Saxophone Multiphonics Chart


For many years I have often used “multi-phonics” on the saxophone, fingerings which produce two or three notes simultaneously in a dense cluster. Though these note clusters are invariably dissonant, when played properly they create a rather beautiful “fog” of sound, and thus every creative saxophonist should be familiar with them.

In the past (many years before the Internet) I had to experiment with a lot of fingerings in order to cobble together a set of working multiphonics that I knew worked on all the main four saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone). But I eventually compiled the set of fingerings pictured below by 1998 right before I left Canada to live in Japan… which was fortuitous, as I became heavily involved in the Kansai Onkyoukei scene that was developing at the time.

Be forewarned though. Multiphonics initially sound like “yelling”: all scratchy and scream-y when you first begin to try them. Once you learn to hold them steady with a consistent air stream though, you will hear what they are capable of as complex, expressive phenomena.


The multiphonics shown above this paragraph are two of the nicer sounding ones a person can choose (an empty circle = don’t press that key, the side names = palm, spatula, side, and/or end keys). The top one should come out sounding like a bit like a diesel engine idling, while the lower one should come out sounding like a low pitched electric razor. It takes a bit of practice playing multiphonics, as you have to direct the air through the mouthpiece at a specific speed, and at a slightly different angle from a normal note. These are micro-adjustments, and eventually your mouth and mind will naturally work out the right position.

[Note: I gave them all names to remind me of what they sound like to me, but if you hear them differently I suggest you transcribe and rename them yourself to help your memory.]





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