Issue: April - June 2009
Bandworld Magazine Page


Ten Things that Every Band Director Should Know About Flutes, (part 2) Concluded

Click here for part 1

by Phyllis Louke

Embouchure hole coverage

The lower lip should cover 1/4 to 1/3 of the embouchure hole to produce good tone.  Covering too much of the tone hole will lower pitch, while covering too little will raise pitch.  Students with flat muffled tone tend to cover too much of the tone hole, while students playing with sharp, bright, unfocused tone tend to cover too little of the tone hole.  Students should learn to keep the keys of the flute parallel to the floor in order to develop consistency in the set up of the embouchure and coverage of the tone hole. 

Airstream angle

Lowering the angle of the airstream will lower the pitch, while a higher airstream angle will raise it.  Students should understand that the angle of the air stream affects intonation as well as the octave of the note played.  The angle of the airstream is controlled by the lower lip:  when the lower lip is pushed forward, the airstream angle is higher.  In addition, the airstream angle and pitch can be flattened by slightly lowering the chin, and raised by lifting the chin slightly.  These two methods are preferable to rolling the flute in or out to lower or raise pitch, as there is less impact on the tone quality.


Good posture is essential to good intonation.  Bending or twisting at the waist can disrupt airflow causing notes to be flat.  In addition, students should learn to keep the chin level with eyes looking directly forward, since dropping the chin will lower pitch.  Students should understand how to determine the optimum height of their music stand for good posture.  Students should also be encouraged to sit near the front of their chair to eliminate the temptation of draping their right arm around the chair back.

Playing with good intonation

Once the students have adjusted their head cork position and have learned to set up and align their headjoint consistently, there are two factors that will help students develop consistently good intonation:  Keep the keys of the flute level (parallel to the floor), and always use a strong and fast airstream (birthday candle air).


There are several useful alternate fingerings for high register notes that will help bring the pitch down if these notes are sharp.  These fingerings are easy to remember, since they are only slightly different than the primary fingerings.

E3:  no right pinky
F3:  add right ring finger
F#3:  use middle right finger, instead of ring finger

Ab3:  add right middle and ring fingers (this also helps reduce the note’s resistance, and should be used as the primary fingering for those students playing piccolo)



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