Comfortable Upper Range

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Comfortable Upper Range

Post by gsimonel »

Hi. I'm a composer, not a flautist (or is flutist the preferred term?). I'm working on an orchestral piece, and I need some advice. A flute player once told me that playing anything above E6 (2 octaves and a third above middle C) is very difficult. Considering that any pitches below C5 usually doesn't come through in an orchestra, this doesn't seem like much of a usable range. Is an E6 upper limit correct?

The piece that I'm writing now has both 1st and 2nd flutes play G6, and the 1st flute has a pretty quick run that goes up to G#6. Is this expecting too much of the flutes? Would it be wise to rewrite the 2nd flute part to keep it below E6 and replace the 1st flute with a piccolo?

Thank you for your advice.

Glenn Simonelli
Composer wannabe

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Re: Comfortable Upper Range

Post by pied_piper »

The answer to your question depends upon the target of your composition. Obviously, you can expect more from a flutist in a professional orchestra than one in a high school orchestra.

Assuming that you are talking about a pro orchestra, the typical range written for flute is C4 to C7. Pro flutists are often capable of reaching F7 (and in some cases even higher) but that is not typical for most orchestral literature. A few orchestral works will take the flute up as high as D7 but it is not all that common. If writing for less than a pro orchestra, then the range should be reduced accordingly. Regarding your passage up to G6 and G#6, that is perfectly reasonable and very common for a pro or even a good high school or college flutist.

Regarding your comment about pitches below C5, yes the lowest octave of the flute does not project as well as higher pitches, but it certainly can be heard unless the rest of the orchestra is playing FF. The lowest octave is often used for soft passages with solo flute.

Every instrument has some limitations and it is up to the composer to accept those limitations and how to use each instrument to it's best advantage.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."

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Re: Comfortable Upper Range

Post by SylvreKat »

I had zero issues playing high-Ab in high school. Like pied said, it's very doable.

My advice--keep the flutes parts as written. And add a picc part! Never mind more cowbell, MORE PICC!!!! :D

Flutes:1975 Gemeinhardt M2 in chrome nickel;1982 Armstrong 80;2006 Yamaha 584

Piccs:1978 Artley piece of crap 15 P;1982 Gemeinhardt 4S;1980s? Armstrong all wood (no model)

Bass:2006 Jupiter di Medici G0199
Treble:2009 Guo New Voice

+ many flute-cousins

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Re: Comfortable Upper Range

Post by Gandalfe »

I often wish that some low range passages could be mic'd to carry better without blowing your brains out. Quieting down a wind ensemble can sometimes be a challenge. I do remember one time when my instrument spoke very eloquently and with so much ease. I was like, wow ... I've finally figured it out, just to find out a clarinet was mic'd and on the stand next to me and picked up my voicings. Doh!
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Re: Comfortable Upper Range

Post by geekygeek »

Anything up to B6 is reasonable in my opinion for any flutist in an orchestra. B6 is actually much easier to speak than E6.

I'm in a high school marching band and the highest note in the piece is a Bb6 in a fast run.

Difficult high notes are especially E6 and F#6. Not impossible but difficult. If it's in a run, it's not bad. But if you're asking someone to come in pp on those notes, it can be a bit difficult. These two notes also tend to be very sharp, but high register flute is sharp in general.

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