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 Post subject: Embouchure - the horror!
PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 10:58 am 
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After playing wooden flutes for more than 15 years and thinking I was doing OK, I noticed i was struggling with bottom D more than I thought I should be. Sometimes it was fantastic, other times I'd pick up the flute and really struggle. As part of my investigations, I finally, years too late, got round to looking at my embouchure in a mirror. I was horrified to discover that I was using mainly one side of my mouth, and had the flute perfectly lined up with my off-center airjet. My struggles with tone typically come I now notice when I pick up the flute and try to center it with the center of my mouth - doomed given where the air jet ends up being!

So the big question now is - do I try to retrain my embouchure? Spending some time in front of the mirror makes me think this will be hard - my lips are now doing all manner of subtle things that I'm unaware of and so I can't imagine how I'll 'unlearn' that!

Anyone have experience of trying to relearn their embouchure?

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:08 am 
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I have found that a mirror is a very important tool when learning an instrument requiring an embouchure. It helped me no end when learning clarinet. And now I'm finding it useful for flute, especially those pesky bottom notes.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:55 am 
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This question made me have a look in my old boehm-flute instruction book. It says that some people have a bulge in the middle of their upper lip and in that case it is better to slightly blow to the side instead of from the middle.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 12:32 pm 
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I'm happy to be able to have a fairly constant working embouchure, it took some time to get, but I can get all the notes reasonably well when I try, so I'd say, stick with what you know, & just perfect the notes you are having trouble with - but I'm just an amateur in it for the fun. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 5:49 pm 
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Flute players need a flute, and a mirror! Should come with the instrument.

There is a vast amount of writing about offset embouchure in the Boehm flute space. A lot of major players had quite offset embouchure. It's not considered a fatal defect needing to be changed, like forcing left handers to write with their right hand. I have some detailed advice about this in one flute treatise. I will dig it up for you. I don't think you need retraining or rehabilitation. You can work with this.

Low D is not just embouchure. It's air velocity, chest/lung resonance, and not overblowing. ITM players seem to demand a great honking hard D, but personally I don't think that's the be all and end all.

Andrew


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:25 pm 
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A mirror is a great idea for making sure you're not tilting or off-center relative to your mouth if that's *not* your ideal embouchure, but it can be misleading in other ways. For example:

Regarding the "tulip lip" issue, I have a lip shape that has a slight downward turn in the central part of the upper lip. Not as severe as some examples I've seen online. I used to worry about this, after following online links to Classical flute teacher advice about this; thinking it might limit my flute playing, or force some odd technique. I would watch videos of flute heroes like Conal O'Grada and think -- man, I'll never have an embouchure that straight and tight.

Then I paid closer attention to the angle of the mirror. When looking at my embouchure with my head tilted down in the mirror, like someone standing and watching me seated while playing, it looks like I have a strongly downward-curved upper lip and that's what my embouchure looks like. Classic "tulip" lip. But when I tilt my head up in the mirror, and look across the embouchure hole, my lip muscles are actually forming a straight line behind that little puffy bit in the center. Dead straight.

So at least as far as the "tulip lip" thing goes, don't immediately think you have to start blowing out of the side of your mouth, like all those online web pages from Classical instructors. If you're already blowing out of the side of your mouth, and if it works, then I wouldn't be in a hurry to fix it. Getting a decent, consistent embouchure is the first big hill to climb with this instrument. I'd be reluctant to try and backtrack and lose ground. Irish musicians manage to make wonderful music with all sorts of weird-looking postures and embouchures. Feedback from the sound you're aiming for should be your guide.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 7:58 pm 
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Due to crowded session conditions I have lately been channeling Patsy Hanley.

Check out Patsy Hanley Boy on the Hilltop, Bag of Spuds on YouTube. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 8:14 pm 
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Yes! There's 'yer man with a side-blown embouchure sounding better than I ever will:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjLcfnY8-gY


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2020 8:22 pm 
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Here's another "side"-blower with great tone:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZtINlEPqZI

Perhaps a bit jazzy in places for some tastes, but that's Larry for you.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2020 4:04 am 
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And for an extreme sideblower check out Cathal McConnell.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2020 4:37 am 
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Thanks for all the great replies. I've come to the conclusion that retraining isn't required, but knowing what is going on actually will help - I suspect quite often I was unconsciously fighting the side-blowing and trying to centre it and in the process sometimes losing my embouchure. Maybe I'll make a few recordings and monitor my progress - I've been avoiding adding flute clips to my YT channel until I can make some progress on this!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:01 am 
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Conical bore wrote:
So at least as far as the "tulip lip" thing goes, don't immediately think you have to start blowing out of the side of your mouth, like all those online web pages from Classical instructors.

Good points. I think it might have to do with the slightly different technique between boehm and simple system flute without lip plate. In that case it might even help because it is directing the air stream a bit downwards. Opposed to boehm flute, where you are blowing more across the hole.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 2:57 pm 
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As promised, a clip. Jig of the Dead, Colraine Jig

N

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:02 pm 
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Kevin Crawford just posted a clip on his Facebook page today. If it were less of a dunce with all things internet I would put the link HERE. Anyone want to help me out? Completely on point.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2020 5:26 pm 
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You mean this one?
https://youtu.be/M6XTJY2E2AQ


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