7 tips on choosing a beginner flute

Yamaha YFL-211 Flute

This article was first written in February 2011, and has been updated in July 2015.

Buying your first flute can be daunting: there are so many different makes, models and types of flutes available, and the variations in price can be hundreds of pounds. Below, we’ve compiled our top tips to help a complete newcomer decide on a new flute.

1. Do plenty of research on the different brands available

The ABRSM Viva Woodwind forum has a lot of helpful information from players and teachers, detailing some good and bad brands. If you already have a flute teacher lined up, they should also be able to offer their own advice on what to buy.

2. Be careful of flutes which look too cheap…

This is important. Some supermarkets, high street chains and online-only warehouses sell their own brand of flutes. In our experience, these flutes should be avoided: while the quality of Chinese flutes has undoubtedly improved since this article was originally written, there are still many poor-quality, cheap flutes around, and while the initial outlay is low, the running costs can quickly overtake the price of a good branded flute.

As well as the high running costs, cheap flutes are not as easy to play, and can be difficult even for an advanced player to make a decent sound on. We see so many players on the verge of giving up because they thought they were just no good at the flute – when in fact the problem was caused by a poor-quality instrument.

Our own-brand budget flutes may be priced a fraction higher than the cheapest high-street flutes – but they have been designed by flute players (us!) and will give a student a good start.

We recommend that you should budget between £200 – £450 for an entry-level flute, although rental schemes, Take It Away and buying second hand can help to reduce the up-front strain on your wallet.

3. …But don’t buy something that’s not designed for a beginner

It should go without saying that flutes classified as ‘beginner flutes’ have been designed specifically for beginner players. A good quality beginner flute will be easy to play, light to hold, and should withstand the knocks that are almost fated to happen to it.

On the other hand, step-up flutes, professional flutes and so on, have been designed for players who can already play the flute to an extent. They’re not designed to be as easy to play, but they don’t need to be – they tend to be heavier, offer the fuller sound and increased projection that an advanced player needs.

4. Stick to ‘traditional’ specifications

There’s a whole raft of options available on flutes. Open holes, C# trill keys, E mechanism, B footjoint, D# roller, silver this or that.

In our opinion, a beginner player should start on a silver-plated flute with closed holes, E mechanism (sometimes called a Split E) and C footjoint. If you want to know what these terms mean, read our Jargon Buster, but basically a flute with these specifications will be (a) easier to play and (b) easier to re-sell at a higher value when the time arises.

5. Get the right size

Flutes don’t come in different ‘sizes’ as such, but you can get curved headjoints for a small beginner. This brings the keys of the flute closer to the body, reducing the stretch. If your child needs a curved headjoint, the truth is that it will cost more; but the problems if you don’t get a curved headjoint could far outweigh the price difference. Neck and back pain from over-stretching can arise, and players can easily get into the bad habit of poor posture. It can take many years to sort out a poor posture that wouldn’t have arisen with a curved headjoint.

For very small players (ages 5 to 7), you could start on the fife or Apprentice flute, both of which are affordable ‘mini’ flutes.

6. A good brand will hold its value

Unlike many things in this modern world – cars, computers, phones etc – flutes can hold their value very well. Many major manufacturers have been making the same models for years, so you don’t need to worry about your flute being obsolete or superceded in six months’ time. In fact, because of ever-rising metal prices, some customers have been lucky enough to discover that a Yamaha 211 flute bought new a few years ago is now worth more second hand than they paid new!

7. Think ahead

Hopefully, you’re buying a flute with the intention of sticking at it and developing your ability and sound. Certain beginner flutes – notably the Pearl PF-505 and Yamaha YFL-211 – are upgradable by replacing the headjoint (the part that you blow in to). Putting a handmade silver headjoint on one of these is like loading it with rocket fuel – the improvement is immense, for a fraction of the price of an intermediate flute.

If you stick to this advice, you will have an instrument that will give you many years of reliable use and enjoyment, with that all-important room for development.

Now that you know what you are looking for, view the selection of beginner flutes on offer at Just Flutes
Haynes Flute

8 Top Tips on Testing a New Flute

When it comes to testing out new instruments, the experience can often be overwhelming. We’ve put together our top tips to help you narrow down the choice and find your perfect upgrade flute. Whether you are looking for a step-up instrument or a professional model, follow these pointers to help you on your way!

