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 Post subject: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:58 pm 
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Hey guys, I once again come to you for advice. I've been trying to learn flute along with whistle because I think flutes are cool but I'm always having issues with embouchure that I can't quite figure out. I've watched lots of videos but they usually just give the same info and are directed at people who cant make a sound. I can I just cant figure out whats the actual ideal way to try and improve it because theres so many different factors.

First just as a bonus, feel free to give any assorted tips that you would have appreciated when you were new.

The flute can be rolled towards me or away. I can't figure out what the ideal is. I feel like the hole being parallel with the ground (so not rolled to me or away) gives the best sound. I feel like rolling towards me is easier, especially to overblow. but this could also be because I'm not doing it right.

If I have the smallest embouchure hole possible (which I'm bad at and half the time end up making farting sounds with my lips when I have no hole at all from trying to make it small lol) overflowing is super easy without rolling it towards me, almost too easy. The issue with super small hole is I like cant hit the low notes. It feels like its not enough air to fill the flute because I'm blowing less hard while being a tiny hole. Am I supposed to blow with a bigger hole or is there something else I'm missing.

I'm trying to use as little air as possible. My bad "easy" to get low notes embouchure takes way too much air so I have to just pause and breathe. And the songs I'm trying to play are kinda fast and continuous so ideally I need to not have to breathe every 2 seconds haha. I know its a low d flute so taking more air wouldn't be that mind blowing but I also heard that flutes take way less air than the equivalent whistle so I'm assuming its possible to be air efficient. To compare, I'm using a little more (my attempted smallest hole that needs a lot of refining) to way more air (big hole loads of air) than my Generation Bb whistle, depending on how awful my embouchure is. Should I be able to get it to less air? Just so I have something to compare to to know if I'm doing it right.

And I know most people say embouchure takes years to improve so obviously I'm not expecting to just be a master fast. But I'm hoping getting some good info so that I'm actually at least trying to do it properly should help improve faster haha. Thanks for any input guys.


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 2:25 am 
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As a beginner myself, I have learned to tighten the lips at their edges, improve my muscle control, to be more consistent.
(That's about the best way I can explain it.)

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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:19 am 
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I would class myself as a beginner certainly though making good progress.

What I've found is that tone was, and probably still is, my biggest difficulty. I've made big strides on this and am now pretty comfortable with getting a relatively consistent and good tone. This is all down to embouchure (and perhaps learning to use glottal stops more to be able to articulate the length of notes clearly).

I found that for me, I much prefer not turning the embouchure hole in. I feel like I should be doing that, based on what I've read, but my tone is better when the embouchure is in line with the finger holes. I am curious about this but I figure if it sounds right, than maybe that's better for me.

Some tips that have helped me are:

- Working on progressions from lower to higher octave, and the hamronic scale. This works to tighten your embouchure and builds the muscle memory so that when you intend to play in the second, or third octave, your mouth confirms to the right shape
- Working on playing D, F, G softly, then loudly in the same breath, and more broadly, playing longer notes, just for the purpose of finding the right tone and then repeating it
- Playing into a wall or into a corner, so I can get a better feel for the sound I'm making and when it's right, repeating it, and feeling around the edges of the note to make sure I know where the sweet spot is.

Ultimately, as you have suggested, there is no quick fix - It just takes time, practice and patience. But as someone who struggled mightily to get a consistent tone, and to be able to easily and accurately move between registers, it is very much possible to improve.


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 3:56 pm 
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As you play more you will likely find the rolling of the flute in or out will be to fine tune the notes. It will become subconscious at a certain point. It sounds like right now you are just trying to deal with control. Be patient with yourself and give your muscles time to develop. You will have plenty of time to play fast tunes and long phrases if you get the basics down.

Your air should come from the bottom of your lungs and push through your open throat and controlled cheeks to your embouchure. These aspects are as important as what you are doing with your lips. Whether you are a straight on or angled blower you will be developing a relatively tiny slit between your lips to blow the air through. But your diaphragm will be doing more to to determine what octave you are blowing than your lips.

Take time each day to play long notes. If you hate stuff like scales pick a tune and slow it way down. Blow each note to a count of 4 at a moderate speed. Work towards being able to play notes for longer periods of time. Then pick a tune you want to play and speed it up for fun. But go back each day and play those long notes, with a conscious awareness of your breath coming from the bottom of your lungs.

