Flute Glissando Range

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Flutefruits
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Flute Glissando Range

Post by Flutefruits » Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:41 pm

Hello I am a composer and know little about flute ranges :oops: . I'm trying to write a piece where flutes move up in glissando patterns, specifically an open key flute so it can play through microtones.

I was speaking to my tutor in university about this the other day and he said that simply going from a low not to a high note via glissando on flute is limited because of the fingerings :shock: .

My original plan was going from a low F to a high D sharp. with all the tonal and microtonal qualities in between :lol: . What is problematic about this? If I am starting from an F what is the highest note I can reach via glissando?

Thanks

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pied_piper
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Re: Flute Glissando Range

Post by pied_piper » Mon Feb 25, 2013 5:20 pm

Your tutor is very correct. It's not a limit of the range of the flute but rather, a limitation due to the number of open holes. An open hole flute has only five open holes which are located on the A, G, F, E, and D keys. A flutist can therefore gliss from low D up to B, but even that will not be exactly the effect you want because it will not be as smooth as a trombone gliss. The flute could also do that same gliss an octave higher, but in between those notes, only the standard chromatic pitches are available. Some very experienced flutists can perform a half step gliss on most notes with their lip, but it can't be done across a wider interval.

From your description, it seems you are looking for an effect similar to the clarinet gliss in the opening of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Unfortunately, the flute cannot do that. For that type of effect with a flute-like sound, I suggest you write that part for a slide whistle. Most well equipped percussion sections will have one available to them.

Alternatively, you might have a flutist play that using only the headjoint. If the player removes the headjoint from the flute and inserts their right finger into the headjoint, it can produce a very smooth gliss by withdrawing their finger, but the starting and ending pitches will not be well defined.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

Flutefruits
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Re: Flute Glissando Range

Post by Flutefruits » Mon Feb 25, 2013 5:59 pm

That's very helpful.

The piece is quite contemporary, the idea of the flutes is inspired by the turntable in John Cage's Imaginary Landscape 1. If you're not aware of the piece basically a vinyl of a pitched sine wave is played by player 4 and he uses the pitch control precisely to change the pitch - http://gfxc.smpgfx.com/Look-Inside/larg ... _00-01.jpg

Mine was a bit more indeterminate like that, i'm assuming the headjoint technique is still as limited as standard glissando? In that case clarinet could very well be an option but I might just make the range smaller as the timbre is more important.

I'm not using a turntable though because I want a natural sounding instrument like a woodwind.

Again thank you for the answer, any further info is greatly appreciated.

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pied_piper
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Re: Flute Glissando Range

Post by pied_piper » Mon Feb 25, 2013 9:49 pm

Here's a YouTube video of a skilled professional flutist (Matthias Ziegler) demonstrating a gliss up and down on a flute. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsG9LIuFQ0Y

If you watch closely, you'll see that he does this with a combination of sliding fingers on/off the open holes and simultaneously bending the pitch by rolling the flute in and out. This produces a gliss between the middle line B and D below the staff. He does this in the lower octave, but the same could be done in the next higher octave as well. It would however be nearly impossible to produce a gliss over a two octave range without a break between those two ranges. This should give you an idea of what is possible. Shorter glissandos (less than one octave) are more practical on the flute.

However, most flutists do not often perform glissandos of this nature and they would likely have to practice the technique to obtain the desired effect as smoothly as you hear in the video. In most modern flute music using extended techniques like this, composers often insert directions, hints, or even fingerings into the score to help the flutist obtain the desired effect.

In the last few years, flutist Robert Dick has invented and is marketing a glissando headjoint for flutes. However, this is not standard equipment for flutists. This is a special headjoint that slides in and out like a trombone slide. Here are two videos. The first is the inventor Robert Dick and the second is Greg Pattillo who combines beatboxing with flute playing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVP5ffxX5Kg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFGXaLSPeaM

Finally, here's a glissando headjoint being demonstrated in a composition class at UC Berkeley.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_zXHpO8lfE

Google "glissando flute headjoint" for more information and videos.

I hope that helps!
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

Flutefruits
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Re: Flute Glissando Range

Post by Flutefruits » Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:55 am

Cheers man. Sorry for the delayed reply but i've been working very hard in uni and have finally finished.

I eventually went with the glissando headjoint, my tutor said it would be fine depsite being considered unconventional (at the moment at least).


Again, thanks for the help it took a lot of stress off me 8)

wkzh
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Re: Flute Glissando Range

Post by wkzh » Fri May 30, 2014 12:06 pm

I guess this comes a bit late, but I'd like to mention that it is possible to smoothly glissando from middle D to high E. (It's also possible to push it higher, but it gets kinda tricky, clumsy, and hard to control.)

The glissando is smooth with respect to pitch, but timbre varies somewhat - rather weak at some points, although not really noticeable at faster speeds. The basic idea is to switch harmonics while executing the glissando. Add in circular breathing... and voila!

Not sure which is rarer - a flautist who can play glissandi, or a flautist who owns a glissando headjoint.
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

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