1. Warm up on your current flute first

It’s natural to be excited about trying new flutes, but don’t test one of the new flutes with Flight of the Bumblebee quite yet – hold back! Get your chops warmed up on your existing flute with some long notes first. This has the added benefit of giving you a reference point for what you are comparing the new flutes to.

2. Scales. Sorry!

Once you’re warmed up, hold off the tunes for a little longer. Play some slow scales on each flute – this will give you an idea of how the instrument sounds across its entire range, and may expose weaker areas.

3. Check the dynamic ranges

This is something that can be done while you are playing scales. Can you play the low register with a strong, full sound? Can you play high notes quietly and sweetly?

4. Test the articulation

How responsive and clean is the articulation? Again, simple scales played slowly and tongued will give you a good idea. Also, try without tonguing (diaphragm only).

5. Get an idea of its tone colours

Play low, simple tunes (good ones are Fauré’s ‘Pavane’ or ‘The Aquarium’ from ‘Carnival of the Animals’), and aim at a very hollow, open sound. Go up an octave and see if you can produce the same sort of sound. It is very important that an instrument is capable of producing a similar quality of sound throughout the full range. Next, try a much harder sound with lots of harmonics, again in different octaves (Moyse 24 Easy Melodic Studies No. 10 – strong and trumpet like, is ideal).

6. Get a friend to help

A listener comes in useful when testing the projection. Some instruments appear to play loudly close up, but cannot be heard at the back of a concert hall. Others don’t sound loud close up, but the sound travels better – this is projection, and can be very deceiving. A good way to test this is to compare instruments while you have a listener outside the room with the door closed: which sounds louder?

7. Be prepared to compromise

You may have a pre-conceived idea of your ‘perfect’ instrument, (in terms of sound, feel or any other area really!).  But – take our word for it – it probably doesn’t exist!

8. Be realistic about what an upgrade offers

A new instrument can’t compensate for shortcomings in your playing – only hours of careful practice can do this. But a new instrument gives you the potential to improve your sound in all areas – practice will then make this a reality!

Composer Profile: Geoff Eales

Geoff EalesIt is fortunate for us flute players that jazz pianist-composer Geoff Eales and the talented Andy Findon are such good friends. As a direct result of their collaboration for the CD The Dancing Flute, we now have some of the best flute jazz music to play for ourselves.

Eales studied composition with Alun Hoddinott and wrote award-winning large-scale orchestral works before he became more interested in jazz. His stellar career since then has enabled him to carve out a niche as an improviser, and it is these two aspects of his style that underpin all his works for the flute.

He certainly knows how to write dreamy melodies. Song For My Mother is beautiful, with a simple tune over a sustained accompaniment. There is no big technical challenge here but the 16-bar piano intro sets a relaxed ambience for the whole piece. There is a real feeling of freedom in the flute writing which is quite enchanting.

Remembrance is in a similar stylem but the minor key adds darker sonorities. This is captivating, drawing you in as you play – absolutely lovely!

If you’re in the mood for something upbeat, Eternal Dance is rhythmically tough with 7/8 alternating with 5/4 in the manner of Bartók (the metronome marking is 162, so this is a real workout!). In a completely different style is Elf Dance. Here three fast and furious sections alternating 6/8, 3/4 and 5/4 contrast with something slightly more lyrical to produce an exciting piece that’s always on the move. Farewell Patagonia is different again with a driving tango rhythm taking us to South America. In all of these works the piano is so important, and there are frequent improvisatory-style piano introductions and breaks. This makes the performances even better!

Geoff has also written repertoire for other members of the flute family: there isn’t much original music for penny whistle, so In The Eyes Of A Child is very special. A simple lullaby in waltz time, this is a piece that wonderfully captures the innocence of youth. You can of course play this on the flute but it really does sound great on a quality whistle!

This could not contrast more starkly with Force 11 for piccolo and piano. The performance direction for the opening improvised section here is manically and atonally and this leads on to the notated main body of the work that is marked demonic! This will stretch even the most accomplished player with its extreme range and relentlessly changing times. Intensely fun!

