Flute - glottal stops only?

Flute - glottal stops only?

For ITM on flute is it pretty much the accepted style that glottals are pretty much the ‘one true way’?

And that tonguing of notes to articulate is to be avoided except perhaps very sparingly (e.g. to power a first note or to staccato certain triples)?

Is there much by way of tonguing to be discerned in the playing of Molloy, O’Grada, Bradley, Tansey, Crawford, McEvoy or Horan?

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

I don’t thnk you understand the use of glottal stops. They are a form of articulation, not a stand-in for tonguing. I seldom use them. What’s more, I tongue whenever I feel like it. I even flutter tongue while I do other things with my fingers. The flow of the tune is the point. I use whatever sounds good.

As to who uses glottal stops, I couldn’t tell you. I never notice anyone doing it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t. I do hear tonguing all the time. Avoid tonguing when it gets in the way, is my advice.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

To begin with, there is no "one true way" - that’s a poor choice of phrase, unfortunately.
A bit presumptious to say that gbyrne doesn’t understand glottal stops. I can’t read anywhere where he says it’s an "either/or" situation between glottal stops and tonguing.
Matt Molloy turned up at the Willie Clancy Summer School in 1982, and of course, was invited along to play some tunes and answer any questions to the collective flute students. He was asked "what do you do with your tongue while playing", and his answer was - quote : "I keep it out of the way".
From Conal O’Grada’s flute tutor, page 35 :
"Glottal stops are an integral part of some flute styles ( eg Patsy Hanly,Catherine McEvoy,Harry Bradley, Matt Molloy and , of course my own").
Hammy Hamilton’s "Irish Flute Player’s Handbook", page 59 :
"Traditional musicians rarely use the tongue in flute playing, ….. "
However, Fintan Vallely’s "Complete Guide To Learning The Irish Flute", page83 :
"You can try using the tongue to explore the sound of the instrument, and consider using it in your playing as you please. But be aware firstly that not everybody considers such devices appropriate in traditional music, and secondly, only the more virtuosic players can get away with them - because they can do them so well.
There is nothing as bad as a fancy style attached to weak basic playing".
Ailin says : "Avoid tonguing when it gets in the way, is my advice".
My advice would be avoid ANYTHING that "gets in the way".
There are no rules on this - the choice is entirely up to the individual player in getting the sound they like in the music.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

For anyone who doesn’t play wind instruments, here’s an interesting example of the difference between glottal stops and tonging while pronouncing words:
https://youtu.be/chcjHwWwVxQ

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

Thanks Kenny. That pretty much confirms my understanding - with verbatim quotes to support from O’Grada, Hamilton and Vallely. I have read all three books and I think the point had stuck in my subconscious vis-a-vis the strong preference for glottals and avoidance of tonguing.

Glottal ‘stop’ is possibly an unfortunate term - because in the Uh/Oh version espoused by O’Grada its more the injection of a pulse by pushing or drawing the airstream than strictly blocking/unblocking. They aren’t as clearcut as Ta/Ke yokes.

@atsunrise - cool video. Passionate about pronunciation, that wee lass. The use of /t/ vs /uh/ articulation in speech also imprints a very distinct accent to the delivery and though neither is right or ‘rong (BBC might not agree) the effect is quite marked.

@Kenny - I’m likely not in the ‘virtuosic’ club capable of getting away with it. If the glottals are good enough for Molloy they will probably serve me just fine too (once I figure them out!).

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Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Matt Molloy ever uses glottal stops.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

I definitely hear them in Matt Molloy’s playing - or at least I hear an effect that I would call and teach as glottal stops, although as gbyrne hints with the Uh/Oh example, I don’t think it’s as pronounced as some people think.

Interestingly, Harry Bradley said on a video a few years ago when he was demonstrating some Tom Morrison (I believe) flute playing via Errant Elbows that he does not use glottal stops at all. He uses breath pulsing, but maintains that he keeps his throat open. The breath pulsing is the more important part anyway. My thoughts are that the uh/oh is just more subtle in his playing than say Conal O’Grada’s, but it’s probably slightly there anyway.

