Flute warming up

Flute warm up

How long does it take for your flute to warm up?

I just took possession of a new flute and it is about a half step flat. Have not played it enough I think to thoroughly warm up. We keep our house at 68.

Re: Flute warming up

Warming up should affect response more than intonation, unless it is pretty cold in the room. At 68, no amount of playing will temper tuning off by that much. If the situation does not improve, you can try moving the head cork in a few millimeters, but if you go too far, the relative pitch of your notes can get thrown off. The good news is that it’s the third octave that will be most affected, and you seldom go there for Irish.

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Re: Flute warming up

I agree with Ailin. Before anything else, check the cork position in the headjoint. Just because it’s a new flute, don’t automatically assume that the cork is positioned correctly. It should be, but it may have moved. How did you come to the conclusion that it is "about a half step [ by which I assume you mean a semi-tone ] flat" ?

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Re: Flute warming up

So it’s a new flute from a well known maker. I would assume that it is adjusted correctly.
I checked the intonation against an electronic tuner.

After playing today I have come to the conclusion that the issue is me and not the flute getting adjusted to a new embouchure and all. After playing for a while I rechecked the intonation and it was spot on.

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Excellent. ;

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I think I’ve had similar issues. My flutes are old, and I thought perhaps "old pitch" (A=432-435, but I’m aware that old pitch can also mean higher pitches than our A=440). After I’d been playing for a few months, I checked and found that the older instrument plays at A=440 with the tuning slide closed up, while the few-decades-newer flute plays A=440 with the slide extended by about 4 mm. So it was my embouchure and inexperience that made it seem like the critters were flat. So what really needed warming up was me.

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Ah, the embouchure! Everyone is different, but it can take a looooooong, looooooong time to develop. Keep at it - if you do, it WILL improve.

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A thing about flute is the same instrument can play much flatter or sharper depending on what angle a particular fluteplayer directs the airstream into the blow-hole.

By moving your jaw forward the airstream becomes more horizontal and the flute pitches higher.

By pulling your jaw back the airstream become angled more downward and the flute pitches lower.

Or, keeping your jaw the same, you can change the airstream angle by how the headjoint is rotated vis-a-vis the body of the flute, whether the blow-hole is in alignment with the fingerholes or whether the blow-hole is rotated towards the player.

I angle the blow-hole so its far edge is in line with the centre-lines of the fingerholes, if you’re looking at the flute end-on from the endcap end I have the blow-hole at the 12:30 O’clock position.

I know a guy who plays with the blow-hole at around the 2 O’clock position and he blows a flute much flatter than I do. He has to shove in the tuning slide all the way to bring the flute up to concert pitch, while on the same flute I’ll have the tuning slide drawn out 10mm or so.

Re: Flute warming up

Thanks all…

Richard, it is my own (limited) understanding that one wants the air stream directed more down and a bit towards the cork as opposed to straight across. This is what I have been working on now for about 18 months. I feel like I still have a ways to go. Granted that this is not my main instrument nor has that 18 months been continuous every day practice. There are a lot of variables that I am learning…especially trying now to add a little pinch in my upper lip.

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Embouchure is very individual. I cannot do as Richard does. I actually have the hole aligned with the tone holes and slightly angled outwards. What is universal is to have as small an opening as you can. Think in terms of your breath being the force that parts your lips. Keep the air stream concentrated and the lips dry. From there, you will find your sweet spot.

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Yeah everyone is a bit different. When I practice blowing “ the piece of rice off my chin”…well I can do that just fine.

When I put the flute up to my face…well something else seems to happen.

But that being said everyday I feel I make a bit of progress with the new flute. The flute prior is an M and E R and R delrin. I actually got to where I produced a solid tone with that. This flute is meatier but also seemingly a bit whispier if that is a good adjective.

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I agree with Ailin that the embouchure is highly individual, but I think that there is something like a normal curve (in the mathematical sense) for it. For the wooden flute played by musicians playing Irish trad, there are relatively few players who turn the embouchure hole slightly out, like Ailin. Nuala Kennedy is one. Similarly there are relatively few who turn it so far in that the far edge is lined up with inner edge of the first tone hole (as Quantz recommended for the Baroque flute). June McCormack is one. I believe most players position the embouchure hole as Richard Cook does, and this was the position recommended by nearly every method book in the first half of the 19th century. I don’t have too much trouble myself making all of these positions work as I’m sure Ailin and Richard don’t (or in the case of Richard, didn’t) although I tend towards what I believe is the norm (Richard’s position). It should be noted that many silver flute players also prefer this position or, more commonly, one turned in to a somewhat lesser degree but still turned in because it makes balancing the flute (with its heavy set of rods and keys) easier.

