven lines staff with an assigned letter,namely FCG, called « clef » to keep them distinct

    • The five bottom lines gave birth to the staff labelled F, the clef beeing placed on the fourth line from the bottom
    • The middle (sixth)line along with two lines on each side resulted in the C staff with the clef resting on the middle line (the sixth line)
    • The five top lines yield the staff labelled G with the clef on the second line from the bottom

  • The C staff is the medium register enclosed by the F and G clef
  • F staff is the low register
  • G staff is the high register

Clefs are always placed on a line and give their name to the note F,C or G

There are Seven clefs in usage (like the number of scale notes)

  • One G key
  • Four C keys
  • Two F keys

so a given note may received seven name

Clefs aim to limit to two ledger lines above staff so all clefs but treble key have the same range

Clefs are always placed on a line and give their name to the note F,C or G

Succession of clefs rely on the alignment of the reference pitch A which is or would be in a space

Summary: Clefs have Three functions

  • Name a sound
  • Give the pitch compared to the reference
  • limit the ledger lines above the staff and therefore enhance legibility

Clefs in transposition

Use of clef is especially valuable in transposition
For example: Play a violin /oboe /flute melody with a clarinet Bb .

Clarinet Bbmeans that C play with a clarinet sounds Bb (a tone lower) than violin or oboe C

therefore clarinetist Bb must play a tone higher than written
using the alto clef

Conversely if the oboeist wants to play the clarinet part ,he must play a tone lower using the tenor clefFrom the two preceding examples we notice agreement between clefs<

A complication may occur when transposing from bass clef .The reasoning is the same but the clefs are different

  • Reasoning with treble clefClarinet Bb : I say Bb=C and I write the Bb with treble clef and search the fitting  clef (remember clefs are always on one of the first four lines from the bottom)
  • Reasoning with bass clef
    Clarinet Bb : I say Bb=C and I write the Bb with bass clef and search the fitting clef

Transposition with two different transposing instruments

For example Playing the Clarinet in A part with a clarinet in Bb

The reasoning is the same provide the part to transpose is taken into account.
Clarinet Bb : I say Bb=A   I write the Bb with treble clef and search the fitting clef

Conversely ,Playing Clarinet in Bb part with a clarinet in A

Clarinet A : I say A=B  I write the A with treble clef and search the fitting clef

Important remark Neither accidentals nor register is taken into account by Clef transposition
so B is the same as Bb and E4 is similar to E2

Clef transposition in counterpoint

1°) Voce piena

Clefs in transposition was a common usage in old time.

In renaissance music a common texture named Voce piena was used . It consists of two groups made of two voices an octave apart (ST and AB)
The 2 groups form either a fourth or a fifth

Thank to clefs each voice had the same range notation

Two sets of clefs were used :

    • The Chiavi Naturali set
      that use the Soprano,alto,baritone and bass clefs

    • Tthe Chiavettes set that consists of treble,mezzo soprano,alto and baritone ot tenor clefs

Clef transposition in counterpoint:(cont..)

1°)Voce piena (cont..)

Switching from

    • naturali to chiavette causes a higher third transposition of plagal mode
    • chiavette to naturali yields a lower third transposition of Authente mode

  • other inversions are not valid


Subject and answer are similar in notation but the assigned proper clef makes answer  sounds a fifth higher or a fourth lower

Clef transposition in counterpoint:(cont..)


The reasononing is always the same
1°) Write a sound in given clef
2°)assigned the name of the desired transposed sound
3°) search the fitting clef

3°) Correspondance of clefs

Stage 1:Assign a name to the lower Note
Stage 2: Assign the transposed name to the upper(same note on the score)

Stage 3: Find the clef that names the note

The scale is given by the following sequence of clefs

C3 (Alto clef) F4 (Bass Clef)C2(Mezzo soprano clef) F3(Baritone clef) C1 (Soprano)C4 (tenor clef) G(treble clef) assigned to a given note

