Flute Punch

“Help! Major flute intonation issues in my flute section!”

Posted on: August 16, 2012

There, there, Band Director. We flutists know that 99% of you are not flutists, and we forgive you for that, as long as you grovel appropriately. Following is a tidy summary of a Facebook convo some of us had recently that produced a number of helpful tips that actually did help the flute section in question (gasp!).

Question:

Major flute intonation issues in my flute section. Some have the head joint way out and are rolling out and are still sharp. Others have other issues. Help me help them. I wanted to be there for them, but I wasn’t sure where the reed went . . .

Answers:

  • Check the cork. Put the end of the cleaning rod into the headjoint. The little line needs to be fairly centered in the embouchure hole.
  • Check alignment. The embouchure hole should be roughly inline with the keys. Students sometimes place it rolled too far one direction to compensate for improper embouchure or poor hand position (particularly the RH thumb).
  • Young students usually tend to pull the corners of the embouchure to tight. Adjust air stream by having the student pull the tip of their nose down. Try pulling down a bit more in the midrange and letting the nose up in the higher and lower ranges.
  • Don’t let students roll headjoints in and out while playing.
  • For beginning students, try having them pretend they are blowing out a birthday candle. This helps them get a more relaxed embouchure and the type of air stream that is helpful.
  • Posture should be correct but also relaxed.
  • Make sure they are not overblowing to hear themselves, particularly in a marching/pep band situation – when you can’t hear yourself, you have to rely on feeling – what does it *feel* like to play in tune, with centered tone. Younger players don’t have that yet, especially if they don’t practice much.
  • Give them general guidelines, like ” line up your head joints” or “tip your head down just a bit” (can help prevent sharpness in upper register, but you don’t want a lot of movement) or “blow a little lighter.”
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