Articulated air sounds

Normal articulations may be used with air only to create a percussive effect. Air sounds may also be used with key clicks for additional articulation. At fast speeds, double tonguing can be very effective, but triple and single tonguing may equally be used.

Other sounds such as ‘teh’, ‘pe’, ‘ke’ and ‘se’ may also be used to good effect, but may require amplification. There are numerous possibilities and to an extent the composer can be creative about the choice of sounds used. It should be noted, however, that the articulation comes from the use of consonants, with vowels providing colour through the mouth shape used. Vowel sounds alone are not sufficent to produce an articulated attack. Notation can be problematic, so a guide to pronunciation will be helpful.

Air sounds of any kind use a large amount of air and extended passages may require additional breathing spaces.

Teh [tɛʰ]

Tah [tɑʰ]

Toh [tɔʰ]

T [tʰ]

Ti [ti]

Che [tʃɛ]

Ke [kɛ]

Ka [kɑ]

Cha [tʃɑ]

Ch [tʃ]

Cho [tʃɔ]

Peh [pɛʰ]

Se [sɛ]

Shhh [ʃː]

P [pʰ]

F [f]

Scale on Ka [kɑ]

Pizzicato effects

Tongue pizzicato - the tongue is positioned against the top lip and used as if spitting peas. This can produce a strong attack, with pitch dependent on the fingering used.

Tongue pizz

Scale of tongue pizz

Lip pizzicato - this is usually quite quiet but is the sound produced by pushing the lips together and then releasing at speed. A popping sound ensues. As with tongue pizzicato, pitch is altered according to the fingering used.

Lip pizz

Speaking and playing

Composers such as Kaija Saariaho have used vocalised words over played pitches in their music. This can be very effective, especially when amplified.

Notation of articulated air sounds

Air sounds may be articulated using any consonant. The notation of this depends on the precision of the articulation required. Articulations are indicated by syllables above the notes. It is advised to include a pronunciation guide in a glossary at the front of the score to avoid confusion.

Notation of articulated air sounds

Random articulations over rhythmic air sounds

Notation of articulated air sounds

Rhythmic articulations over air sound drone: pitched air sounds (top line) are punctuated with rhythms below

Notation of articulated air sounds

Rhythmic articulated air sounds

Notation of lip pizz

Lip pizz