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United States Army Field Band

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United States Army Field Band
U.S. Army Field Band shoulder sleeve insignia
Active1946 – present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army
TypeMilitary band
Garrison/HQFort George G. Meade
COL Jim R. Keene
Deputy CommanderLTC Domingos Robinson
Associate BandmasterCPT Curran Schenck
BandmasterCW3 Alexander Davis
Command Sergeant MajorCSM Matthew Kanowith
Distinctive unit insignia
The chorus of the Army Field Band performing alongside celebrities at the 2009 National Memorial Day Concert

The United States Army Field Band of Washington, D.C. is a touring musical organization of the United States Army. It performs more than 400 concerts per year and has performed in all 50 states of the United States and in 25 countries. Stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, the Army Field Band consists of four performing components: the Concert Band, the Soldiers' Chorus, the Jazz Ambassadors, and the Six-String Soldiers.

Every four years, the Band leads the first element of the Presidential Inaugural Parade. It has also appeared at The Kennedy Center Honors, three World Series, the Baltimore Orioles' annual home finale, the 1995 Presidential Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of V-J Day, the 40th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, the National Memorial Day Concert, the state funerals of Presidents Reagan and Ford, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

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  • Flute Fundamentals [HD]
  • Inside the Big Band
  • Trombone: A Player's Guide