For low flutes, Geoff has written us two gems. Lochria’s Rhumba for alto flute and piano is a real fusion of styles. The mysterious melody is based on the Locrian mode and weaves its way enticingly around the lower reaches of the alto. The accompaniment adds a slow rhumba to the texture. The result is another laid-back and free work that casts an evocative spell over the audience. His work for bass flute and piano is Ice Maiden, another hypnotic piece which is again really sultry. The pulse is more clearly defined here with gentle syncopation in the piano allowing the sensuous sound of the bass flute space to sing the rich melody. Both these pieces are extremely well crafted for each specific instrument, using it to its maximum effect and reflecting the individual character.

Jazz for flute doesn’t come much better than this. Geoff and Andy – thank you!

Geoff Eales’s music is published by Astute Music and is available from Just Flutes.

Jingle Bling

6 Christmas Books That Your Flute Choir Should Own

Looking for music for your flute choir’s Christmas concert? We’ve hand-picked six great festive books that every flute choir should own.

1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Ricky Lombardo’s arrangement of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas gives the solo to the alto flute, with three accompanying flutes providing a sumptuous backing . This is a masterstroke of arranging and really works, giving a lucky player a fantastic chance to shine and sending the audience home happy!

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas


2. Frederick Delius’s Sleigh Ride

Nancy Nourse’s transcription of Frederick Delius’s Sleigh Ride for piccolo, 4 flutes, alto, bass and sleigh bells is a chance to play less familiar music. This is an early Delius work which delivers the crisp clarity of a snowy day together with the pulse of a horse-drawn sleigh. The bells add a lovely touch!

Sleigh Ride


3. The Nutcracker (in 5 Minutes)

No review of Christmas ensemble music would be complete without a mention of The Nutcracker (in 5 minutes). Judy Nishimura has crammed your favourite dances from the ballet into a very short space of time – and it’s not easy! You need a piccolo, four flutes, alto, bass and contrabass for a successful performance (but she has also produced a version for flute and piano so no-one need lose out!).

The Nutcracker (in 5 minutes)

4. White Christmas

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas in the Wonderful Winds catalogue is written for four C flutes. This clever arrangement perfectly fills a short slot in your concert and your audience will enjoy spotting the hidden traditional carols. Includes three easy parts, with a trickier jazzy fourth part.

White Christmas

5. A Christmas Collection

Robert Rainford’s two-volume Christmas Collection (Vol 1, Vol 2) will provide you with 14 best-loved traditional carols, including Once in Royal David’s City, Away in a Manger and The Holly and the Ivy. Although scored for every kind of flute from piccolo to contrabass, this collection works well on four C flutes too. Teachers will be able to use this book in so many different situations – a life saver!

A Christmas Collection


6. Simon Desorgher: Jingle Bling

If you’re looking for something a little different why not try Simon Desorgher’s Jingle Bling. Fun to play, it’s written for instruments in C only (piccolo, 6 flutes and bass) it’s basically in C major and it features a popular Christmas tune (can you guess which one?!). There is a complexity between the parts due to the canonic nature of the writing, so although none of the parts is overly difficult, it will take some putting together. The ending is a little unorthodox, but this is a great piece to spice up your Christmas concert. Jingle Bells will never be the same again!

Jingle Bling - Simon Desorgher


We’ve chosen these six best-selling books from our Christmas Music section, but there is much more good music available for the festive period, and something to please everyone. Merry Christmas!

Periodic Table

Not So Shiny Silver

We are often asked in the shop: “why has my new flute turned black?” One moment your silver flute is nice and shiny. The next, a cloudy colour all over. What’s going on here?

Silver. Chemical symbol Ag, atomic number 47. Used for thousands of years in ornaments, utensils, trade, and as the basis for monetary systems. In this blog we have already covered the allergic effects silver can have on the human body, but we haven’t yet covered the effects that the human body and everyday circumstances can have on silver.

Over time, silver reacts with air to produce a thin surface layer of oxidisation in the form of silver sulphide. Depending on the type of silver used, this tarnish can appear as black, brown or cloudy grey patches.

This is a totally natural process which occurs through normal use and it is not unusual for some people’s flutes to tarnish within weeks of purchase. It is not a manufacturing defect, but a property of silver. Tarnishing is purely cosmetic and does not affect the sound, but it can easily be removed with a silver polishing cloth

Silver-plated flutes are the norm for student to intermediate level instruments. These flutes have a layer of 100% pure silver to give a bright finish.

