In the previous two posts I wrote about the common problem of over covering the embouchure hole that detracts from producing a great sound. The correlation of the right hand thumb position on the flute and the coverage of the embouchure hole is often overlooked by flautists.
I encourage the three point balance to hold the flute; under the bottom lip, between the second and third knuckle on the left hand pointer finger and the right hand thumb. (Have a look at my article Flashy Fingers under Articles on this site for a more detailed explanation of this) The job of the right hand thumb is to move the flute in a forward, slightly upwards position producing a gentle counter-resistance against the left hand. Instead, many players place the right hand thumb under the flute and use it to lift the instrument. The problem with doing this is apart from jamming up your fingers (see the afore mentioned article) it causes the flute to roll inwards and hence causes over covering of the embouchure hole. You then end up with all the sound problems discussed in the previous post. So try to remember that your hand positions are not only related to your figure technique but can also have a big impact on your tone quality.
Following up on my previous post, the first reason that can cause flautists to cover too much of the embouchure hole is compensating for a lack of air. Instead of focussing on a good consistent airstream that is pliable and appropriate for what is being played, the flautist rolls the flute inwards, overworking the lips, attempting to produce a better sound. The higher up the flute they play the more the flute gets rolled in and the tighter the lips become. This produces a thin tone lacking projection as it reduces the harmonics present in the sound. Intonation becomes very unstable and has a tendency to become very sharp as you ascend through the registers. Additionally an over covered embouchure hole limits the dynamics that are possible; especially at the forte end of the range. So the thing I often tell my students is more air, less face.
When you listen to a flute player what is the one that you want to hear the most? For me it is a great sound. Yes, lots of fast notes are fun but it is the tone quality that makes the biggest impression on me.
One of the biggest detractors from producing a stunning sound is over covering of the embouchure hole. Many flautists allow the flute to roll too far inwards and cover too much of the embouchure hole which in turn produces a small sound lacking in projection. I’ve noticed in my teaching there are two main reasons why players over cover the sound hole. In the following two posts I’ll be looking at each of these problems.
Another effective method of adjusting pitch is to move the flute slightly up and down on your bottom lip. You can do this by pivoting the flute, where it rests on your left hand index finger, by using your right hand thumb; very much like a see-saw. If you apply some effort through your right hand thumb you can pivot the flute downwards on your bottom lip. This allows the bottom lip to come out a little more and as we’ve seen in previous posts, this will lower the pitch. By relaxing the pressure of your right hand thumb the flute can ride up your bottom lip allowing less lip to cover the tone hole; this will raise the pitch slightly.
The previous posts have been about developing a good basic embouchure on the flute. This article is about how to get from the low register to the second register successfully.
Changing from low to high
The previous 10 blogs have given some tips for developing a good basic embouchure. This is by no means an exhaustive list and do whatever it takes to make a great sound on the flute. (Whatever a great sound means to you!)
Here is a pdf. of the 10 Tips which you may wish to download and use in your own playing or teaching. All I ask is that you encourage people to visit my site and perhaps even sign up to the blog.
10 Tips For A Good Basic Embouchure
If the aperture in your lips is not centre, so slightly off to one side, that’s fine just make sure the flute embouchure hole is lined up in front of where the air leaves your lips.
Avoid pulling back the corners of the mouth. If anything they have a forward energy.
When viewed straight on in a mirror, the aperture in the lips won’t be seen, as the top lip is coming forward and slightly down.
The aperture in the lips shouldn’t be wider than the embouchure hole on the flute.