Tone!  We all strive to improve our tone. But what can we do? I used to think that I had a good tone. But then I really learned what tone was all about. It was then that I realized that what I thought was a good tone was well, wrong. There are a number of techniques that you can use in your practice time to improve your tone. So I’m going to talk about this for a few days. I’m all about being succinct and practical. But tone isn’t something that is going to come in just a few days. It’s a lifelong project. A good tone begins in the lips – or, in other words, in the embouchure. When I work with beginner students of any age – from youngster through adult – they all begin the same way. Make a natural embouchure. What does that mean? DON’T PULL THE CORNERS IN ANY WAY! Don’t pull them down don’t pull them back just leave them alone. I like to begin my students with a finger flute. No that isn’t some newfangled flute. It’s putting your finger to your lips, as if your finger is the headjoint. From there, just open up, with the upper lip slightly over the bottom lip. I’ve had so many students – of all ages, including my college students – with such a tight embouchure that that they can produce only a tiny sound. This usually develops for 2 reasons.

First, it developed as a mechanism to not use so much air when producing a sound.  In other words in order to not feel faint when playing the embouchure became very small and tight to hold in the air.

The second: to play softly. Band directors often tell the flutes in ensembles to play softer. If they don’t have the proper instructional information at their disposal, the flutes comply by tightening up their embouchure until they produce a tiny sound that doesn’t overpower the rest of the band. Okay so the next step is to practice putting the flute up to your lip keeping it natural. Can you make an embouchure without changing the normal shape of your lips? Of course, you need to do something more as you have to open up but the question to ask yourself is “how little can I change and still make a sound”?

 If you have been playing with a tight embouchure then this will feel quite odd and you will feel that you don’t have any control over the embouchure. But you do. It will feel normal over time.  Beginners can develop this embouchure quite easily.  With my older students who already have an embouchure but need to change it, i give them an easy exercise to work with this embouchure.

I call it the C chromatic exercise.  the exercise itself is to begin with our middle C (or C5 if you are theorist).  From there you descend chromatically always returning to middle C after every note. It looks like this:

C B C Bb C A C Ab C G C Gb C F  etc….. Now you will tongue each not very short and pull the tone whole away from your lip after every note so that you will not be able to adjust your embouchure to the old way.   At first your tone may be hideous!  You will be thinking, 

“I like it better the old way, thank-you very much”

But hold on.  What you like about is that you have learned to play with a tiny embouchure that only lets out a tiny stream of air.  It that is the case with you, then when you begin changing your embouchure you will feel like it sounds terrible.  Just stick with it.  You will reap the benefits.

Just go with it. Try it out!

Practice and let me know if you are having any problems. I will be happy to help you. Part 2 on tone up next! Happy Fluting! Dr. Flute