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Re: Flute warming up

I believe most players on silver flute play with all the holes aligned, but certainly not turned in. My observation is that position these days is peculiar to Irish flute playing. I don’t disparage it, but it’s not a strong position for me.

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Re: Flute warming up

It does affect the tone/timbre as well, as fluteplayers know.

I can start with the airstream directed almost horizontally across the blowhole and the timbre sounds hollow, then shifting the airstream downward at a steeper angle the timbre becomes richer and darker, then steeper downward still the timbre becomes reedier. There’s a magic middle spot where the tone is bright yet dark, flexible, and powerful. Of course many Irish-style players like a reedier darker tone than is typically heard with orchestral flutists today.

Thing is, Irish fluteplayers are actually perpetuating the "classical" flute tone of the 19th century British orchestral players, whom, by the way, Boehm did his best to imitate.

19th century British orchestral flutists compared the ideal flute tone to the clarinet or oboe, something unthinkable to modern orchestral fluteplayers. Boehm himself said that his fluteplaying was mistaken for a French Horn.

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Richard is correct, but I will stress that the desired flow of the air stream is at least as much a function of the embouchure as it is of the hole position. I have often been complimented (and have posted about it in other contexts) on my mellow tone. I admit it is not particularly reedy, but I think that’s because I don’t push that hard. I can do it, but I don’t.

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Re: Flute warming up

I thought the alignment of the embouchure hole with the fingers holes was to do with hand comfort (and balance for a boehm keyed flute) when the embouchure hole was in the required position relative to the mouth.

The blow hole position relative to the mouth being the important part.

Re: Flute warming up

That’s part of it, certainly.

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Re: Flute warming up

Yes that’s the great thing about a flute, especially one that has a divided body, you can get the blowhole and both the upperhand and lowerhand holes all in the most ergonomic positions.

I wish my Low Whistles had a divided body like that.

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Ailin wrote: ‘I believe most players on silver flute play with all the holes aligned, but certainly not turned in. My observation is that position these days is peculiar to Irish flute playing. I don’t disparage it, but it’s not a strong position for me.’ Here is the source for my feeling that most players of the Boehm flute today turn their headjoints in, at least to some degree. The article is both fact-filled and records personal experience. I would add that Roger Mather’s research for his book included interviews with many major flutists, including, I believe, Jean-Pierre Rampal, James Galway and William Bennett (his research took place over many years).

https://www.jennifercluff.com/lineup.htm#align

Jen Cluff’s argument is not relevant to simple system flutes, which lack the heavy system of axles which Boehm flutes have. For Irish flute players it is more about sound, and since Nuala Kennedy and Ailin have fine tones, what works for the many, is not necessary for all. Lining up the embouchure hole with the tone holes is probably better for projection of the tone; this is another point in its favour.

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As I am getting used to this flute (Pratten style with a 2 piece body) I am getting the best tone with the outward edge of the embouchure hole rotated slightly inward, but not quite all the way in line with the holes of the body.

What really is making a difference is that the longer it is played in any particular session the more it wakes up. I have been busy with work and have not really had an opportunity to play it other than a half hour at ta time. This morning I was up early with coffee and played for about an hour. WOW! What a difference!

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My flute takes about 45 minutes of playing before it settles in. If your flute is brand new, be careful to play it in gradually so it doesn’t crack, though!

Re: Flute warming up

Katie, that is unfortunately not a problem for me right now

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If it takes more than 10 minutes to be at your best, something is very wrong.

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Re: Flute warming up

Re: Flute warming up
If it takes more than 10 minutes to be at your best, something is very wrong

Can you please expound on that?

Are you saying that it should only take 10 minutes for your flute to be “warmed up” and sounding optimal?

I am only speaking of my experience with my first wooden flute and noting my Observations as a relatively newcomer. ( violin has been my main instrument now for about 20 years and I’m still a newcomer to that as an adult beginner).

I’m sure I have a lot that is wrong.

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Meaning absolutely no disrespect to anyone here, I have to throw in my idea. I have only owned about 8 flutes and played maybe a half dozen more from antique beauties to cheap plastic tubes, so my experience has been limited. Still even when busking outside on cold Christmas season days, outside, in the city, it has never taken more than a minute or two to "warm up" any flute, though sometimes it has taken me quite a bit to get any respectable sound. In every case the common denominator was always … me. Always it was my inability to reach the correct embouchure. Sometimes it was the temperature’s effect on my lip, sometimes it was dehydration, or it could have been my inability to find the ‘sweet spot". As I’ve become a little better over the years I have less trouble but the problem still comes up. It’s hard to admit but I have had a couple of total failures. Most embarrassing are the times when I can’t get a sound and the next person to try sounds great! So what really needed warming up wasn’t the flute, it was the guy who put my pants on that day!

