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I recently acquired a concert flute and started to play with it, getting used to the embouchure and properly making a sound. I reached a certain stopping point when trying to learn all by myself, though. I can make all the notes from the first octave sound properly, with a couple of tries, except the the ones ranging from D -> C# -> C. I blow the flute but the sound is fickle, and very, very quiet, I can hardly "spot" it over the sound of me blowing across the little flute hole. Am I missing something when related to embouchure? Should it change to properly address the lower notes on the instrument? Maybe I need to direct the flow or the speed of the air differently?

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1 Answer

A "real" flute player might have better insights, but you are certainly not alone in having difficulties with the lower notes. A few things to check:

  1. Ensure that the pads are not leaking somewhere. There are a variety of ways to check, but depending where you got the instrument and its overall condition, leaks are likely unless you have had the instrument maintained. The cumulative effects of leaks are greater as you go lower, especially down to D and below.
  2. Generally speaking, as you go lower, you should feel like you are blowing more "down into" the hole, and as you ascend higher, you should feel like you are blowing more across the hole. In fact, when you are attempting to make octave jumps happen when the fingerings are identical, changing the direction of the air by moving the jaw forward (for the higher octave) or backward (for the lower octave) is a well-accepted way to produce the desired octave accurately. So, for the lowest notes, you may want to feel like your jaw is drawn a little more backward, even though the fingerings for the higher octave would (normally) differ from the fingerings you are using.
  3. Low notes seem to require more air than higher notes. This is probably because you need to let more air through the aperture for lower notes than for higher notes. So, if you feel like the aperture (lip opening) is larger for the lower notes, that is probably normal.
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I noticed those little things, in fact I was able to make some sounds belonging to another octave more easily than trying to make the lower ones sound. I read quite a number of things online about the jaw position, the sounding across the hole, sending the flux "downward" and etc, but it seems that I haven't perfected it yet. Thank you for your answer, it helped me to clarify some of the hunches I had for the technique, like the jaw placing and the air direction. –  vinir Jan 8 '12 at 16:24
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