Hi, I'm Sgt. 1st Class Sarah McIver. I'm Staff Sgt. Sean Owen. I'm Staff Sgt. Gina Sebastian. I'm Staff Sgt. Katayoon Hodjati. and I'm Staff Sgt. Kasumi Leonard. and this is "Flute Fundamentals". [Music] Welcome to "Flute Fundamentals." The flute section of The U.S. Army Field Band has drawn on our many years of performing and teaching experience, added some great advice we've received from our own teachers, and collected it all here for you. The first-year beginner, the serious flute student and the music educator will all find interesting and useful information here. You can also go to to find downloadable recordings, printable arrangements, exercises, and books and literature that we reference throughout the program. All of these are great resources for flutists and music educators. Thanks for watching "Flute Fundamentals." [Music] The flute has always been a very popular instrument, dating back over 43,000 years to the Prehistoric Era. Prehistoric bone flutes have been found in Germany and in China, and were end blown like a recorder. Throughout the Middle Ages, flutes and flute-like instruments are shown performing a variety of functions in society. We see flutes playing outdoors, in religious services, and inside for entertainment. By the end of the Middle Ages the flute family split into two groups, the flute that plays outside such as the fife and the flute that plays inside such as the ancestor of our modern flute. In the 1400's, fifes were widely used by militaries as a signaling device and are still used today for parades and ceremonies. Modern fifes now have 10 holes so they can play chromatically, but they still don't have any keys. Renaissance style flutes for indoor use were typically a cylindrical wooden tube with a wide bore, six fairly large tone holes and no keys. Without keys it was difficult to play all of the chromatic pitches we play today. Flutes in the Renaissance were often made in a variety of sizes, called consorts or families. Flute consorts were so popular that many Royal courts in England, Hungary, Madrid, and Stuttgart each owned dozens or even hundreds of transverse flutes. Around the 1680's, instrument makers gave the flute an overhaul and added a key. The key allowed the flute to play all of the chromatic pitches. With this new development, the flute began appearing in the orchestra. One of its earliest appearances was in Jean-Baptiste Lully's opera Le Triomphe de l'Amour. When the flute entered the orchestra, its popularity skyrocketed. Many royal princes such as Louis the 14th of France, and Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, began to learn the flute. With so many royals studying the instrument, the flutists of the day had to write books explaining how to play. The royals could also afford to hire flutists to teach them. Johann Quantz was employed by Frederick the Great for 32 years. Baroque flutes have a cylindrical headjoint and a conical body that tapers towards the far end. The closed Eb key on the footjoint makes the flute fully chromatic over a two-and-a-half-octave range. This great advancement encouraged composers to start writing for the flute as a solo instrument. Works by Blavet, Bach and Telemann are still in our repertoire today. The Baroque flute worked well as a delicate soloist in an orchestral texture, but was not able to play equally strong in all keys. Generally speaking, the sharp keys of G, D, and A are stronger than the flat keys of F, Bb, and Eb. This explains why so much of the beginner flute repertoire from the Baroque era is in a sharp key! Listen to the difference between these two scales. [Music] Now listen to the same scales played on a modern flute. [Music] [Music] In the Classical era, composers such as Mozart and Haydn wrote in a style that was faster, louder, and more dramatic, and the flute needed to keep up. Flutists began altering their instruments in many ways to encourage a louder high register or more facile technique. The great virtuoso players of the 19th century, Franz and Albert Doppler, Charles Nicholson, Joachim Andersen, Anton Furstenau, Jean Tulou, and Theobald Boehm, helped spread the flute's popularity and increased its solo repertoire. Many of these flutists altered their own instruments in an attempt to improve the design. Theobald Boehm, a flutist and inventor in Germany, made many attempts to construct a new 'ring key' mechanism and unveiled a metal instrument in 1847. The new design reversed the inner bore shape of the flute - it is a cylindrical body with a tapered, parabolic headjoint. The reworking of the mechanism meant all new fingerings had to be learned. Boehm's 1847 design is the basis for our flute today. However, there were many rival designs. Some players still preferred wood, and others still preferred the old bore shape. Despite that, the metal flute was accepted at the Paris Conservatory in 1860, earning Boehm and his flute a permanent place in flute history. In the 20th century, some small changes were made to Boehm's original design. In the 1960's Albert Cooper and a group of English players re-scaled the Boehm flute to play at A-440, and in order to achieve even greater tonal projection and clarity, made minor alterations in the method of embouchure hole cutting. Another modern addition to the flute is the C# trill key, which makes trilling from B to C# much easier, and gives a reliable third octave G to A trill. Flutists today can also choose to have their flute made from a variety of metals and even wood. Remember the Renaissance "flute consort" with its many different sized instruments? When the flute was overhauled by Boehm, the rest of the flute family, including the piccolo, Eb flute, flute d'amore, alto flute, bass flute, and contrabass flute were also redesigned. The piccolo is the highest member of the flute family, sounding an octave above the flute. Beethoven first used the piccolo in 1809 in his Fifth Symphony, and it's been used in the orchestra ever since. The concerto and recital repertoire has grown dramatically and the piccolo is still gaining popularity as a solo instrument. The alto flute is pitched in G, a fourth below the flute. It's occasionally used in contemporary orchestral repertoire, most notably in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe. The bass flute sounds an octave below the flute. There are a few orchestral and solo pieces that use the bass, but because of its size and difficulty with projection and response, it's most commonly used as the lowest voice in a flute ensemble. Flute ensembles, often called flute choirs, are a valuable teaching tool. They give multiple flute students the opportunity for chamber music experience, and help with intonation and blending. Many flute clubs offer flute choir reading sessions and competitions for composers, encouraging more literature to be written for the ensemble. Let's bring the rest of the section out to demonstrate how these different instruments sound together. [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] As Kasumi just demonstrated, the first step to playing the flute is learning to make a good sound. First, put the headjoint up to your lips. It should be about here, so your lips don't cover the hole. You don't want it too far away, or not enough air will go in. Have you ever made a sound on a bottle before? Grab a bottle, and blow across the hole. Playing the flute is similar, but you'll need to angle your airstream down a bit so it's around forty-five degrees. Remember, don't cover the hole with your lips. If you aren't getting a sound, try this, but make sure your lower lip is still flexible. If you can't tell where you're blowing, hold your hand in front of you and blow into your palm. Then, move your hand up and down slightly, always keeping the airstream focused on the same spot. Once you can produce a sound, try making different sounds. Cover the end of your headjoint with your hand, keeping your palm flat. You should get this lower sound. [Music] Now uncover it and try for a higher sound. [Music] Once you can get these two sounds, you can try to go for an even higher one by covering and uncovering the end of the headjoint. [Music] For lower sounds, pretend you're blowing through a big straw. You can also try to aim your airstream a little lower. For higher sounds, pretend you're blowing through a tiny straw, but don't let your lips get too tight. The opening in your lips, or aperture, should be smaller, but not tighter. Also, it might help to aim your airstream a little higher and let your lips come forward slightly. When learning to make a good sound, it can be very helpful to use a mirror. Try rolling the headjoint towards you and away from you, or moving it up and down slightly on your lip until you get a sound, but don't move your head up or down. Keep your chin parallel to the ground and your eyes straight ahead. Once you make a sound you like, look in the mirror to see where the best spot is and try to put it in the same place every time. After a while, you'll be able to feel where the right spot is. [Music] The word "embouchure" refers to the way you shape your facial muscles and lips on the headjoint. There are as many different embouchures as there are flutists. Some are symmetrical, and some are a bit off-center. The important thing is not to tense up your lips. You might hear someone suggest that you should smile to form a flute embouchure, but this causes tension and should be avoided. It's also really important to keep your jaw relaxed. You need space in your mouth and between your upper and lower teeth to make a good sound, but never force your jaw into position. A nice, full sound starts with good air flow, and that starts with a good