Are you interested in learning to play the flute? Are you a music teacher trying to help teach beginner flutes? Maybe flute is not your primary instrument and you are looking for pointers on how to help your students.
Teaching beginner flute can be challenging, especially if you are not primarily a flute player.
Focusing on fundamentals from the very beginning will help you achieve success. Here are 4 basic fundamentals to start with when teaching beginner flute.
- Tone production
- Hand position
- Technique from the very beginning will help you achieve success.
We’ll cover all the basics on how you can best teach beginner flute.
How to teach beginner flute embouchure?
The corners of your mouth should be firm but not tight. There should be a small opening in your lips, called the aperture, so air can flow freely into the flute head joint.
Think about saying the letter m, then the letter p. You can practice aiming your air in the correct direction by putting your hand under your chin, then blowing on your middle finger. If you do not feel the air on your hand, you have to adjust your mouth and lips, otherwise, you will not be able to produce a tone on the flute.
A good exercise to engage the muscles needed for proper flute embouchure is to alternate between saying “ee” and “ooh” or simply forming the vowel sounds with your mouth. When beginners practice, they will be using certain muscles they are not as familiar with so it is good to identify where they are.
How do you produce a tone on the flute?
When you blow air across the sound hole of the flute head joint correctly, the vibration creates the tone. Using too much air or too little air can negatively affect the result so using the correct amount takes practice.
Try playing a tone on just the head joint of the flute. This takes out all other variables and helps beginners focus on just making a sound without worrying about anything else. The wider section of the mouthpiece plate should rest on the bottom lip.
If the tone is airy, try making the aperture or the opening in your lips smaller, similar to blowing through a small straw. If you can make a sound by blowing on a glass bottle, the idea is similar, but a traditional concert flute has a much smaller opening than a glass bottle so it will not feel the same.
What is the correct hand position for the flute?
When first starting to play the flute, you may feel overwhelmed with the number of keys. Establishing the correct hand position at the very beginning will help make everything more manageable.
Regardless of if you are left-handed or right-handed, your left hand always goes on the top or left side of the flute, and your right-hand goes on the bottom or the right side of the flute. There are circular keys along the body of the flute where your fingers go to press the keys and change notes.
Your left pointer finger goes on the second circle down, your middle finger goes on the fourth, and your ring finger goes on the fifth. Your left pinky goes on the larger oval-shaped key that sticks out. Your left thumb goes on the larger key on the back of the flute.
Beginners often struggle with where to put their fingers, especially the left hand, since you have to skip certain keys. Beginners also may have trouble pressing down keys when they do not actually want to, or not pressing down enough, which again takes practice.
Your right pointer, middle, and ring fingers go on the bottom three keys of the flute. Your right pinky controls the keys on the foot joint. Angle the foot joint so the pole lines up with the circular key above it on the main body of the flute; many times, beginners line up this part of the flute incorrectly. See the image below.
What is the correct posture when playing the flute?
Correct posture involves sitting up, not slouching, and keeping your shoulders relaxed. These aspects can be difficult for beginners early on.
Sometimes, beginning flute players raise their shoulders when they play which creates unnecessary tension. When you play the flute, your shoulders should stay down. The flute should also be close to parallel, without a steep decline in angle. See the picture below for a good example of correct posture.
How do you develop proper technique on the flute?
Developing technique involves practicing scales, arpeggios, and other types of exercises that help players get used to fingering combinations they may see in music. You have to start extremely slow so there is no tension in your fingers.
Your fingers should also ideally stay touching the keys without lifting off and away from the flute. Doing so slows you down and leads to sloppy playing, especially when you have to start playing faster music.
Learning different fingerings and scales early on may be tricky so take your time and get used to how they feel. Listen as you play and make sure you always play with your best sound on every new note. Higher notes and lower notes also feel different so you can play long tones before trying to play anything fast.
What are other common problems when starting to play the flute?
Aside from playing issues, you may also encounter your keys being out of adjustment, or pads needing to be replaced. Additionally, springs can pop out which leads to keys not opening or closing properly.
This can happen more frequently if you purchase an old or used instrument. Cheaper instruments will also tend to have more maintenance issues.
People that do regular maintenance on musical instruments can usually make simple adjustments to tune up the flute. If a new flute is made with very cheap materials, however, the repair person may have a more difficult time making the adjustment, if it is even possible.
If a repair person fixes a cheap new instrument, it may still need more repairs over time which can make the learning process more frustrating. It is best to purchase a reputable brand from the start to avoid these issues.
How do I read a flute fingering chart?
Reading a fingering chart will help you figure out how to play new notes on the flute. The keys that are colored in are where you press down with your fingers. The other keys remain up. There are many helpful resources online that include fingering charts and other materials to help you learn.
Yamaha is not only one of the most reputable flute brands, but they also have a wide selection of educational materials. This page on “How to Play the Flute” includes an interactive fingering diagram where you click on a note written on a staff, and you can see what fingers you need to press down. You can also download the flute fingering chart and print a copy for reference.
Additionally, on the Yamaha page, you can learn about the history of the flute, regular care and maintenance, among other topics that may be helpful for beginners.
What are other helpful resources to help teach beginner flutes?
One of our top picks for the most helpful beginning band instrument methods is Sound Innovations for Concert Band by Robert Sheldon, Peter Boonshaft, Dave Black, and Bob Phillips.
This updated band method goes step by step through playing the first notes on flute, troubleshooting through important technical aspects, and starting to learn songs on flute. Sound Innovations also provides you with supplemental video resources to help you play.
You can learn more about or purchase the flute version of Sound Innovations by clicking here.
SmartMusic is an online learning resource offering sheet music, play-along tracks, method books, sight-reading exercises, improvisation lessons, practice tools, and more. Students can access a vast range of materials, and teachers can use the website to track student progress.
There is also a recording-based assessment tool integrated into SmartMusic where you can record the sheet music you see on screen along with a professional recording, then view how accurately you performed the piece. This resource is an outstanding teaching tool helping any music teacher or musician with their learning process.
What is a helpful beginning flute exercise?
We mentioned earlier how it can be helpful to play on just the head joint. Try having beginners play the following rhythm on just the head joint. Then, have the beginners put the head joint on the flute, and try playing the same rhythm on second space A.
Top Tip: The head joint should sound the same as the second space A.
What is a helpful beginning flute song?
Merrily We Roll Along is one of the first songs many musicians learn. Learning to play this song after learning the exercise above will be easier since it uses the same rhythm. Beginning flutes will already have practice doing other elements correctly, making the song more attainable.
If you are interested in helping beginner flute players learn more songs they recognize, a popular book available is 101 Popular Songs: For Flute from Hal Leonard. The book includes a wide range of selections from many different musical artists over the years. Playing familiar songs can help beginners stay motivated and learn new notes in the context of a song they enjoy.
Another book from Hal Leonard is 101 Disney Songs: For Flute. Just like the previous selection, Hal Leonard arranges popular and familiar music from Disney movies over the years. The book offers beginners an opportunity to play songs they recognize and will enjoy playing.
While both of these selections may not be accessible immediately, they highlight what is possible on the flute with regular practice and can help structure goals on what to work on next.
What is the Best Age to Begin on Flute?
Generally, the best age for a beginner flute student is somewhere between the ages 7-12. In the public school system students usually start learning flute in 6th grade at the age of 11 or 12. The most important factor when starting a child with flute lessons is the child’s maturity.
Have you ever wondered why flutes are so expensive?….. or if flutes are commonly found in marching bands?
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