The Simple Flute: From A to Z

The Simple Flute: From A to Z

The Simple Flute: From A to Z

The Simple Flute: From A to Z


For professional and amateur flutists as well as students of the flute, this book offers a practical introduction to all aspects of playing the flute. Using an accessible A-Z format, Debost offers a logical and imaginitive work on flute performance that places technique at the service of music on every page.


Alphabetical order for entries in this book has been chosen for various reasons. The main one is that such a book is not meant to be read like a novel, drink in hand under the lamp. It is a book for lovers of the divine pipe, for those fascinated by actual contact with the flute, with instrumental playing as well as musical function in mind, for its poetic mysteries as well as for its technical secrets.

I have been playing the flute for close to sixty years. Yet nothing is indifferent to me that involves the flute. Hopefully it will be so as long as I have a breath, or a tooth, left. I take nothing for granted either, and each day brings new questions and renewed pleasures.

Separating into “logical” compartments different aspects of musical art (technique, tone, articulation, interpretation, etc.) seems to me arbitrary. I cannot see the border between questions. The art of the flute is not a chest of isolated little drawers with one aspect of playing locked in each one. Musicality does not start where technique stops, if it ever stops.

There is no possible practice of articulation without a cultivated tone, any more than there can be a valid reflection on tone without a living consciousness of the breath. There is no significant instrumental work without a musical project, and there can be no meaningful interpretation without valid instrumental playing.

“Art is but feeling. Yet, without the science of volumes, of proportions, of colors, without the ability of the hand, the liveliest feeling is paralyzed. What would become of the greatest poet in a foreign land, whose tongue he knew nothing about?”

Alphabetical organization, therefore, seemed to me more practical for a “flute in hand” reading.

Another reason relates to the attention span of your average flutist. Mine does not go much beyond a thousand words, or about two typewritten pages. Such is the size of most of my subjects, to which are added a few illustrations, musical examples, and sketches by Jeanne Debost-Roth. She has the necessary know-how and patience, being the daughter and wife of flute players.

If interest is aroused by an entry, the implied subjects are indexed, again in alphabetical order, at the end of each entry, so that a curious reader may easily find them in cross-reference. Some ideas will be repeated for the same reason, sometimes word for word: cross-reference. The repetitions are not unintended. Teaching is, like conducting, glorified redundancy. After the teacher has repeated the same axiom a hundred times, the student will need to hear it for the hundred and first time.

Music is whole, and to serve it one must explore the secret paths that link aes-

1. Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) in L'Art (Paris: Bernard Grasset: 1911).

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