breath. A good breath means no tension in the body. Stand with your spine straight, but don't pull your shoulders back so far that your back tenses. Let your arms hang by your side and take in a deep breath through your mouth. Your stomach, chest, and even your back will expand if you're relaxed. A good way to tell if you're breathing correctly is to lie on your back and put a book on your lower belly. When you inhale, the book should rise. When you exhale, it should fall. Although your chest will expand when you breathe, it shouldn't move too much. Your shoulders should remain relaxed. One of my favorite breathing exercises comes from the Breathing Gym, by Pat Sheridan and Sam Pilafian. Put your lips against your finger, or the back of your hand. Can you hear the low sound I'm getting? [Breathing] A deep breath without tension sounds like "HA" but backwards. If you're doing this, you'll get a low sound. If you're tense, don't leave enough room in your mouth and throat, or don't take in enough air, your breath will sound high and shallow, like this. [Breathing] Once you've been playing your headjoint for a while and can make both high and low sounds, you're ready to play the whole flute. First, take the body of the flute and put it on the headjoint. It's very important not to bend the keys. Always hold it from here, where there are no keys. Don't push the headjoint all the way in, leave it out about a quarter of an inch. You can adjust it later when we work on tuning. Line up the embouchure hole with the first key. For some people, turning it out slightly works best, and for other people, turning it in slightly is better. For now, line them up. Next, take the footjoint and attach it to the body. Hold it with the keys CLOSED. Never push against the keys. This rod should be about in the middle of this key. Again, everyone is different so you might have to adjust for your hands to be comfortable, but for now, start with it lined up to the middle. To take the flute apart, follow the same process in reverse. Remember, never pull or push against the keys. Make sure you clean your flute out every time you play it. Take a cleaning cloth and thread it into the cleaning rod that came with your flute. Cover the end of the rod and run it through the body and footjoint once or twice. Don't forget to swab out the headjoint. You can buy a cleaning cloth made especially for swabbing out your flute or you can make one, but make sure the material you use isn't too thick and won't shred inside the flute. Never use materials like felt or paper towels because they'll come apart. Also, never wet your instrument. It's a good idea to carefully wipe down the outside of your flute, especially the lip plate. You can use the same cloth you used for the inside, or you can get one made for polishing. Just don't use a polishing cloth inside your flute. If you use this kind, don't leave it in your instrument because it can dry the pads out. Also, don't store your cleaning cloths inside your case. If your case or bag doesn't have a pocket, try tying the cloth to the handle. The flute is a delicate instrument and needs to be treated with care. Wash your hands before playing when possible, and don't eat or drink right before you play! If you just ate and can't brush your teeth before playing, at least rinse your mouth out with water. There are a few other things you should keep in mind. NEVER leave your flute on a music stand. The stand could tip or be knocked over. When you set your flute down, always place it down gently, with the keys facing up, or put it on a flute stand. And my personal pet peeve, don't roll your flute on your lap! All of these things can damage your flute. If something does happen to your instrument, don't try to fix it yourself. Show your band director or private teacher, or take it to a qualified repair person. Good posture and correct hand position are important not only to play well, but also to prevent pain and injury. There are three main points of contact when you hold your flute: your left hand index finger, your chin, and your right thumb. Always keep your left hand index finger in contact with the flute. For correct right hand position, hang your right arm loosely at your side and notice your thumb position. Now place the flute in your hand! Your fingers should be slightly curved and the pads of your fingertips should always stay close to the keys. Don't let your fingers turn to the side and rest on your flute. Your right pinky rests on this key for balance, but don't squeeze. When you're ready to play, don't move your head to the flute; bring the flute to you. There should be a slight bend in your left wrist, but not too much. Placing either elbow too high or too low can place stress on the wrist or back. Try to stay as relaxed as possible. Stand or sit at about a 45 degree angle to the right of the music stand, then turn your upper body to face the stand. The important thing is that your right elbow is not behind your body, preventing any twisting of the back. If you are in an ensemble, try to angle your chair so you're not running into the person next to you. Never rest your elbow on the chair, or your chin on your shoulder. Proper posture and hand position are two important building blocks in your development as a flutist. Tension impedes good technique and leads to injuries down the road. If your fingers are free and relaxed and you have good posture and hand position, faster dexterity and technique will come more easily. Let's discuss some basic skills: tone production, breathing, pitch, articulation, and finger dexterity. Practicing fundamentals properly and often is the key to improvement, and a good work ethic is crucial in the early stages of flute playing. Tone production can be one of the most difficult and frustrating issues for young flutists. Many factors contribute to this problem. In this section, we'll explore these issues and how they affect our ability to create the tone we want. Start building your tone concept by listening to recordings of professional players. Find one you like and listen to it often. Over time, you'll learn to mimic that tone. Combine that with an understanding of the technical aspects of tone production, and you will emulate your ideal sound more and more. Here's an example of a beautiful, expressive tone in Reinecke's Undine Sonata. [Music] [Music] Now let's talk about some more technical issues related to tone production. Once you're able to produce a sound on the flute, the most important aspect of your tone will be good breath support. Take a proper breath and say "HA" rather forcefully. You should notice your abdominal muscles engage. These abdominals and the surrounding muscles are the source of good breath support. If you don't feel your core move, you probably aren't using enough breath support. Now pretend your air stream is a laser beam pointed at the wall in front of you. Emulating this idea will help you produce a stronger sound. Without sufficient breath support, the resulting sound will be droopy and flat in pitch. When a teacher tells you to project more, this might be the problem they're trying to correct. Projection means to play out to other people, the people in your audience. When you practice, imagine you're in a concert hall with an audience, and project your sound out to them. Breath support is the key to good projection. But a well supported tone can still have problems. Think about your embouchure and general sound quality. Let's talk about some of the common tone problems and how to fix them. While a droopy tone is weak and unsupported, a pinched tone is not caused by lack of breath support, but by improper head-joint position or excess tension in the embouchure and throat. Another possible cause of a pinched tone is rolling the head-joint in too much toward the lips, like this. That changes the angle of the air stream as it hits the back wall of the head joint. The head joint has to be rolled out sufficiently to allow the air to hit at the proper angle. Listen to my sound change as I roll the embouchure hole out. [Music] As you rolled out, the sound opened up. It also went up in pitch. Demonstrate what happens if you roll out too far. [Music] "Did you hear the tone become fuzzy? " I did. This open, fuzzy tone happens when the angle of the air stream against the back wall becomes too wide, or when the lips are too loose and the air is not focused enough. Right, we need to make sure the aperture, which is the opening between your lips, is not too big or too small. I also often hear flutists play with a very loud and rough tone, like this. [Music] To correct this, just relax your airstream a bit and don't blow so hard, or relax your lips just a bit to compensate for the extra air. You have to learn to adjust the embouchure to achieve the sound you want. I like to use the garden hose analogy. If you put your thumb over the end of the hose, you emulate the flute embouchure and aperture. When you try to spray the water into a bucket a few feet away, your thumb will control the speed of the water. I think that's a great analogy. My airstream is the water coming out of the hose, and I can control its speed and direction with my embouchure. This embouchure flexibility is crucial to adjusting your sound and producing a good tone at any dynamic level or register. To try this out, play a slur between a low G to the G an octave above. Notice as I move my lips forward the aperture is smaller, like when we covered the end of the garden hose. [Music] The embouchure should be free to move back and forth. Everyone makes adjustments differently, look at these five different examples of an octave slur. [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] [Music] To