Sterling silver is the most usual metal for higher-level and pro flutes, and is formed of 92.5% silver with 7.5% other metals, often copper (100% pure silver is too soft to use in a musical instrument). With this addition of copper, you are weakening the silver’s resistance to tarnish.

Some flute manufacturers, primarily those in the Far East, use a process called “flash plating” on solid silver flutes, which involves silver-plating (again, with 100% silver) on top of the Sterling silver. This results in a brighter finish than Sterling, and has the benefit of slowing down the tarnishing process.

Many American flute companies do not use flash plating, so these flutes will react differently. If there is a spell of hot humid weather, the tarnish can appear much more quickly, sometimes overnight.

As a result, players who move from a Japanese flute to an American flute are often surprised to find thatf their new flute needs more regular polishing than their old one.

What can cause tarnishing?

As I mentioned, tarnishing is a natural reaction of silver with air. There are other things that speed up the process:

  • Acid in fingerprints. This varies from individual to individual, but it is a fact of life that everyone’s skin’s oil contains acids. Some people have more than others (which is why some people can turn a flute black almost by looking at it!), and these people need to take more care with their instrument.
  • Heat. As with most chemical reactions (think back to your school chemistry lessons spent with a bunsen burner), heat speeds up the process, so the tarnishing process is often faster in summer.
  • Moisture. Your breath contains hydrogen sulphide (the main ‘tarnishing agent’ in air), and any moisture left in the flute or case will speed up the tarnishing process.

While you cannot escape tarnishing entirely, you can help keep it at bay. This is why we recommend thorough cleaning of your flute both inside and out after you finish playing, and keeping it in its case when not in use. You can buy anti-tarnish strips (which work by absorbing the hydrogen sulphide in the air) to slow down the process, but at the end of the day, it is nothing to worry about and certainly doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the flute or the quality of the silver. In fact, it’s a sign that your lovely shiny flute is definitely silver!

Unless like some people, you find you prefer the tarnished look (trust me they’re out there), a silver polishing cloth will usually do the trick.


Publisher Profile: Tetractys Publishing

Tetractys Publishing is the brainchild of Carla Rees, home to her own compositions and arrangements as well as the many pieces that have been written for her. The range of material on offer here is vast. Obviously the catalogue is heavily weighted towards contemporary music for low flutes as this is Carla’s main area of expertise, but there’s much else to tempt you as well.

Her adaptations in two volumes of the JS Bach Cello Suites [volume 1]  [volume 2] for alto flute are a wonderful way of developing skills whilst using great music. Breathing and stamina are often a problem on low instruments, but if you can manage these it will really help. Aside from suggested articulations, the music is left for you to edit as you wish and you will be able to return to them many times, always finding something new. There are versions [volume 1] [volume 2] adapted specifically for bass flute too.

One of the most interesting pieces of contemporary music for solo alto is Adam Melvin’s Hyperlodic Interpretations written in 2003. Influenced by the jazz musician Eric Dolphy, the format is slow introduction (poco rubato – aggressive) followed by a rhythmic main section which is always driving forward. A much slower jazz melody follows before the momentum increases to the end. The fluctuating time signatures allow for flexibility in the interpretation and the basic multiphonic and portamento techniques are very approachable. If you are feeling adventurous, give this a try.

Another winner is Moss Garden by Michael Oliva for bass flute and electronics. This wonderful piece is all about texture (‘an exercise in simplicity’) with the slow moving flute writing merging into the accompaniment to create the magical world of a Japanese garden. The electronic part is supplied as a download and you will need some basic equipment for performance. It’s so worth the effort though as this unusual piece would enhance any flute recital programme.

If you fancy something a little more mainstream whilst staying with living composers, Attitudes by Jon Jeffrey Grier for 2 alto or C flutes might fit the bill. This is a very striking duet which aims to ‘capture the states of teenage people’. In three movements, the writing is quirky, and at times virtuosic. Although there are no advanced techniques to master and the rhythmic footprint is mainly straightforward, the challenge is in the dovetailing of the parts to blend as one. ‘Flirty’ is rather fragmentary with short rhythmic figures dancing around each other, whilst ‘Pouty’ uses tremolando and trills to provide the colour. ‘Ansty’ is an exciting whirl of notes which will bring the piece to a rousing conclusion.

