It’s been said that flute is the most difficult instrument to teach because so much of what produces the tone is neither visible nor clear. This is the first in a series of blog entries regarding tone production and intonation on flute. My hope is to provide flute students with information and a check list to explore in making refinements to your tone and intonation. So many factors are involved and at times there may seem to be no way of knowing which factor(s) to change in order to produce the sound you wish for. In addition, it’s possible that the problem that existed yesterday or last week is still thought to be the problem, when in fact a different problem may have arisen due to OVER compensation for that same problem. I will attempt to map out as clearly as possible a list of things to methodically consider in striving for your ideal flute sound.
Before I delve into technical details, I’d like to mention that the first step is to be clear in your mind how you would LIKE to sound. Listen to a wide variety of professional flutists, both recorded and live if possible. Compare the basic sound and think about what you do or don’t like about that sound. Consider comparing Rampal or Galway with Paula Robison. Then compare their sounds with a baroque flute sound – say Stephen Preston or Barthold Kuijken. How about Jeanne Baxtresser, Carol Wincenc, William Bennett? Old recordings of Marcel Moyse and other 20th century greats are available (even on YouTube) – though there are pops and scratches, the quality of the tone does come through. And you won’t have the full picture until you hear Robert Dick and other flutists with a contemporary angle. Check out all the flutists you can and contemplate the similarities and differences.
One additional step before the details: make sure your flute is in good working order. Many tone problems have nothing to do with the performer – it’s just that the flute isn’t working right! Have someone else check it out and let you know what’s reasonable to expect from it and from yourself while playing it.
Next entry will cover: Posture and positioning of yourself and your flute