Month: February 2014

You Say Potato, I Say Potahto

Wind and brass players tend to speak in a strange foreign language when discussing articulation.  We flutists, for example, have developed numerous syllables for use in single, double and triple tongued passages that slightly alter the quality and ease of sound production.  Below is a comprehensive list of some of these popular (and not so popular) syllables and how they can be used to improve your playing or the playing of your students.

Feel free to add to this list in the comments below if you have other suggestions!

Soft, legato playing
Legato playing
Ta or Tah
Da or Dah
Standard (softer attack than ta)
More focused tone quality
Connected, good for legato playing
Short, staccato playing
Staccato, isolated 2nd syllable of double tonguing
Legato, isolated 2nd syllable of double tonguing
Standard double tongue
Standard double tongue (more connected than ta-ka)
Softer attacks than standard ta-ka
Softer, more connected attacks
Used in baroque music (referenced by Quantz)
Very connected
Jazz swinging double tonguing
Used in 19th century French music
Connected, good for legato playing
Used in baroque music (referenced by Quantz)
Soft double tongue
Variation on standard, 2nd syllable more connected
Variation on standard, 1st syllable more connected
Connected, light
More connected
Non-standard multiple syllable tonguing, best used for Baroque running 16th notes

Professionalism in the Flute Section – 15 Dos and Don’t


I was recently asked to sub for a local symphony whose principal flute accepted another position within 2 weeks of the concert.  Accordingly, I was in a mad rush to get the music and begin to cram.  After numerous email chains, I was told I could pick up the music at this person’s house (who turns out to live within a short walking distance of my house).  However, when I arrived, the music was hung rather haphazardly over the outside front door in a plastic grocery bag with my name scribbled across the top with a permanent marker.


This made me think – What in the world has happened to professionalism in the music industry?

I realize that we are all in a crazy competitive field where it is essentially every man or woman for themselves but just imagine how much stronger we could be as performers and collaborators if we treated our colleagues with respect.  If we worked together toward common goals rather than individually toward fleeting fame and fortune.

Therefore I have constructed the following short list of 15 Dos and Don’ts on professionalism in an orchestral flute section.  Please add to this list in the comments section.  And always, do not be afraid to agree to disagree (see No. 9). 

Let’s work together to build stronger relationships between our colleagues and healthier performance environments!

Professionalism in the Flute Section – 15 Dos and Don’ts

1.     DON’T blow hot air into your flute in the general direction of the 2nd Flute (if you are seated 1st) or your Piccolo player (if you are seated 2nd).  Be respectful of the space and angle your flute.

2.     DON’T blame others for intonation issues.  Look within and work together to correct pitch.  Don’t simply assume you are in tune.

3.     1st Flutes – DO be respectful to the 2nd Flute.  Work together and solve problems with open, non-competitive communication.

4.     2nd Flutes – DO follow the 1st Flute.  Emulate articulation and vibrato patterns whether you agree with them or not.

5.     Piccolo – DO provide the 2nd Flute with earplugs.  They may not want or need them but the gesture will be greatly appreciated.

6.     Before you proclaim your part is a “solo” line (or the most important line in the music), DO check the score.  Do your homework!

7.     1st Flutes – If new music is distributed and the Piccolo or 2nd Flute is absent, DO scan/email their part to them.  You are the Principal – Act as a leader.

8.     DO let your section know if you are going to miss a rehearsal or a concert (in addition to the director).  Even if you have arranged for a sub it is a sign of respect to keep your colleagues in the loop.

9.     DON’T be afraid to agree to disagree but do it in a respectful way that does not offend or disrespect your colleagues.  Being passive aggressive will not improve your career.

10.     DO silence your cell phone/smart phone prior to rehearsal.  Nobody wants to hear a One Direction/Brahms mashup during rehearsal.

11.     DON’T blame your shortcomings on the conductor.  It is your responsibility to find the beat and respectfully ask for clarification if there is something you do not understand.

12.     If a member of your section is lost, DO what you can to help them find their place.  Don’t just sit back and let them suffer.

13.     DON’T make faces or smirk when others make mistakes.  This is bad karma.  Some day you may be in their shoes.

14.     The moment you know that you will be unable to attend a rehearsal or concert, DO inform your director ASAP and initiate the search for a sub.

15.     DON’T practice solo lines belonging to another player during your down time in rehearsal.  This is just plain rude.


DO work together!!  We are all here to make music.  Lets do it a supportive and respectful environment that encourages excellence and teamwork!