Another work for virtuosos but from a completely different world is Carla’s own arrangement of The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov for piccolo, flute and alto flute. This is a brilliant romp which is just so great to play!

Quatraine II for 3 piccolos and alto flute is one of Carla’s original compositions. Her aim was to pit ‘the chattering piccolos’ which are given angular leaps and short phrases against ‘the sonorous tone of the alto’ with its mainly melodic line The result is a perfect fusion of sounds that perfectly conveys the differing characters of the instruments. Whilst seeming ultra-modern, Quatraine is very approachable to play, giving you the best of all worlds!


Recent publications have included a large range of mainstream works that Carla has transcribed for ensemble. Again, the emphasis is on low flutes, so the result is completely different to that of more conventional arrangements. Crucifixus in 8 Parts by Antonio Lotti is scored for 6 altos and 2 bass flutes with contrabass if available, but three alternative C flute parts are also included. Tuning, balance and stamina are the issues here, but this simple work can sound really effective if played well.

More conventionally, the Quantz Concerto in G for two flutes is scored for 2 solo flutes, 2 flutes, 3 altos, bass and optional contrabass. The concerto grosso feel of this has been captured skilfully. The beautiful slow movement in particular contrasts unison tutti passages with intricate solos accompanied by a simple bass line.

Another winner is the arrangement of the Donizetti Flute Sonata for solo flute, 2 flutes, 2 altos and bass. Again Carla has transcribed sensitively, spacing the parts to allow the solo flute to carry over the main group. The solo part is original, and all the intricacies of the piano writing are seamless integrated into the other flute parts. This is an incredibly good way to showcase a lovely but rather neglected work.

If you would prefer to play an original work, Rainbow Measures by Rob Keeley, (2 piccolos, 4 flutes, and 2 altos) is another effective work that will challenge your ensemble skills. Lasting 9 minutes and ‘imagining each player as the colour of a rainbow’, the swirl of notes, rhythms and textures coupled with varying tempos and extreme dynamic changes results in a very colourful piece that will be a joy to accomplish.

The Tetractys catalogue also includes many of the works written for Carla’s flexible group Rarescale. One of the most compelling of these is Andrew McBirnie’s Mechanical for alto flute, cor anglais and bass clarinet, a short 2 minute piece in which continuous semiquavers passed around the group are punctuated isolated notes and rhythmic cells. The exactness of the writing really conveys the predictability of the machine and is utterly mesmerising.


Tetractys is so much more than just ‘niche music’. Delve further and you’ll uncover gems galore and there’s something for everyone.

Meg Griffith

The Whole Musician: Becoming Happy, Healthy Musicians

Are you inclined to criticize yourself for the smallest things? Are you overly concerned about what others think of you and your playing? Are you fearful of getting it wrong? Are you stuck in a rut? It is very likely that we all have some emotionally charged reactions to these questions in some form or another. Their effect on our musical lives can shape our playing and alter the pure enjoyment we can attain from one simple note.

Christopher Lee: On Accuracy and Freedom

Christopher LeeWhen I first started playing in orchestras I remember it being one of the most stressful things in my life at that moment. You see, at the beginning, I (and I imagine lots of young musicians) felt I had something to prove. That I was worthy of sitting in that chair. So, I focussed on being an accurate player, and what that meant to me at the time was putting all the right notes in the right spot at the right dynamic and in tune. With that mindset, I never achieved this goal. There was something inside of me that made me want to play a phrase a certain way which in turn made it more difficult technically. Therefore, as every concert came up I’d be determined to have an accurate night. At the end of the concert I’d decide that the next night it was going to happen and so on.

Then, something changed somewhere. I forgot about my long-standing challenge and all it took was one concert where that focus wasn’t in my mind. It worked. It was an accurate concert, and also, musical! I realised then that my one-sided focus to be accurate was not going to work for me because my musical side was one to take risks and react to what others were doing in concert. Once my mind had switched to simply enjoying the music-making I found that the accuracy also became consistent.

