When to start learning extended techniques

During a flute festival in the Netherlands I spoke with one of my colleagues. Though he feels my Flute Colors work is brilliant, he didn’t quite agree with me teaching extended techniques to young and novice flutists. A lovely discussion followed in which I explained to him my vision and didactics.

For years now I’ve been teaching workshops in extended techniques all over the world. The youngest student so far was 7 and the oldest one 80 years old. Not only age but also skill levels tend to vary a lot. In my experience once you start teaching extended techniques these different skill levels become irrelevant. Children who have only just begun playing the flute are generally still openminded. Everything is new. They easily take on new challenges, including extended techniques. More experienced flutists tend to be less flexible and really have to work at learning any new techniques. They usually have to cross a certain threshold and are faced with their own ingrained convictions.

What is so difficult?

Extended techiques needn’t necesarrily be hard. Even within these techniques varying levels of difficulty exist. Multiphonics tend to be more challenging than tone bending, quarter tones are easier than circular breathing. A loose key click is much easier than a continuous sequence in the form of a musical scale. The first harmonic is easier to play than the 6th in the sequence, etc, etc.

Starting young…

Extended techiques tend to be associated with modern, complex music, which is why I understand my colleague’s opinion at the flute festival. However, with Flute Colors I try to maintain a low threshold so that even beginning flutists can benefit from extended techniques. From their very first lesson a new student can start to experiment. Generally the first few lessons are focused on the head piece of the flute, which I believe is good practice. However, I feel that besides this focus a new student could also be made acquintant with the rest of the flute by being given fun exercises involving key clicks.

…means succes for life

If you’re an experienced flutist you’ve probably worked hard on developing skills, like a beautiful tone, good techniques, etc. If you start out quite late in introducing and studying extended techniques you may face some challenges. Extended techniques make you aware of the flute’s utmost potential, which can be quite confrontational. Yet, how would it feel being able to draw from all these possibilities?

When best to start with modern playing techiques?

After explaining this to my flute festival colleague I was quickly able to convince him. Extended techniques are for everyone, regardless of age or skill level. In short, when is the right time to start with extended techniques? Right now!


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Sheet music

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