How to Excel at Playing the Flute

Learning to play the flute well is a complex task that requires several abilities. Flutists must have excellent ears for music, be able to create large amounts of air, play technically complex passages and understand musical phrases. The flute is an instrument that takes several years or more to excel at. Only through daily practice and a strict regimen can a flutist hope to excel at his or her instrument. It is assumed that the flutist already knows the basics of how to play the flute before attempting to excel at flute playing.

Step 1 Understand how the transverse flute works. A transverse flute is a horizontal flute that has one end closed and the other end open. When playing the flute, you do not blow air into the mouthpiece. Rather, air is blown across the mouthpiece in a fashion similar to blowing on a bottle.

Step 2 Begin each practice session by concentrating on your breathing. It actually takes more air to play flute than it does to play tuba. This is because, with a tuba, the pipes are curved to create resistance. On a flute, there is no resistance and a greater supply of air is needed. To breathe correctly, breathe deeply from the diaphragm rather than your upper chest. By drawing the air down to your diaphragm, you can hold more air and use your abdominal muscles to push the air out more forcefully.

Step 3 Practice scales daily on the flute. You should practice the scales in more than one octave and go as high as you are able to on the flute. Developing familiarity in all of the ranges on the flute is essential to learning to play correctly. Scales are important for all instruments, but on a flute, you must concentrate on air flow and consistency of tone. Aim to be able to play all of your scales in less than 60 seconds. This may not be possible on other, more bulky, instruments, but on the virtuosic flute, any serious flutist should be able to learn to do this.

Step 4 Play etudes daily that are specific to flutes. Find etudes that use the full range of the instrument. Two pieces that use the entire instrument range are Varese's "21.5" and Ure's "Chilled for Solo Flute." Both of these pieces go down to the lowest pitch of the flute, are technically difficult and extend into the highest range.

Step 5 Learn to play advanced techniques on the flute. Multiphonics is a technique that allows the flutist to play and sing at the same time. Tone bending involves bending the pitch of a note to create a slight micro-tonal drop in sound. Circular breathing is a technique that involves bringing air in through the nose and out through the mouth to create a constant unbroken tone. This is done by holding air in the cheeks before exhaling. Whisper tones are created by overblowing the flute and creating an ethereal high-pitched sound not normally possible.

Step 6 Practice daily and steadily increase the amount of time you practice each day. Some of the best flutists were not born with a huge degree of talent. They excelled because they practiced daily and more intensely than everyone else. The most important tip to becoming a good flutist is to practice every single day.


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