This led to a freedom of feeling and thinking which runs through all the repertoire that I play. It takes me a long time to come to an interpretation of a piece simply because it’s always changing as I discover more and more sounds, colours and moods. At times I incorporate so-called “extended techniques” in old repertoire because it gives light to a more musical sound. These are not things I learned from school, or from reading a textbook. These are things that came from imagination, and, happy accidents in the practice room. So from there, every “mistake” I make in practicing is merely an opportunity to see if I hear something else in a phrase.

This constant search for colours in sound can be somewhat addictive! Yet, for me, it is the way to tell my story when I play for others. A natural extension of this is my belief that everyone has something to say. For some of us it could be bottled up inside and we may not even know what it is yet! I use some acting techniques in workshops to help free this creativity in others. For we are all actors the minute we step on stage to deliver our story.

Meg Griffith: On Perfection and Perception

Meg GriffithAt a crossroads in my musical life, I sat trying to decide which direction to take my career. With so many inspiring opportunities surrounding us all, one would think this would be an exciting pastime. Unfortunately, I was filled with negative energy – there was a lack of passion towards music and disappointment and sometimes disgust directed toward myself and my playing. I thought I had no idea how to get to my goals efficiently and positively so I just stared at the seemingly unattainable, building my own walls around me and giving myself permission to expend less energy towards my goals. I thought of quitting.

Then I began to consider why I chose the flute in the first place – simple enjoyment of the instrument and the music itself. This idea had become clouded during the busy years of musical schooling in which I focused on what I ought to sound like and what others thought of me. I dusted the idea off, made it the basis of every aspect of my teaching and playing, and let it guide me as I determined how to approach problem solving on the road to my goals. The difference in both my attitude and the attitudes of my students was incredible – we still worked hard, still competed, still performed, still obsessed over small mistakes, but the approach, both intellectually and emotionally, was hugely different and far more positive. We spend so much time trying to attain perfection (whatever that really is in the long run) that we forget to look at the beauty we offer in each moment.

That is all well and good you say, but easier said than done. For me, things began to come together when I stood back to watch my reactions during my practice sessions and then ask questions to better understand those reactions:

  • After intense criticism over the smallest things, how do I feel? Is this helping me get to my goal? Why am I being so critical?
  • Are my reactions helpful and detailed in ways that lead to decisions that can help me get to my goal? Or are they overly general? (That sounded bad. VS I liked the musical approach, but I lost control of the register and it became airy. What tools do I use to solve the sound aspect while keeping the musical idea?)
  • Why do my reactions tend to be negative or critical? Am I afraid of getting something wrong? What happens if I do? (Nothing – except that I find a new understanding of my mental or physical approach to playing which helps me avoid the same mistake in the future.)
  • Is my fear of getting something wrong based in shame or embarrassment within the view of others? Where does this comparison come from? Do I feel my offerings are not worth as much as others? Why should another’s offerings define my own?

Asking these types of questions, even if you find out you don’t know every answer, is the first step to understanding yourself and therefore having compassion for your challenges rather than frustration and shame. One of my favorite teaching moments after walking through questions like these is seeing the emotions on a student’s face when he or she fully realizes that not only is there nothing to be ashamed about (relief) but that they do know the answers and have every tool to lead them to success (pride).

On Where to Turn

Whole MusicianOpportunities for one-on-one coaching in topics dedicated to these challenges as well as discussions with people just like us who can provide anecdotes like the ones above make up one of our favorite aspects of being musicians: the support within our community. Expand your network and open your mind to new approaches by surrounding yourself with positive energy and supporting yourself in mind and body. Whole Musician retreats bring all these aspects of musicianship and more into our awareness with the aim of making us all happy and healthy musicians. We will be presenting workshops on these ideas and more in London from August 26-28. If anyone is curious about what goes on at Whole Musician retreats, by all means look for our registration information online at WholeMusician.net.

Trubcher Publishing

Publisher Profile: Trübcher Publishing

Roz Trübger, founder of Trübcher Publishing, is very enterprising and clearly loves the flute. She has an impressive catalogue of music to her credit with a wide spread of titles. Educational resources, obscure repertoire and ensemble music are her three main niches, and every book has either an accompanying CD or an online audio clip to help you along.

