Advice for Renaissance Flute Beginners

Many people have written to me over the years for advice about Renaissance flutes, both instruments and repertoire. Kate Clark and I have co-authored an entire book addressing everything related to the Renaissance flute, and I am delighted to announce that “The Renaissance Flute: A Contemporary Guide” will be published in August 2020 by Oxford University Press. You can order a hardback, paperback, or ebook here.

To get you started, I will include here a text I had written before the book idea was fully developed:

INSTRUMENT MAKERS [a-z]:

MUSIC

When I started playing Renaissance flute, I enjoyed playing Jacob van Eyck’s “Der Fluyten Lust-hof,” which has simple melodies for solo flute or recorder that are then set in increasingly more complex diminutions.  You can then challenge yourself by transposing up a 4th or 5th. You can also try some of the diminutions pieces in the “Trattado de Glosas” by Diego Ortiz. The madrigal and chanson melodies he uses are the most popular tunes from the Renaissance, and you will find many versions of these melodies the more music you play from that time. You can also take any 4 part chanson and play any of the voices – you might have to do a bit of transposing.  Keep in mind that the melody on which 4-part chansons are based is sometimes on the cantus (soprano) voice, but it will often be in the tenor part in Renaissance music.

I only know the Ortiz in facsimile, but it might be in modern editions as well by now.  You can get the Van Eyck in modern notation.  But challenging yourself with old notation is very fun and it brings so much extra to the music!  In case you aren’t always up to the challenge, check the London Pro Musica and Ut Orpheus editions.

RECORDINGS

There are very few people in the world playing Renaissance flutes, but it is an area that will grow, I hope.  Order Kate’s solo CD (here), or one of the Attaignant Consort CDs (here and here). You won’t be disappointed!