produce high notes, we generally need a faster air stream with a slight upward angle and want our lips in a more forward position to accomplish this. For lower notes, we want a slower air stream angled downward. You should avoid changing the angle of the air stream with only the jaw. This lip movement also helps with diminuendos. A common problem with diminuendos is the tendency to go flat as you get softer. Pushing your lips forward and angling the air up as you get softer will help you maintain the pitch. Practicing tone is very important. An exercise we call long tones is an essential part of developing a good tone. Long tones are simply long held notes with an emphasis on the quality of your tone. Make them a fundamental part of your practice routine and remember to experiment with the concepts we've presented to find out what works for you. As always, flexibility is crucial to good tone. The ability to take a full breath in a short amount of time is a valuable skill for flutists, because we often play for extended periods of time without rest. Try this simple exercise to learn how to breathe more efficiently. First, set your metronome to 80 beats per minute. Inhale for eight beats, set your mouth in a flute embouchure, then exhale for eight beats. Next, inhale for seven beats, and exhale for eight beats. Keep subtracting a beat from the inhale until finally, you take in one big breath over one beat, and exhale it over eight beats. Breathe from low in your core, not high in your chest. Also, a common mistake is to let most of the air out within the first couple of beats. Pace your breath as evenly as possible over the eight beats, you're learning to conserve your air. You can modify the exercise depending on skill level. For beginners, maybe start with a four count exercise instead of eight. For advanced players looking for a reminder on efficient breathing or a good warm up exercise, try doing it in twelve or more counts. Once you feel like you're taking full breaths, you can continue increasing your air capacity and stamina. Take your flute, start with your metronome set to 60 beats per minute and try this exercise. Play full volume, without vibrato and expend all of your air. Breathe slowly and deeply over four beats, and repeat. [Music] The goal is to use up all of your air but not until the very end. If you run out of air too soon, set your metronome faster. As your air capacity increases, set your metronome progressively slower. When you find a challenging metronome setting, continue all the way down the scale chromatically. [Music] If you need more of a challenge, try playing chromatically UP to the top of your range, or stringing three whole notes together. It's normal to feel lightheaded at first, so take breaks when you need to. Practicing exercises like this one will help you play long phrases, while still keeping control of your airstream. Listen to the way Staff Sgt. Owen plays a long, beautiful phrase without sacrificing tone quality. [Music] Planning your breaths improves efficiency as well. Don't wait until you run out of air to take a breath. Look through your music and mark good places to breathe so you don't run out of air at inconvenient times. If you have enough time, breathe early so you can prepare your embouchure. Just like other aspects of playing the flute, it takes practice to play in tune. The great thing about this skill is that you can work on it away from the instrument. Simply taking time everyday to listen to music is a great way to train your ears. Listening should be fun. I like to listen to music while I'm driving to work, exercising, or cooking dinner. Listen to different styles, including flute repertoire and other Classical music, to have a basis for comparison with your own playing. Another great way to improve intonation is by using a tuner. An inexpensive tuner will last for years and will help you keep your intonation in check when you're practicing. The tuner serves as a visual aid. Eventually you'll be able to tell on your own whether you are Flat. [Music] Sharp. [Music] Or in tune. [Music] Let's talk about how to adjust when you're out of tune. When you're flat, pushing in the headjoint shortens your instrument and raises the pitch. When you're sharp, pulling it out lengthens your flute and lowers the pitch. Here's a trick to help you remember which way to go: If you make your instrument bigger, like a tuba, it sounds lower. If you make it smaller, like a piccolo, it sounds higher. Aside from moving your headjoint, you can also adjust the pitch by changing the angle and speed of your airstream. Try not to move your head; do most of the angling with your embouchure. Also, resist the urge to roll in or out to an extreme. A little is OK, but again, most of the pitch adjustments should be made using your airstream. When you're familiar with the tuner, you may notice that some pitches tend to go generally sharp or flat. For example, the high register tends to go sharp, and the low register tends to go flat. Notes played loudly are often sharp, while notes played softly can be flat. These are common pitch issues, but every flutist is different. Take note of your own personal tendencies. Each instrument in an ensemble also has its own tendencies, and they don't always match the flutes'. Knowing this can prevent pitch clashes with other sections. In any ensemble, tuning is a joint effort. Remember, the best steps to good intonation are listening to music and forming your own concept of sound. That, in addition to practicing and knowing your pitch tendencies, is a recipe for excellent intonation. In this section, we'll talk about basic articulation, which is how to start the sound on the flute. When producing a tone on the flute, we almost always start with the tongue to give the sound a clear and clean start. Without the tongue, the beginning of the sound would be fuzzy and we wouldn't be able to play notes very fast. How does this sound to you? [Music] You probably thought that sounded kind of strange. To achieve clarity, flutists begin the sound with too, tah, doo, or dah, just behind the teeth as if you were saying "tea for two" or "daily dollar." This type of articulation is called single tonguing. Choose which syllable works best for you. Be sure your teeth do not touch each other. As you end the sound, release the air without stopping it in the throat or with the tongue. You shouldn't say "DUDE". That's very important. To make sure you aren't stopping the sound with the tongue or the throat, try this. Play a note for a few seconds. When you stop the sound, open your jaw a bit and continue to blow a little bit of warm air, like this. [Music] If you can't blow any air at the end of the note, you might be stopping the sound in the throat. You should feel as if you're fogging a mirror. It's also important to have good breath support under your articulation. Try saying "Ha" four times in a row, with your hands on your abdomen. Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha. You should feel your stomach muscles move a bit. Now try saying "Too" or "Tah" four times in a row. tah, tah, tah, tah. You should feel your stomach muscles move just like when you said "Ha." Try it on your flute. Play four quarter notes using the tongue. [Music] You probably noticed that the beginning of each note is very clear, not fuzzy. We use the tongue to start notes almost all the time. We can play short, or staccato, notes... [Music] or we can play them connected, or legato. [Music] Notice that there's no need to breathe between every note. Using the tongue properly will allow you to play many notes in one breath at whatever speed you'd like. Here's a piece that uses legato tonguing. [Music] Up to now, we've been talking about tonguing every note, but there are times when we need to slur the notes, or connect them without using the tongue. Start the first note with the tongue and blow through the rest of them without using the tongue at all, like this. [Music] With a few exceptions, you should always start the sound with the tongue, even when restarting after a breath. To practice tonguing, beginners should try playing a note using different rhythmic patterns with the tongue, like this. [Music] You can even play fun rhythmic patterns on each note of your music, like this. [Music] Once you become comfortable with that, try changing notes while tonguing every note, like this. [Music] Then try slurring two-note or three-note patterns. [Music] And the most important thing is the more you practice, the better you'll get and the more fun you'll have. [Music] The flute is often featured in fast, virtuosic passages, in everything from orchestral masterworks to solo pieces. Though the flute literature is full of technical challenges, it can be rewarding to master them. In this section, we're going to share some tips for improving your finger dexterity so you can confidently tackle those difficult spots. One of the most effective ways to improve your technique is to practice hard sections slowly. Many flutists, new and experienced, build bad habits into their music by practicing passages too fast. It's much harder to unlearn a bad habit than it is to properly learn a new one, so save yourself a lot of time and energy by practicing slowly. Let's use the flute solo from Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf as an example. This excerpt is notoriously fast and difficult for flutists. Listen to Sarah slow it down to a good practice tempo. Once you've mastered it at a moderate tempo, you can gradually increase the speed, using your metronome as a gauge if you like. [Music] [Music] As you are working on your technique, remember