A Listers’ is a highly respected series which aims to facilitate the learning process of core repertoire. All the pieces come with a standard flute part edited by Trübger herself, a piano score, a second flute part and a CD with a 2-speed playalong. Teachers who have limited keyboard skills obviously find this format invaluable, but there is also the advantage of being able to play these pieces as flute duets with or without accompaniment. Meanwhile, the dual speed CD backing tracks help with home practice.

A-Listers features important works such as sonatas by Bach and Handel, concertos by Mozart, Vivaldi, Quantz and Gluck as well as single pieces such as the Fauré Sicilienne, all of which are vital in the building of a strong flute foundation. This collection is a good way to teach this mainstream repertoire.

Trübger has unearthed some real gems for her ‘Forgotten Music‘ series. Again, each title is fully supported by an audio resource, which although computer generated, does give you confidence that you are in the right area. Little-known composers such as Macfarren and Graeff might entice you, and there are other gems that time has forgotten. The Romance in A by the English amateur flute player James Mathews is a wonderful piece, written in 1868 in a Romantic style and beautifully straightforward to play. It’s worth the money for the front cover alone, as the photo of Mathews with his extraordinary gold flute is quite something! The highlight of the series so far however, has to be the Romance by Alfred Bruneau. Written in about 1884, he has accompanied his sumptuous melody with a flowing accompaniment. Pure French pleasure!

As you might expect, Trübger’s arrangements for flute ensemble all work extremely well. She really knows how to handle the spacing of the instruments, which is so important to the success of any transcription. Her choice of repertoire is intelligent, with a wide range of styles to choose from. You could start with the Widor Toccata for four piccolos – not an obvious choice of instrumentation perhaps, but one that is highly effective in the right hands! The famous semiquaver theme is evenly distributed between all four parts encouraging listening skills to develop both accuracy and intonation. The audio clips are again electronic and the speeds chosen are deliberately quite slow. Here, this results in quite a pretty sounding performance but acoustically the piece offers a great deal in terms of skill and stamina, not to mention entertainment!

Von Suppe’s Pique Dame Overture is another excellent arrangement. This is for 6 flutes and the addition of piccolo, alto and bass, together with optional cymbals, gives added scope for textural variety. The style is easy to access and the writing straightforward, with just the right amount of independence in the parts. Both the piccolo and bass flute are less busy than the rest which is good both technically and aurally. The G major key and familiar rhythms also help here, and although 6 parts can seem daunting at first, the overriding aim is to give confidence to developing players as they tackle more substantial works.

If you are feeling yet more adventurous try Six Sweets by Marin Rabadan for 5 flutes and alto flute. Don’t let the title here lull you into a false sense of security: this should be played at helter-skelter speed with all six instruments cascading around the opening section! The central blues is more restrained and the closing vivo has great rhythmic drive. The style is jazz, the ensemble needs to be very tight. It’s a fantastic workout!

Whatever you choose to play from this lovely and very individual publisher, satisfaction is almost certainly guaranteed!

Wil Offermans

Composer Profile: Wil Offermans

Wil Offermans is one of the most interesting player-composers active in the flute world today. His music uses sounds and textures to explore different worlds and is flexible enough to be played in many different ways. Ethnic influences, particularly from Japan are very evident and his imaginative writing is very appealing for both performer and listener alike.

Perhaps the best place to start your journey of Offermans’ ensemble music is Voices of Nagasaki for solo flute, flute, alto flute, bass flute, contrabass flute or cello (optional), glockenspiel and random voices. This piece is conventionally notated and does not require any extended techniques. The glockenspiel can be replaced by any small drum and the voices do not have to be trained – it works very well by giving instructions to the audience! Even without this, the piece is extremely effective. Based on a simple jazz-like rhythmic figure, the haunting melody builds and becomes more intense to the end. The Japanese influence is unmistakable and the percussion adds an extra dimension to the scoring. You really need a conductor if you are using audience participation but it does work well without. This is a really beautiful and unusual piece, so do try it.

If you would like a freer approach then perhaps you could look at Kotekan for 8 C flutes which takes its inspiration from the music of Bali. Extended techniques are used here: wind tones, harmonics and bamboo-like sounds all contribute to the gamelan feel. Offermans calls the writing style ‘collectivism’ which is where “each player performs a relatively simple pattern which by itself seems without much musical value. However, once performed in the ensemble it becomes part of some sensational and enigmatic music” Many of the small sections of music are repeated four times and creates an almost trance-like state. Individually each part seems fairly straightforward but it’s the coming together of all the various strands that is the real challenge here. Worth it though!

