Issue: January - March 2009
Bandworld Magazine Page


Ten Things that Every Band Director Should Know About Flutes, (part 1) continued
Click here for part 2

by Phyllis Louke

Students with Braces
Most students will figure out ways to adjust after getting braces, but for students having difficulty getting a sound, there is something simple that can be done to help.  Patricia George, flute pedagogue, recommends putting layers of masking tape on the part of the lip plate that rests against the chin.  The idea is to build up layers to compensate for the changed blowing angle caused by the hardware on the teeth.  Two layers of masking tape might help some students, while it may take up to six or more for other students. (See photo #1 below) After the number of layers is determined, the masking tape can be trimmed neatly with scissors to the shape of the lip plate.

Flute 1
Photo #1


Producing notes in the second octave is sometimes difficult for beginners.  Since most of the first and second octave notes have the same fingering, students must learn to change the angle of the air stream with their lower lip to produce the higher octave.  Have students start the high note with the syllable “pooh” (as in Winnie the Pooh).  This will probably cause some giggles, but that’s part of the fun, and the silliness of the syllable will help them remember how to start the high notes.  This syllable pushes the lower lip forward, raising the angle of the air stream to blow across the tone hole, rather than down into it.  Remind the students to use strong “birthday candle” air, which they should already be using on their low notes.


Arched fingers
Not all hands are the same shape and size, so it is important to teach a hand position that maintains the natural shape of the hand as much as possible.  Fingers of the right hand should be arched in a position natural to the shape of the hand rather than curved, so that the pads, rather than tips, of the fingers are on the keys. (See photo #2 below) This natural position will allow the students’ fingers to move more freely as they change from note to note.

Flute 1
Photo #2

The right thumb does not help hold up the flute
The right thumb does not need to be under the tube of the flute.  Yes, you read that correctly:  The right thumb does not help hold up the flute.  The right thumb serves as an anchor for the fingers and a point for balancing the flute.   Flutist and Oberlin Flute Professor Michel Debost describes this hand position as “pulling the book off the shelf” (with the book laying sideways). (See photo #3 below) Many students tend to play with the right thumb too far forward cramping their fingers and hindering their technical facility with fast notes.

Flute 1
Photo #3