Understanding your flute embouchure hole
Ory’s Flute Tips
Understanding your flute embouchure hole
Achieving a full, beautiful sound with the flute requires a certain balance between many various variables such as your air pressure, air direction, use of your lips and oral cavity, posture and more. Part of this balance is determined as well by the way you use your embouchure hole (the hole of the headjoint where you blow the air into) and that will be the topic of today’s article.
The 2 important aspects you need to consider about your embouchure hole
I’m a big fan of experimenting during classes and during the practicing time and I believe every flutist needs to experiment with 2 variables that affect the embouchure hole:
- How much you cover the embouchure hole with your lips (or the lips position on the lip plate)
- The angle of the embouchure hole in relation to the lips (or how much rolled in or out your headjoint is)
You can do the next experiment easily at home and feel for yourself how does your sound change while doing it:
The first thing I’d like you to experiment with is the position of your lips on the lip plate of the the headjoint. Each one of us has the habit of placing the flute in a very specific place and I’d like you to find out maybe there’s a better position for you.
For this experiment all you have to do is blow air out, place your flute really quite high on your lower lip – It’s not going to sound well and won’t be very comfortable. Now slowly slide the flute right and left and lower slightly the flute while sliding to the sides. This should allow you to change the flute position on the lips in very small steps so you can hear the differences in sound and notice the new position every time.
Keep doing that and reach the point where the flute is simply too low already and you start losing your tone again. Then go back and slide the flute upwards till you reach a spot that you feel that your sound is rich and full. That should allow to find out where is the ideal position of your headjoint.
My recommendation: Your position should in fact leave your lower lip rather free, full and quite flashy, so avoid a position that will create pressure on the lower lip directly. That means that the flute should not sit on your lip, but actually slightly under it. That will allow your lower lip to be free and less tensed.
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After that, it’s time to experiment with the other variable – the angle of the headjoint in relation to your lips. This time, place the flute in the position you’ve found out in the previous experiment to work the best for you. Then roll the flute out much and blow air (sound will be very unfocused). Then slowly roll in the flute toward you – that will change the angle of the embouchure hole in relation to your lips. Keep rolling in and be very aware of the changes in tone and focus while rolling in. Don’t stop when you are happy with the sound – keep rolling in to discover where’s the spot, that from that moment you start losing your sound quality. Then roll back to the spot where your tone is the best.
Of course, your tone quality is still being affected by other variables and how open or closed your embouchure hole should be is inevitably depending on air pressure and lips use. For example, if you tend to play with the ‘smile embouchure‘, it is very likely that your flute will be turned in quite much – because your lips are pulled back. You compensate for that immediately by turning the flute in. If you don’t use enough air pressure, it is very likely that you’d cover the embouchure hole much more than needed, because by covering the hole you compensate for the lack of air – but in fact, you choke your sound.
Therefore, in order to be able to make these experiments in the best possible way, you’d have to make sure you use enough air pressure.
Enjoy practicing, keep healthy and let me know what you think in the comments.
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 – Intensive Masterclasses in Vienna