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It's hard to learn flute sometimes...

#1
I'm having a serious problem trying to learn flute (for those who don't know, I'm a clarinetist/saxophonist/returning pianist). I'm borrowing my sister's backup flute to try to learn to play the instrument over the summer, but it's just not working. The problem is is that it's a very old flute (for those wanting to know what the flute is it's a Selmer Bundy flute) and I can constantly feel it shooting air out of it. Second, I find it difficult because I can't see where I'm putting my fingers on the keys. Maybe I'm just terrible and need more practice. But I get such an airy tone out of it that I just get stressed out; there isn't a reed either so I find it weird to blow into a hole and also hard because I don't know where exactly to blow! Anyway, trying to teach myself flute is stressing me out. Once I'm done with my show, I'll churn out as much as I can before I move out to college. I'll talk to my professor about it and maybe we'll see what goes from there.
But maybe you guys might have some tips that might help me with this trying process. It's been hard because it's nothing like a clarinet or sax. Well I apologize for my little rant. I don't mean to be a drama queen about this, but it's been very difficult for me. I hope you might understand what's going on with me and this flute business. I guess it's just hard after playing a total of nine years of combined clarinet and sax. I really should've started this sooner.
 

jbtsax

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
#3
For starters, the old Bundy flutes while being the workhorse of elementary bands years ago are just not very good. Even with a good embouchure and airstream they make it difficult to get a clear, full bodied tone that projects. If you are serious about doubling, I would recommend renting a student or intermediate Yamaha to start out on which you can trade up to a better instrument as your "chops" develop.

The bane of beginning flutists is having too large a hole in the embouchure. Below are some tips I learned from years of teaching flute to beginning students:

Tone Production
- Practice long tones on the headjoint alone until you can hold a big clear tone for 20 seconds or more on one breath.
- Practice in front of a mirror so you can monitor the opening in the lips.
- Cover approximately 1/3 of the embouchure hole with your lower lip.
- The embouchure should be a pout as though you are saying Pooh (as in "Winnie The").
- Keep the lips gently together and let the airstream make the opening.
- Practice just blowing a fast, cold airstream against your index finger for 30 seconds to get the feel of not "wasting" air.
- Blow that fast, cold airstream and slowly bring the headjoint up to the lip to produce a sound.
- Repeat the above over and over again to develop the tactile memory of the sweet spot on the lip that gives the best tone.

Fingering
- The flute is held by four points: the lip plate, the 1st joint of the index finger, the RH thumb, the pinky on the Eb key.
- Practice just holding the flute in playing position with no fingers down as if playing Db to establish good hand position.
- The RH thumb must be perpendicular to the flute positioned between the RH first and second fingers.
- Work on a light touch from the very start. Flutists refer to sax players playing flute as having "gorilla grip"---and they are usually correct.
- Be sure to use the flute F# 1 2 3 | x x 3 from the start, not the sax and clarinet fingering.
- Resting the flute on your left shoulder and right knee is a good way to work on "fingers only" to learn the geography of the flute.
- Remember the mirror is your best friend when learning the flute both for embouchure and for good hand position.

Good luck. Hope this helps.
 
#4
For starters, the old Bundy flutes while being the workhorse of elementary bands years ago are just not very good. Even with a good embouchure and airstream they make it difficult to get a clear, full bodied tone that projects. If you are serious about doubling, I would recommend renting a student or intermediate Yamaha to start out on which you can trade up to a better instrument as your "chops" develop.

The bane of beginning flutists is having too large a hole in the embouchure. Below are some tips I learned from years of teaching flute to beginning students:

Tone Production
- Practice long tones on the headjoint alone until you can hold a big clear tone for 20 seconds or more on one breath.
- Practice in front of a mirror so you can monitor the opening in the lips.
- Cover approximately 1/3 of the embouchure hole with your lower lip.
- The embouchure should be a pout as though you are saying Pooh (as in "Winnie The").
- Keep the lips gently together and let the airstream make the opening.
- Practice just blowing a fast, cold airstream against your index finger for 30 seconds to get the feel of not "wasting" air.
- Blow that fast, cold airstream and slowly bring the headjoint up to the lip to produce a sound.
- Repeat the above over and over again to develop the tactile memory of the sweet spot on the lip that gives the best tone.

Fingering
- The flute is held by four points: the lip plate, the 1st joint of the index finger, the RH thumb, the pinky on the Eb key.
- Practice just holding the flute in playing position with no fingers down as if playing Db to establish good hand position.
- The RH thumb must be perpendicular to the flute positioned between the RH first and second fingers.
- Work on a light touch from the very start. Flutists refer to sax players playing flute as having "gorilla grip"---and they are usually correct.
- Be sure to use the flute F# 1 2 3 | x x 3 from the start, not the sax and clarinet fingering.
- Resting the flute on your left shoulder and right knee is a good way to work on "fingers only" to learn the geography of the flute.
- Remember the mirror is your best friend when learning the flute both for embouchure and for good hand position.

Good luck. Hope this helps.
Thank you for the advice. It's been very difficult for me to learn the flute. I'll probably rent an intermediate flute, but I will take this advice. Thank you for the help
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#5
You can also post that you need a good (student) flute in our Mall area. When my wife needed a flute for a show she was in, the good folks here helped me out. (FWIW, I can't play flute. I've tried. It doesn't like me.)
 
#6
maybe get a cheap plastic fife? if only to get the emborchure, grip & finger position down? ( i never had any luck with the flute either, fwiw....)
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#8
Sure
 
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