Fireworks on the flute

Writing mid-December we are regularly startled by early fireworks in our village. Their backpacks filled with fireworks, young people stroll through the village and visibly enjoy the loud bangs and whistling bottle rockets. The noise can sometimes give you quite a scare.

For me, thinking about fireworks the first thing that comes to mind is the jet whiste. Though the flute is often regarded as in instrument to be played beautifully and harmoniously, the instrument has the ability to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. A jet whistle is played with a strong and forceful air thrust reminiscent of the starting of a plane. Hence the name jet whistle.

How to play the jet whistle on the flute

Cover the mouthpiece with your mouth. Make sure you can still breathe through the flute. Now blow forcefully through the flute with a strong thrust from the diaphragm. By turning the flute inward or outward a little (ensure you keep covering the mouth piece!) you can influence timbre and intonation. It helps to use the vocals ‘hò’, as in ‘hot’ and ‘ee’ as in ‘me’. Start with the ‘hò’ and quickly change to ‘ee’ whilst blowing. Thinking about playing a crescendo is also useful.

Why practising a jet whistle?

The jet whistle works best when you bring about a strong air thrust with your mouth and diaphragm. That’s why practicing this technique teaches you to how to properly use the diaphragm whilst playing. The forceful thrust makes you more aware of the functioning of the diaphragm so you can use it to your advantage whilst playing a classic score as well. Try not to practise this technique for too long at a time though as it can be quite exhausting.

How to recognize a jet whistle

The notations for the jet whistle vary. Composers tend to actually write down the word ‘jet’ or ‘jet whistle’.

An example of a notation for the jet whistle.

Going out with a bang!

It could be a nice idea to play along to the young people in the village… although… I’m not a great fan of fireworks. Perhaps I can simulate a bottle rocket on the flute, so I’ll still end the year with a bang!

Translation: Elise Bikker


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