It may take a while, it took me a couple of years and not over yet. But it gets better! Stick to it, and good luck.

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Ooops, forgot to mention this, I’ll bet it took longer to "warm up" your violin when you first started than it does now, and when handed another instrument you get on it a lot quicker. It’s kinda like that!

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Yeah…good point!!!

Even from violin to violin they all can play a little differently, if set up differently. I am finding though that "I" am warming up a little more quickly every day with a regular schedule.

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My experience is somewhere between what ross faison and Ailin suggest.

If the flute and I have been at comfortable room temperature for 30 minutes or so then I know where the tuning slide should be but for the first A part or so I will be conscious of a need to blow the flute up to pitch. Stop for a 10 minute conversation and I will have to do it again. I think that is temperature not my embouchure

If the flute has been in my bag for a 20 minute walk across town from the bus stop on a cold night and I really want to join in on the tune they are playing when I arrive then I push the tuning slide in a little and things will be changing quite rapidly for 5 minutes or so until I can put the turning slide back to ‘normal’. I think that’s mainly temperature but it’s tricky having to adjust to things having just started playing.

If I forget either of those my tone and intonation will be worse than normal. A session where they always start up with the same well known tunes makes things simpler.

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I didn’t get the impression that the post on needing 45 minutes to warm up was talking about temperature. For me, warming up is about finding the sweet spot, positioning fingers, and getting my head into what I’m doing. After a set or two, you should be there or you’re not really ready to be playing sessions.

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Re: Flute warming up

Initially I was talking about the actual flute warming at first.

I can hang in a session with a violin but surely not ready with a flute.

In any case this has been a lot of good food and wind for thought. Of course if it takes the physics of playing the instrument as opposed to the instrument itself warming up one needs some more work but at the same time it depends on the level and expectations of the session and group. Not every session is experienced players ( on whatever instrument) only.

My first initial post was about the instrument itself as I was not clear about how long a wooden flute should take to “warm” . I am now more clearly initiated in both the flute itself and the player being warm.

Re: Flute warming up

IMHO the rotation of the headjoint compared to the finger holes is a question of how you hold the flute, not how you blow it. YMWV but the angle, speed and size of the airstream hitting the hole will affect the tuning - this is how we fine tune the notes we are playing at different volumes so they remain in tune.
In terms of warming up, I need about one set to get close to my final tuning for a session. This doesn’t matter how cold the room or flute are to start with, though altitude does matter. The movement between cold and session tuning is about 4 mm. And I am sure that some of that difference is me warming up, not the flute.
For that first set, the others really just have to put up with me adjusting and correcting during the set… For a concert I would play a set or two backstage to achieve the same.

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If someone has a developed and flexible embouchure they can play a flute in tune whether it’s cold or warm, or whether the tuning slide is pulled out a bit or pushed in a bit. There have been times over the years when I’ve had to pick up my cold flute and play it in tune.

For sure when you’re making a flute play considerably sharper or flatter than where it naturally wants to play at that moment your tone will probably not be optimal, and when you find that optimal sweet spot where your tone is best it’s playing the flute at a certain pitch and you should adjust the tuning slide to suit.

My point is simply that a fluteplayer isn’t the prisoner of the flute’s pitch but can blow any note, or the entire scale, flatter or sharper to tune in with the other players. It’s why once a player gets used to a particular flute they will play that flute right in tune. Two players who each are playing their own flute well in tune can switch flutes and neither might be in tune in the hands of the other player. Give them a month and they’ll both be playing in tune on their new flutes.

BTW it is an advantage that the Boehm flutes with thin metal walls have: though they cool down much faster than a wooden flute you can warm them back up almost instantly.

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I am much more in tune the more I am playing but I just finished about an hour Solo session and Could not get a consistent tone to save my life. I think my lips are tired…

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Yeah, it’s probably going to take a bit for your face muscles to adapt. To clarify my prior comment, I’m not a novice by any means, so it generally takes about 2-3 sets to figure out where things are sitting that day, but I find my instrument takes about 45 minutes to reach a point where I guess the moisture saturation is at an equilibrium and my tuning is unlikely to change much for the rest of the night. I do live in a climate where humidity fluctuates rapidly, so I’m sure that plays a role.