This semester my university’s flute choir is splitting into separate quartets: one of which is the Quartet for Diverse Flutes. Which, as the name suggests, calls for alto (flute III) and bass flute (flute IV) in addition to the C flute.

On tricky/deceiving thing about this score is that flute IV is actually the 3rd staff and flute III is the 4th staff. Throughout the piece this is something to be conscious of especially because the alto flute (flute III) is the only transposing flute. Whereas bass flute the pitch drops an octave, but remains the same letter – alto flute sounds a Perfect 4th lower than written. Therefore, the initial G4 sounds as a D4.

One last thing: because of the strange times of remote learning, our quartet is working asynchronously which can be tricky with the fermatas – to work around this (to have a steady opening) I’ve notated some modifications our group has been given by our coach to better suit the remote classroom. The initial 4/4 becomes a 6/4 and stays through the 1st measure of 5/4; finally, on the second stave the 2/4 is prolonged to a 3/4.


Composer and Piece Background

Peter Bacchus (1985-2016) was an American flutist and composer born in New Jersey. His journey on flute started with inspiration from listening to Herbie Mann, a jazz flutist, play in a live concert. He worked in New York – studying and earning his BFA from SUNY Purchase and Masters from City University of New York. The Barcelona Metropolitan did an interview with him in 2009 that goes more in-depth on his life as a composer and his development.

Quartet for Diverse Flutes was composed in 1990 and is divided into 3 movements (1. Andante molto rubato con espressione, 2. Allegro Molto, and 3. Cadenza). I couldn’t find a list of composed works or much in general about Peter Bacchus while he was alive – most of the search results yielded in memoriam and tributes to his work.


1. Andate molto rubato con espressione

One of the most helping and responsible parts of participating in chamber music is being aware of the other parts. What role does your line play? Who are you playing with/Are you playing alone? Are there sections that dove-tail/connect parts?

Especially in this opening (very slow and tolling) it is paramount to be aware of who enters when. First, the alto flute has a measure alone on a low D4 (written G4). Then, flute II comes in to start the next measure – it is important that flute II takes the low D set by the alto flute (slightly louder since the dynamic is set mp), but intonation is foremost. The bass flute follows with an A4 – tuning this Perfect 5th so that it doesn’t not tend too low (towards a tritone) or high is very important especially because this is the first note that is not a D. Finally, flute I enters on beat 3 an octave above flute II on D5 (again, listening down to flute II is very important). And so the process continues – flute I starts to take the leading role in the opening section and flute II, III, and IV are varied in their entrances so being aware of who enters on which beat (and on what pitch) can help alleviate any potential ensemble issues.

In this movement, there are many parts where the flutes are in their own mini choirs. In the example above, flute I and II are their own choir and flute IV and III are a separate choir.

In m. 35-38 flute I and II are in rhythmic unison. They start of a Perfect 5th apart, and then split in m. 36 to contrasting movement (ascending and descending) 4ths that shift to 5th halfway through m. 37 (returning to 4ths in m. 38).

In m. 34-36 flute IV and III are setting up that contrasting movement that the flute I and II are about to do. Flute IV and III are playing contrasting 5ths (rather than 4ths) that always end by a 1/2 step movement (still in contrasting direction). In m. 37-38, the flutes expand the contrasting 5ths excerpt by making a shift to 4ths (when flute I and II change to 5ths).

Both choirs end with the contrasting 4ths in m. 38.

Here is another example to reinforce the separation of the choir into smaller choirs (still flute I and II; and flute IV and III).


What’s your favorite flute quartet? Have you played this quartet before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Young flutists that are surrounded non-flutists or are self-taught can develop a wide range of bad habits that take years to unlearn. There are common myths that are just taken as fact by band directors when recruiting or coaching young flute players. In this article, I’ll be clarifying what/if there is any true to these myths as well as sharing resources for more information!


Myth 1: Lip Shape/Size Matters

… NO! The way I have most commonly heard this myth is referred to as the “textbook embouchure” where the lips are fairly even is size (the bottom might be slightly wider) and the embouchure when playing is centered or inline with the nose.

James Galway, example of the centered/textbook embouchure

This isn’t the best or the only (obviously) way to produce a good tone on the flute. In fact, people with that “textbook embouchure” may struggle to get a sound out.

In comparison, the lip shape deemed challenging for flute playing is one that is tear drop shaped because of the jut in the top lip, this is also untrue. Accommodations such as forming an “offset embouchure” are common for not just this lip shape, but many others. For more detailed information check out Dr. Cate Hummel’s article.

Anyone who wants to play flute should not be deterred by the shape or ratio of their lips. More factors than just the exterior lips play a role in how easily someone produces a sound on the flute.

Emmanuel Pahud, example of an offset embouchure

Myth 2: Alignment Doesn’t Matter In The Beginning… It Will All Sound The Same

First, Jennifer Cluff has written many articles/FAQ on flute alignment – check these out to answer specific questions.

Alignment is VITAL to setting young flute players up for success,

Balancing the flute properly with the chin, left hand pointer finger, right hand thumb and pinky – helps with the stability of the instrument which creates consistency for students which will improve tone quality and register.

Also, alignment of the flute itself is vital – lining up the center of the embouchure hole with the center of the keys of the body AND the rod of the foot joint with the center of the keys of the body). When the flute is out of alignment, the experienced flutist has to work much harder by contorting to get a focused sound on the flute.


Myth 3: Roll In/Out To Improve Tuning and Tone

NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Below is a representation of how I feel every time I’ve heard that advice during a coaching session before I step in to talk about how meddlesome this is.

For tuning, you should NOT default to adjusting by rolling the flute – this fosters posture and alignment issues. You SHOULD pull/push out the head joint to tune. You can use this saying to remember the direction… “if you have something SHARP in your eye you should PULL it OUT”.

To be clear, this CAN be done, but it SHOULD NOT be the primary or first defense for tuning. Therefore, teaching your band students to do this is unnecessary and causes more trouble than it’s worth.

Jennifer Cluff did an article on this where she states, “Rolling the flute inward only covers the embouchure hole too much with the lower lip and strangles the tone quality, and is not a “cure all” in any way.”


Myth 4: The Flute Embouchure Doesn’t Change For Each Register

FALSE – There are very specific adjustments made to help produce a focused and vibrant tone in each register (typically divided into the low, middle, and high registers). There is an adjustment between the top and bottom lips as well as slight changes inside the mouth (much like singing) that occur with register shifts.

Jolene Harju Madewell articles one on the low register and one on good tone.

And Jennifer Cluff has an article on playing in the high register.


Vital teaching tool:

I highly recommend giving this a watch and sharing this with your students: James Galway embouchure video.


Any flute myths I left out? Did anything here surprise you? Have more embouchure resources to share? Let me know in the comments below!