Saxophone Multiphonics Chart


For many years I have often used “multi-phonic” fingerings on the saxophone, which produce two or three tones 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. But in the past (lonnnggg before the Internet) I had to dig through a lot of books to cobble together a set of multi-phonics that I knew worked on every saxophone (tenor,alto, soprano, and baritone), and eventually compiled the full set set pictured below (upon arriving in Japan and beginning what would be a major avant-garde phase of my career).

Be forewarned, they 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, you will hear what they are capable of as complex, expressive phenomena. The multi-phonics shown above are two of the nicer sounding ones a person can choose. 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.

[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.]


5 thoughts on “Saxophone Multiphonics Chart

  1. If I ever studied how to play an instrument, I would want you to be the teacher.
    And the only thing I know about music is I love all kinds. I’m pretty sure you would be drinking a lot and so would I. 🙂

    1. I would fly you to Japan and teach you saxophone in a park in Nara, then take you to the National Museum of Buddhist Art for artistic inspiration, THEN we would hit the whiskey at a good underground bar in Kyoto. That would be our saxophone lesson, every time. 🙂

        1. Well, I’m glad I made your day! 🙂

          My entire job as musician when I teach an instrument is to create a situation in which whatever quantity/quality of musicianship in a person is allowed to come out… ergo I have never taught “saxophone” to anyone. What I do is clear conceptual and technical obstacles out of a person’s path through conversation and/or tutelage.

          So to inspire your sense of passion and curiosity (Japan), feel inspired and free (park in Nara), creatively uplifted (Buddhist museum), build community (underground bar, drinking) and pure fun (the people of Kyoto are great drinking buddies).

          Wanna learn to play the clarinet? Then pack your scuba gear and a cocktail dress, because we are off to Norway!

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