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Embouchure

The following is a list of checkpoints for the flute embouchure:
  • Use a mirror to check your position and embouchure shape as you review these steps.
  • Since we're focusing on just the embouchure at this point, use just the headjoint of the flute to start. Then, once you are getting consistent results, repeat the process with the full flute.
  • The head remains level, side to side and front to back.
  • The jaw stays in a natural, relaxed position.
  • Because of differences in the shape of the lips, there will be slight variations in the position of the lips on the tonehole. These instructions are intended as a starting point from which you can find the position that works best for you.
  • The inner edge of the tonehole is positioned at the base of the colored part of the lower lip.
  • The lower lip relaxes into the headjoint, covering about a third of the tonehole.
  • The lips form a flat horizontal oval, as though you were blowing through a plastic coffee stirrer. One way to think of it is as though you are silently saying the syllable "peuw" or "poo". This oval should be positioned at the center of the tonehole (when viewed side-to-side). Check this in the mirror.
  • The lips and chin should feel stable, yet flexible.
  • Direct the airstream at the opposite edge of the tonehole. This is a stream of air pointed about 45% downward.
  • If you are not getting a tone, make slight adjustments to the position of the headjoint on your lower lip. You can also roll the headjoint in or out (gradually) to find where you get a tone that is the most full and centered.

Embouchure Exercises

These exercises will develop control and awareness of the embouchure muscles so that you will develop consistency of tone color over the range of the flute.
  • Hold your arm out, your hand facing you about 8 inches away, your fingertips at the height of your nose.
    Forming the syllable "peuw", direct a focused stream of air at your fingertips. Slowly move the airstream down your hand to your wrist. Then bring the airstream back up. Notice that the teeth slightly open and close as you do this.
  • With just the headjoint, begin by blowing down into the tonehole, then slightly close the teeth and shift the direction of the airstream so that it is shooting across the tonehole. Make sure you are not tilting your head; you are redirecting the air with just the embouchure. The aim here is to play the note an octave higher. Once you have succeeded with that, practice moving between the two notes, working to make a smooth transition between the octaves.
  • Practice long tones, starting in the middle range (B is a good starting note) and working from there into the low and upper ranges. Take an unhurried approach, finding your best sound on each note before you move on. Then match that tone quality on the next pitch.
       All method books include longtone work and this is an area where you will continue to work, always seeking to be able to produce a richer, more beautiful sound. Marcel Moyse's De La Sonorite is devoted entirely to exploration of tone production and consistency of sound over the range of the flute.

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©2014 Brad Johnson
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