Mahler Symphony No. 5 B3C#4 & AB3 Trills
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) wrote his Symphony No. 5 in 1901-1902. This symphony is an often performed piece of the orchestral repertoire. It calls for four flutes; all of them doubling on piccolo (the 1st and 2nd flutes play piccolo for only 2 measures at the end of the Scherzo).
At the end of the 5th movement, Rondo - Finale, 8 measures before number 35, all four flutes play two high trills in rapid succession.
Optional Flute Keys
Many times I've been asked by students about the optional keys on the flute, and their pros and cons. Since many companies use different names for the same key, deciding what optional keys to choose when ordering a flute can be pretty daunting.
Here is a list of the most common optional keys for the flute and some less common ones, as well.
Harmonics for Fast Passages
One of the most useful ways to utilize harmonics, besides color and pitch changes, is to facilitate fast passages in the third octave of the flute.
By using harmonics of the octave or fifth (actually twelfth, but for simplification purposes we’ll refer to them as fifth) we can avoid some of the awkward cross-fingerings inherent to the third octave.
Below let’s examine some passages of the solo and orchestral repertoire where harmonic fingerings come to our help.
Daphnis and Chloé - alto flute
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) started writing Daphnis et Chloé, his ballet in three scenes, in 1909, and it was premiered in 1912.
This ballet, and its suites, which are more often performed, are a treat for flutists.
All four flute parts in this piece (piccolo, first and second flutes, and alto flute) are important audition pieces. One of its most beautiful moments is the alto flute solo, which is often asked for in Associate Principal auditions.
Orchestral Excerpts List
Most famous composers have written beautiful flute solos in their orchestral works. Those solos are worth practicing on their own and are essential for orchestral auditions. In addition to knowing the flute part well, a flutist must also know what the other instruments in the orchestra are playing and the musical context of those solos. Below I list some of the most common orchestral excerpts, and when available, their flute parts, orchestral scores, and links to a few articles about them that I have written in this blog.
Ibert Concerto Tremolo Fingerings
Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) wrote his Flute Concerto, dedicated to Marcel Moyse, in 1932.
In its third movement, Allegro Scherzando, Ibert wrote a series of challenging tremolos. Here are some fingerings for flutes with and without a C#-trill key.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote his Symphony No.1 in D major, op. 25, commonly known as Classical in 1916-1917. Its four movements are 1. Allegro, 2. Larghetto, 3. Gavotte: Non Troppo Allegro and 4. Finale: Molto Vivace.
Excerpts from this symphony are very often part of the required repertoire for orchestral auditions. In particular, passages from the Finale, due to its fast tempo and technical difficulty. Extracts from the Larghetto are common as well, where rhythmic accuracy, a clear tone and good intonation in the third register are indispensable.
The Carnival of the Animals
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) wrote Les Carnaval des Animaux - The Carnival of the Animals, in 1886.
Of the 14 movements in this piece, 3 require a flute/piccolo: Aquarium, Volière and Final. The 10th movement, Volière (The Aviary), is both beautiful and technically challenging. The quickness of some of the passages call for alternative fingerings, which follow.
Essential Third Octave Alternative Flute Fingerings
The following are essential third octave fingerings that every student should know. These fingerings are used to lower the pitch, most commonly in forte passages.
These fingerings should be taught to our students and memorized as soon as they comprehend in what instances they should be used.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) wrote the incidental music to Ein Sommernachtstraum - A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1842.
There are many famous movements in this piece such as the Wedding March, but the Scherzo is one that as flutists we know best since it's an audition excerpt.
Even though Felix Mendelssohn was a romantic composer the Scherzo sounds classical, and we need to approach the general character and articulation of this movement as such.
Breathing & Playing
One of the difficulties that we face as flutists is the need for large volumes of air. This is further aggravated by the need to take breaths in quickly, since many composers often write long phrases or long passages of fast moving notes for the flute.
The following is an exercise that I practice, and that I have my students practice as well, to train ourselves how to breathe and play in the most seamless possible way.
Over the years I've had to remind myself that most of my students belong to a different generation, and that what I say to them might mean something different to them than it does for me. One such example is metronome markings: when I tell my students to practice an excerpt at one tempo several times and then to go up one notch, for them it means to go, let's say, from 80 to 81 bpm, whereas for me it means to go from 80 to 84 bpm. Here is why.
The 3 B-flat Fingerings
Very often I'm asked by band directors, or see posts on flute forums about which Bb (Bb1 & Bb2) fingering is best to teach first. As frequently, I see passionate responses, as if they were dogma, about what one famous teacher or another said about that subject. I'd like to add my own thoughts, and hopefully present a valid argument to why and when we should use one fingering or another.
Quick Tone Fixes - part 2
This second part of Quick Tone Fixes deals with how to develop a more flexible and consistent tone. It also addresses how to find your own voice by listening and being aware of your tone.
Quick Tone Fixes - part 1
If you go to any university or conservatory practice rooms early in the morning, you’ll hear the sounds of flocks of flutists practicing the “Moyse Exercise” (i.e. exercise 1 from On Sonority, Art & Technique by Marcel Moyse). We all have been told by our teachers that it’s one of the best and most fundamental tone exercises, but what can we do when we want to improve a specific aspect of our tone?
When we have a clear idea of what we want to achieve, it’s easier to reach those goals. Long term goals are important, but it is useful to have specific short term goals for each exercise, particularly for tone development.
Respighi Pines of Rome F#A3 Tremolo
In the first movement of Pini di Roma, "I pini di Villa Borghese", Ottorino Respighi writes an F#A3 tremolo in the first flute part.
This tremolo is awkward to play with regular fingerings, and hard to sound with harmonic fingerings (F#1 & A1) without any modifications.
A Better in Tune FG3 Trill
Most of us use the FG3 trill that we first learned where we finger F3 and trill with our thumb. That trill is useful in most situations, but has the disadvantage of yielding a flat G3. What if we needed to play that trill in the orchestra in tune with an oboe?
Many flute players have requested this fingering repeatedly in the FLUTELIST forum, which I posted a few years ago (2004-09-22).
Dvorak Cello Concerto B3C#4 trill
Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto, op.104 is a favorite among cellists, audiences, and flute players. It features the flute prominently in many solos and dialogues with the soloist.
At the end of the first movement, in the first flute part, Dvořák writes a high B to high C# trill (B3C#4). Most flutists, including myself, tend to forget how to play that trill since it's seldom used in the flute repertoire.