Flute-Playing Tips for Beginners
October 9th, 2019 by Catherine Marqueses
I played the flute for many years. Despite having once been rated the second-best flutist in the state of Kentucky, a twenty-plus years break from playing drove me back to a beginner’s level. Learning to play again made me feel like a newbie! After reminding myself that every career flutist began knowing nothing about coaxing music from their instrument, I brushed off my pride and relearned some basics every beginner must master.
Acquire a Flute.
You can’t make music without an instrument. Beginners can go far with a basic flute that simply works. After considering your budget, you can obtain a suitable flute from several venues.
- Music stores offer many great flutes for beginners and professionals. Some also offer used and rental flutes.
- Search auction sites for flutes. Always check vendor ratings before making a purchase.
- Some big box stores often student flutes at good prices.
If possible, ask an experienced flutist to test drive your potential instrument choices.
Assemble Your instrument.
I’ve seen even professional flutists handle their instruments in ways that make me cringe. Your flute is a finely-tuned machine. Assembling your instrument properly can help extend its playing life.
Every flute consists of three main pieces:
- The head joint is the piece that contains the mouthpiece.
- The main tube is the longest portion. Most of the playing keys are located on this piece.
- The foot joint is the smallest portion.
When assembling your flute, attach the pieces without touching the keys. Insert the foot joint onto the main tube, then insert the head piece. Your flute’s ready to play.
Master the Basics.
Remember that old adage, you have to walk before you can run? Flute playing is the same. Your daily practice sessions should include scales, arpeggios, octave changes and tonguing drills. These exercises might seem boring, but they’ll give you the skills you need to coax beautiful music from your flute.
Setting aside daily practice time is a time-tested means to ensure progress. Pick a quiet place with good acoustics. One of my favorite places to practice is in the bathroom.
Develop breath support.
Woodwind instruments like the flute make sound as breath is pushed through the playing tube. This requires strong lungs and controlled breathing. Aerobic exercises are great for increasing lung capacity. For better breath control, try singing in the shower. The longer you can sustain notes, the better your breath control.
Practice a New Piece Every Week or Two.
We learn to play instruments so we can make music. Scales and arpeggios are necessary practice, but there’s nothing better than playing actual music. Many music stores offer beginner’s music books with easy-to-master selections.
Stretch your abilities.
Nobody ever learned to play the flute well unless they first played it terribly. Pick an occasional music piece outside of your current skill level. Dog the notes measure-by-measure, then work on making the piece sound beautiful. Over time you’ll have gained valuable skills. Your technique and your confidence will soar.
Consider Taking Flute Lessons.
There’s nothing wrong with teaching yourself the basics. Plenty of beginning-flute tips are available online. At some point, your skills will flatline, and you’ll feel frustrated by your lack of progress. Taking even a few lessons or can help move you forward.
Music is meant to be heard. As you progress, you’ll likely want to share your talent with an audience. Venues such as churches, community bands and recreation centers often offer low-stress venues for first-time performances.
As your skills and confidence grow, you might enjoy auditioning for a local orchestra or show band.
Clean Your Flute After Every Playing Session
Playing any instrument stresses its parts. Breath contains moisture and skin contains acidic oils that can tarnish your flute’s finish. Over time, both can cause damage. Your flute needs cleaning after each use.
Most flutes come with cleaning rods. If your flute came without one, they’re available at most music stores. Cleaning rods look much like enormous needles. Thread a chamois or gauze through the rod’s eye in the same manner you’d thread a needle. Then push the cloth through each piece of your flute. Finish by wiping down your flute’s exterior to remove body oils, then store it in its case.
Give Your Flute Regular Checkups!
Like your car, your flute needs routine maintenance. Schedule at last annual maintenance from a qualified musical instrument repair technician. If you play your instrument more than a couple of hours a day, or your skin type’s acidic, your flute could require more frequent maintenance sessions.
Learning to play the flute isn’t easy, but following these tips can bring you many years of playing pleasure.