to keep proper hand position, posture, and finger placement over the keys. Another way to improve finger agility is to practice your scales and arpeggios, the building blocks of Western music. Practicing these fundamentals will help you recognize patterns and rely on your muscle memory, which can save a lot of time while learning a new piece. One common issue that slows down our technique is unevenness between notes. This can be caused by poor posture or hand position, going from one finger to many fingers, or slightly shifting how the flute is balanced. C to D in the staff is often uneven. While looking in a mirror, alternate between C and D very slowly, paying close attention to how close or far your fingers are from the keys. Make sure your fingers remain close to the keys, are relaxed, and travel the same distance. Now go ahead and gradually speed up your exercise. We've explained the benefit of practicing slowly, now let's look at a different method involving rhythmic variations. We're going to apply different rhythmic patterns to the music to help learn a difficult passage. Let's return to the solo from Peter and the Wolf. Here are a few examples of what you can do. The original passage is shown at the top of the screen. In variation one, you see the original notes from the passage, but the rhythms are written out differently. [Music] Here are some other variations. [Music] Changing the emphasis helps train your fingers. Once you've played through all the different variations, going back to the original will feel a little easier. Did you notice the arpeggios in that excerpt? If you have practiced your scales, arpeggios, and technical exercises, then sight-reading and learning difficult passages like this will come more naturally. The solo from Peter and the Wolf is just one example of how virtuosic the flute repertoire can be. It's fast and difficult, but not impossible if you can apply the right methods in preparing it. Set yourself up for great technique by solidifying your fundamentals, practicing efficiently, and remembering not to rush the learning process. Enjoy working through the challenges of the flute repertoire! [Music] Practicing is a necessary part of playing an instrument. If you want to improve, you'll need to prioritize and set up an efficient routine. Let's talk about your practice session. When you're in the intermediate stages of flute playing, the amount of information you're taking in can seem overwhelming. You've got your technique to work on, scales, band music, solo repertoire - with so much to do, it can be helpful to write down and organize your goals for the day. That way, if you find yourself losing focus, you have something to keep you on track. Here is one example of an organized practice session. This session has been broken down into 5 parts: long tones, scales, an articulation etude, solo repertoire, and ensemble music. You can also set goals for how long you'd like to work on each part. What takes one person 20 minutes to learn might take someone else an hour. I like to write down specific passages that need work, in case I forget about them along the way. This can be helpful if you find your mind wandering. For example, if there are eight bars in your solo piece that tend to sound sloppy, start with that trouble area. A common question students have is, how long should I be practicing every day? Beginners might start with a few minutes a day; serious students might practice for hours. There were times in college when I practiced 4 to 5 hours a day. Whatever amount you choose to practice, remember that establishing a daily routine is important and it's up to you to decide how fast you'd like to improve. When an articulated passage is too fast to single tongue, you'll have to use multiple tonguing. There are two kinds: double-tonguing and triple-tonguing. Double tonguing uses a combination front and back stroke of the tongue, allowing you to articulate at a much faster pace. The air is interrupted once at the front of the mouth with the syllable "tah," and then again at the back of the mouth with "kah." The result is "tah kah tah kah." There are several different syllables you can use when double tonguing, and the option you choose may vary depending on your preference or what repertoire you are playing. Here is an example of how to apply double tonguing to a group of fast moving notes. Once you've grasped the basic concept of double tonguing, it's time to start refining your technique. Because the "Kah" lies farther back on your tongue, it can feel clumsy and is difficult to get as clear as the front stroke. The goal is to not let the listener know you're double tonguing at all. Here is a good exercise to strengthen the back stroke. First, play a repeated note using "tah." [Music] Now play the same note using "kah". [Music] Make sure your "kahs" sound just as clear and even as your "tahs". Once your "kahs" sound good, try alternating "tah" and "kah," again making sure there is no difference in quality between the two. [Music] Good airspeed and support are important to maintain clarity on the back syllable since it is inherently weaker. Developing this skill will take a lot of practice and patience, but once you're comfortable with it, you'll be able to play faster articulated passages with ease and virtuosity. [Music] Triple tonguing is used when there are fast moving triplets, or notes in groups of three. The syllables used are still "tah" and "kah," but they're organized a little differently. For triple tonguing on the flute, they are most commonly organized as: Tah Kah Tah, with the Kah in the middle. Let's take a look at Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony. Triple tonguing is appropriate here because of the triplet figures and the tempo, which is too fast to single tongue. From a musical standpoint, there are certain instances where rearranging these syllables is preferable to suit your needs. For example, if you have a long string of triplets, you might still use a double tonguing pattern so there aren't two tah's in a row. Another option is to put the two front strokes together at the beginning of the group of three. This can be useful in passages that need emphasis on the down beat. Play around with what works best for you. Practicing these techniques will help you tackle a wider variety of repertoire. [Music] If you are seeking more clarity in your articulation, you might want to experiment with forward tonguing, sometimes referred to as French tonguing. The goal of any articulation is clarity, and the source of articulation is language. In English, 'too' and 'doo' are hard sounds, with the tongue further back behind your teeth at the roof of your mouth. In the French language, 'tu' is said with the tongue touching the back of your upper teeth and your upper lip simultaneously. To understand the concept, try spitting rice grains off the tip of your tongue. The very tip of your tongue blocks the aperture opening, and removing it releases the air. With the tongue closer to the lip and the flute, there is less chance for delay in the sound. You may be wondering why you should try this. Well, why color with only 32 crayons when you could use 64? Even if you are not interested in using forward tonguing all the time, it has its uses. It can give a pretty impressive clear pop to the beginning of notes when needed, and because the tongue is farther forward, there is more space in your mouth for resonant sound. [Music] An expressive player has a wide range of tools to choose from when making music. Vibrato, tone colors and dynamics all help contribute to your final musical product. Vibrato is a sound fluctuation produced by pulses in the airstream. It is an expressive tool that gives our sound forward motion. You've probably heard flutists use vibrato and may have already tried to mimic them through your own playing. Vibrato should be integrated into the sound, rather than on top of or separated from it. Before picking up the flute, try saying the word "ha" in slow pulses. Ha, ha, ha. Your throat should be open and relaxed to allow air to flow freely, as if you were yawning. Let your air support come from low in your core, as opposed to high in your chest. Try saying ha again, but this time using just the breath, without vocalization. Ha, ha, ha. It's time to apply this concept to our own flute playing. For this exercise, you'll need a metronome set to 80 beats per minute. Choose a note that is comfortable and easy for you. Play a whole note with four quarter note pulses, rest and repeat. [Music] [Music] Keep in mind all the key points we discussed earlier: an open, relaxed airway, good breath support, maintaining your normal embouchure, and a vibrato that's produced by the air, not the lips or voice. Once you've repeated the quarter note pulses enough times to feel comfortable, move on to eighth note pulses. Play four beats of eighth notes, rest and repeat. [Music] [Music] Now move on to playing triplet pulses on each beat. [Music] [Music] And finally, sixteenth note pulses. [Music] [Music] After exploring a wide range of vibrato speeds, you'll find that the speed you choose will depend on the character of the music, and often you'll weave in and out of different speeds throughout a piece. As a musician, you'll make the artistic decision of choosing when and when not to use vibrato. Vibrato is an expressive tool, and it doesn't have to occur on every note we play. Over time and with practice, vibrato will feel much more natural than the metronomic way we first learned it. Listen to professional recordings of flutists and other musicians you admire, and draw inspiration from what you hear. [Music] [Music] [Music] To me, one