Playing Multiple Flutes (The Great Juggling Act)
As a dedicated member of a professional flute quartet for many years, it would usually take me double the time to set up my end of the ensemble compared to the others. I can remember on one particular concert playing five different flutes. Now for some this may seem like no big sweat, set up the flutes, toot on them and away you go. Well I am writing this short article to state it differently. Performing on multiple flutes (or any multi-instrumentals) is an art and an absolute artistic comittment. The Contrabass flute alone stands some five feet off the ground, and could take three times the breath capacity to perform the same phrases as on the C flute (I am in no way complaining, by the way....) The uniqueness of the Low Flutes is their clear and present differences of tone quality and agaility. Try playing the opening of the Mozart G on all four Low Flutes, one soons understands how different they truly are. Playing all these flutes well, is not some unknown truth, it is just really hard work!
As I stated above, assembly alone can take ten minutes. Never mind warming them all up! The logic is understanding and connecting with the embouchure and the tube. The embouchure is an amazing set of muscle groups working together (not against) to form the opening for the airstream from the lips to leave. On the Sub-Contra bass flute, the embouchure opening is roughly three to four times larger and wider than the C Flute (yes, that is why one runs out of air so quickly on these instruments). The point is, to SLOW down the air stream and allow the air to leave the embouhure at a much slower rate. The Sub-Contrabass Contrabass flutes are upright instruments and take a new attention to balance and stability. Your hands placement is different (and even slightly backwards on some sub-contrabass models) and the technique needs to be modified. I find my hands a bit more locked in on this instruments, as the tone holes are larger and need a precise covering when played at speed.