Decades ago my teacher had me lay down on the floor with a book on my stomach below my belly button and consciously raise that book up and down with my breath. I was only to move that book with those muscles and keep my chest as still as possible. Locating your breath will be one of the most important parts of your flute journey.


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 7:41 pm 
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Patience grasshopper. It does take time!

One of the best interventions I experienced was to take a class from a flute teacher - a classical flautist. Hands-on, in-person, you can fix more in one hour than a month of youtube lessons.

A lot of things improve with time, finger soreness, hyperventilation, breath control, articulation speed,

A lot of flute things improve with long, slow tones, slow melodies, like O'Carolan, quiet notes/loud notes, highest notes/lowest notes...

One tip for breathing is to learn tunes by Vincent Broderick. As a flute player, his arrangements tend to work well for learning as they have built-in places to breathe:
Milky Way
Flagstone of Memories
Crock of Gold
Coachman's Whip
The Rookery
Haunted House
The Old Flail


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:29 pm 
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busterbill wrote:
It sounds like right now you are just trying to deal with control. Be patient with yourself and give your muscles time to develop.

Just a note from my perspective: There's a school of approach out there that relies on effort. It's perfectly valid as it gets the job done, and there are a good number of top-shelf players who demonstrate what I'll call a "muscular" embouchure. However, remember that this is only an option. There is also an effortless way, and I think it's not so much based on muscle development as it is based on muscle knowledge, and in tossing out what is counterproductive, or at least what is superfluous. Think of how a baby elephant must learn to gain control of its trunk; it's definitely a learned skill, and it takes time. I've watched footage where the little tykes were clearly frustrated by their trunks seeming to have minds of their own; for a good while it takes more effort, much of it wasted, to voluntarily do what an adult does with ease, efficiency, precision, the appropriate application of power or delicacy, and hardly any thought, if at all. So obviously, practice is absolutely necessary, but the baby elephant doesn't have to lift weights with its trunk to gain the micro-control it will need as an adult; what it needs is more and more experience. When it comes to a properly functioning end product, doing it with effort is not the only game in town.

Do I recommend the effortless way? Absolutely. Who wouldn't? Do I think effort is bad? No. Besides, most likely you're going to have to go through it anyway. But I do think that the goal of an effortless embouchure is a most logical one to keep on one's horizon, and I can personally assure you it is entirely attainable.

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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2020 8:56 pm 
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Thanks for all the advice guys, it means a lot. And if anyone else has any more good advice keep it coming :)


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 4:15 am 
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busterbill wrote:
But your diaphragm will be doing more to to determine what octave you are blowing than your lips.


Is that really true though? I would have thought it's more about the angle of the air flow, as controlled by the embouchure, than the volume of the air flow? I used to get the higher register by blowing harder, which was really inconsistent and fuzzy. I've since learned to change the angle of the flow to change the octave which seems far more efficient (in terms of managing air), consistent and 'clean' sounding. I still use more air on the higher register but trying to limit this by playing notes on the higher register 'softly', i.e. focusing on the angle of the flow, rather than the volume of the flow.


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 9:30 am 
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Jeggy wrote:
busterbill wrote:
But your diaphragm will be doing more to to determine what octave you are blowing than your lips.


Is that really true though? I would have thought it's more about the angle of the air flow, as controlled by the embouchure, than the volume of the air flow? I used to get the higher register by blowing harder, which was really inconsistent and fuzzy. I've since learned to change the angle of the flow to change the octave which seems far more efficient (in terms of managing air), consistent and 'clean' sounding. I still use more air on the higher register but trying to limit this by playing notes on the higher register 'softly', i.e. focusing on the angle of the flow, rather than the volume of the flow.



It seems to be for me, but your mileage may vary. I just ran an octave jump D scale to best notice what i was doing. I maintained the same volume throughout. There was no rolling, and a minute change in the feeling of pressure in my cheek and lip muscles. I am still trying to figure out if I am actually doing much by the way of tightening my mouth and cheeks. But even small amounts of added tautness will make a difference. HIgher notes seem to have more tautness in the cheeks and a slight tightening of the slot between my lips.

Again, for me the major change my body made was pushing up air from bellow my belly button which increased its speed. Your lungs don't go down that far, but the muscles that will push that last little bit of air from the bottom of your lungs and propel it with speed do.

It is hard for me to explain as I have never attempted to teach flute. I learned as a little kid in the 60s with a grade school band. Then had a brief stint in college where my professor changed my embouchure from a smile to a "horse face" then fooled around for years until I started taking Irish flute lessons from a young Shannon Heaton in my 40s. So much of what my body does is subconscious now having played for more than 50 years, over 30 of it ITM.

