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Improve your flute playing – Rely on your air speed

by | Aug 19, 2017 | Ory's Tips | 6 comments


Ory’s Flute Tips

Improve your flute playing – Rely on your air speed


It seems to be a universal phenomena, which I have encountered many times in the private masterclasses I teach in FLUTEinWIEN, in ‘traditional’ masterclasses I taught around the world or in schools where I teach/taught: Flutists tend to play with a too slow air speed.

The benefits and improvements that can be achieved only by learning how to play with quicker air speed are numerous:

  • Improve the focus and pureness of your tone

  • Keeping the same tone color throughout the whole phrase

  • Improve intonation issues

  • Avoid loosing your tone quality when playing staccato (read here how to improve your staccato tone quality)

  • Avoid tongue fatigue and articulation speed lose when playing long staccato phrases

  • Avoid applying too much lip pressure – and risking injuries when it’s done for long periods of time

  • Improve your air use efficiency – and play longer phrases with one breath


What can you do then about it?

💨Rely on your air – not on your lips


It’s important to understand, that most probably you will compensate for the lack of air speed with pressing your lips, in order to get a good sound or be able to play the higher octaves of the flute.
Since the air you are blowing from your lungs up the throat is not quick enough and doesn’t create enough pressure to get a good sound, you press your lips and by doing that you get a quicker air coming out of your mouth, hitting the wall of the headjoint’s embouchure hole.

The key here is to reverse the happenings: Use quicker air speed and allow your lips to be more open and less tensed.

A good way to experiment with various air speeds is to simply play 2 versions of the same note:

Increase AirSpeed Single Note

Version A – Play the note as you normally did. Observe and feel the lips pressure you are applying and how big is the embouchure hole you are creating with your lips.

Version B – Play the same note, but make on purpose the embouchure hole with your lips wider and make sure you keep your tone quality. You will notice immediately that in order to do so, you’ll have to blow quicker air. Your body will compensate for the reduced air pressure (as you open your lips wider the air pressure drops) and you will have to blow quicker air in order to get a nice tone.

I promise you that version B will sound much better and richer if you do learn how to balance your air with your lips pressure and aperture.

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📶 Increase your air speed gradually as you play higher

You should as well be able to adapt your air speed according to the notes you are playing.  The higher the note is – the quicker air speed it would require in order to sound well and avoid pressing your lips.

The next exercise is simple but effective. It contains only relatively small intervals. Consider each interval as a step for your air speed and increase it accordingly.

Increase Air Speed Arpeggio Exercise

The crescendo sign is meant here to show you the increase of air speed you need throughout the passage. You should have a nice full tone already from the first note (generous mezzo-forte).

Sometimes it’s difficult to start with a good, focused tone quality the low notes – but in fact that’s the key to make sure all the rest of the notes will sound well. Therefore, start with easier notes – an octave higher. Play down the chord with the best sound possible, take a breath and start the exercise with the exact same tone quality you had just a moment ago, when you played down the chord:

Increase Air Speed Arpeggio Exercise Down

Increase Air Speed Arpeggio Exercise

Make sure your tone color is exactly the same throughout the whole passage and doesn’t change while changing the notes. Each note should have exactly the same tone quality and dynamic.

Try to ‘force’ yourself to open your lips for the higher notes. See what do you have to do with your air in order to allow that to happen and still to keep a good tone quality.

I have created for you a FREE PDF with this exercises in different pitches, ready for printing and practicing. You can use play in this way any kind of chord you wish (major, minor, diminished etc).

Try it out and let me know how it feels.

Enjoy experimenting,

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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