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Improve your sound – Play with air in your cheeks

by | Jan 13, 2018 | Ory's Tips | 5 comments

Ory’s Flute Tips

Improve your sound – Play with air in your cheeks

 

We all wish and aim to have better, richer tone quality. Your teachers have probably given you many exercises already in order to work on and improve your tone, but have you been given as well technical instructions of what can really improve it? I believe that playing with air in your cheeks can make wonders to your tone quality.

What are the benefits of playing with air in the cheeks?

If you are able to play with air in your cheeks, you will:

  • reduce muscle tension at the corners of your lips and use rather the central muscles of the lips

  • gain more resonance, by making your cheeks as a resonance box

  • play with the right air pressure

  • get an immediate indication that your air pressure is correct

 
Here is an excerpt from the first movement of Prokofiev’s Sonata that can help you understand how you can benefit from playing with air in your cheeks:

 

👄 Reduce muscle tension at the corners of your lips

Playing with air in your cheeks is like a cure for playing with your corners of your lips stretched (like a smile). Have you ever tried to blow up a balloon and smile at the same time? I bet you haven’t. It is just unnatural to do and far less effective (if even possible at all).
Imagine you would have a balloon now and try to blow it up (or use a real balloon if you have). Can you feel what happens to your cheeks? They get filled up with air, as there is some pressure inside your mouth, because of the resistance of the balloon (or your lips if you do it without a balloon). Notice as well that you loose all tension in the corners of the lips while blowing this way.

Practice tip: Simply play a long first octave B or Bb and figure out what happens when you allow your cheeks to be filled up with air.

 

🔊 Gain more resonance

String instruments, as violin, cello and guitar, have their resonance box in order to gain more resonance to the sounds their produce. We flutists use our body in order to achieve the same effect. Allowing the cheeks to swallow and be filled up with air will make your resonance box bigger and your sound will benefit from that. You can easily compare your sound by playing the same note with or without air in your cheeks. I’m sure you’ll notice the difference.

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🗣 Play with the right air pressure

Your cheeks will not be able to swallow unless you play with a certain air pressure. Only when the pressure is relatively high, the air you blow will look for a way to get out of your mouth, but since it cannot, it will make your cheeks to swallow. Not only you’ll create a bigger resonance box, your air pressure will be higher and it will immediately improve your sound. That also leads to the last point:

✅ Get an immediate indication that your air pressure is correct

This is just logical, if your cheeks are swollen and filled up with air then it is more than likely that the air pressure you use has the minimal pressure that you need in order to get a good sound. It’s a clear sign for you that your pressure is high enough.

Try it out and let me know how it feels. If you have any question, you are very welcome to leave your comment and I will gladly answer.

Enjoy experimenting,
Ory

Ory Schneor is a principal flutist with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Tongyeong Festival Orchestra and member of the Geneva Camerata. He is teaching masterclasses around the world and he is the founder and instructor at FLUTEinWIEN

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