A description and application of Robert Aitken's concept of the physical flute

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Performance

First Committee Member

Richard Fiese, Committee Chair


The physical flute is the phrase that Canadian flute virtuoso Robert Aitken uses to describe the style of flute playing that he uses for performance and teaching. The defining characteristics of the physical flute combine the sometimes vague concepts of proper support and resonance with the use of a very facile embouchure to achieve the goals of flexibility, homogeneity of sound, and ease of playing. Chapter 1 introduces Robert Aitken and the concepts of the physical flute. Chapter 2 provides a survey of supporting documentation with emphasis on breathing and support, placement of the vocal tract, and lip movements for generating register changes. Chapter 3 uses photographs and Cool Edit screen shots to illustrate the physical aspects of the physical flute, including the resultant acoustic effects of certain changes of the embouchure and of the vocal tract. Chapter 4 provides a series of exercises that the flutist can integrate into the daily exercise routine to help internalize the mechanisms of the physical flute. Chapter 5 provides additional exercises, based on orchestral excerpts, for incorporating the techniques of the physical flute into actual musical examples.


Music; Education, Music

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