Etude 9: Diverse
In this chapter we will be looking to the various techniques as used in Etude 9: Diverse. While at first Etude 9 looks like a rather technical piece, it certainly has its own musical language. Sometimes melancholic, sometimes clownish, the etude surely is an amusing miniature with an entertaining collage of various surprising sounds. Like the title suggests, this etude deals with a variety of techniques, mostly percussive techniques. Let’s take a closer look to each of these.
(1) Jet Whistle
The jet whistle refers to the whistling sound which you can hear when you blow into the flute with the mouth covering the embouchure hole. You have to experiment with changing the position of the flute by rolling it in- and outwards. In that way you can manipulate the angle of how the airstream hits the rim of the embouchure hole and consequently change the sound. Like often, use your ears to decide where you get a desired result. In flute music, the jet whistle is sometimes followed by a tongue stop, see (5) tongue stop below.
The jet whistle is notated by simply putting ‘jet whistle’ into the score, while a diamond-note is indicating the fingering. If a longer sound is required a line can be used, like in the score sample above. The line describes the pitch of the jet whistle.
(2) Key Click
A key click is performed by pushing down one or more keys fiercely without blowing the flute. This creates a percussive resonance in the flute tube. The pitch is mainly depending on the fingering, but can also be influenced by covering more or less of the embouchure hole with the lips. The key click can be amplified by using the mouth cavity as a resonator. To do so, widen your mouth cavity by imagining a vocalization like [o] and locating your mouth near or partly over the embouchure hole. A key click can also be combined with the flute sound, see (4) Key Click with Flute Sound below.
A key click is usually notated with an ‘x’ note-head. The player can decide which finger to use to make the click, unless this is specified in the score. If required, the amount of the coverage of the embouchure hole can be indicated by an oval image, representing the embouchure hole.
(3) In- and exhaling through the Flute
Here we audibly inhale or exhale through the flute with the lips fully encircle the embouchure hole (the lips touching the embouchure plate all around). This gives a breath-like effect and at times can be similar to the jet whistle.
It is notated by an triangle note-head either pointing up (inhaling) or down (exhaling). This triangle can also be notated above or below the note(s).
(4) Key Click with Flute Sound
Now, we perform the key click while playing the flute, creating a percussive accent on the start of the flute sound. Depending on the fingering, you can sometimes experiment with which exact finger to ‘hit’ the key.
The key click with flute sound is usually notated with a ‘+’ sign above or below the note. Sometimes there is also indicated with which finger you have to create the click, like L4 (left-hand ring-finger) or R3 (right-hand middle-finger) in the image.
In the flute literature, we find a famous example of the key click in ‘Density 21.5’ (1936) by Edgar Varèse.
(5) Tongue Stop
A tongue stop is performed by hitting the embouchure hole with the tip of your tongue, like saying a ‘t’-tonguing in reverse and with the lips should totally encircling around the embouchure hole. This might require some practice and experimenting. Sometimes, before hitting the embouchure hole with the tongue, some air is blown through the flute, whereafter the tongue hits the embouchure hole and to really ‘stop’ the airflow.
The tongue stop is notated with a circle note-head with an ‘x’ inside.
Some Excerpts of Etude 9
Here are some samples of the techniques as used in Etude 9 in the etude book For the Contemporary Flutist.
Excerpt 1: In the first sample, we see a low-D fingering with both middle fingers hitting its keys independently (R3= right-hand middle-finger; L3= left-hand middle-finger):
Excerpt 2: In a next sample we see a repetitive hitting in 16th-notes with the R3-finger, while L3 is alternating between closed and opening, consequently changing the pitch (1-2-1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3-4):
Excerpt 3: In the third sample we see an alternation of the tongue stops and exhaling through the flute:
Excerpt 4: In this final sample we see key clicks on an alternation of just 3 fingerings (G-F-D). While performing these clicks, also the harmonic notes as indicated should be played:
Since the possibilities of percussive and breath sounds on the flute are literally unlimited, there certainly are many more possibilities. So take this chance and use your creativity to find your own effects. It certainly can be a cool way to extend your musical vocabulary while at the same time you will develop the flexibility of your embouchure.
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