Caveats for composers

Still in progress. For a more up-to-date presentation, have a look here.

Trills: avoid the following trills on the flute. They involve a sideways motion of the right hand little finger instead of the quick up-down motion that produces a good trill.




Since harmonics are produced by overblowing on the flute, the first octave notes cannot be produced as harmonics. The E-natural, F and F-sharp in the second octave are not available as harmonics because the fingering is the same in the first octave as in the second. They are already harmonics. Read more about the use of harmonics here.

Multiphonics: since these sounds are created by either overblowing or venting the tube of the flute (by opening an extra key or half-holing), be aware that multiphonics based on the lowest notes of the flute will produce multiphonics based on the harmonic spectrum. If you are interested in writing a non-harmonic sounding multiphonic and want to give the player a choice by writing the main pitch with an “M” as shown here:


the second measure, the C in the second octave, gives more possibilities than the first. For Q & A about writing for mulitphonics, read here.

A short list of some of my pet peeves:

  • Using empty note heads to indicate air or aeolian sounds. Please see my tips on this subject.
  • Bass flute together with bass clarinet. Neither their ranges nor sonorities match. IMO the bass flute is better paired with the A-clarinet. The bass clarinet is a different animal altogether, with a much broader range, more scope for dynamics, than the bass flute. Just because they are both labeled “bass” (incorrectly, as it turns out for the bass flute, but that’s another story altogether) doesn’t mean they belong together.
  • piccolo and E-flat clarinet ditto. Cliche.
  • Fluttertongue. It’s also cliche.
  • Extended techniques stacked up on top of one another. It is easy to think that this will make the sound more interesting and intense. Well, some techniques cancel each other out and just muddy the waters. Better to pick a few that work acoustically well together.