Transposition is a mere shifting of this sequence of clefs
Transposed C2 F3 C1 C4 G C3 F4
ROOT C3 F4 C2 F3 C1 C4 G
Interval 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Pizzicati on violin

1-Background. A finger,usually ,the index finger ,plucks the string creating a kind of percussive note called pizzicato plural= pizzicati.
This mode of playing has two limitations compared to bow playing

  • 1. The speed of execution:
    Benjamin Britten cautiously notes » Presto possibile » in Simple Symphony. (104 to the quaver-note(crotchet) seems the limit for a sixteenth notes passage provide it is short.
  • 2.The register

There is no exact limit but it’s safer to adhere to the following for orchestra.

Extension of range has two indications

  • Arpeggiated chord in solo
  • Arpeggiated chord in orchestra when doubled with wind instruments.

2-Notation: The expression Pizz over the score starts the passage. The term Arco cancels Pizz

Other kinds of Pizzicati:

  1. Left hand pizzicato :marked Pizz Lh or + above the note :A finger stops the note while the next finger plucks the string. Other notes are arco
  2. Bartok : Bartok introduced to kinds of pizz
    The actual  Pizz Bartok orSnap Pizz    noted  :The string is pulled vertically and strikes the neck: Most effective on lower strings.           pizz glissando writtengliss pizz.  The normaly plucked note slides downwards or preferably upwards.
  3. Other :
    • Pizz used by Ligeti markedThe finger is placed between strings and touch the side of the string on the desired note spot .The right finger plucks the string
      It must not be mixed up with the Nail pizz
      which is a regular pizz  but using the nail rather than the flesh of the finger.It rings more clearly but it is not advisable since violonists have usually shortly cutted nails
    • Chords in pizz : writtenQuasi Guitare
      are played « Presto » and slightly arpeggiated from lower to upper strings. Chords have to be simple.
      Only cello is able to easily play arpeggio downwards.
    • pizz tremolo :

      very exhausting -Avoid lengths
    • Related Sound The note is produced by tapping the finger against the neck of the violin
      This ambiguous notation has many significances such as regular note played with high bow pressure producing a scratching sound or played with the bow behind the bridge but in this case only open strings are concerned See special effects

4-Switch Arco-Pizz:

Quick change requires to play at the frog of the bow

Special effects on violin

Special effects

  • Behind the bridge
    Notes are bowed or plucked(pizz)
    (Not to be confused with percussion
  • Sul tasto ou flautando (play over the neck)
  • Sul ponticello (play on or near the bridge) The expression Ord (ordinario)cancel those two expressions
  • Col legno Play with the wood of the bow
      1. Tratto (rub the string (as the hair would do)
      2. Battuto strike the string (kind of spiccato) Ord (ordinario)indicates to switch to normal bowing


  • Percussion Beside stopped notes related to pizz ,fingers, palm of the hand, or screw of the bow can execute rythme on different parts of the instruments. Notation depend upon each composer
  • Subharmonics or George Crumb’sPedal tones. Require an electric violin,high bow pressure and electrocoustic devices. The notation is in actual tone (bass clef added to the treble clef staffcrumbMore recently the violinist Mari Kimura evolved a bowing technique allowing the production of subharmonics on G string on a real violin. The interesting point is the technical mirror :the bow pressure must increase when straying from the bridge.

Bow strokes notation

There are many bow strokes with lots of subtlities that blur the nomenclature,even for violonists

Things are simpler  for the  composer .

  • A first approach considers  the notes
  • Played with separate  strokes . This is the general case with no special notation
  • played in the same stroke : All notes are slurred

  • A is Legato Notes smoothly progress in a same breath (bow)
    The Number notes in a bow depends on tempo,dynamics,and velocity of the left hand
  • B is  detache notes are continously played with even pressure and speed.
    The détaché may use all the bow (grand détaché) or a small part of the bow (détaché bref) according to tempo and dynamics

A second approach concerns accentuation of the notes
Accented Détaché : The notes are accented at the begining but the sound is continuous.

