I encourage my student’s to “open” their throats. Is there a better way to acquire the same results?
Yes. Get an anatomy chart of the cross section of the neck so they will know some basic anatomy. It is better to say “separate” your vocal folds because that is what we do.
What about the word “support?”
The word “support” was used before musicians were educated about anatomy. I think it is better to talk about “air speed.” Let the body do what it does naturally the best: breathe.
In my methods class, I was taught to tongue on the roof of my mouth or behind my teeth where the gums meet the teeth. Now I hear professional flutists talking about the “French tonguing.” What is “French Tonguing?”
While the title is not exactly correct, European flutists have been tonguing on the top lip for a long time. One of the first references to this forward tonguing was in the Soussmann COMPLETE METHOD published in 1848. To teach this method of tonguing, have the student start the note with the tongue out as if sticking his tongue out. Tongue several notes like this to get the horizontal tonguing motion flowing. Then keep the motion going, only placing the tongue on the top lip. Remember the tongue releases the air.
What about vibrato? How do you teach it?
Using the headjoint at first, have the student play three staccato “hah, hah, hah rest” patterns on the headjoint. Repeat several times. Be sure that the “hahs” are staccato/detached from one another. Then have the flutist play one set of “hah, hah, hah rest” staccato and then one slurred. Now you have a vibrato. The next step is to practice counted vibrato on simple songs. A beginning book is an excellent tone/vibrato book. Place 2, 3 or 4 vibrato on each quarter note in simple meter.
What about the left hand thumb?
The left hand thumb should be straight and pointed to the ceiling when playing. The bottom of the key will be very close to the crease in the first knuckle of the thumb.
My flute sound is airy. What should I do?
The sound is airy because the air stream is not hitting the wall of the embouchure hole in the correct place. Most of the time, the air stream is hitting too high. Without rolling the flute in, have the student blow toward his left toe. Check to be sure that the aperture (hole in the lips) and the embouchure hole are aligned.
Several of my flute students have a tear drop shaped upper lip. What should I teach them about embouchure?
Some of the best players in the history of flute performance have had a tear drop shaped upper lip. It is impossible for them to play in the center of their lips. The best solution is to develop the aperture on the flutist’s left. This will allow for the right shoulder to come forward so that the flutist can find the sweet spot of the tone. If you select the right side aperture, the left shoulder must be held in a back position which will eventually cause pain in the player. So, left is better than right.