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Key Clicks

 

Key clicks are a percussive technique that involves strongly clicking the keys of the instrument to produce a pitch resonance. No air is blown through the flute. The resonance of the instrument defines the pitch resonance of the click. It is not necessarily the corresponding finger which has to move for a key click of a certain pitch (eg. the D finger is not the only finger capable of producing a D-pitched key click). Different fingers produce different tone colours and dynamics with the same length of the tube. This technique produces a pitch resonance in the first octave only, low B- middle C (middle D up to middle F# by using the trill keys) and functions the same on piccolo, Alto- and Bass-flute. Middle C# can be faked, but the pitch is not a true C#.

 

For composers, an important issue to note is that Key Clicks are a two-part sound—the slap closed and the opening of the key both create a sound. Using extremely rapid repeated pitch Key Clicks in succession can be problematic and messy sounding due to the secondary key opening noise. 

 

Production Tips

To produce key clicks sharply slap the key closed on the flute. The key should remain closed for a moment before allowing it to open again for a strong, clear resonance. You can experiment with slapping different keys of a given fingering. If you have a scale gesture of Key Clicks going down, you can use the normal fingerings. For a scale gesture going up, you use one finger, preferrably left hand (G or A key), to slap each pitch resonance as the scale moves up. Using one key common to all the notes in a gesture creates an even quality of Key Click sound. The G or A keys typically produce the loudest click sounds and can be used for almost every key click if needed. 

 

Key Clicks only produce a pitch resonance in the first octave, low B to middle C and function the same on piccolo, Alto- and Bass-flute. Middle C# can be faked, but the pitch is not a true C#. Middle D up to middle F# can be produced by using a combination of trill keys and slapping the G or A key. Experiment with your flute to find the right combination for those pitches.

 

Extended Variations

  • With Tone: It is possible to use a Key Click to emphasize the attack of a note or during a sustained normal tone or Aeolian Sound

  • If the embouchure hole is completely sealed with the lips and tongue the sound is lower than the fingered pitch, similar to a Tongue Ram. Generally speaking, the C-flute resonates a major seventh below the fingered/written pitch. Alto- and Bass-flute resonate either a major or minor seventh below the written pitch depending on the fingering. Piccolo resonates a minor ninth below the written pitch. For C-, Alto- and Bass-flute, the resulting resonance when using a short air column (left hand notes) can vary to a minor seventh below the fingered pitch. Whereas notes using a long air column (both hands) are typically a major seventh below the fingered pitch. This can also vary with the diameter of an instrument. 

  • If the lips are not placed on the embouchure, the pitch sounds a half step above the fingered note. 

Notation Examples
Video Examples

Flute 1

Key Click: on the lip and away; using different fingerings for same note; moving down and up

Flute 2

Groove use of Key Clicks

Audio Examples
Key Clicks on Alto Flute - FluteXpansions
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Alto Flute

Creating melodic motifs with Key Clicks

Key Clicks on Bass Flute - FluteXpansions
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Bass Flute

Creating melodic motifs with Key Clicks