I think that a lot of people who don’t hear glottal stops, but do hear tonguing, are likely hearing the glottal stops and mistaking them for tonguing. Tonguing is very rare in traditional flute playing.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

I once heard an experienced Irish flute player say "tonguing is for beginners and classical players".
I agree with Nico that many probably mistake glottal stops for tonguing, and this probably includes Alain above.
I’ve heard classically trained flute players with some knowledge of Irish music saying they can’t hear the difference between glottal stops and tonguing. But I can tell the difference, and probably most experienced Irish flute players too.
And in my experience, glottal stops are used by many Irish players to good effect.
"Molloy, O’Grada, Bradley, Tansey, Crawford, McEvoy or Horan" don’t use any tonguing as far as I can remember.

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So Tom Morrison is using his diaphragm with chest aways expanded?
So the glottal stop, if he uses it, is when he wants clearer sudden emphasis between notes?
Would a flute or whistle player get any underlying tone from using the diaphragm as a singer would when singing from the chest/feet rather than throat or head?

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

I’m not sure that glottal stop is an unfortunate term, but it may be an incomplete one - only half the story. When you pronounce "uh-oh", the glottal stop is the movement that cuts off the sound of "uh". You need a flow of breath to start the "oh". Same in flute playing, it seems to me.

Grey Larsen calls the whole process "throating" (by analogy with "tonguing"). That has not caught on and seems unlikely to do so. I think we all know what we mean by glottal stops in flute playing, even if it’s not the whole story.

I think that tonguing is mainly a two-stage process, too. I don’t tongue in my embryonic flute playing but I tongue a lot on whistle. At least in my playing, the tongue first stops one note and then starts the second - in a separate movement. I’m pretty sure that’s what the traditional players I learned from by listening to are doing.

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

If anyone mistakes a glottal stop for tonguing, it is not performed correctly. The two are not interchangeable. If they were, there would be no reason to avoid tonguing. You tongue to separate notes. Glottal stops are for emphasis and pulse. The two are not similar. Glottal stops are meant to be heard. Tonguing, in most cases, should be subtle and pretty much silent, except at the beginning of phrases. Even then, it should be a dot, not a splash. That’s why they don’t work well for Irish. The technique calls for bolder articulation and bold tonguing does not create the sound of a glottal stop, which is somewhat like a cough. Much more punchy and less staccato than a tongue.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

@Stiamh, @Ailin

Total layman here. Are the mechanics of the fluting glottal stop the same as for glottal stop singing? I can’t find a link right now, but an example would be the woman in Ivo Papasov’s band (his wife, I think). Going back quite a few years.

It’s a weird kind of sound to hear vocally.

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

What can be confusing about all this, to me anyway, is that we don’t all use tongue or glottal stop articulations the exact same way.

There are different ways to place the front of your tongue when tonguing notes, either directly behind the teeth or a "flatter" tonguing against the front of the upper palate. There are differences in the sound of a glottal stop between a "k’ or "g" shape in your throat. And then different degrees in how hard or softly you emphasize the articulation in each variation. It’s easy to hear the difference in tonguing vs. glottal stops in a player who is using them strongly, but not so much when it’s a subtle articulation.

I’m not an advanced enough player to give any recommendations, but for what it’s worth, I use glottal stops sparingly and mostly where it just seems to be the best option. Not very helpful I know, it just feels right in some places. I use tonguing for triplets on a single note where it has to be faster and sharper than a roll, like simulating a fiddler’s "scratch triplets" in Cape Breton tunes. I’m probably using around 80% fingered articulations with just a bit of tonguing or glottal stops here and there.

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

It can be started like a cough or by pronouncing the letter K, which is higher up the throat. Either creates an explosive burst of air. Tonguing doesn’t do that. The degree of sound comes more from the snap of the tongue than the air produced. Don’t know what singers do.

