Extended technique

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In music, extended technique is unconventional, unorthodox, or non-traditional methods of singing or of playing musical instruments employed to obtain unusual sounds or timbres.[1]

Composers’ use of extended techniques is not specific to contemporary music (for instance, Hector Berlioz’s use of col legno in his Symphonie Fantastique is an extended technique) and it transcends compositional schools and styles. Extended techniques have also flourished in popular music. 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.

Examples of extended techniques include bowing under the bridge of a string instrument or with two different bows, using key clicks on a wind instrument, blowing and overblowing into a wind instrument without a mouthpiece, or inserting objects on top of the strings of a piano.

Twentieth-century exponents of extended techniques include Henry Cowell (use of fists and arms on the keyboard, playing inside the piano), John Cage (prepared piano), and George Crumb. The Kronos Quartet, which has been among the most active ensembles in promoting contemporary American works for string quartet, frequently plays music which stretches the manner in which sound can be drawn out of instruments.



String instruments[edit]


  • prepared piano, i.e., introducing foreign objects into the workings of the piano to change the sound quality
  • string piano, i.e., striking, plucking, or bowing the strings directly, or any other direct manipulation of the strings
  • whistling, singing or talking into the piano
  • silently depressing one or more keys, allowing the corresponding strings to vibrate freely, allowing sympathetic harmonics to sound
  • touching the strings at node points to create flageolet tones
  • percussive use of different parts of the piano, such as the outer rim
  • microtones
  • use of the palms, fists, or external devices to create tone clusters
  • use of other materials to strike the keys

Woodwind or brass instruments[edit]


  • 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
  • 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.
  • bowed vibraphone, cymbals, and gongs


Other instruments[edit]

Notable composers[edit]

Notable performers[edit]













Drums and percussion[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burtner, Matthew (2005). "Making Noise: Extended Techniques after Experimentalism", NewMusicBox.org.
  2. ^ Ceolin Elena, Tisato Graziano, Zattra Laura. "Demetrio Stratos Rethinks Voice Techniques: A Historical Investigation at ISTC in Padova" (PDF). Proceeding of the SMC Conference 2011 (Sound and Music Computing), Padova 6–9 July 2011. pp. 48–55. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 

Further reading[edit]

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