Instrument Research – Flute

The flute is the main high-pitched melody instrument in modern orchestral and chamber music. The exterior is a cylindrical long tube with several sound holes. The early flutes were ebony or coconut wood. Modern materials used in metal, such as ordinary nickel-silver alloys to professional silver alloys, gold and platinum, and performers use special glass flutes. The tone of the traditional wooden flute is round, warm and delicate, while the tone of the metal flute is brighter and wider. The flutes of different materials are chosen according to the player’s preferences.


How to play it?

The mouth hole of the flute should be pointed directly upward, and your head should be held straight up. Lay your bottom lip loosely over the edge of the mouth hole—not pulled up, or curled under itself, or pressed down hard against the flute. It should cover about a quarter of the mouth hole.

Now, press your lips together at the corners and sides, leaving a roughly oval opening at the front of your mouth. Centre this opening above the mouth hole—even if the opening isn’t in the exact centre of your mouth. Point your lips diagonally downward and blow a solid stream of air directly at the opposite edge of the mouth hole. Don’t lift up your bottom lip as you blow!

(The instructions for a thick-walled flute, such as from wood, are slightly different. These flutes require a more “muscular” embouchure in order to bring out their rich and powerful tone. You would press your bottom lip harder against the head joint—instead of relaxing it—and draw back the corners of your lips more tightly.)

If your blowing produces no sound, check your bottom lip to make sure you’re not unconsciously pulling it up. Rotate the flute to change the angle at which your breath hits the blowing edge. Also, try varying the shape and pressure of your blowing, and how far your bottom lip extends over the hole. On any but a thick-walled flute, make sure your bottom lip is relaxed—pressing it down will tire your lips very quickly.

It’s best to try for only brief periods and come back to it frequently. Dizziness and tingling feelings in your limbs are normal at this stage—use them as a signal to rest.

After you get the initial sound, keep the head joint handy and blow it at odd moments to help you gain consistency.


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