of the greatest things the flute can do is produce a wide array of tone colors. As flutists, we can act as chameleons, adjusting the quality of our sound and the timbre of the instrument to fit the mood of a particular piece. Like a painter, we have an entire palette of colors to choose from. I love when I can really dig into the low register and get that rich, deep, dark tone color. A perfect example of that occurs in Borne's "Carmen Fantasy." The well known British flutist Trevor Wye associates this quality of sound with the color purple. [Music] [Music] There's another beautiful color that I really enjoy. The flute can produce a hollow, pale, and mysterious sound. Even on a modern metal instrument, it's possible to imitate the sound of a wooden flute. In Saint-Saens' famous orchestral work, "Carnival of the Animals," the flute uses this hollow color in the movement, "Aquarium". By producing a certain tone color, you can narrate the music by helping the listener imagine what the composer might have envisioned when he wrote this piece: a dim underwater scene with fish slowly gliding by. [Music] [Music] Dynamic changes help us express different moods, colors and textures of sound. We apply it to music similarly to the way we do to speech, creating contrast within our phrases to keep the listener interested. To develop great contrasts, take some time every day to practice playing loud and soft. Let's work on a big and powerful forte. [Music] [Music] The louder you play, the more air you need - playing forte requires a faster and larger airstream. Use your breath efficiently, and take more breaths as needed to compensate for the extra energy you're using. Practicing tapers and diminuendos will help develop your embouchure for sustained pianissimo playing. [Music] Start with a comfortably full sound and begin a diminuendo, making sure to keep the same quality of tone throughout the note as it becomes very soft. Your aperture will get smaller and your airspeed will increase. This coordination helps ensure that the note doesn't crack or fizzle out too soon. Good support is crucial here. There are many moments in the flute repertoire that call on the performer to combine vibrato, colors, and dynamics to shape a phrase. The 4th movement solo from Brahms' First Symphony requires the flutist to soar above the orchestra and project out into the audience. Use a slightly more pronounced vibrato combined with a full solo sound to help the expansiveness of this moment. [Music] [Music] Always be sure the vibrato is staying within your sound as we practiced earlier. Too fast or too slow can be musically unappealing. Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun requires a very slight amount of vibrato, shimmery and not too slow. Combine your soft, ethereal tone color with your subtle vibrato, and you can create a beautiful tranquil mood. [Music] A few notes on the flute can be fingered multiple ways, and depending on the situation, one fingering might be better than another. We can also use harmonic fingerings to make life easier or close extra keys to improve intonation. The most common alternate fingerings in the 3rd octave involve E and F#. These notes are often a bit sharp and easy to crack. Simple modifications can lower the pitch and make them more stable, especially in fortissimo passages. For E, lift the pinkie in the right hand. For F#, instead of the 3rd finger, use the second finger in the right hand. To help control pitch on the 3rd octave Ab, try adding the second and third fingers in the right hand. Also, if you have a B foot instrument, you can lower your high C by adding right hand fingers with your pinkie on the gizmo key. The standard fingering for Bb is the 1&1 Bb, played with the 1st finger in both hands. But there are two other options. The Thumb Bb allows you to play Bb without using the right hand, avoiding excess finger movement. It's usually used when Bb is in the key signature, and the thumb Bb key can be left down for almost all other notes except for B-natural, C, or high F# and high B-natural. The third option, the lever, can be a good choice for chromatic passages to help avoid cumbersome thumb sliding. Harmonics are considered an extended technique, but can also be used as alternate fingerings. You can simplify a passage containing third octave notes using the fingerings for lower notes and over-blowing to produce the harmonic. Listen as a 3rd octave scale is played using both regular fingerings and harmonics. [Music] Consider this passage from Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, which is quite difficult without alternate fingerings. Listen as it's performed with alternate fingerings. [Music] While you should not sustain a long note using a harmonic unless expressly called for in the music, alternate and harmonic fingerings can help you master difficult technical passages with minimal loss of tone quality. These are only a few of the many possible alternate fingerings, so research other options as your playing develops. The flute is one of the most versatile instruments, and modern composers are still finding ways to push the envelope. Extended techniques demand a flexibility and control that will benefit your standard flute playing, and they sound pretty cool. Let's look at some of the extended techniques you might come across in modern works. The flutter tongue articulation can be achieved through two methods. The first requires the player to make a Spanish erre, or double r, sound while playing. [Music] [Music] If you already know how to roll your r's, that kind of flutter tonguing should come easily to you. If you can't, don't worry. There's another flutter tonguing method that's also acceptable. Using the back of your throat, make a rapid growl as if gargling water. [Gargling] [Music] To sing while playing, keep your embouchure in its normal position and sing a pitch while maintaining constant airflow so the flute still sounds. Try this with a scale. [Music] Singing while playing is a tricky technique to get used to. One way to practice it is by alternating playing and singing the same pitch. [Music] Then sustain a pitch, gradually bringing your voice in and out. [Music and singing] Now you are ready to move on to independent pitches. Try not to sing too loudly or you could strain your vocal chords. [Music] Harmonics are the higher frequencies attained by fingering the lower fundamental note and then adjusting the embouchure and airspeed to produce pitches in that note's harmonic series. Composers ask for harmonics because of their unique sound quality, but they also make a great exercise for embouchure flexibility and control. [Music] Composers sometimes write pitches outside the standard range of the flute. You'll need to use an especially fast airstream and strong breath support to get these notes to speak. Find an advanced fingering chart to learn how to finger these pitches. The fourth octave includes C#, D, D#, E, and F. [Music] The flute is capable of playing two or more pitches at the same time, a technique called multiphonics. The composer usually provides the necessary fingerings. In "The Great Train Race" by Ian Clarke, multiphonics are used to imitate a train whistle. To play two pitches at once, you have to find an embouchure that can produce both. Multiphonics help develop flexibility and control, both worthwhile skills. For more information, a great resource is "The Other Flute", by Robert Dick. [Music] Intentionally raising or lowering a note is called pitch bending. It's done by rolling the flute in to lower the pitch, or outward to raise it. You can also manipulate the embouchure to change the pitch. This is not the same as simply tuning. [Music] Additionally, composers sometimes specify a fingering that will create a pitch bending effect. For this method, you will need an open-hole flute. [Music] To achieve a key click, or key slap, simply choose a note, finger it, and slap one or more of the keys necessary to finger the note. This technique does not always require blowing into the headjoint. For example, finger a G and slap the G Key, your left hand ring finger. [Music] You'll hear the pitch resonate through the flute when you slap that key. [Music] Robert Dick describes Jet Whistles as breathy, semi-pitched resonances of the flute, varying from short, violent 'shrieks' to soft, sustained sonorities. They are produced by placing the lips over almost the entire embouchure plate, pressing the lips so that no air escapes, and blowing a forceful blast of air directly into the flute. The angle of your air into the flute can affect how high you can get yours to shriek. [Shrieking] Quarter tones are pitches halfway between the notes of a chromatic scale, and are produced with special fingerings. On an open hole flute, many of the pitches require the key to be closed while the center hole is left uncovered. Most composers include fingering charts for pieces that involve quarter tones. [Music] The modern flute is capable a of vast amount of extended techniques. Enjoy the contemporary repertoire unique to the flute. Learning new techniques on your instrument is like adding tools to your toolbox. Exploring extended techniques improves your standard playing by making you a more flexible and diverse musician. [Music] Playing in an ensemble is all about teamwork. In order for the team to succeed, everyone involved needs to understand how to play their assigned positions. Think of your ensemble as a complex machine made up of many intricate parts. The machine won't operate correctly if one piece is faulty. When playing principal flute or first chair, you are the leader of the flute section. You are the team captain, and responsible