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Extended Techniques for Flute: Other Techniques - John McMurtery

Module by: Patricia Gray. E-mail the author

Summary: This module contains video and text dealing with extended techniques for flute in contemporary literature.

John McMurtery Website

Whistle Tones

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Chromatic scale

Whistle tones (notated W.T.) are very high, faint tones produced by blowing a very small amount of air across the flute through a relaxed aperture. Flutists sometimes use them in their warm-up routines to fine-tune the embouchure. Although whistle tones are quite faint and not very reliable to produce, an imaginative composer can produce some wonderful effects. Several works of Robert Dick, a virtuoso flutist himself, feature stunning effects using whistle tones.

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Jet Whistle

The jet-whistle is produced by covering the embouchure hole completely with the mouth, and blowing as forcefully as possible directly into the instrument. The effect is a loud “whoosh” that can be quite penetrating.

Head Joint Only

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A flutist has the option to play on just the head joint by itself, without attaching it to the body of the instrument. A few different pitches are possible, as well as a slide-whistle effect which I demonstrate in the video clip.

Play Movie


Chromatic scale

The flute can be played like a brass instrument by removing the head joint and buzzing directly into the barrel of the body. The effect works best on the lowest fingered pitches. The pitch will vary depending on the amount of lip control the flutist can maintain. This is very tiring for the lips, and can adversely affect normally-produced flute notes afterwards, so composers are advised to use this technique very sparingly.

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