‘I sound like a vacuum cleaner’ – 2 exercises for a purer sound

A ray of sun shines in when I open the front door. It’s Emma, my new student. She’s in her early 40’s and has had many a teacher before me. Today will be her second lesson. We enter the practice room. Before the door has even closed, she heaves a deep sigh. ‘I sound like a vacuum cleaner.’ This is clearly bothering her. ‘A vacuum cleaner?’ I ask. ‘Yes’, she says. ‘I have noise in my tone, I sound like a vacuum cleaner!’

I realize I must tread carefully and am envisioning all sorts of possible exercises. I go for a humorous approach. ‘This does not sound good. It will require serious measures. Are you alright with that?’ She agrees.

A beautiful tone

A flautist, when asked what defines a beautiful tone, will often say: a tone without noise. Though playing with a pure sound is worth striving for, often the flexibility of the embouchure will suffer. Motivation frequently seems to fade once the goal of a pure tone has been achieved. Yet, if you stop experimenting, how can you be certain that you’ve achieved your optimal sound?

2 exercises

For my student Emma the solution was simple. We did the following exercises:

  1. Play a B1 and with your lower lip slowly push away the flute. Keep blowing air into the instrument and try to push the flute upward towards your nose by curling your lower lip. (first forward, then upward in a fluent motion). The aim is to gradually lose the sound altogether so only noise remains.
  2. Start with exercise 1, but now keep the flute in the position you ended in (lower lip pushed far forward towards the nose). Keep breathing calmly via the nose without changing position and, while blowing air into the instrument, slowly bring your lower lip back to the standard playing position.

How are these exercises effective?

These exercises help you become aware of the moment noise starts to appear in the tone, so that this moment can then be avoided. Ergo: they help develop more control.

My motto:

If I can create noise, I can also choose not to create it.

The advantages of studying wind tones, or breathy sounds:

  • the development of a flexible embouchure
  • an improved sound
  • the development of a crescendo and decrescendo technique

Would you like to know more about wind tones/breathy sounds? Please have a look at the website www.flutecolors.com

Translation: Elise Bikker


Try Flute Colors magazine!

Sheet music

Flute Colors has a huge collection of unique sheet music with extended techniques!