for bringing your players together towards a common goal. Make stylistic decisions, such as designating note lengths or where to take a breath in a phrase. Address and correct issues within the section, such as intonation or articulation. Take time to discuss the music with other principal players in the ensemble. Typically, the principal flutist communicates ideas and other concerns to the conductor on behalf of the section. [Music] [Music] A principal flutist must always count rests and be ready for entrances. These are things every player should do, but the principal has the additional responsibility of bringing in the section. Avoid being bossy. Respect your colleagues and they will reciprocate. You're a leader, not a dictator. Solo lines should always be played confidently. Even when marked at a low dynamic level, such as piano or pianissimo, a solo line has to reach the audience. [Music] When you are in a supporting position as a section player, remember every member of an ensemble has a distinct job. A section player needs to have a great amount of flexibility. Listen to the principal for sound, pitch, vibrato, and phrasing. Be supportive, and don't be afraid to play out when you have the melody. Feel free to suggest ideas about the music to the principal player. A good section works together to achieve a common goal. Throughout our years of playing, we've all learned the do's and don'ts of ensemble playing. What advice would you tell your students? Come to rehearsal prepared. Assuming the music was given to you beforehand, you should already have learned your part in your personal practice time. Educate yourself by listening to a professional recording of the piece your group will be playing. The purpose of an ensemble rehearsal is to put the parts together, not to learn the parts together. I would say to avoid playing someone else's part in front of them. It makes it seem that you think you can play it better than they can. It's disrespectful and it creates a competitive environment between you and your colleagues. Remember to be a good listener, and to work on blending. It's easy to get stuck in your own bubble and only focus on what you're doing as opposed to everything that's going on around you. Try to think of the big picture. Don't address the whole section with instructions if you are not in the principal seat. This isn't your job, and you should refrain from taking on a role that isn't assigned to you. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we're supporting and they're both really important jobs. I always remind my students that playing in a section is not a competition of who can play the loudest. Unless it's a solo, one flutist shouldn't stick out. Learn how to become part of a unified flute sound. Let's pick it up again. How about measure 41? [Music] Choosing an instrument can be overwhelming. Renting one until you are sure you're going to stick with it is always a good idea, but if you're ready to buy your own, there are a few things to consider. The first is the material. Most student flutes are nickel silver or silver-plated. A step up is a solid silver instrument. If a solid-silver flute is out of your price range, a plated instrument with a solid silver headjoint is a good compromise. Another choice you will have to make is between an offset G and an inline G. Some players find that an offset G allows for a more natural hand position. Try both and see what's more comfortable for you. A question I hear a lot is, "What's the ideal age to start playing the flute?" It's best to wait until the student's arms are long enough to hold the flute without straining the hands and wrists and without holding the instrument at an exaggerated angle. There is an option for shorter students, a curved headjoint. This type of headjoint shortens the length of the flute, making it easier to reach. It can create some other problems so it's a good idea to consult a private teacher or band director before choosing this option. Many student flutes are Plateau, or closed-hole models. Instruments geared towards more advanced students are usually French style, or open-holed. Closed holes are fine for a first flute, but I usually recommend open-holed if you are getting at least a silver-plated instrument. You can always plug the holes until you get used to it. A flute with a low B foot allows you to play one more note than the standard C foot and may make the high register a little easier. It's not necessary, but if an investment on a nicer instrument is within your budget, it's worth having. Another useful extra is the C# trill key, which makes some fingerings easier. Other options are the "Split E", heavy or thin-wall flutes, or different types of metals, such as gold or platinum. These are a matter of personal preference, so try several different instruments before you buy one. There are a lot of good brands out there. Ask your teacher or band director for a recommendation. When choosing a piccolo, it's important to try certain notes and pitch relationships. Check the middle D against the octave above. Likewise, check the lowest notes and the middle E to be sure they aren't substantially flat. The cork position can have an effect on this, but these note relationships will be better on a good instrument. The high F# should respond well both with and without the right pinky. A very good piccolo will produce a high B with relative ease. I say relative because it's a difficult note to produce, but a good instrument will allow it to speak easier. Anytime you're trying instruments, be sure to play for a teacher, friend or colleague. The piccolo is smaller than the flute and it sounds an octave higher. It's the highest voice in the ensemble and is often used soloistically or to add color. The mechanism and fingerings are the same - it really is a 'petite flute' as the French call it. Orchestral piccolos are made out of wood, with metal keys. The wood allows the piccolo to blend more easily with other woodwind instruments, and gives a sweeter, more pleasing tone. Some student models or marching instruments are made out of metal or a composite plastic material. This makes a brighter sound and is also more durable in outdoor conditions. The Db piccolo was frequently used in band literature of the mid 20th century, to facilitate faster technique in easier keys. Here you can see the difference in the Stars and Stripes piccolo solo. [Music] Before attempting the piccolo, a flutist should have solid control of their third octave, and a good understanding of breath support and airspeed. Since the piccolo sounds an octave higher, it makes sense to approach the piccolo as a 4th octave extension of the flute. Improper placement can cause inconsistent intonation, so you might have to place your piccolo higher on your lip. Basic tone production on the piccolo is the same as it is on the flute but the aperture needs to be a little smaller. Your embouchure should be firm to help control the airstream, but squeezing the lips too much will sacrifice tone quality. It can be tempting to use tension to get the upper notes to speak, but you'll get much better results with good breath support, fast airspeed, and a focused embouchure. The low register should sound relaxed and full. To project, you must be relaxed and let the sound resonate in your mouth and chest. Listen to this excerpt that highlights the color of the piccolo's low register. [Music] The middle register often needs some finessing, in particular the notes from E through G. These notes have a tendency to crack, and require accurate embouchure placement. In the second movement of Borodin's Polovtsian Dances, the piccolo has an exposed solo passage. The line starts on a G above the staff - a tricky entrance after the long rest leading up to it. [Music] Only careful individual practice in the middle register will assure that you come in accurately and confidently. Many famous works, particularly marches, keep the piccolo in the upper register for an extended period of time. When you have a solo like this, OWN IT! The piccolo is one of the most exposed instruments in the ensemble and will be heard no matter what, so play with confidence. Playing in this register for even a short time can damage your hearing, so make sure you have a set of earplugs to practice with. We use specially designed musicians earplugs that fit inside the ear canal. But even basic foam earplugs are better than nothing. Ask your teacher or band director for a recommendation. [Music] As with the flute, scales and arpeggios are great daily exercises for the piccolo, and will help with flexibility and good intonation. Playing the piccolo in tune is particularly difficult. Spend some quality time with a tuner and play duets with a friend. [Music] [Music] The most successful piccolo players have alternate fingerings in their bag of tricks to help with blending and pitch. Many of these can be found online with a quick internet search, or you can also go to our website to find links to additional resources for the piccolo. We'd like to close this section with one final example that shows that despite all the challenges, the piccolo is worth all the time it takes. [Music] Thanks for watching "Flute Fundamentals" by the United States Army Field Band flute section. The five of us believe in life-long education, always seeking improvement and keeping our eyes and ears open for new knowledge and perspective about our craft. Whether you're the freshest of beginners or an advanced player, we recommend finding a private flute teacher to guide you. Check out our website,, for additional educational programming and resources like our instructional DVDs and reference recordings. [Music]


