Extended Techniques Resource Page

I'd like to send a heartfelt
thank you to Robert Dick
for his generous assistance, advice, instruction, and guidance in the preparation of this resource.

Unless otherwise noted, all sound files are Copyright © 2000 Robert Dick

A Note about Terminology

In researching material for this resource, it became clear to me that there is a lot of confusion over the names of the various extended techniques. Even respected professionals and composers use different terms to describe the same techniques. For instance, 'key clicks' are sometimes called 'key slaps.' 'Whisper Tones' are often called 'Whistle tones. 'Tongue stops' are called 'tongue thrusts.' In these cases, I have chosen the name that Robert Dick uses and recommends. The other names will be indicated in parentheses.

Go to: TECHNIQUES to read a description of each technique and hear the technique being performed.

Go to: INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS for a listing of Fingering dictionaries, etude books and tutorials


Although there may be technologies available to record the sounds on this page, Robert Dick asks that, if you wish to record or to use his sounds, that you contact him directly for permission. His email address is: Robert Dick
Circular Breathing
Flutter tonguing
Jet Whistle
Key Clicks
(Key Slaps)
Pitch Bends
(Fall offs)
Quarter tone trills
(Microtones, timbral trills)
Residual Tones
Singing While Playing
Tongue Pizzicato
(Percussive Tonguing)
Tongue Stops
(Tongue Thrusts)
Whisper Tones
(Whistle Tones, Flageolets)

Circular Breathing……… A technique whereby the tone can be indefinitely sustained, with no breathing interruptions audible.

The technique requires lots of practice. The idea is that during the breath, the tone is sustained not by traditional diaphragm pressure, but by cheek pressure. Air is held in the mouth and pushed out into the flute using the cheeks; at the same time, breath is taken in through the nose. The real trick is to make the transition from diaphragm pressure to cheek pressure and back, without effecting the tone.

Start practicing by standing over a sink and squirting water out of your mouth, while breathing in through your nose. Once this is perfected, use a straw in a glass of water to practice sustaining the blowing of air while breathing in through the nose.

We have not included a sound example of this technique.

Flutter tonguing……… A tone that is very rapidly articulated. It is produced either by rolling the front of the tongue, as in the Spanish "rr," or by using the uvula in the back of the mouth.

Fluttering with the tip of the tongue is what most players do on the flute. It works better higher than lower.

Using the uvula only produces a more controlable and desireable sound. It is also more flexible, in that you can actually change the speed of the flutter without changing the volume! Listen to how slowly it can be done! Using the uvula also frees the tip of the tongue to actually articulate while fluttering. When using the uvula, even multiphonics can be fluttered.

Another type of flutter is the Roar Flutter. It is a noisy, maximum pressure effect best used for rock music.

Glissando………A smoothly changing pitch, upwards or downwards, produced by sliding the fingers off of or onto the holes on an open hole flute.

Glissandi are easier going up than going down. They can be done quickly as well. Fingerings for glissandi throughout the range of the flute are available in resources such as Robert Dick's "The Other Flute." See INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS section for more details.

Harmonics…………These are the series of different notes than can be played by fingering one fundamental note and changing air speed/embouchure to reach the higher ones. There is a different harmonic series for each fundamental fingering.

The harmonic series on low B.

Jet Whistle………… This is produced by blowing through the flute with the lips totally around the embouchure hole.

The angle of the embouchure hole with your mouth will have a lot to do with the pitch of the jet whistle that is produced. They can be very long and soft, or very short and loud.

Key Clicks (Key Slaps)………Use the fingers to quickly and percussively close the keys of the flute. You do not blow through the flute when doing this, however, the flute needs to be in PLAYING POSITION or the key clicks will be out of tune (sharp)!

Here are key clicks with regular low register fingerings, flute in playing position.

If you cover the embouchure hole completely with your mouth, the key clicks will sound a major seventh lower. Here is an example of key clicks starting with the embouchure hole covered; then uncovering and covering the embouchure hole.

