How to lower your flute an octave for free

Do you have a C foot or a B foot flute? Many beginning flutists have a C foot flute. It can be tricky enough in itself to keep the entire tube suspended. Once you have progressed a little and are ready for a new instrument, you’ll be asked the same question once more: would you like a C foot or a B foot flute? A semitone can make quite a difference. Yet, when would you use this B? I get this question quite a lot. However, there does seem to be a demand for a lower range, below C1. Nowadays you can even buy a G foot for your flute!

There’s no need to spend extra money on obtaining a lower range. I will teach you a little trick that allows you to play a major seventh down on the flute for free. Just cover the embouchure hole entirely. When you cover the hole entirely, make sure you can still breathe through it. When you continue with playing key clicks it sounds a major seventh lower than had you not covered the hole entirely.

An interesting technique in which this principle is applied is the tongue stop or tongue ram. With this technique you cover the embouchure hole in such a way that you can still breathe through the flute. Next, you blow forcefully into the flute and at the same time you thrust your tongue quickly and forcefully into the embouchure hole, keeping your lips on the lip plate the whole time! When you use a lot of air pressure, you hear a ‘plop’ sound as soon as your tongue touches the embouchure hole. It sounds like uncorking a wine bottle. Quite an amusing technique to try out yourself or with your students.

Playing tongue stops only works in the first octave of the flute. Though the intonation on a C foot flute is slightly different from a B foot flute, both sound quite amusing. You can play simpe melodies below E2. These now sound a major seventh lower.

If all goes well, you will notice that you’re making a forceful belly movement to play the tonge stop. This is why practicing tongue stops is not only fun, but also contributes to your breathing support practice and the connection between the tongue and belly movement. If students struggle to articulate, I have them play tongue stops as well. By exaggerating the motion, eventually articulation becomes a lot easier.

Now you know how you can lower the range of the flute and you can learn something into the bargain.

And all of this for free!

Would you like to know more about tonge stops? Go to for more information and an instruction video.

Translation: Elise Bikker



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