The Field Band was established in 1946 by Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers, Commanding General of U.S. Army Ground Forces, with the aim of maintaining the link between the United States Army and American public established during World War Two by organisations such as United Service Organizations and the First Combat Infantry Band.

The nucleus of the new organization consisted of musicians from the original First Combat Infantry Band. The new band was named The Army Ground Forces Band. In April 1950, it was renamed the United States Army Field Band.[1]

Their 2020 album, Soundtrack of the American Soldier, won Best Immersive Audio Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.[2]

Performing ensembles

Since its inception in 1946, The U.S. Army Field Band has evolved from one main performing ensemble into four separate components, including the original Concert Band.

The Soldiers' Chorus had its origins in the early days of the Concert Band, when members would gather in front of the band during shows and serenade the audience. They featured glee club-style choral arrangements of traditional and popular songs. In 1957, the unit began to audition vocalists specifically for the Chorus. The unit's first full-time female soldier-musicians joined the ranks of the Soldiers' Chorus in 1974.

In the early 1960s, the early stages of a permanent big band began to take shape. The Satin Brass and Studio Band were the first big band component, which performed separately from the Concert Band. In 1969, the Studio Band was recognized as a full-fledged performing component, and was later named the Jazz Ambassadors.

The Six-String Soldiers is a six-member band focused on contemporary popular music with an emphasis on bluegrass and country. It was formed in 2014 to replace the former resident bluegrass band, The Volunteers.


Col. Jim R. Keene (2015-present)

Ltc. Paul Bamonte (2014-2015) (as acting commander)

Col. Timothy J. Holtan (2011–2014)

Col. Thomas H. Palmatier (2007-2011)

The United States Army Field Band during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in 2017.

Col. Finley R. Hamilton (1999-2007)

Col. Jack Grogan (1991-1999)

Col. William E. Clark (1979-1991)

The Jazz Ambassadors 1985-1986

Maj. Samuel J. Fricano (1974-1979)

Ltc. Hal J. Gibson (1968-1974)

Ltc. Wilmont M. Trumbull (1966-1968)

Ltc. Robert L. Bierly (1960-1966)

Ltc. Chester E. Whiting (1946-1960)

Notable members



General references

  • Clark, William E. "The History of The U.S. Army Field Band." PhD diss., University of South Carolina, 2002.
  • Whiting, Chester E. The Baton and the Pendulum. Clearfield, PA: Kurtz Brothers, 1963.
  • The United States Army Field Band. "Our History." The United States Army Field Band.

Inline citations

  1. ^ "A History of U.S. Army Bands" (Edition D) (for a course on the subject; Subcourse Number MU0010), US Army Element, United States Armed Forces School of Music, Norfolk, Virginia, October 2005
  2. ^ Cohn, Gabe (2021-11-23). "Grammy Awards 2022: The Full List of Nominees". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-11-27.
  3. ^ "The Jazz Ambassadors - 50 Years".

External links

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