Silver Bullet Advice for the Developing Flute Player

The Power of a Straw

Last week I was a clinician for a flute sectional for a local Junior High Honor Band. The teacher that invited me to be the clinician asked me to take some time to address what is crucial for young musicians their age and experience level to know or to “share a silver bullet for correcting typical issues in young players.” Hence, the title and subject of this post.

What is a Silver Bullet? defines a silver bullet as “one that instantly solves a long-standing problem.” defines it as “a quick solution to a difficult problem.”

Learning to master any instrument takes years of careful and thoughtful practice and instruction and experience. But, if I had only had 30 minutes to spend with you, this would be my advice.

Tone is the most important thing. Take the time necessary to develop a clear flute sound. Yes, this means you have to practice slow, long tones.

Use more (faster and effective) air. Practice blowing through a straw. When blowing through a straw, see how fast you can push all of your air through the straw.

A coffee straw, a regular drinking straw, and a larger specialty straw.

Try blowing through each one to gain the understanding of what kind of support you need to push your air through as fast as you can. Generally speaking, the regular sized straw is the most accurate type of straw to achieve the feeling of creating resistance as you exhale on the flute. Blowing through the coffee straw brings back college memories of taking oboe lessons one semester. Blowing through the specialty straw feels like blowing through a contrabass flute.

Straw practice is a good place to start, but I strongly suggest investing in a Pneumo Pro or Breath Builder. You can read my blog post from October 3rd, 2020 for more pictures and more information about the Pneumo Pro. Do an internet search for a Breath Builder and you’ll easily find one. Most younger players, and even older players that come to me for lessons, don’t use a fast enough airstream.

Pucker and Pout. Create a cushion for your flute with your lower lip.

This was just too cute to not share. She’s going to make a great flute player when she grows up.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Pout, then pucker and blow while maintaining your pout. Blow into the flute more and aim down.

Keep your airstream steady and consistent. Practice long tones daily to develop this skill. Set your metronome to quarter note=60. Play a scale slowly in whole notes.  Challenge yourself to see how many whole notes you can play in one breath. Then advance to other tone exercises.

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