Extended technique

Extended technique

Extended techniques are performance techniques used in music to describe unconventional, unorthodox or "improper" s of singing, or of playing musical instruments.

Although the use of extended technique was uncommon in the common practice period (c. 1600 - 1900), extended techniques are more common in modern classical music since about 1900. Extended techniques have also flourished in popular musics, which are typically less constrained by notions of "proper" technique than are traditional orchestral music. It should be noted that nearly all jazz performers make significant use of extended techniques of one sort or another, particularly in more recent styles like free jazz or avant-garde jazz. Musicians in free improvisation have also made heavy use of extended techniques.

Most contemporary composers strive to explore the possibility of different instruments, cooperating with musicians in order to expand the "vocabulary" of given instruments. This undoubtedly increases the diversity of instrumental colors for contemporary pieces. However, some extended techniques are exceedingly difficult to master, or require instruments in uncommonly good condition; instruments are sometimes custom made to explore extended techniques.



* Sprechstimme (speech-singing)
* overtone singing (harmonic singing, or vocal multiphonics)
* ululation
* beatboxing (vocal percussionists)
* Growling
* Screaming and Shouting

String instruments

* unusual bowing technique: double stops and multiple stops, sul ponticello, sul tasto, col legno
* prepared guitar
* string microtones (vertical and linear)
* exaggerated tremolo
* tapping or rubbing the soundboard of stringed instruments
* alternate fingerings
* altered tunings (scordatura)
* tapping


* prepared piano
* string piano

Woodwind or brass instruments

* overblowing
* exaggerated brass head-shakes
* activating keys or valves without blowing
* combination of a mouthpiece of one instrument with the main body of another, for example, using an alto saxophone mouthpiece on a standard trombone.
* turning the mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument upside-down and playing as normal.
* breath technique or articulation: multiphonics, tonguing or flutter tonguing, continuous breathing or circular breathing, trumpet half-valve playing, humming while blowing, double buzz, blowing a disengaged mouthpiece or reed, unusual mutes


* added electronics or MIDI control
* Turntablism
* Circuit bending

Other instruments

* keyboard technique involving the fist, flat of hand, arm, or external device to create tone clusters
* unusual harmonics, including multiphonics
* glissandi, tuner glissando
* rudimental or "dynamic" double bass on the drum set, using hand rudiments such as double stroke rolls and flam taps and playing them with the feet
* Stacking 2 or more [cymbals] one on top of the other to change the sound properties of the instrument and add possibilities.
* custom-built percussion mallets, occasionally made for Vibraphone or Tubular Bells (and other pitched-percussion in increasingly rare circumstances) which feature more than one mallet-head, and so are capable of producing multiple pitches and difficult chords (though usually only the chords they were designed to play). These mallets are seldom used, and percussionists sometimes make them themselves when they are needed. When implemented, they are usually only used once or twice in an entire work, and are alternated with conventional mallets; usually they are used only when playing a different instrument in each hand.

Notable composers

* Bruno Bartolozzi
* Glenn Branca
* John Cage
* Joseph Celli
* Rhys Chatham
* Henry Cowell
* George Crumb
* Robert Erickson
* Brian Ferneyhough
* Sofia Gubaidulina
* Helmut Lachenmann
* Krzysztof Penderecki
* Steve Reich
* Giacinto Scelsi
* Salvatore Sciarrino
* Stephen Scott
* David Tudor

Notable performers


* Syd Barrett
* Keith Rowe
* Buckethead
* Steve Vai
* Evan Hirschelman
* Preston Reed
* Roland Dyens
* Michael Hedges
* Derek Bailey
* Fred Frith
* Štěpán Rak
* Arto Lindsay
* Enver İzmaylov
* Kaki King
* Ichirou Agata
* Aaron Colbourne
* Tom Morello
* Thurston Moore


* Joan La Barbara
* Blixa Bargeld
* Shelley Hirsch
* Diamanda Galás
* Sainkho Namtchylak
* Demetrio Stratos
* George Fisher
* Mike Patton
* Aengus Ó Maoláin
* Meredith Monk
* Maja Ratkje
* Brian Chippendale
* Tanya Tagaq Gillis


* Ned Rothenberg
* Rahsaan Roland Kirk
* Peter Brötzmann
* Mats Gustafsson


* John Kenny
* Stuart Dempster
* George Lewis
* Paul Zukofsky


* Frances-Marie Uitti
* Rohan de Saram
* Helen Liebmann


* Ernesto Rodrigues
* Alexander Balanescu
* Graeme Jennings


* Maggi Payne
* Robert Dick


* Bertram Turetzky
* Michael Manring

Drums and percussion

* Steven Schick
* Burkhard Beins

See also

* List of notable pieces which use extended techniques
* String instrument extended technique

Further reading

* Stuart Dempster's "The Modern Trombone: A Definition of Its Idioms", ISBN 0-520-03252-7.
* Patricia and Allen Strange's "The Contemporary Violin," ISBN 0-520-22409-4, and other books in "The New Instrumentation" series.
* Bertram Turetzky's "The Contemporary Contrabass" ISBN 0-520-06381-3.
* Michael Edward Edgerton's "The 21st Century Voice," ISBN 0-8108-5354-X, and other books in "The New Instrumentation" series. Scarecrow Press, 2005.

External links

* [http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/fing.html Woodwind Fingering charts]
* [http://www.sforzando.se/flutetech/index.htm New Sounds for Flute] by Mats Möller
* [http://www.mti.dmu.ac.uk/~ahugill/manual/ The Orchestra: A User's Manual] by Andrew Hugill with The Philharmonia Orchestra. Includes definitions, descriptions and video interviews of extended techniques for most all common orchestral instruments.
* [http://www.oddmusic.com/ oddmusic] A website dedicated to unique, odd, ethnic, experimental and unusual musical instruments and resources.
* [http://www.radiopapesse.org/w2d3/v3/view/radiopapesse/notizie--1372/index.html?area=5 Audio Interview to Margaret Leng Tan] : Through the silence. John Cage in Memoriam 1912-1992, La Biennale, Venice, 2007. Toy and Prepared Piano

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