Glissando Headjoint

Flute and Composer Friends,

If you don’t yet know about the Glissando Headjoint, I am happy to introduce you to some of what it can do. It was invented by the flutist/composer/musician extraordinaire Robert Dick, and plenty of information about its conception and eventual construction can be found at other sources. Check out this link for a video demonstration by Robert.

Since buying one of these headjoints a couple of years ago, I am feeling more comfortable and adept at using it. I am happy to have met several people worldwide who also use it, and it has been especially rewarding to have some new pieces written which utilize the headjoint. It is possible to extend the range of the flute downwards, and it produces a true glissando, as opposed to one produced by quickly fingering a descending scale or using the head to bend the pitch downwards.

From the flutist’s perspective, it takes a while to learn the mechanics of the headjoint. It is cut somewhat differently compared to my standard headjoint. Despite the fact that it somewhat resembles a medieval torture device, it is actually quite comfortable to play. The steep learning curve is figuring out how far out the carrier tube has to be extended in order to get the note that is needed. I have found the best way to remember these specific positions is to write reminders in the margins (“Nearly halfway, Fully extended, Very close to home positions,” etc.). Granted, they aren’t precise but they help me remember generally how far the tube must be extended, and then I rely on muscle memory and my ears to tweak. On a side note, working with the glissando headjoint has been the best ear training teacher I’ve ever had. There is an established fingering chart and notation system in place.

Jay Batzner has written a beautiful work that calls for the glissando headjoint, and you can check it out here.

If you are a composer interested in working with me and writing for the glissando headjoint, please feel free to contact me at tammy.yonce at

With the carrier tube in “home” position. In this case, it plays exactly like a C flute. The two wings can be adjusted to fit each player’s face, and those are used to slide the tube.
With the carrier tube fully extended.

The Glissando Headjoint

Dreary spring day at SDSU.
Dreary spring day at SDSU.

I recently purchased a Glissando headjoint, which is a relatively new piece of flute “gear” invented by Robert Dick. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s one of the preeminent performers of contemporary music. He’s active as a performer, a composer, and a teacher. This headjoint slides out from its home position to create a true glissando and can therefore make either subtle or extreme adjustments to pitch. It can also be played as a standard headjoint.

Here’s a fantastic demonstration of how it works:

Glissando Headjoint Demonstration (video)

My first performance on this headjoint will be this August at the National Flute Association Annual Convention in New Orleans, where I’ll be giving the premiere of a new work by Jay Batzner. The title of the work will be Dreams Grow Like Slow Ice for glissando headjoint and electronics, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what kinds of sounds can be coaxed out of this new setup.

If there are any flutists out there who own one of these and want to collaborate, or if there are any composers who are interested in writing for this headjoint, contact me!