Welcome to Jazz Flute Tips

I set up Jazz Flute Tips to begin a conversation, not to give advice. I think that a lot of flute players come from different experiences playing jazz and so have a lot to teach each other. I hope that this forum will help us all to share our thoughts.

Of course I am happy to put my 2 cents in. I have a lot of experiences of my own. As you can see from the webpage I have recorded a lot and have recorded with some of the most wonderful musicians in a number of jazz styles. And I will share whatever I know with whomever wants to know. But I’m not a jazz educator and my history as a flute player is probably different from most of yours.

I started out as a trombone player and made a living at that for some time. I started playing flute when I quit the business to get an advanced degree in philosophy. I was going crazy writing my dissertation and thought being able to practice would help. I was completely self-taught. I had picked up the basic fingerings somewhere, but for the first few years I didn’t know that the 3rd octave had different fingerings (I just blew harder to play high notes). Although I knew chords and scales (I had done a fair amount of arranging and understood keyboard harmony) when I played flute I improvised completely freely. I fell in love with the fluency with which I could play lines (try playing jazz with just the harmonics in the 3rd octave and see how much that frees you). I found all sorts of sounds coming out of the flute to be fascinating so I didn’t have a concept of a “good” flute sound.

I did a lot of playing with acoustic guitar players playing folk and rock in the parks (it was the mid-70’s) and eventually started to play with some bebop players in Washington Square Park. I began to record myself within the first few years (I have those tapes somewhere, but I have no idea if they are still playable). My first available recording (The Orisha Suites, reissued with my 1967 trombone “cult classic” Cuban Roots) was made when I was playing about 3-4 years. By then I had taken some lessons with a great teacher and woodwind doubler Harvey Estrin who taught many sax players to play flute. I started to take flute seriously and began to learn how to play bebop. I played Jamie Aebersold play-along records for  hours every day and began to play bebop with street bands and play gigs. I started recording seriously in 1996 and am up to album 20 (17 have been released and I have new 3 recordings at various stages of completion).

Just to get the conversation started. I see the jazz flute community to have two major parts, classical flute players who want to play jazz and jazz sax players who want to play flute. I’d like these to groups to engage and help each other accomplish their goals. Since I’m not in either of those groups I hope my perspective will add something to both.

I’m really looking forward to what you have to say!

19 Comments on “Welcome to Jazz Flute Tips

  1. Mark, I love the new site! A tremendous improvement, a very updated look, and much more appealing. This is a wonderful feature, and I look forward to what our friends all have to say. Obviously I fall into the classical-flute-players-who-want-to-play-jazz category. I love the idea of trying to play the third octave all in simple-system fingering harmonics rather than in the cross fingers. I’m going to try that today as soon as I get home! I do have a question that I would love to share with anyone who visits the site and welcome feedback; lately I seem to have stumbled back onto straight-ahead jazz after many years of playing or shedding very little of it (Los Mas Valientes and the children had taken me out of that arena, although prior to that, I was playing quite a bit in the 90’s). I’ve been shedding like crazy out of necessity (some gigs), and because I can (my youngest is now 6). I play about a million different scale types at my husband’s suggestion, and I play through the omnibook to sort of train my mind to think melodically in a bebop style. Yet my improvisation remains largely diatonic. Because of the shedding, I’m hitting all the changes much better, and play more fluidly, yet I use very little of the scales I practice. The kind of chromatic lines and kupper-structure note choices that a lot of sax and flute players use are just not playing on the jukebox in my head. How do I make that next step? Looking forward to seeing you, Jess

  2. I am a self-taught flutist but managed to get the benefit of advice and instruction from Paul Horn and
    Bill McBirnie over the years.. One of the most useful exercises I found was blowing the harmonic sequence
    starting with the lowest note (low C in my case) and developing tactile memory in the mouth and chin muscles
    going up and down the sequence.. I don’t know if there are other simple exercises here but as a warmup they
    are hard to beat.. I also like to try and produce all the notes as quietly (but audible) as possible to help develop
    dynamic range.. Otherwise thanks for creating this space Mark!

  3. To Jessica Valiente,
    “Cromatic” means simply “color” notes, and they can be applied anywhere anytime and for no logical rhyme or reason.
    You are in a quandry because you are looking for a “rhyme or reason” to apply them at this point or that point of your solo.
    And as far as a “Cromatic style” being more mature than a purely diatonic style,( Which I actually read in a Jazz tutor many years ago : Nonsense, Bach created some of his greate masterpieces almost completely devoid of “cromatics” and others such as his “Cromatic fantasy” were brimming with color tones, and who is to say which were more “Mature”.
    Some of Chet’s ( Baker ) solos, in the same vein, are almost void of cromatics, and others are full of them.
    So don’t worry if you are unable to figure this riddle out.
    My advice just arbitrarily put in a cromatic line, here and there, and it will start to work.
    There is no possible “Musicological” explanation, for why Bird used them the way he did : Cromantics.

  4. Okay I spelled “Chromatic” wrong: Ten lashes with a wet noodle, as I am posting from Europe, Germany, and the spelling here is without the : “H”

  5. Hi Mark and other followers,
    I just discovered this site, but it seems nothing much has happened in the past year.
    I started learning flute the year I turned 40 with a classical teacher for 2 years. Since then busy life has taken over but have played for the past 10 years in a small town concert band. We have played some blues and jazz numbers as p0art of our repertoire and that’s really my only jazz “experience.”
    Now I am part of a 5 piece group – a mottly mix of ukuleles, guitar and me on flute/keyboard.
    I am trying to improvise some flute solos and so am being drawn to jazz more and more.
    I have no access to a teacher where am but have a few jazz flute books to help me.
    Any advice about where to start would be appreciated.

    • Sorry I haven’t been paying attention. But I have a lot on my plate. Try playing along with pop tunes. They have easy chords and you can develop your ear-hand coordination. Go to jazzbooks.com and there are endless rhythm section CD’s that you can practice with.

  6. Hi Mark…and every one, this Ernie from Spain, I just want to share a couple of ideas with all of you, hope you like it.
    By the way…nice place for talk about jazz flute

  7. i love the flute as a jazz instrument. It’s terrific.

    In any case I’m in the philadelphia area and would like to learn the flute, especially from someone who is a jazz enthusiast. If you can suggest any qualified teachers I might reach out to, please send me their name and contact info.

    Thank you,


      • yes. It’s F7(#9)x4, F7(#9)x4 , B flat7×1. the rest are all F7(#9)
        Is there any way I can send the picture of the music to you?
        Thank you

    • Hi Amy re your solo request above. I write out solos using a “freeware” program called “Impro-visor”. It allows you to put the chords and melody into a score. I then change notes and add passing tones and rhythm changes until I’m happy with the solo. I play along with the program to see if the solo is playable (I write tougher things than I can play sometimes). I admit, also, that I listen to a lot of versions of a song before I start to get the chords and melody in my head. I fin that listening to the back-up people (piano or guitar, for example) I get ideas for a solo. Let me know if this helps, Amy.
      I can write you one, but try the program first–you will enjoy the process after a very few hours. If you need the solo in a hurry tell me what key and where in the tune it will occur –chorus? (how many) bridge?.

  8. Hi Mark, I need advice on buying a clip-on or other mic for the flute. In the big band the stand mic I use for sax is awkward for flute parts that have to come out and solos.
    Any help with type and source is appreciated. I’d like to keep the cost as reasonable as I can. I’m retired and any money the band earns goes to rent rehearsal space and to buy new music.

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