The singing flutist

When I was about fourteen, I played the recorder. I really enjoyed contemporary music. One of my favorite pieces was Music For A Bird (1968) by Hans Martin Linde. Many extended techniques had to be used. One of the techniques was singing & playing. As a teenager I didn’t think and just sang (hum) and just played. When I started playing the flute, I didn’t work with extended techniques at first. One of my first teachers introduced the book Check Up by Peter Lukas Graf in our lessons. In one of the exercises one has to sing and play to work on sound and resonance. And indeed, when I practiced this exercise at least one sequence, it had a huge effect on my sound.

The interesting thing about singing and playing is to experiment with volume, intonation and tension in the throat. Let’s start with the last one. If you have tension in the throat while playing the flute, this technique will show you right away. Working on this technique makes you very aware and therefore it is possible to let go of the tension, just by noticing the tension.

The second topic is intonation. We can sing and play one melody in unison or we can sing and play two different parts at the same time. Both are great intonation exercises. When you sing and play the same melody, it is interesting to listen to the natural waves in the sound. If the combination of singing and playing is out of tune, the sound waves will be very fast, if you sing and play in tune, there will be no sound waves at all. I’m not talking about vibrato. I’m talking about the combination of both voices (flute and voice) that create waves in the sound. If you practice this way, try playing without vibrato.

Combining two different parts produces different tones. A difference tone is a tone that appears when two tones are combined. For example, if you play a duet with two flutes, you will always hear a third part. That is also the case when you sing and play.

I always try to relax the voice as much as possible. Don’t put too much pressure on it. It’s nice to find a balance in volume of voice and flute. Adjust your embouchure a bit and experiment with blowing more into the flute or less into the flute. If you get it right, it sounds beautiful. Record yourself to make sure what you hear in your head is the same as on the recording.

On my website you will find an instructional video to learn to sing & play. Also in the Flute Colors book you will find 10 exercises on this subject. On the website you will also find various arrangements to practice this technique in pieces and to challenge yourself to play a nice duet all by yourself!


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Sheet music

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