Playing Low Flutes: Part 1 - Introduction

In a series of blogs, alto and bass flute specialist Carla Rees talks about ways to get the best out of low flutes.
For many, starting to play low flutes is an exciting but daunting prospect. In many ways, these instruments are the same as the much more familiar C flute, but there are a number of differences to contend with, many of which are obvious, and some more subtle, if you are to get the best out of playing low flutes. In this series of blogs I’ll be looking at different aspects of playing alto and bass flute and providing hints and tips based on several years of experience.

The techniques I’ll be discussing in this blog work for me, and have been developed through trial and error, combined with a knowledge of flute playing, and careful observation of the resultant sound. I’ve tried many of these ideas with students which has enabled me to refine the techniques based on how they work for a range of different people. However, it’s extremely important to remember that everyone is built differently, and while general rules can help to point you in the right direction, modifications might be needed to find what works best for you.

Listening is important, and so is patience; some of these ideas might give instant improvements, while others take time to develop. Get used to listening both to the sound you’re making at the moment, and the imaginary, ideal sound in your head that you’re aiming to reproduce. The closer you’re listening, the more you’ll notice. Be critical, but also take time to be proud of your achievements. If something doesn’t work, remember it. It can sometimes me more useful to figure out what doesn’t work, so that you can narrow down the possibilities of what might. Failing, and making mistakes, is an important part of discovery and those things can be extremely valuable if you allow yourself to learn from them. Never be afraid to experiment with different ideas, and use what you’re learning on low flutes to inform your C flute playing too.

For me, learning to play low flutes taught me a huge amount about playing the C flute, especially in terms of the many, many myths of flute playing which seem to come up time and time again. In this series, I’ll be looking at topics such as posture, articulation, breathing, support, embouchure, tone colours and dynamics, all in relation to low flutes, but all of the ideas will transfer to C flute too.

More soon, but for now, the number 1 rule of low flutes playing: use lots of slow air, resonate and don’t play it like it’s a C flute!

Carla's website
Click here for details of rarescale’s summer school for flute players and composers

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