Flute resources

Just updating some flute resources I’ve used recently.

The Virtual Flute — search for alternative fingerings, microtones and multiphonics (more than one sound at a time). For me, the most valuable element, is being able to click on the flute keys. This often brings up a range of multiphonic combinations, such as C#7 & E7 and A#6 & C#7 & E7, with their ease of ‘note distribution’. This is useful for improvisation and composition.

Herbert Lindholm’s Basic Flute Technique is freely available. If you are teaching and need another source to build technique in young to intermediate players, this is a fantastic resource. If you are returning to (advanced) flute playing after a long hiatus, as I’ve been recently, it’s also got a lot of value. There’s a lot of short material besides the scales where you can really tune in to your body, your sound and your body as resonator in tandem with the flute. I usually improvise or play long notes in different registers, but a short whole tone exercise in thirds or octaves, for example, is refreshing, and also disciplines the fingers. As a bonus, Lindholm includes a trill chart for difficult fingerings, tremolando and microtones.

Flute players are often told to ‘support’ their sound with ‘air’, the ‘diaphragm’, the ‘airstream’. But this ‘support’ comment is rarely defined or explained. Perhaps the most detailed understanding I received was from my high school flute teacher, a Buddhist, who gave me a book to read called, “Why Breathe? A Handbook of Illustrated Exercises for Correct Breathing” by Irwin Kellogg (1929). The exercises drew my attention to the role of the chest cavity, the ribs, the lungs, the diaphragm and the abdominals in breathing — inhaling and exhaling. Still, what do we mean by ‘support’ in relationship to flute tone, the process of controlling sound over time, embouchure, and bodily technique? For a more intricate questioning of this, see flutist John Wion’s discussion on breath support (scroll down his sections….).

Regardless of defining support, clearly the body is involved in playing the flute, and I am thankful for flautists such as Jane RiglerRobert Dick, Jennifer Cluff, and Robert Aitken who draw attention to the role of the flautist’s physical body as a resonator. There is more work around these days that looks at how flute players use mechanisms in their bodies that are similar to singers and actors, who engage their vocal chords. This is great because identifying something and breaking it down makes it easier to learn and re-learn.Through conversations with Jane, I’ve also re-considered the Alexander Technique as a strategy for dealing with seizures that sometimes occur when I play the flute.





She could not stand the stranger’s face staring with its twisted expression. Turning to her companion, she said, ‘do something’! Her boyfriend looked at the man with his grimace and spastic limbs, and, feeling revulsion punched him hard about the head several times. The stranger’s body fell on the brown grass. Dry leaves crinkled in the north wind. The couple watched the man convulse, little spurts of life ebbing away. They could hear a tram in the distance, and suddenly became aware of their own breath.

Based on a report from The Age, 1904.