I'd heartily recommend getting together with a flute teacher for some basics. Even if they know nothing about the Irish flute they will have the physics down. A person in the same room with you can see what you are doing and make recommendations. This will short cut your learning struggles. Control will become effortless over time. Using the bicycle analogy, most of us hit a few trees or ran off a few curbs at first. But after putting a little time it we figured out how hold the handle bars steady, squeeze the brakes when necessary, and not topple over. One of the many skills we mastered when we learned we could propel a bike forward was control of our core.

And our core is where our breath comes from.


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 10:13 am 
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I agree with you Busterbill - getting a good tutor makes a big difference and accelerates learning. It's always great to figure things out on your own but ultimately, taking advantage of someone else's experience makes sense.

Just on the embouchure vs air flow for upper register, I had a go to see how I do it now. If I don't think about it, I change the angle of the air flow with my embouchure (not a massive adjustment) but also increase the air flow a little bit. As I say, I'm still learning so new methods are still blended with the way I use to do it. However, if I focus I can go from lower, to upper and back to lower register just by changing embouchure and not adjusting air flow in any way.

I think I was taught a lot of the same principles about using the diapraghm when I was learning the trumpet in grade school. It certainly helps! :) And definitely breathing is an area I need to improve for my flute playing. I would say though that playing/ practicing more, having a better and more focused embouchure, using embouchure to octave switching, and changing to a Rudall from a Pratten Nicholson have all made a big difference to my efficiency and economy when it comes to the air I have available.


Last edited by Jeggy on Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:01 am 
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Don’t give up. It took me a good year to be able to produce a flute like sound. Five years in, it keeps getting more effortless and easier to play. I’ve found that playing octaves and then the harmonic on top of that Helped me sort out what my lips should be doing to produce notes.The other thing, is to play as softly as possible. I have found that this increases my efficiency.


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:34 am 
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I'm no expert, but here's some feedback from another "advancing beginner" 5 years into the journey. I'm mostly "over the hump" on embouchure, reasonably happy with it, while acknowledging that it's a lifetime effort and you never stop trying to improve it. That said, I'm now dealing mostly with breathing issues unrelated to embouchure.

Narzog wrote:
The flute can be rolled towards me or away. I can't figure out what the ideal is. I feel like the hole being parallel with the ground (so not rolled to me or away) gives the best sound. I feel like rolling towards me is easier, especially to overblow. but this could also be because I'm not doing it right.

The way I approached this was through experimenting with how much of my lower lip covers the embouchure hole. Our mouths and lips are all different so there is no hard and fast rule, but try covering what feels like just 1/4 of the embouchure hole with your lower lip, then try up to half of the embouchure hole. Let the quality of your tone be your guide. When you find the sweet spot, practice going back to that position every time you pick up the flute. I never rotate the flute back and forth while playing, although apparently some people do this to a small extent.

After finding your best lower lip position over the hole, it's a question of shifting pitch by blowing slightly downward with a slightly less tense embouchure for lower pitch notes, and more across the embouchure hole with a tighter, more focused embouchure for the high notes. You'll eventually get to the point where you're using a different lip embouchure for every note, but it will drive you crazy if you think about that when starting out. :) It just comes automatically after a while.

Jeggy wrote:
I found that for me, I much prefer not turning the embouchure hole in. I feel like I should be doing that, based on what I've read, but my tone is better when the embouchure is in line with the finger holes. I am curious about this but I figure if it sounds right, than maybe that's better for me.

Whatever works is good. Turning the headjoint in relative to the finger holes is usually more about hand and wrist comfort. Finding the best lip position against the embouchure hole should be your starting point, and then some people feel that turning the rest of the flute body slightly outwards relative to the headjoint, makes for a more relaxed wrist angle when holding the flute. I have mine turned slightly, with the outer edge of the embouchure hole lined up with the center line of the tone holes, but that's just me. If you're comfortable with the embouchure hole lined up with the tone holes, there's nothing wrong with that.

busterbill wrote:
But your diaphragm will be doing more to to determine what octave you are blowing than your lips.

Breathing from the diaphragm is an important technique, but I think it's more about the available reservoir of air you have to work with. The octave shift is in the lips and how the airstream is angled and focused. I suppose it could be said that because lower notes usually require more air, good diaphragm control is more important for those lower notes than second octave notes which require less air.


