Breathing. The most basic of human actions is the ability to breathe, and an understanding of the breathing process is fundamental to playing the flute. Remember to warm up daily with a few deep breaths to increase capacity and develop control over your air release.
Embouchure. Form the embouchure by saying the word “Pure” or “Pooh,” rolling the bottom lip out as if blowing a kiss and keeping corners firm for control of the air column. Avoid stretching the lips back against the teeth (like a smile) because this position produces a sharp, thin tone and limits flexibility between registers. Develop embouchure strength and flexibility with daily long tones, octave slurs and harmonic exercises.
Scales and Arpeggios. Begin each rehearsal with scales, rotating practice through all 12 major scales and arpeggios. Also include the chromatic scale from lowest to highest note (low C to high C). Play scale games with alternate articulations, for example, slur, single tongue, double tongue and in various combinations of slur/tongue.
Articulation. The challenge when articulating is to maintain consistent tone quality at all times, particularly in extremes of register or dynamic. Air speed/support is the key, and embouchure size should remain small in order to focus the tone when articulating. Use only the tip of the tongue with a very light stroke, and keep the tongue forward in the mouth to develop speed and endurance.
Technique. Development of technique is a combination of daily practice, good hand position and proper body usage, particularly of the upper body muscles in the back, chest, arms and hands. Tension in these larger muscle groups directly affects technical skill, and a few good stretches before rehearsal will prepare the body for success! Fingers should be curved and close to the keys for speed and accuracy.
Use these tips to focus on fundamentals, and remember that daily practice is the most important key to success!
About the Author
Mary Karen Clardy, professor of flute at the University of North Texas in Denton, appears as a soloist, chamber artist and teacher throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America. A renowned author, Mary’s current volumes include more than 10 books from European American Music, Leduc, Schott and Universal Edition. Her students are consistent prizewinners in international competitions and occupy prominent orchestral and faculty positions throughout the world. Visit www.mkclardy.com.