Extended technique  

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Extended techniques are performance techniques used in music to describe unconventional, unorthodox or "improper" techniques 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.




String instruments


Woodwind or brass instruments


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

Notable performers











Drums and percussion

See also

Further reading

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