The Top 5 Books Every Flutist Should Own

In my career, there are a few books I have used over and over again for research, pedagogy, performance tips, and repertoire ideas. I’ve compiled a list so you can utilize these helpful books as well!

1) Toff, Nancy. The Flute Book, 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

The Flute Book is the best one-stop comprehensive guide for all things flute. Flutist-historian Nancy Toff includes relevant information on everything flute-related, from the instrument itself (i.e., choosing a flute, care and maintenance, a brief history, the flute family) to elements of performance (i.e., breathing, tone, vibrato, articulation, technique, style). The second half of the book contains a repertoire catalog organized by era, and lists of flute manufacturers, repair shops, places to buy music and accessories, and flute clubs and societies. I will say the only downside to this book is that this edition is now 11 years old – some of these repair shops/music stores/flute societies have since closed and others opened in their place. But, it’s a great starting point if you’re looking for pretty much anything flute! 

2) Dzapo, Kyle. Notes for Flutists: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

I love this book because it is an incredibly in-depth guide to the staples of our repertoire. Dzapo covers the theory and history behind 35 of our most important pieces of all time. She offers key information on composers’ lives, circumstances regarding their compositions in discussion, form analyses, and more that helps students and teachers better understand each piece. As she writes in the preface, it is her hope “that flutists will view this book as a starting point for connecting performance studies with scholarship, that it will help them to gain a more complete picture of the works and the context in which they were written, and that it will encourage them to explore other works in a similar fashion” (x). Go buy this book!  

3) Quantz, Johann Joachim. On Playing the Flute, 2nd ed. Translated by Edward R. Reilly. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2001.

If you ever play Baroque music ever, you need this book. Quantz’s On Playing the Flute is one of the primary texts on Baroque performance practice and musical thought (and not just for flute – its contents are pertinent to every instrument). In addition to over 200 musical examples, it has incredibly detailed information on articulation, ornamentation, dynamics, intonation, accompaniment, phrasing, tempi, cadenzas, and lots lots more. I consult this book on a weekly basis for decision-making on teaching and playing Baroque music. 

4) Krell, John. Kincaidiana: A Flute Player’s Notebook, 2nd ed. Santa Clarita, CA: The National Flute Association, 1997.

Kincaidiana is an amazing pedagogical resource for flutists. This book is essentially John Krell’s notes from his lessons with William Kincaid, the “Father of the American flute school,” renowned pedagogue, long-time principal flutist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and professor at Curtis. This book is straightforward and a quick read – the information inside pertaining to elements of technique, phrasing, and musical execution is invaluable to flutists. Here’s a taste from the preface to this edition that sums up the contents well:

“Of course, performance customs change over time (vibratos, tempos, styles, and even the instrument themselves), but there are certain basic musical values that endure though it all – and that is what this book is all about” (Krell, viii). 

5) Powell, Ardal. The Flute. New Haven, CTYale University Press, 2002.

Powell’s The Flute is all about the history and performance practice of the instrument from the 12th century to the present day in Europe and North America. It carefully tracks developments and improvements that were made to the flute itself and how such changes affected the way music was played. This book is the best place to start for anyone interested in the history of the flute!

What are your favorite research, pedagogical, or performance books about the flute? I’d love to hear what you find most helpful in the comments!  

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Brenna Wiinanen

Brenna Wiinanen, flutist, is an active performer, teacher, and researcher whose experiences have led to numerous masterclasses, performances, and conferences around the world.

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