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"And that tonguing of notes to articulate is to be avoided except perhaps very sparingly (e.g. to power a first note or to staccato certain triples)?"
Yes. I would this is the way to go, if you want to sound sufficiently authentic.
For example Matt Molloy uses global stops from time to time. As does Steven Crawford who also plays a cheeky staccato triplet here and there.
I would say my 4 favourite flute players are Molloy, Louise Mulcahy, Steven Crawford and Tom Doorley.

Listen to this performances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jCOjzgwr4Q (B part of the first tune) (Tom Doorley)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrjTHycFlQU&list=OLAK5uy_myEblQZ6zCNq-gQfz- o2Kk7BhjTFW5g2M&index=3 (B-Part of the second tune, the tune starts around 1:10) (Kevin Crawford)



I want to hear the flute playing of people who say its not authentic / allowed to use a staccato triplet here and there.

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

This could go on forever. To my ear some people who say they are doing glottal stops and know what they are talking/writing about (e.g. Conal O’Grada) produce a much harder stop that some people who say they are tonguing do some of the time.

It’s that hard ‘T’ tonguing that doesn’t sound right to me in traditional music and I don’t hear in Irish trad players. Probably bad in the time of Covid to boot.

I rarely tongue on flute on trad tunes because that’s what I was taught and it works for me. I do tongue on whistle ‘cos that’s what Brother Steve says to do 😉

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Most of the posts seem to contradict each other, is there anybody that really knows.

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I believe I do, with 50 years at it in both styles. I think I’ve been clear on how each is used. Let your ears be the final arbiter. If you were unclear on the concept before, you should now know what you’re listening for.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

What’s "authentic" flute playing ?
There’s no question of anything being not "allowed". Who’s to stop you ?
Grey Larsen’s book was mentioned, and his apparent preference for the term "throating", instead of "glottal stop". In his detailed analysis of 2 of Matt Molloy’s recorded tunes on CDs, he mentions "throating" in both instances. Ergo, according to Grey Larsen, Matt Molloy does - at least on occasion - use glottal stops.
Also - page 29 - "Throating" is my term for the use of glottal stops and diaphragm action to articulate OR SEPARATE NOTES" [ my emphasis ].

PS - I believe we’ve been here before :https://thesession.org/discussions/38697

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

Ah, goose, as the poet said: A foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds! 🙂 🙂

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"is there anybody that really knows. (?)"
Good question, goose. There are a few. The real answer is in matching up the one’s who know with the one’s who can effectively communicate it using the resources we have on this forum.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

I think there is relatively little disagreement here on the essentials of using glottals: they are used for rhythmic emphasis and are used by many players, some relatively sparingly (e.g. Catherine McEvoy), some with considerable frequency (in his tutor Conal O’Grada says he uses glottals on every note, but this must be qualified with numerous other statements he makes (e.g. that he doesn’t use them with pats/taps [p.20], that he doesn’t use them on a 1/8th note before a breath p.37], various subtleties connected with rolls) and also obviously that he doesn’t use them on slurred notes). To this I want to add a few things which haven’t been mentioned in the above and in the preceding discussions.
(1) June McCormack says she doesn’t use glottals (p.c. in a workshop), but she does use a lot of very crisp cuts and rolls as well as some taps and bounces; she does not tongue.
(2) Shannon Heaton doesn’t use glottals (p.c. in a workshop) but uses breath pulses in certain places, e.g. with the cut part of a roll when it occurs on the ‘back’ beat in the pattern quarter note-first note of roll-cut note of roll (this is the off-beat)-tap note of roll) [she discusses this in a recent Tune of the Month on youtube];
(3) Niall Keegan is quite adamant that he only uses finger articulations (cuts, rolls, etc.) in his OAIM lesson series. I believe he doesn’t tongue.
(4) Shannon Heaton sometimes (i.e. rarely) uses a ‘d’ articulation instead of a cut to separate the two ‘pa’ notes in the familiar jig pattern oom-pa-pa. Otherwise she doesn’t tongue afaik.
(5) If I remember correctly, there is an interesting discussion on the Chiff and Fipple flute forum where Brad Hurley writes that he does a glottal to close off the note just before a short roll.
(6) Kirsten Allstaff, in her most recent OAIM flute lesson series, on playing reels, gives exercises where scales are practiced using an accompanying ‘k’ articulation (not a glottal), first on the first beat of 4, then on the 3 beat of 4 (i.e. the off-beat), and then on both the first and the third beats.
I think that in all of the cases where players don’t use glottals, the reason is to avoid tension in the throat. Note also that Conal O’Grada discusses degrees of strength of the glottal at some length in his tutor.
Finally it is clear that these fine flute players are a very thoughtful as well as a very individualistic lot, at least when it comes to how they make their rhythmic articulations. Chet

