Flute Punch

Great Tone: Part 3 of 3

Posted on: September 10, 2014

Tone is influenced primarily by three factors:

  1. Embouchure, particularly the lower lip
  2. Tongue placement
  3. Oral space/open throat

In my previous two posts, I discussed lower lip placement and formation, and tongue placement. This final post in series will cover oral space.

Have you ever sung in the shower? Have you ever played flute in a bathroom or other space with a lot of hard surfaces? At one time or another, most musicians enjoy performing in these spaces because they are resonant — the sound lingers a bit longer and sounds fuller.

Believe it or not, you can achieve a similar quality inside your head by having a relaxed, “open” throat. The easiest and simplest way to create this space is to image you’re riding in a car on a cold morning. The windows are foggy. What do you do? If you’re a kid at heart, you take your finger and write something in the fog. Several minutes later, the windows have cleared up. What do you do? You breathe hot air to fog it up again!

Try this exercise right where you are (no car necessary!). Hold your hand in front of your face, pretend it’s a window, and fog it up. (Or pretend you’re checking for bad breath!) Do it several times and feel the space in the back of your mouth at the top of your throat. Notice how the throat is relaxed. If you try to create a space that is too large, you will develop unhealthy throat tension.

If you tried my tips in the previous posts over the last couple of weeks, you’re now in a better position to apply this third technique. You should notice the sound become warmer, fuller, and more vibrant.

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4 Responses to "Great Tone: Part 3 of 3"

Hi Franji:

2 Pedagogy Books come to my mind after reading this:

Debost talks about the Hhaaaah sound in the throat via feeling cold air in the throat in his book The Simple Flute – available on Amazon. If anything sometimes his explanations are too simplistic but who can argue with his recordings???

Roger Mather ( I studied with him years ago) has this section in Volume 3 of the Art of Playing the Flute. He goes into MICROSCOPIC detail (he was an engineer/metallurgist who worked for NASA at one time). The vowel series chart seems VERY practical and the sections on tonguing VERY good.

That said if you keep an open mind and TRY various things without freaking out about the DETAIL, that will help.

Vol III
Posture, Fingers, Resonances, Tonguing, Vibrato

CHAPTER VI: Resonances in Your Throat, Sinuses and Mouth / 207
Lowering Your Adam’s Apple / 207
Flaring Your Nostrils / 208
Silent Singing / 208
The Vowel Series for Silent Singing / 210
Your Mouth as a Cavity Resonator / 212
The Rear of the Tongue / 214
The Middle and Tip of the Tongue / 216
The Jaw Opening / 217
The Cheeks / 217
The Soft Palate / 218

Robert Dick has a series of free youtube videos on “silent singing/while playing. Be aware again that one needs to try various things he suggests without making any judgements against oneself because he/she can’t achieve what Robert Dick demo’s……

A key factor for all of this is to try the various ideas available and adapt them for self/students.

Thanks for posting these teaching ideas using meaningful and hopefully (to the student) understandable concepts. That’s the vital issue and one that is probably neglected even among professional teachers/players.

Keep posting and keep asking questions!!

Tom Parker

Is the Debost book the Simple Flute? I did enjoy that one. I had an adult flute student once who was a nursing instructor and could readily relate to the anatomical descriptions of things – she would probably appreciate the “microscopic” details, for sure! Thanks for the recommendations!

I forgot to say that Roger Mather’s 3 paper-back book volumes are available via Jennifer Cluff at her website for $22.00. She gives rave reviews, but be aware it is microscopic and detailed.

Tom Parker

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