What do I really Sound like?

Janet Bordeaux is a Flutist & Composer and she has been kind enough to share with us the following story!

“I had an amazing opportunity to go to a master class with Trevor Wye when I was a new flutist. One story he told really struck me: the person playing does not hear the same sound as the listener in the hall. He recounted doing an experiment where he had one person play, another stand next to the player, and one at the back of the room. After the flutist played, he asked him what he heard in the tone, answer: “breathiness and popping.” Next he asked the person stand beside the player; Answer “same thing, I could hear air sounds as well as the tone.” Now the person at the back of the room responds; “I didn’t hear any air sounds or popping…just pretty tones!”

Mr. Wye had done this experiment many times always with the same result. His conclusion: “The performer on the flute is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to tone, because of the nature of how the instrument is played. We blow much of our air over the flute and away from us, so the sound moves away from our ears, but toward the ears of our listeners. So we can never truly hear ourselves as others do!”

So my suggestion is to give your students every opportunity to hear themselves from across the room: invest in as good a quality digital recorder and place it at least 5 feet away (if possible) and let them hear what you hear. I personally have a distaste for hearing myself on a recording, but every time I do, it teaches me valuable lessons. And I must say, 8 years after that master class, I am still grateful to Mr Wye for the insight!

One other bit: I ran across a YouTube video of a man recounting a story about Louie Armstrong: “Always play for someone you love” – that video has changed my performance in amazing ways.” View that video here


All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates

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Aperture closes down in the upper register

his question was received from a flute teacher – please post your responses/suggestions as comments below.

“I have a young student whose aperture closes down in the upper register. Would the straw exercise or the button/string trick be beneficial to reinforce an opening?” Stephanie (January 14, 2014)


All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates

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Tear drop upper lip

Often students will present with a tear drop upper lip.  In most cases where a pronounced tear drop is present it results in the traditional placement of the flute in the centre of the lip as ineffective as it obstructs the air stream.  This results in it becoming virtually impossible for the student to produce a good sound with a perfectly centred embouchure.

For students with a tear drop to produce a wonderful sound they will most likely need to use an off centre embouchure and this is absolutely fine.  The main thing to be aware of is that the focus should be on finding what works best for the individual student.  Be flexible and work with the realities of the situation.

Experiment with the student and move the placement of the flute to be slightly to the left or right of centre. Use long tones (Sonorite is great for this) and ask them to move the position of the flute on the lip slightly to find where is best for them.  With perseverance most will find a comfortable position which involves the air stream passing beside the tear drop and thus removing the obstruction and enabling a better quality of sound production.

Many many famous flute players play off to one side or the other. Larry Krantz has a great page illustrating the wide variation in embouchure of “…highly accomplished musicians with better than professionally average tones…” – visit the page here

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Braces are impacting sound quality

Braces are almost a right of passage for many students these days and as teachers we have all faced this dilemma at one time or another and new teachers are guaranteed to come across it sooner or later.

If your student’s new braces are impacting their sound, try having you student place the flute slightly higher or lower on their lip – their lip now has to sit over the top of the braces and this extra bulk in their mouth will probably effect where and how they blow.  Do keep in mind that they are likely to be very tender around their mouth after getting braces and also when their braces are tightened at various stages by their orthodontist.  This will effect their ability to practice for long periods.  Consider working with their head joint, playing short but favourite pieces and tone exercises and work on other areas to help them maintain interest and motivation while they find their new ‘sweet spot’.

Encouragement is key!  Be patient.  With perseverance a good sound will come (or return) – many many great flute players had braces in their younger years and are none the worse off for them!



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