Interview with Andy Findon
Andy Findon is Europe's most recorded flute player. In his thirty years as a London-based musician, he has appeared on countless albums, film ＆ TV scores. Spitfire Audio had a chance to ask him our most burning questions about composing for flutes, here's what he told us!
What’s important to consider when writing for flute?
We're all human, so need to breathe occasionally! If writing a melodic line, always try singing it, so you know it's going to be practical. We can always "sneak" a quick breath in, unnoticed (in performance or in clever editing), but the musical phrase will always work better if it's played naturally.
Any tips for writing for flute?
The lower register is not as powerful as the higher, so in thicker textures consider which octaves are required carefully. Articulation becomes more challenging the lower the note but can be effective.
What are the most common mistakes composers make when writing for flutes?
Incorrect octaves, phrases without logical breath points and not enough information on articulations and volumes.
What do you think is the strongest characteristic of the flute?
Smooth, expressive melodic lines, soaring above an orchestral texture or solo.
What are the most idiomatic articulations for the flute?
There are countless articulation possibilities. Delicate staccato to a fierce "chiff". Fast tongued passages - like Mendelssohn, Scherzo from Midsummer Nights Dream. Expressive soaring legato solos like Ravel, Daphnis & Chloe Suite...
What is special about pairings with the flute, such as Flute and Piccolo?
Using 2 or more flutes together is often effective in octaves. Using a piccolo, or alto flute to be the upper or lower octave can give a more varied palette than just 2 flutes. A wider choice of colours. In the mid register the piccolo is often more flexible with dynamics than the high register of the flute (the same at the lower end with alto or bass flute)
Are there any other pairings of flute with an orchestral instrument that you personally like?
I like sitting on top of a violin section, blending my sound with the larger group of violins but it's also challenging and satisfying to work with other solo instruments. Muted trumpet and flute is a "special" sound in my opinion.
What are your favourite extended or less common techniques and why?
I always consider use of vibrato in extremes to be an effective and not often considered technique. It can bring "coldness" or "warmth" to a phrase.
Extreme articulations, such as "chuffing" can bring a percussive element to the texture and a very airy "whistle" breathiness is challenging but can bring an exotic feel to play with.
Do you have any favourite scores that feature flute?
My personal favourite is the Rachel Portman score for "Chocolat" (2000). It featured melodic solos for all the woodwind and some very expressive moments for ethnic flute and pan-pipes.
Any John Williams score - simply definitive orchestral flute writing - technically stretching!