Develop Your Lips Flexibility
Ory’s Flute Tips
Develop your lips flexibility
Allowing flexibility in your lips while playing is an incredibly important part of your playing. Flexible lips allow you to fine tune many aspects of your playing: tone colors, intonation, smooth changes between notes and octaves, dynamics, playing Bell-notes and more.
In order to be able to play and have a nice, rich tone your lips need certain muscle pressure in order to focus the air you are blowing and direct it to the right spot in the embouchure hole of the headjoint.
What is then this ‘certain’ muscle pressure? This will depend firstly on the air speed/amount you are using. If you don’t use enough air or not blowing the air quick enough, you would have to compensate with more lip pressure in order to hit the right note.
Since the lip pressure changes according to the air, is there a way you can feel what should be the ideal pressure for your lips without blowing? I believe the next exercise can help recognizing what should be the wanted pressure you should apply on your lips:
✏ Ex. 1 – Your pencil is not only for writing anymore
For the next exercise I recommend to use a normal size/width pencil, better with hexagonal shape (6 sides).
Part 1: Recognize the minimum needed
The exercise is very simple: You have to be able to hold the pencil steadily in between the lips, when the 2 end-sides of the pencil face left and right. The pencil should be held in a forward position of the lips with just enough pressure to allow it to be steady and not risk falling.
Try to experiment with different pressures: increase the lips pressure and feel how more muscles around the center of lips join the effort; Decrease the pressure and figure out what is the minimum pressure you need to apply, in order that the pencil stays stable and doesn’t risk to fall.
Avoid the common mistake to put the pencil too much inside your lips. The pencil should not touch the corner of your mouth and rather have as less contact possible with the lips (contact should be with the middle of the lips, trying as less lip surface touching the pencil).
After you have understood the minimum pressure needed in order to hold the pencil, now it’s time to recognize how your lips could move forward and backwards, without excessive pressure from the muscles far away from your lips center and without losing pressure, that will make the pencil fall or become not stable.
Hold the pencil between your lips as in part 1 and slowly push the pencil forward, away from your head. Start the movement from the center of your lips, as if your inner lips center would push the pencil away from you. Bring your lips backwards and allow the pencil to go back to the beginning position.
General remark: Try while doing these exercises to gain awareness to you muscles, the pressure you apply on your lips and how does it feel, till the point you could reconstruct this feeling even without the pencil between the lips and then try to play the flute with this kind of lip pressure.
Keep reading for the next exercise…
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🎵 Ex. 2 – With the flute
When you are sure to have a good sense of feeling about the previous exercise, take your flute and play a long easy note, I would recommend a B2:
Try to figure out how much more/less air you need in order to allow your lips to have similar pressure as you had with the pencil and look for the most beautiful and rich tone you can play.
Now it’s time to add the forward/backwards movement of the lips, while playing. In order to do that, I suggest to play octaves, and make the changes between the registers with this movement.
Remark: I don’t think that one should control the changes between the register with the lips only, but this exercise is about learning how to allow the lips to move and release unwanted/unnecessary pressure from them.
Play the following:
You can choose of course any other note you wish, but I recommend to choose notes that are rather easy to play and easy to find a good tone, and that the octave note doesn’t require change of fingerings.
I have created for you a FREE printable PDF. Simply print and use it at home for yourself or your students.
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