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:57 am 
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Conical bore wrote:
Whatever works is good. Turning the headjoint in relative to the finger holes is usually more about hand and wrist comfort. Finding the best lip position against the embouchure hole should be your starting point, and then some people feel that turning the rest of the flute body slightly outwards relative to the headjoint, makes for a more relaxed wrist angle when holding the flute. I have mine turned slightly, with the outer edge of the embouchure hole lined up with the center line of the tone holes, but that's just me. If you're comfortable with the embouchure hole lined up with the tone holes, there's nothing wrong with that.


That's interesting Conical Bore. I'd thought the turning in was more about the tone rather than anything else. Very good to know. I recently altered my grip to be closer to Rockstro (and in anticipation of getting a keyed flute - need my left hand thumb free etc). I did read about turning in on Terry McGee's site but didn't understand the context. Will have another go at turning the embouchure hole in, and see how that impacts my grip. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 7:30 am 
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In no particular order:
    - Turning in and out to tune is possible, but so is using the lips to redirect the air flow slightly up or down. And it is faster and doesn't involve compromising your grip on the flute. Moving your lower jaw back and forward is a good way to learn this. Tuning depends on volume,so you will be doing this a lot.
    - Embouchure position relative to ground doesn't matter. All that matters is the relative position of everything in the cubic centimetre or so in front of your lips. Try playing lying on your back or in some other position from time to time...
    - Radial embouchure position relative to the other finger holes is more about your grip and posture than about the presentation of the embouchure hole to the lips.
    - Half of flute playing happens behind the lips. At least. And the other half in front of them.
    - Don't try to economise on air to start with - you will end up with, at best, a weak and thin sound. Economy comes later. I don't mean opening your lips wide here - I mean learn to shift serious amounts of air with your abdomen.
    - Breathe in deeply and fully when you do breathe in.
    - Listen to the sound you make. Try to remember and recreate what you were doing when it sounded better.
    - Play in front of a reflecting surface to hear yourself, or record yourself and listen to the playback.
    - Shape your mouth and throat as if you were singing the note that you are trying to play, without using your vocal chords ("throat tuning"). (Or use your vocal chords while playing and go down the beat box flute path... This is also fun, but not particularly relevant for folk.)
    - A real, live flute teacher, even for a very limited time is a very good idea. Good classical flute teachers are often even more aware of tone than folkies, though their idea of the ideal tone to aim for may differ. (The best of them are most interested in being able to modify their tone as needed by what they are playing.)
    - Practice long notes and octave jumps. First with steady volume and then also starting quiet and crescendo, then back down to quiet while staying in tune. Remember Yoda: "May the force be with you young Skywalker, but do not use it on the high notes...".
    - A small embouchure hole in the lips, if desired, is about making a kissing shape with the lips, not squeezing them together. Frowny pout, not thin-lipped smile.
    - Look in the mirror from time to time - sometimes the flute embouchure hole wanders off to the side from where you think it is and no sound comes out...
    - Do pay attention to your posture and grip from the start. If you are not holding the flute securely you will never be able to do anything deliberate with your embouchure, so nothing you try will improve it. And bad posture will injure you, putting a hard limit on how much flute you can play. That is bad.
    - Practice playing in tune by playing along to either good recordings or a drone (D or G usually). Google will give you many sources of a reference tone to drone.

_________________
19th October, 2012:
Flute: Rookery
Flute: Musical Priest
Flute: Swinging on the Gate
Flute: Sally Gardens
4th June 2012:
Flute: Rolling in the Ryegrass, Green Gates
2 April, 2012:
Smallpipes: The Meeting of the Waters. Corn Riggs
Smallpipes: Mrs Hamilton of Pithcaithland


Last edited by ChrisCracknell on Mon Aug 10, 2020 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Embouchure Tips
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2020 7:35 am 
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Location: Hamburg, Germany
And for all of us; try to start your practice with some kind of warm up - almost anything works, from a run, to situps, to singing or playing a slow air. Even listening to a few tunes as a mental part of your warmup is good. I noticed years ago, that practicing after any form of aerobic exercise improved my playing.

_________________
19th October, 2012:
Flute: Rookery
Flute: Musical Priest
Flute: Swinging on the Gate
Flute: Sally Gardens
4th June 2012:
Flute: Rolling in the Ryegrass, Green Gates
2 April, 2012:
Smallpipes: The Meeting of the Waters. Corn Riggs
Smallpipes: Mrs Hamilton of Pithcaithland


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