This post is the predecessor to the “5 Tips to Improve Sound Quality on Flute” post that was published in July. These tips are ones that I have developed after working with students who are first starting to play flute. So here are my top five tips to get a sound on flute:
1. Learning How to Breathe
The first thing I do with new flutists is have them practice breathing while standing against a wall or lying on the floor (the latter is the better option). This is so the student can feel how their stomach moves out and in while their shoulders stay in place; many realize that they’ve been subconsciously chest breathing, which causes the shoulders to lift when trying to take a full breath.
2. Breathing Exercises
The next step is to have them practice controlling their breath (I do this the first two years of their playing at every lesson). Have them practice breathing in for four counts and out for eight, then in for two and out for eight, then out for ten and then twelve, then I have them repeat the process but only breathing in one count. This builds their lungs and breath control.
3. Embouchure or “The Pout”/And Tonguing
The next step is the embouchure. Flutists have probably the most relaxed embouchure or mouth shape of all the wind instruments, which can make it easy or difficult to play. I start by having them with their resting face or “the pout,” and say “two” while in that pout. Then I have them add their index finger to their chin with their lower lip resting on the finger; switch from vocalizing “two,” to blowing a “tu” with your air touching part of your index finger. The next step is plastic bottles.
4. Plastic Bottles
Yes, you read that right. Plastic bottles. I try to start students off on an empty 2-liter soda bottle. I have them take what they learned from blowing across their finger to the bottle (sometimes I lead by example). Usually, a sound comes out almost right away, but sometimes the student might need to experiment where they’re aiming their airstream. Once they get a strong sound, I add a little water. This not only raises the pitch, but adds a little resistance for them to build their embouchure. Keep adding water to at least half way, you can expand on this exercise by adding more water or switching to a regular plastic water bottle.
5. Headjoint and Putting it All Together
We finally get to touch the flute. I first have them start with the headjoint, the piece with hole you blow into. I usually lead by example, but I do sometimes tell them to rest their lip on the fat part of the lip plate surrounding the tone hole, or the hole they blow into. Then, have them blow the same way they did with the plastic bottles. When they get a sound, have them tongue a few times with the “tu” blowing they had practiced. You can add some fun by covering and uncovering the hole at the end of the headjoint. Finally, add the rest of the flute and get started with their first note.
I hope you enjoyed these tips that I use for new flutists. Please feel free to give a like and leave your thoughts in the comments.