You can use the mouth as a resonator on the key clicks to slightly change the sound. And you don't have to use the regular fingerings. Try using the right and left hand keys as separate percussion instruments. Just listen to this rainstorm!

You can change the pitch of the key clicks. Start by covering the embouchure hole completely with the lips, and with your tongue forward in your mouth. As you move your tongue back, creating more space in your mouth, the pitch of the key clicks will drop. Voila! A glissando on a key ckick!

Multiphonics…………… Two or more tones that can be produced at the same time. Each multiphonic has a different fingering. There are thousands of possibilities. These fingerings can be found in various fingering dictionaries.

A common one.

A group commonly found around D2 and F2.

You can do smaller intervals. The last one heard here is even smaller than a quartertone!

You can also get wide intervals.

How about 3 notes at a time?

Use natural harmonics to create octave multiphonics, and parallel fifths, and fourths, including the famous fourth in the Berio "Sequenza." Major thirds are possible also. And so on! You get the idea.

You can also create multiphonics with beat frequencies in them, because they are close to, but not quite in tune. As you can hear, sometimes the beat speeds are controllable.

Pitch Bend (fall off)………… The intentional bending of a pitch upward or downward, using the embouchure, not the keys. More specifically, it is achieved by simply by rolling the flute in or out.

Pitchbending. Remember to decrescendo when bending downwards and crescendo when bending upwards. (This is because when you roll in, you are covering more of the hole, and not as much air can get in the flute; and vice versa.) When you bend upwards, the sound will tend to get fuzzy and unfocused.

The flute bends downward much easier than it bends upward. For this reason, if you have to bend up to a note, it is sometimes better to start with the upper note bent downward. Here is an example. Let's say you need a B natural to bend up to a C natural. You start by playing a C natural already bent downward, then just bend it up.

The flute can be transposed downward a half-step throughout its range, by bending the pitch with the embouchure. It sounds very much like a bamboo flute when you do this.

Quarter tone trills (Microtones, Timbral trills, )………Trills smaller than a semitone. Special fingerings can be found in various fingering dictionaries.

Here is but one quarter tone trill. There are many more!

Residual Tones…………A deliberate unfocusing of the sound. It can be compared to a hissing sound. Robin's description is that this is what student flutists do to practice the piece of music that was just passed out, as the band director is trying to talk!

However, there are times when residual tones are desireable. They can be very soft or very loud, almost explosive!

They can also be played multiphonically. You get the two lowest note's pitches out of any fingering you use.

Singing While Playing……… Exactly what it says! You use your vocal chords to sing pitches while you play notes on the flute.

Both males and females can sing some of the low register notes in unison while playing the flute. Here is a unison sung/played low B. Now hold that note with the voice, and play through the harmonic series on B, and you get a sort of human wa-wa pedal!

Moving the notes of the voice and the flute faster, we get the kind of effect that Ian Anderson (of the rock group Jethro Tull) has made famous.

You don't, of course, have to sing and play in unison. Here we hold a high note, while making a vocal glissando. The difference tone that results will go in the opposite direction from that of the voice. (You should see the spectrogram of this one!)

Try doing the opposite; hold the voice and move the flute around its range. In fact, it's possible to hold a note with the voice and move the flute through the entire range!

Tongue Pizzicato (Percussive tonguing)…………… A sort of percussive "pop" that is done using the tongue and the lips. Make your lips very firm, stick your tongue out through them, then pull it back in rapidly. As the air rushes in to the mouth you get a little popping sound.

When you do this with a flute in playing position, the flute will actually amplify it, and give it pitch. If you then, play a note, and put this effect in front of the note, you get this effect.

Tongue Stops (Tongue thrusts)………… A resonant "thump" that is produced by covering the embouchure hole completely with the lips, and then pushing the tongue forward, through the lips and into the embouchure hole

You use the normal low register fingerings for his. High register fingerings will not work, since this effect only amplifies the bottom harmonic (which is not used in the high register).

