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Help For Beginner at Playing Flute

14 May 08 - 12:05 PM (#2340384)
Subject: Help For Flute Beginner
From: OldFolkie

Hi 'Catters. My wife has just acquired a flute, and is struggling a bit to get it right blowing across the sound hole.

She gets a note, but it generally only lasts a sceond or two.

She has booked some lessons, but can't start for a couple of weeks.

Can anyone give any tips that she can work on in the meantime.



14 May 08 - 12:25 PM (#2340405)
Subject: RE: Help For Beginner at Playing Flute
From: Bernard

It's very difficult to give useful advice when you can't see how the person is blowing...

To obtain the best sound the 'embouchure', or hole in the lips, needs to be very small and aimed AT the opposite edge of the 'sound hole', where the air stream is split to produce the sound.

A slightly silly grin is needed to obtain the required shape of hole, but it takes a little time with a lot of trial and error to get it right.

Many flautists 'kiss' the hole to position their lips before rotating the instrument a little and blowing.

The good news is... once you find the right way to do it, it quickly becomes second nature.

Do warn her not to keep blowing if she's getting a headache - that is hyperventilation, which means she needs to rest!

16 May 08 - 04:22 PM (#2342367)
Subject: RE: Help For Beginner at Playing Flute
From: Helen

It's a lot like blowing into the top of a bottle to make a sound. Line the closest edge of the hole up with the centre of the bottom lip, just on the line where the lip becomes the chin, then do an overbite action with your top lip. Move the top lip over the hole, but not covering it, and blow straight downwards into the hole. If necessary, rotate the flute slightly around its axis, i.e. keeping the length of the flute horizontal, but turning it outwards or inwards around the circular axis of the tube, so that the hole goes more or less horizontal until you find the right spot. You can just use the head of the flute without the other two parts attached to get used to making a clear sound.

To get the right feel of blowing into the sound hole, you can put your index fingertip, nail side facing upwards, in the centre of your bottom lip, just below the lip line, then blow onto your fingertip, rotating it outwards or inwards.


16 May 08 - 05:09 PM (#2342395)
Subject: RE: Help For Beginner at Playing Flute
From: *Laura*

Yeh I was going to say it's a lot like blowing across the top of a bottle.
I'm trying to think how I do it... it does become habit very quickly. I think you need to have your tongue kind of pressed against the inside of your lower lip too, and try to keep your mouth quite small - the gap between your lips should be more like a line than a round hole.

16 May 08 - 07:44 PM (#2342490)
Subject: RE: Help For Beginner at Playing Flute
From: Jack Campin

You can't keep your tongue pressed against your lower lip or you won't be able to articulate with it.

You want to spit a smooth ribbonlike stream of air directly at the far edge of the hole so it splits in two. Trying to make the space you blow through as small as possible is a mistake - you will end up with pursed lips and the air will go everywhere. Your lips should form a slit rather than a round hole - you pull them out in a rather strange smile. The best shape varies depending on the pitch of the note, but it's never as rounded as when whistling.

YouTube is a help for this. Nina Perlove's videos are not aimed at beginners, but look at the shape her mouth makes.

16 May 08 - 08:26 PM (#2342510)
Subject: RE: Help For Beginner at Playing Flute
From: Leadfingers

I dont 'do' side blown - End blown for me , Whistles and Jazz reeds !
I had a problem with the Top Register on clarinet , so I went back to the guy I bought mine from and he said "Show me!" Straight into top Register , NO problem ! Just a case of practice - I think the same will go for getting the embouchure sorted for flute !
There are a few Flautists on The cat , so you may well get some input from them soon !

16 May 08 - 11:46 PM (#2342630)
Subject: RE: Help For Beginner at Playing Flute
From: JohnInKansas

Things a beginning flautist should know:

1. Don't eat salty peanuts immediately before or during practice.

2. Don't eat crackers or dry cookies immediately before or during practice.

3. Don't eat peanut butter san'wiches immediately before or during practice.

5. Don't eat sour pickles1 immediately before or during practice.

1 This one may give you a "pucker" that looks like it should work, but believe me - it ain't the best way to get there.

The secret to getting "the note" is very much a matter of control of the air stream. A common "error" is trying to blow harder, rather than straighter. (Beginning fipple players often make the same mistake.)

An "attack" on the note may help at first, using the tongue to stop the air and then withdrawing the tongue so that the airstream has a "sharp beginning." The slight turbulence of the initial airstream may start the first note a little more reliably. Once the correct "mouth" is learned, the sharp attack will be less needed.

Inability to "sustain" a note, for beginners, commonly comes from not having the air aimed "just right" so that more air is required than should be necessary once the "sweet spot" is found. Experimenting is probably the best method of finding the right pucker, since "invisible variations" - including the shape inside the mouth - can have an effect, and an instructor can't really see where the air is going. It's a lot like learning to "whistle like a barefoot boy." Practice - while it's fun - is the best teacher.

Once a reasonable note production and sustain is learned, an instructor likely can be very helpful with posture, breathing, and other details that will ease the learning process.

Be aware that young ladies who play the transverse flute, especially those who begin at a very young age, have a tendency to develop what is known technically as a "flautists' pout" but is called by the boys in the band just "sexy lips." While a more mature student may be less susceptible to this effect, some study of methods of gentle and kind rejection when "hit on" by the boys in the band might be a recommended side study. (At least it was like that in my high school band.)


17 May 08 - 03:42 AM (#2342691)
Subject: RE: Help For Beginner at Playing Flute
From: Jeanie

Old Folkie: We were in the same situation when my daughter got her flute. She was eagerly waiting to start flute lessons at school in the September, but during the Spring, by sheer good luck, we happened to go into a music shop that was having a closing down sale, and saw a good, brand new flute at half price ! She had been watching the older flautists at school intently (she was 7 at the time), bought the book and accompanying practice tape that they used at school, and started working on it herself.

By the time September came, she was already quite a way into the book. I had been a bit concerned when we bought the flute, because I knew she wouldn't be able to wait to have a go with it, and I didn't want her to be discouraged - but it only took a few days to get the sound. What she did, I seem to remember, was detach the mouthpiece part and at first just kept blowing across that and moving it around until, by trial and error, she "got" the right positioning for a sound to come out. From then on, there was no stopping her: she passed Grade 8 just before she was 16.

It's a lovely instrument, and I'm sure Mrs.Old Folkie will have a great time. I'll tell my daughter about this thread, and see if she has any tips to add. (She's on here occasionally - I think she changed her name here to "sparkly sheep").

- jeanie