Notes Loure or Portato start with a slight swelling that creates a slight détaché in a single bow stroke

Third approach deals with notes duration full or shorten

In A martelé is different from accented détaché by  release of the pressure  then a silence creating a percuting sound.
Initial accent requires » the catching » of the string that hinders the motion
Marcato means either Détaché accented or Martelé
In B staccato is a succession of little martelé in a single bow stroke

The fourth approach affects ligthness of the notes on the string or springing.

Adding accents and/or fast tempo to notes played with the  part of the bow  near the point of  balance make them light and bouncing
Détaché (simple or accentuated)  becomes  Sautille although  the bow stays on the string – which is different from  spiccato
where the bow  falls on the string then lefts it  which mean a slower  tempo than in  Sautillé

Notation for sautillé and spiccato is the same so  the term must be specified

In a single bow stroke   spiccato becomes  ricochet currently used  in the form of arpeggio.

but  Typical ricochet is
The main difference between  ricochet and  staccato is  the bouncing effect of the bow after a initial impulse

Tremolo is a fast repeated whhich would be, according to Berlioz, in sixty-fourth (hemidemisemiquaver) notes
However usual notation is

Staccato is the most ambiguous stroke because it may be

  • all kind of accented or unaccentated separated note in a single stroke (slurred notes)
  • different sort of techniques( particularly where bow remains in place allowing to paly a great deal on notes in a single stroke

A specific kind of accentuation invented by Viotti, is valuable to study staccato and spicatto

Rough Tempo for bow strokes in quaver (crotchet) with sixteen (semiquaver ) notes .

Subtlities in nomenclature are

  • stylistics choice of the artist de l’interprète :Ricochet instead of flying  Staccato  for instance
  • Choice of the artist to overcome a technical difficulty :Spiccato instead of staccato
  • Bad translation of foreign terms
    • The French Détaché (=Separated) and the English Detached
    • ou Spiccato et staccato= Both meaning Détaché jn Italian

For the composer ,the simplest is to consider the following notation

    • Bare note : Normal execution
    • Dotted note :Shorten duration (separated note )
    • Note topped with a black upside down  triangle plein, same significance of dotted note with an added initial pinch of the string
    • Dashed note  =slight<>

( All  this in separated strokes or in a single stroke (slurred notes))

Adding  tempo and accentuations (>) most  composer’s demands are fulfilled
With on the string  or light or Saltando (hopping) what else ?

Part of the bow? Very risky for non violonist.
Next page provides an help

Parti of the bow Bow stroke
Upper part Grand Détaché
«  » Martelé
«  » Staccato
«  » Fast Détaché
«  » Fast string crossing
«  » Tremolo
Middle Part Light Détaché
«  » Flying Staccato
«  » Sautillé Spiccato
Lower Part Chords and double stops (détaché)
«  » Fast Détaché (on lower strings)
«  » Staccato (slow ,supported)

Chords on the violin


Violin has 4 strings numbered from high (E string) to low pitch (G string> tuned by fifths . Each string range may extend to Two octaves (11th position )

There are classically 9 positions but only 7 are studied and currently used. Since violin range may reach 4 Octaves;one must exceed the 9th position to reach the very high G.This or these extra positions; according to the handl;is generally reserved to the higher string (E) but this is not an hard and fast rule

On the 4th string f (G ) the Eolian scale (A B C D E F G) for reference; the index finger, placed on each degrees, set position of the hand on the neck of the violin
In each position the combinaison of the index finger on a string and the 4th finger on the next strings frame an octave span yielding a 10th on four string due to extension of the fourth finger(upwards ) or of the index finger (downwards).

Inside a position, fingers may be in square or extend positions allowing to play all intervals.

The Eolian scale reference never occurs in method that read « the first finger take the place of the second or third finger » -Nevertheless examples are Do Maj at least in french book.