Whisper tones (Whistle tones, flageolets).... are very faint whistly sounds that are made by blowing VERY gently into the embouchure hole, with the flute in normal playing position. They can be produced using any of the standard fingerings. On each fingering, many members of the harmonic series for that fingering can be produced.

Here are whisper tones using the high register fingerings.

Using the low register fingerings, you can get the harmonic series in whisper tones. Here is one using the low B fingering that gets all the way up to the 16th partial--B above high B.

A sound that is related to the whisper tone is the ghost tone. This is when the flute amplifies the mouth instead of the mouth amplifying the flute. What happens is an "almost whistle" is formed in the mouth, and the flute picks it up. Now you can do things like finger in one direction and let the sound go in the other.

Instructional Materials

For Robert Dick materials, click on the publisher link. You will be taken to a list of composers. Click on "Robert Dick", and you will get to the complete list of his materials.

Circular Breathing for the flutist by Robert Dick.

Easing Into Extended Technique by Linda L. Holland. Five volumes that can be bought separately or as a set. Each volume focuses on a different ET. Vol. 1: Microtones; Vol. 2: Harmonics; Vol. 3: Multiphonics; Vol. 4: Bends and Slides; Vol. 5: Singing and Playing. "The non-virtuosic nature of the music allows flutists of intermediate level and above to ease into these important 20th century sounds." Con Brio Music

Fish Are Jumping for solo flute, by Robert Dick. An instructional video by the composer is available for this piece.

Flying Lessons: Six Contemporary Concert Etudes, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Robert Dick. There are instructional cassettes available for Vol. 1 and Vol 2.

Lookout by Robert Dick. An instructional cassette is available for this solo.

A Modern Guide to Fingerings for the Flute by James J. Pellerite; JP-PUBLICATIONS, ISBN 0-931200-68-7. For years this has been considered the flutists' fingering bible. It contains not only standard fingerings, alternate fingerings, and trill fingerings, but also has quarter tones and quarter tone trills, multiphonics, and special sonorities. To purchase and for more information, email the author.

Nine Etudes for the Contemporary Flutist by Michael Colquhoun. For more information, email the composer.

The Other Flute A PERFORMANCE MANUAL OF CONTEMPORARY TECHNIQUES (2nd edition), by Robert Dick. "Regarded as the definitive reference work for flutists and composers. A comprehensive presentation of the flute's sonic possibilities. Includes multiphonics, alternate fingerings, quarter-tones and smaller microtones, natural harmonics, glissandi, whisper tones, percussive sonorities, jet whistles, a discussion of techniques for piccolo, alto and bass flutes, and more.."

Quodlibetudes by Harvey Sollberger. Each etude has a different extended technique involved. McGinnis.

Special Effects for Flute by Sheridan W. Stokes and Richard A. Condon; Trio Associates, 1970. "In Special Effects For Flute, we have described a wide range of special effects that can be achieved on the flute and have suggested a standard notation for each. The instructional CD included contains audio examples of the various effects illustrated in the book, making this purchase a powerful tool for the contemporary performer and composer alike."

Tone Development Through Extended Techniques by Robert Dick. A manual of extended techniques that are designed to enhance traditional playing skills. Includes throat tuning, natural harmonics, fourth-octave pitches, bending, whisper tones, multiphonics, and extended timbres.

On The Web.......

There is another marvelous web-based resource about extended techniques that has been developed by Mats Möller of Sweden. He has sound files, a downloadable pdf manual, and examples of notation. You can find the Mats Möller resource here.

Graded Repertoire with Extended Techniques
for Flute, Piccolo, Alto and Bass Flute
by Helen Bledsoe

This page was conceived and developed by: Robin Mason Horne, Ft. Walton Beach, FL USA.
Thank you to all those generous flutists who kindly helped me with the development of this resource:

Robert Dick, Sheridan Stokes, Teresa Meeks, Carol Shansky,
Helen Bledsoe, Sarah Twichell, Katherine Kitzman

All comments, suggestions, and ....corrections are welcomed! Please send email to Robin.
© 2000, Robert Dick, R M Horne

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