Flute blowing

Flute blowing

Hi,

recently I started to play flute, so, I figured that when I play flute in higher octave, it sounds good, but when I blow on lower octave it sounds lower than it should be.
So I must blow harder on lower octave to get the right tone, to sound in tune. Does anybody out there knows some practice for lower octave or some advice how to achieve the right tone?

Cheers…

Ivan

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Re: Flute blowing

It’s not all just about how hard you blow on the lower octave that affects tone. With any note on the flute, you constantly are rolling the headjoint in and out as you’re playing to stay on pitch. Play around with your embouchure as well. Flatten out the air stream, focus it a bit more, etc.,.

If it’s your embouchure that’s a problem, practice blowing through a tiny straw. This helps you focus the direction of the air as you play the flute. Also do some breathing exercises (anything works really) in order to strengthen your diaphragm. If you’re out of tune on certain notes, you may not be supporting them enough with your diaphragm. This is different than just blowing harder because that technique simply uses your mouth and not the diaphragm which is what you need to use.

It could also be the flute. Some flutes just have certain notes that really aren’t in tune, so you basically have to adjust your tuning slide to get those notes in tune, and then work on getting the other ones in tune.

The beauty (and frustrating part) of your question is that there’s no one answer. It’s simply the nature of the flute, and what fixes your problem on this flute probably wouldn’t work on another flute.

Good luck!

Re: Flute blowing

Here’s a tip that doesn’t sound logical, but it worked for me and many others. Try playing a high A or high B (a or b) as quietly as you can, in tune. You’ll find that to do this, you need a focussed air stream (small hole in lips-someone once said you should imagine the hole the size of a beebee), and good support from your diaphragm (you can get an idea by slightly tensing your abdominal muscles, or by imagining using your abdominal muscles (not your ribcage) to squeeze air out of your lungs).

Once you can obtain and hold good sounding and in tune high notes, then try playing the lower octave in the same way (focussed airstream and with good support). You will very likely find that your tone will improve, and the tuning between octaves will improve because you aren’t blowing the upper octave sharp. If the octaves are still out of tune, then you likely need more support in the bottom octave. I think if you conceive of the problem as bringing the top octave down, rather than the bottom octave up, you will be better off. You can always change the overall pitch by changing the position of the head joint, or by rolling the flute in or out once you get the octaves in tune.

This all takes time! The trick is to connect the way your lips feel when things are going well with the sound so that those good days (or good minutes, or good notes) are connected with a particular position and feeling, and bad days (or minutes, or notes) are connected in your mind with a different position. If you are listening enough to yourself to notice the octaves out of tune, then you are already on the right track.

Folks often recommend long notes. For whatever reason, I often find I get my best tone when I am "just playing", and that the good tone goes away when I am working on tone, and thinking about it, and getting tense or frustrated. So if I happen to notice good tone while I am playing, I try to pay attention to what my lips and diaphragm are doing, and the direction of the airstream, so that I can learn something from the good notes when they occur.

Have fun with it.

Hugh

Re: Flute blowing

Further to Jason’s response,

I’d want to know if the flute was in tune with itself first.

Adjusting the slide raises and lowers the tone of ALL the notes in both octaves simultaneously, so if there’s disparity in the tuning of the notes between octaves, this adjustment won’t help much.

You may have to fiddle with the location of the cork in the head-joint. As a benchmark; it should be as far back from the centre of the emboucher hole as the dimension of the internal diameter of the head-joint. This ‘sweet spot’ can vary from flute to flute, but the general principle is thus: moving it away from the blow-hole (me poor typist, emboucher big word) will flatten the upper notes relative to the lower, and towards the blow-hole will sharpen them.

All this assumes that the flute was made in tune to begin with, and if it’s an older instrument then it may even have been tuned to a different frequency altogether - the current standard of A440 wasn’t in use at the time many of the older instruments were made. Often the only solution for an instrument like this is to get a master flute-maker build a new head-joint.

If all this is OK, then the only remaining hurdle between you and satisfying playing is practise, and that’s entirely in your hands.

Best of luck.

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Re: Flute blowing

If you establish that the lower octave is not in tune with the upper octave, adjusting the head cork should fix the problem. Since you are new to the flute, have an experienced player play each note, first in the lower octave, then the upper. G and F are usually the toughest to get right. If the lower octave is flat against the upper octave, push the head cork closer to the blow hole. A little goes a long way, so be careful. Once the head cork is set, it should remain in good relative pitch. The cork may also need to be replaced, so consider that as well.

A new player will tend to be sharp in the upper octave and flat in the lower.

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Re: Flute blowing

As a former saxplayer it s a completely different approach to work down from the second octave but i find it really helpful to get a nicer tone and play better in tune. Thanks!.

Re: Flute blowing

The best thing would be to find someone who can play (local session?) and ask them to help you. I’ve been blowing away on the wooden Irish flute for 3 years and have only just started to get the proper embouchure for it to even be in tune, never mind sound right. I cracked it finally by going to a local Comhaltas session and having a lesson. Previous to that I had spent time with a maker/player friend, videoing his lips whilst playing, asking many, many questions…all to no avail (ok, I made something close to the sound once or twice, but not often)
My mouth was just doing the wrong thing. I am told the Irish flute embouchure is the most difficult embouchure to master (but it’s not a competition, so oboe players, please don’t kick off….)
So after 3 years I find myself at the beginning of learning the Irish flute. Such is learning, although my fingers now know so many tunes to play from the whistle (which always has a tone) and from the changes in posture trying to play the flute brings.
I hope this helps…it’s a long but great road ahead, and when the sound comes…..that makes it all worth it.

Re: Flute blowing

Oh, and my maker spend a few hours reshaping the embouchure hole to suit.

Re: Flute blowing

8 years ago…. :-)