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

"is there anybody that really knows?"

We would know a lot more if we could get Malloy, Crawford, and the other flute luminaries to play some tunes in an X-Ray or MRI recording device to see exactly what’s going on inside their mouth. 🙂

Flute and whistle players are the only ones in ITM where we can only see half of what they’re doing for ornaments with their fingers. The rest, all the twiddly bits inside their mouth is hidden from sight.

Re: Flute - glottal stops only? [Self-reliance]

We’re mostly babes. The luminaries are worthy of our efforts to learn from them. Yet each fluter is unique. Authenticity does not come from society. It’s within the player, not outside.

"Do not think the youth has no force, because (he) cannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room (his) voice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems (he) knows how to speak to (his) contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then, (he) will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary."

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

"We would know a lot more if we could get Malloy, Crawford, and the other flute luminaries to play some tunes in an X-Ray or MRI recording device to see exactly what’s going on inside their mouth."

I am speaking as a non-flute player (although I own a couple of keyless flutes), so I hope my contribution is not out of turn. All of the players mentioned here (e.g. those listed above by cac) are unequivocal experts on playing the flute, but probably not experts on anatomy or phonetics (which Atsunrise points out, is closely linked to the mechanisms used for articulation on wind instruments) and, as such, may not necessarily have an accurate picture of what processes are going on in their mouths and throats (few us are aware of what we ‘do’ with the various parts of our anatomy when we speak or sing and, were we to try and describe it, would probably come up with something based more on subjective experience than scientific fact).

However, whilst anatomically accurate descriptions of articulation methods used by flute players may constitute an interesting study, I doubt whether they are the most useful route to learning to play in the styles of those players. The important thing is what it sounds like – the rhythm and the flow. Knowing that non-finger articulation can come from the tongue, the throat or the lungs is surely enough – the rest needs to be discovered the way a baby learns to talk, by trying everything until you find the way that best matches the sound you wish to emulate, which may not be exactly the same for everyone.

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"Flute and whistle players are the only ones in ITM where we can only see half of what they’re doing for ornaments with their fingers."

As a harmonica player I formally take offense at this statement.

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But we can’t even see HALF of what you’re doing, Tijn, it’s closer to 1%! 🙂

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CMO writes: « The important thing is what it sounds like – the rhythm and the flow. Knowing that non-finger articulation can come from the tongue, the throat or the lungs is surely enough – the rest needs to be discovered the way a baby learns to talk, by trying everything until you find the way that best matches the sound you wish to emulate, which may not be exactly the same for everyone. »

Hallelujah, amen.

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

I have been fluting for well over forty years. I seldom articulate with my tongue. I always use either a glottal or a "K" to start the phrase. I think Kenny has it right, along with Matt Molloy and Conal O’Grada, et. al. As does every accomplished fluter I have ever known or played with.
This: "You tongue to separate notes. " seems silly to me. An accomplished players seldom uses his tongue to "separate" notes. Only a person poorly grounded in traditional fluting would make such an assertion.
And "As to who uses glottal stops, I couldn’t tell you. I never notice anyone doing it" — the statement says more about careful listening than about the players doing the glottal-stopping. I have only ever made one public post of my playing, and on that 9 year old post I can clearly hear — not that I like it — glottal-stoppage. I didn’t care for the flute (it took a lot of air to get it to play clearly) and I hope my playing is more subtle now. But the glottal stops are obvious (not that they should be). The flute’s power comes from the breath - from the lungs and the diaphragm - and not from the tongue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCEJ9eYiyEg

The OP said it all in his first post: "For ITM on flute is it pretty much the accepted style that glottals are pretty much the ‘one true way’?"
The answer is "YES!"

Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

David, we agree more than you think, so let me clarify a few statements of mine you quoted. That tonguing is to separate notes is simple fact, so it shouldn’t seem silly. However, you are applying it to Irish flute, where tonguing is used sparingly, and in that context, you are right. For whistle and especially classical flute, my statement stands.

Regarding the notice of players using glottal stops, I don’t make a study of it, but only notice it when it is integral to a players style, as opposed to occasional use or lightly applied to start phrases.

I was paying attention to what I do when I played yesterday and noticed that I largely start phrases by simply pushing the air with the diaphragm. I don’t need any oomph from the throat unless I want emphasis, for which I’ll use finger articulation. I don’t purposely avoid glottals; they’re just not my go-to. My purpose here is to emphasize that one does not use glottals in an effort to avoid tonguing. That is not its virtue.

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Re: Flute - glottal stops only?

David, just heard your clip. This is not a critism, nor an attempt to pit glottals against other forms of articulation. However, my preferred way to start that tune would be a tap on the note just below the start note. Nothing wrong with what you did, but it underscores how choices made don’t really have to factor in tonguing considerations.

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Hi Ailin —

Re: "my preferred way to start that tune would be a tap on the note just below the start note."
Would you be so kind as to post a clip of you starting that tune? Better yet, playing a tune with no accompaniment so we can better see your preferred technique.

Re: "…one does not use glottals in an effort to avoid tonguing. That is not its virtue."
Yes, that in fact is its virtue. Once we (me and the boys— i.e., Matt, Conal, Kevin) agree that glottals rather than tonguing is the way to go, ‘not-tonguing’ is in fact ‘effortless’ and preferred. Did you read the preceding comments? It is nearly universal that tonguing has no place (or a very limited place) in ITM. So the answer to the OP’s question has to be "yes," without any reference to tonguing.

What I most object to is that you misconstrued the question the OP asked, answering him in a rather peremptory manner based on your own misperceived take on the technique of playing traditional Irish music. As Chet said, "I think there is relatively little disagreement here on the essentials of using glottals: they are used for rhythmic emphasis and are used by many players, some relatively sparingly, some with considerable frequency…"

And I will leave it at that. Next we’ll be talking about dots and tadpoles vs. learning by ear. God help us all.

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Lovely playing David, The smell of the bog, is the name of that hornpipe.

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I totally agree with Chet’s comment and said as much long before his post.

"Glottal stops are for emphasis and pulse.."

I don’t have the means to record or post a clip, but I’m guessing you know the technique, whether or not you would use it.

I, too, will leave it at that.

Cheers.

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DL said to Ailin, "Would you be so kind as to post a clip of you starting that tune? Better yet, playing a tune with no accompaniment so we can better see your preferred technique."

Seconded. Bold statements call for backup - we are talking about music, after all. It might also help us understand your statements elsewhere about your use of a metal flute.

You say that you "don’t have the means to record or post a clip." Surely you know someone with a smartphone?

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Well, you got me tempted to show off the silver flute, so I dug out the little recorder I used to use at sessions and the sound quality is decent. I also have an old Dropbox account I can load and link to here, so you’re on! I will demonstrate with glottal and with tap so you can clearly hear the difference. Should be able to do it in a day. A bit of fun.

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Great! Although if you *can* go the video route (remember the "video" can be no more than a still of your choosing) it’s easier here, as this site supports in-page viewing of YouTube clips.

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I have no idea of how to get a video on YouTube. The video I posted recently was produced by me, but a friend of the songwriter posted it. I think you need a channel. Too much for this little enterprise. I can look into posting a photo via my Dropbox. I’ll put it all into a new thread.

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You can post video files in Dropbox.

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What does Brid O’ Gorman do? Whatever she does then that is the right way!