Offermans is also into movement, so if you like to dance whilst you’re playing, try Dance with Me. There is only one part here but it comes complete with all the movements and a backing CD. The use of breath tone, harmonics and pitch bends are specified but the again the piece is effective without. The compositional technique is similar to Kotekan, but the style is completely different. This is a really funky piece and if you can learn the dance as well as memorise the simple notes it is fantastic fun!

The solo flute music is really interesting too. Tsuru-no-Sugomori (Nesting of Cranes) is a challenging transcription of a traditional Shakuhachi melody and comes complete with instructions and exercises to help with the extended techniques involved in the performance. The piece takes us through the cycle of the life of a crane (highly revered in Japanese culture) from building a nest through to death. Offermans recreates the Shakuhachi timbre by extensive use of lip glissandi, pitch-bending, portamento as well as a great variety of types of vibrato. This results music rich in colour and texture which is both exciting to play and to listen to.

Made in Japan is perhaps more approachable and comes with a computer-manipulated CD accompaniment. Some of the six songs here are shorter and the notation is rather more conventional, but there is still a wealth of sound worlds be discovered. Synchronisation with the CD is managed by time, which all adds to the fun. These songs refer to the ‘super-sweet sentiment’ of daily life in Japan, and one of the possible ways to perform them is to walk amongst the audience creating almost a ‘virtual reality’ of life. This is a great book for anyone interested in contemporary techniques.

Offermans is also passionate about teaching and is very active, giving master-classes throughout Europe. He is keen to harness the imagination of the less experienced too and For the Younger Flutist does just that. Partly an activity book, the ten pieces use either graphic notation or game playing to introduce the concept of music without strict notation. Each one is very clearly set out and there are notes for teachers too. This is really worth a look, especially if you work with groups. ‘Not at all because the material in this book is supposed to be easy, but young flutists are masters in dealing with imagination, creativity and enjoyment’. As such it can be enjoyed by anyone! Another great idea is the Improvisation Calendar which has 52 graphic scores (one for each week) designed for use in any style at all – the possibilities are obviously endless. This would be ideal for hanging in the teaching room for use in an ad hoc situation.

No review of Wil Offermans would be complete without Thumpy which is a simple ‘thumb flute’ of his own invention. The wooden tube is open at both ends, the blowing hole is in the middle and the 5 notes are made by opening and closing the ends with the thumbs. It’s obviously great for children and also for the more advanced as a way of increasing embouchure flexibility. In any case this is another way of using your imagination and having fun!

If you are not familiar with his music, take a look: you will find inspirational writing which tingles the senses.

Music by Wil Offermans is available at Just Flutes.


Orchestral Audition Masterclasses

We’ve just been talking to a close Croydon colleague, Julian Morgenstern, of Morgensterns Diary Service, about their Orchestral Audition Masterclass partnership with Musicians’ Union.

As there’s little in the way of Continuing Professional Development for musicians once they leave college, these Audition Masterclasses look like a fantastic resource that will interest many of our customers. Take a look at Morgensterns’ informative Audition Masterclass videos, which provide insight into how orchestras assess audition candidates.

Audition Masterclasses give you the opportunity to test your audition performance in front of a panel of four leading orchestral principal players, and then to discuss your performance with the panelists – something that never happens in an official orchestral audition! Having four expert panelists to talk to gives you a very rounded idea of what orchestras look for when selecting applicants for trials and when making appointments.

Morgensterns and the Musicians’ Union ran three days of masterclasses in 2013 and they are now working on their 2014 masterclasses – please click here for their confirmed panelist list. A number of our clients, including Simon Channing, Helen Keen and Margaret Campbell, have already been confirmed as panelists.

  • Sunday March 23rd, RAM (string)
  • Sunday April 6th, RCM (woodwind)
  • Sunday May 4th, Birmingham Conservatoire (brass)
  • Sunday June 1st, Birmingham Conservatoire (woodwind)
  • Sunday July 6th, Guildhall School (woodwind/brass)

If you’d like register as a masterclass participant please download the Morgensterns Audition Masterclass application form.

For more information about Audition Masterclasses please visit the following links

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