Singing flute

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On what do different expressive qualities of the flute sound depend? Why can the same note, played on the same flute, sound so differently? Why do professional musicians, playing the same instrument (brand, model, material) in a similar way, sound so different? What determines the individual sound of each of them? What is the relationship between sound quality and body attitude and posture? Where, in which part of the body, is the sound really formed? What do singing and flute-playing have in common? Does the vocal system influence the sound quality in wind instrument playing? How and why? 


Thanks to her parallel training as an instrumentalist and singer, since the beginning of her musical studies for Francesca Canali the similarities between flute and singing, both in artistic practice and in teaching and pedagogy, have always been evident.

Inspired by her experiences and observations, from 1998 onwards she dedicated herself to a complex and extensive interdisciplinary research on the anatomical, physiological and mental bases involved in the processes of creation, development and management/control of sound in the flute and other wind instruments.

Her research focuses on the ‘human variable’ involved in flute playing upstream of the instrument, i.e. on the different processes that take place inside the body and that are involved in the sound production while flute-playing, and on the different actions of the instrumentalist who, through the same instrument, is able to create sounds that are so different both in terms of their acoustic and expressive musical quality and in terms of the emotional, affective effects they evoke in the listener.

Her research is based on a unique combination of scientific investigation with first-hand, wide-ranging artistic and pedagogical experience: for more than twenty years, she worked on all the possible interactions between player and instrument and the different ways of using one’s body while playing (i.e. corporeal attitudes, movements, postures), correlating them to underlying physiological processes, different resulting sound qualities (objectively verified by analysis of the corresponding spectrograms), subjective auditory and senso-motoric perceptions as well as to various stylistic, aesthetic ideals and didactic-pedagogical approaches.

In this way, Francesca Canali was able to understand and clarify on a scientific basis the functional connections of the whole body while playing and to find effective answers to some of the controversial issues and problems in the current didactics and pedagogy of the flute and other wind instruments.

International Voice Symposium “La voce artistica”, Ravenna – Italy

During her research, she became increasingly aware of the crucial role played by the audio-vocal-respiratory system as a whole.

Therefore, she focused more and more her attention on analyzing the role that the larynx has in playing flute and examined all the main artistic and didactic issues concerning sound, acoustic, perception, musical expressiveness and the different techniques of sound production in flute/wind instruments in parallel with various techniques and styles of singing and the latest researches into the physiology and pedagogy of the singing voice.

The collaboration and support of renowned experts in the fields of musician’s medicine (self-care, anatomy, physiology, health) and physiology of the artistic voice such as Dr. Franco Fussi, Dr. Josef Schlömicher-Thier, Dr. Horst-Peter Hesse, Dr. Günther Bernatzky and the participation in numerous congresses, seminars and extracurricular trainings (such as her two-year training in Jo Estill’s Voice Craft singing method or her training in Yva Barthelemy’s singing method, to name but a few) were essential for the achievement of her results.


Spectrograms of four different modes of producing flute sound

Based on the results of her research, Francesca Canali defined the processes of production and management of musical sound both from a bodily, i.e. anatomical and physiological, point of view as well as in its various stylistic, expressive, pedagogical and artistic related values and implications.

The physiological basis of sound creation in flute-playing must be correlated with the different and complex functioning of the entire audio-vocal-respiratory system as a whole and indeed with complex psycho-physiological processes involving the whole body of the flutist.

Playing the flute and singing share many functional and physiological similarities. The whole vocal apparatus as a complex functional-physiological system, consisting of the larynx, resonators (i.e. all the resonant cavities of the head and body) and respiratory apparatus, plays, also with regard to flute-playing, a fundamental role in tone production. Different ways of using it – consciously or not – influence the different tone qualities and hence the musical expressiveness, style and the quality of the whole musical performance.

The possibilities of producing a broad spectrum of tone qualities and expressions on a flute/wind instrument, are therefore related to the manifold and differentiated possibilities in which an instrumentalist, similar to a singer, involves herself/himself in playing, using her/his own body and her/his vocal-respiratory system.

The instrumentalist’s body and voice are integral parts of her/his instrument and, on a physiological-functional point of view, it can be said that the instrumentalist is a kind of ‘hidden singer’ in the sense that, voluntarily or not, she/he uses her/his own voice while playing and, so to speak, ‘sings while playing and plays while singing’ (cantare-suonando and suonare-cantando[1])

The results of this research lead to a new approach to flute pedagogy and didactics, and set new impulses for musical interpretation.

On this scientific basis, Francesca Canali has developed her own  pedagogical model, characterized by a holistic approach at the centre of which is the musician in her/his physical, emotional and mental entirety, individuality and complexity.

In 2013, Francesca Canali graduated (PhD) with distinction in music science and education from the Mozarteum University in Salzburg and published parts of her research results in her dissertation.

She has been invited as an expert and a speaker at many international congresses on music pedagogy, medicine and musician’s physiology and until 2020 she was part of a research team and taught music physiology, anatomy and musician’s medicine at the University Mozarteum in Salzburg.

A comprehensive publication of her research will appear soon.


Spectrogram of the same note obtained by playing the flute using consciously three different kinds and techniques of singing


[1] Term used by Francesca Canali in her research to describe her own experiences and feelings while playing the flute corresponding to specific qualities of sound and musical phrasing.