Robert Dick is one of the trailblazers of the flute world. His performances, compositions, teaching, method books and designs have opened up a world of possibilities in the flute sound landscape. He invented the Glissando Headjoint®, inspired by the “whammy bar” on the electric guitar.
He has inspired multiple generations of flutists to look for new sounds and explore new possibilities on the flute, which he redefined. His book The Other Flute is the bible of multiphonics and new sounds for the flute.
What inspires you? What other disciplines besides music inspire you?
Life itself! I try not to separate life from art. Besides music, the visual arts, sculpture, literature, comedy.
What inspired you to create your online-presence projects? What made you choose this particular format/project?
It seemed clear that to communicate with younger people, musicians and flutists in particular, doing so online was necessary. In looking around, I decided to use YouTube and Instagram.
What disciplines outside of music help you be creative?
What technique helps you be organized so you can meet deadlines (concert or recital performances, teaching, book writing, composing, etc.)?
Mixed success there. I’m always ready to go for performances, but have missed composing and writing deadlines.
Book of Shadows
Do you play any other instruments besides the flute? If so, does it contribute in a positive way to your flute playing? How?
I play jaw harp (boingggggg!) for fun and it’s great for exercising the mouth and throat. I also sing – extremely helpful for flute playing.
What’s the most important piece of advice that you would give to a musician in general, or a flutist in particular?
Follow your heart and fasten your seatbelt.
Is there a technical aspect to flute playing that you feel is vital for success?
Understanding what’s needed in the situation you’re in, and doing it superlatively. Being a good, supportive colleague is also indispensable.
What aspect of your flute playing is your favorite feature?
Whatever I’m doing now, which is improvising more often than not.
Paganini Caprice in e minor, Opus 1, #15 “Posato”
What do you consider to be the most important aspects of musicianship?
Listening intently. Listening well.
Do you think that there is an aspect of flute playing that is neglected that should receive more attention?
Playing with a truly personal sound and approach. Flute sounds have become very uniform.
Do you think there is an aspect of the instrument itself that should be improved? How?
I’ve been working on this most of my life. A flute that can be played in a truly ergonomic way and that provides every possible combination of open and closed holes, small and large, would be ideal.
What technical or musical skills do you think will be crucial in the future?
Flexibility – being able to play many types of music with approaches to the flute that sound natural for each type of music.
Piece in Gamelan Style
What is one of the highlights of your career so far?
The invention of the Glissando Headjoint®.
Who are your favorite composers?
Jimi Hendrix, JS Bach, many anonymous Africans, Ligeti, Stockhausen, many of the creative musicians I’ve worked with.
What’s your favorite song or piece in general (might not involve the flute)?
Can’t name just one.
What’s your favorite flute piece?
The one I’m playing now. Luckily I never have to play anything I don’t want to.
Sliding Life Blues
What skill in flute playing do you wish you had learned when you were a beginner?
Keyboard harmony and skills, playing by ear, transposing.
What advice would you give yourself when you were a beginner, if you could go back in time?
Develop chops on the keyboard or guitar. Play drums. Learn harmony but don’t be a slave to it.
When you don’t have much time, what technical exercises do you practice?
Throat tuning and harmonics.
When you have the luxury of time, what technical exercises do you practice?
Whatever I think needs work. I don’t have a routine.
When you have lots of time, what pieces of music do you practice?
I’ll work on the one I’m creating. Or one of the one’s that are “done” but are still developing.
What aspect of your playing or teaching do you think is most inspiring to your students?
My openness, imagination and creativity.
What mistakes, both technical and musical, do you see most frequently in students?
Not understanding the relationship of the body to the flute and vice versa.
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