By "normal," I mean pipe instruments that are tuned to 12-equal temperament. They have "standard" fingering for each notes in 12edo, but I recall that, when I was young, I found it kinda "funny" to try some nonstandard fingerings on a recorder. I remember that it had one of following effects:

  • Inconsistent pitch, depending on my breath, or

  • Multiple notes at a same time, usually dissonant, or

  • No resonance at all, or

  • A microtone.

To think about it, it would be hilarious if someone actively utilized such a microtone for a pipe instrument. They would've tried all possible fingerings and utilized the microtones they gathered. Has anyone actually done it? Will it be just an alternative tuning, or actively xenharmonic?

(Btw, why isn't there a tag for pipe instruments in general? I'm using the "recorder" tag.)

  • 1
    That is not a pipe instrument, but alternate fingerings (and their effects) are quite heavily documented for the saxophone. This ranges from "Slightly flat" to darker and so…
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 10:09
  • Which other instruments do you consider 'pipe instruments'?
    – Tim
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 10:39
  • @Tim In this context, every tubular wind instruments that has holes to finger on. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 10:48
  • 2
    youtu.be/lGa66qHzKME this video shows Philipp Gerschlauer playing microtonal fingerings for saxophone, which is related. I'm not a wind player, but I imagine some of the principles are the same.
    – awe lotta
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 14:45
  • 1
    @pyromonk I am one too. Conical and cylindrical bore do not behave the same in the acoustic point of view, just like reeds Vs open ended... I interpreted pipe as cylindrical bore, not very important though...
    – Tom
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:23

2 Answers 2


This week’s video from Sarah Jeffery on the Team Recorder channel covers playing ‘Austro’ by Giorgio Tedde, which calls for some unconventional fingerings. The video is at

, the section on unconventional fingering starts at about 06:00.

I’m sure there are many other contemporary recorder pieces and techniques that call for non-standard fingerings, so that would be a useful area of research for you.


"Multiple notes at a same time, usually dissonant" are called multiphonics. I imagine they'd be hard to serialise for recorders due to the many variations out there, but for saxophone they have been recorded by John Gross (in his "Multiphonics for the Saxophone" book) and are available from some online resources too. Likewise, they are relatively easy to find for flute and some should theoretically be transferrable.

The most famous utiliser of microtonal fingerings for a "pipe" instrument I can think of has already been mentioned in one of the comments by awe lotta, and his name is Philipp Gerschlauer (an alto saxophonist). The aforementioned user has provided a link to Philipp's 128 notes per octave video as well, but I'll put it in an answer for the sake of simplicity. His "Mikrojazz - neue eXpressionistische Musik" works are relatively hard to track, but he does utilise his microtonal octave in his playing.

As with multiphonics, playing microtonal fingerings often requires slight embouchure changes and trying to play a "focal" note while fingering something else. You can have a bit of a look into Philipp's technique here. If you understand the design of your chosen instrument, a lot of those fingerings make sense by themselves.

In my personal opinion (and I'm hardly an authority), on the saxophone it's highly impractical, because a similar effect can be achieved through note-bending and growling (humming/singing a different note into the mouthpiece than the one being played).

Some microtonal fingerings are available for the recorder here. They are for microtonal trills but can be repurposed. Seems like Nicholas S. Lander is the main authority on that.

I'm not sure what exactly you mean by "alternative tuning" versus "xenharmonic". Pulling out/pushing in the mouthpiece/headjoint? Sure, that can be done to affect the pitch. But you probably don't want to keep doing that during a performance.

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