Extended Woodwind Techniques

3년 전

This article will discuss the most prevalent extended techniques used by flute players and found in music composed for flute. The use of alternate fingerings, changes in embouchure and other physical considerations go into producing these unique sounds. It is possible to extend the range of the flute, create chords, and play intervals smaller than a semi tone by practising these techniques. Some of the techniques like multiphonics will require the player to have great control over their embouchure, while other techniques will ask less skill. Techniques that are more common will be discussed first, followed by ones that are seen less frequently.

One of the more basic and commonplace performance techniques used by flute players is the glissando.  The way this technique is executed will depend on the type of glissando the music calls for.  The first type, connecting one pitch to another with a scale can be executed in two ways.  The first method is performed by moving from the first note to the second note by using a chromatic scale.  When the first and last notes are further apart in pitch, or the piece calls for a fast tempo, the glissando can be played by using larger intervals than semi-tones.

The second type of glissando is based on a smooth transition from the first to last note by the use of quarter-tones.  There are multiple ways to achieve this effect.  First, turning the flute inward or outward in combination with a change in embouchure.  Secondly, the same sound can be produced by gently opening or closing the rings on flutes with ring keys.  In addition, the pads can be gradually opened and closed on flutes in poor condition to accomplish the same results.  Sometimes the player will be called upon to perform a glissando spanning only a semi-tone.  To go upward, cover a good area of the embouchure hole, then play the note and ease your lower lip away.  To move downward, simply do the opposite.  Slowly position your lower lip over the embouchure hole after you play the note.  Lastly, the keys can be made to not cover the holes completely by bending the spindle where the keys are mounted.

Micro-intervals, which are intervals smaller than a semi-tone can be played on the flute in a few ways.  To produce quarter tones, although not very accurate, the player can turn the flute inward or outward while changing the embouchure.  Additionally, they can be produced with alternate fingerings.  A third approach is using holes that are not completely open on flutes with ring keys.  Intervals that are smaller than quarter tone such fifth-tones and eighth-tones are also possible to execute on the flute.  The notation for these smaller intervals are typically different from piece to piece, and require either a change in embouchure or new fingerings.  If a player covers a considerable amount of the embouchure hole with the lower lip, every note on the flute up to the high c# (above the staff) can be lowered to a

semi-tone, quarter-tone, eighth-tone, etc. Some pieces call for trills that utilize these smaller intervals, but the fingers are usually supplied.

Sometimes a piece will call for a change in tone colour, and this can be achieved in many ways.

One of the principal ways of delivering a unique sound is the use of harmonics. They are produced by remaining on the same fingering but changing the embouchure. The technique should reflect the changes in the embouchure that occur when a player moves to a higher register. The air stream becomes faster and the angle is altered to produce the desired harmonic.

Another common method for changing tone colour is by using alternate fingerings.  Sometimes trills known as “tone-colour trills” are played by quickly alternating between the standard fingering of a given note and a fingering which results in a different tone colour.  For a more unique effect, it is also possible to sing through the flute by creating a normal embouchure and singing while you play the notes.  For different effects, you can sing in unison with the notes you're playing, sing octaves of the notes being played, or sing different notes altogether.  Singing pitches that are different from the notes being played is the one technique in this style that is the least effective because the voice isn't taking full advantage of the resonance of the tube.  A good example of this technique being used in contemporary music is the opening of Vox Balanae by George Crumb.

One last option for altering the timbre is by changing the embouchure or “tone-developer” in various ways.  Changes in the pressure or velocity in the air stream as well as modifying your embouchure can produce a wide variety of tone colours.  Interrupting the air stream with your tongue or increasing the air pressure will create a more hollow type of sound.  Sometimes the score will call

for a player to shape different vowels (and sometimes consonants) with their mouth, creating uncommon tone colours. Also, the embouchure can be changed to produce a sound that varies from only air to full tone quality.

One of the more interesting types of extended techniques possible on the flute is the production of more than one note at a time.  Woodwinds are the ideal group of instruments to create sounds where a fundamental and its harmonics are generated at comparable volumes.   Polyphonic effects producing two or more notes are made possible through the use of multiphonics.  Alternate fingerings are required along with accurate control of the embouchure to increase or decease the pressure in the air stream.  Brass instruments aren't as capable of producing extended techniques such as multiphonics, but it is worth noting that the trombone is the best in its category – being able to produce multiphonic sounds and intervals smaller than a semi-tone with its slide apparatus.  Out of the woodwind instruments, it is the clarinet that is the most well-suited to playing multiphonics.  Every fingering on the clarinet, traditional and alternate are capable of producing sounds that can transition from an individual note into a chord.

So far, the more common extended techniques have been discussed.  There are, however, less usual techniques that are commonly found in contemporary music.  Sometimes the sound of a more antiquated instrument is sought, so the use of hollow tones are employed.  It's possible to produce this type non-resonant, dry sound by using alternate fingerings for the same pitches.  To extend the range of the flute downward, the flute player can buzz their lips as if playing a brass instrument into the embouchure hole.  A cork can also be placed on the open end of the flute to lower the pitch, but the result is a very soft sound.  

In conclusion, the flute is an instrument that is capable of producing a wide variety of sounds through the use of extended techniques.  This gives the player and composer a diverse set of tools at their disposal for being more creative with the interpretation of a piece and the creation of new music.


Bartolozzim, Bruno. New Sounds for Woodwinds. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Pellerite, James. A Modern Guide to Fingerings for the Flute. Bloomington: Frangiapini Press, 1977.

Stokes, Sheridon, and Condon, Richard. Special Effects for Flute. Culver City: Trio Associates, 1970.

Toff, Nancy. The Flute Book – A Complete Guide for Students and Performers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Mats Moller, New Sounds for Flute, Extended Flute Techniques, Retrieved March 20, 2012 from http://www.sfz.se/flutetech/

John McMurtery, Extended Techniques for Flute: Polyphonic Techniques, Retrieved March 20, 2012 from

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  trending

Hi, the classical music community is at the tag #classical-music and the discord below! Hope to see you there!

Your post has been supported and upvoted from the Classical Music community on Steemit as it appears to be of interest to our community. You can find details about us below.


The classical music community at #classical-music and Discord.
Follow our community accounts @classical-music and @classical-radio.
Follow our curation trail (classical-radio) at SteemAuto

Great post i like it.

Congratulations @orlandolasso! You received a personal award!

Happy Birthday! - You are on the Steem blockchain for 1 year!

Click here to view your Board

Support SteemitBoard's project! Vote for its witness and get one more award!