Why flute playing is too easy

You may feel offended by the title of this blog and in a way I really hope so. Compared to other instruments on the flute, we have very little resistance. Therefore it is relatively easy to get a sound out of the flute. I know it takes longer for some people to create a sound, but overall it’s pretty easy and most people get it done in a short amount of time.

‘Well, that’s good news’ you might think, but there is also a downside. Because a sound is produced quite easily on the flute, we tend not to look for a better sound and we miss the full potential of a beautiful flute sound.

I like to watch a sound like this:



As you can see there are three stages in a sound: low – mid – high. I’m not (really) talking about intonation, but about the health (resonance) of the sound. If we don’t use enough airspeed, the sound will be in the ‘low area’. If we use too much airspeed, the sound will be in the ‘high area’. If we use the right amount of airspeed, the sound will be in the center. If your sound is in the low area, your sound will be lifeless. If your sound is in the high area, your sound will sound forced. The flute starts singing when you hit the center.

Many flautists (amateurs and pros!) do not leave the ‘low area’. The result is too much tension in the embouchure and a sound that doesn’t really sing. As soon as you hit the centre of the note, you will notice it, because your flute will react differently and the sound will increase enormously.

Another word to describe this process is ‘resonance’. There are several ways to work on resonance. Teachers approach it in different ways, but they all try to teach you the same thing. A perfect way to work on resonance is to play harmonics. Since harmonics need a higher airspeed to sound good, we train to get used to using a higher airspeed. Use this airspeed to play the notes with normal fingering. A D6 is a perfect note for an experiment. Use the D4 fingering, don’t change the fingering, and start increasing the airspeed until you get to the D6. Exhale the note briefly until you get to F#6, then go back to D6. Make sure the D6 is beautiful, with a big sound, easy and with a lot of resonance. Feel the amount of airspeed it takes to play this sound with ease. Now play the D6 with the normal fingering and try to get the same resonance with the airspeed. Keep the drawing of a sound in mind as you locate the center of the sound.

The title of this blog is an invitation to experiment with resonance in your sound. Always try to find the best resonance of your sound every day and never take it for granted.


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