The above figure show the difficulty to describe a system valid on all strings.
Old french method included an extra position named « Demi position » half a tone lower than the first position (all the hand move backwards while extension of index finger in first position affects only the finger)

Demi-position should not be mixed up with the Léopold Mozart’s « Half positions « which were our pair positions (2th-4th-6th).
His explanation clears up things.:Notes written on lines were customary played with first and third fingers and notes between lines used the second and fourth fingers.Half positions reversed the rule.

Sevcik’semi-tone system , specify that contiguous position might be a minor or a major second apart.
This is important in the choice of fingering and therefore of the timbre

Advantage of positions

Léopold Mozart give 3 reasons to use positions

Necessity:is the most evident reason:When the melody run past C5 ;the hand has to move up to play the higher notes

Convenience: Some melodic passages are easier to play with pair positions

Elegance:Especially in cantabile , whereopen string is to be banished and string crossing are avoided to keep equal sonority or timbre.

In « Ele gance » Change of position is to be taken into accountshifting may be silent gradual with shifting on a semi tone for example or by slide with two kinds
The glissando which is a succession of jerky slides with or without jerky bowing

The portamento is a sliding on a big intervalaccording to 3 techniques
The french school: The inger lead to the new position and another finger plays the note

The Russian school : The playing finger is the leading finger

Mixture Methode

Notation is the same wathever the method

2-Range of the violin

Theorical range of the violin is if Two octaves on each string ( 11ème position),

Nevertheless it is prudent not to overtake the 7th position that correspond to an interval of 11th on each string.

In a given position i.e when the 4 fingers are on a string, the cautious interval is the diminished fifth for the violin and the fourth for the viola.

It must be stressed that this intervals are easier to play high position since distance between finger is smaller.

With two contiguous strings the interval of augmented fourth/ diminished fifth become a mino ninth mineure.(for the orchestra). For soloist the range may extand to a 10th or more to the detriment of good sound. )

Caution: The perfect fifth is not really perfect in upper ranger

3-Doubles stops

A-The first combination consists of an open string and a stopped note either above or below

Either in a fixed position

or with change in position

la melody is fully played on the D string

2-Doubles stops

B-The second combination has
either an hold note in a part

or an extension au the fourth finger.

C-The third combination is made of simultaneous movement of fingers

same thing for sevenths,octaves, and minor ninths but those intervals are very difficult when the upper note reach D6

Lower limit and upper approximative cautious limit

Legato adds a difficulty those intervalles

Doubles stops:(cont…)

Classification of intervals sorted by increasing difficulties

  • of intonation
  • of technique

-4 Chords with 3 or 4 sounds :

2 facts has to be pointed out

  • The impossibility to stop more than 2 strings with the same finger
  • The maximum spreading of the first and fourth fingers that covers a diminished fifth or a sixteenth on four strings

This can be seen by placing a finger on each string.

Violonists will recognize the mirror of the Geminiani’s grip;a valuable method to correctly place the fingers and elbow in double stops execution

4-Chords with 3 or 4 sounds

For 3 or 4 sounds chord ; difficulty is proportional to the number of involved fingers
Open strings must be prefered when possible for good sounding of chords

4:Chords With 3 or 4 sounds

Arpeggios fluidize the fingers combination in block chords (plaqués).

When a fifth with a common note (A-E and E-B )occurs in a chord the finger stops two strings with a small displacement ,which is unsuitable to intonation.
.-Arpeggio enhances intonation thanks to fingers substitution (in 2 )

Our modern bows do not allow to play more than 2 or 3 strings simultaneously and therefore chords are more or less arpeggiated according to place of the bow ‘near the bridge or sul taste but then the sound is different.

Caution with 4 sounds Chords:Polyphonies  imply a stylistic choice for the artist.

  • Play the bass note before the beat so that higher notes are on the beat
  • .Favor the bass note played on the beat
  • attack the chord from the higher notes  with the same options (before or on the beat)) .

It might be useful to write an accent on the principal note.

Chords on the beat is best obtained by writing no more than 3 notes per chord and every chord down bow

When writing double stops;melodic rules of counterpoint must be kept in mind since poor melodic interval is difficult to play and badly sounds