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I am a beginning flute player with a background in harmonica playing. For those unfamiliar, it is possible to play a diatonic harmonica chromatically by adjusting the shape of your mouth and throat. It's not at all easy, but it is masterable.

I am exploring the best way of controlling octave changes on the flute, and I find that I can do it purely by constricting or relaxing my throat in the right places, similarly to overblowing.

Is this a known technique on flute? I've seen many sources online promoting you to totally relax your throat to improve tone, but I haven't found anything yet discussing the possibility of using the throat for octave control.

I can't do it quickly, but it seems like it could have advantages over the other options.

  • Narrowing the windway the lips changes increases the airspeed, which helps the octave change (for reasons I don't understand), but it simultaneously affects timber and volume.
  • Blowing harder using the lungs increases volume and pitch.
  • Changing the angle you blow at also changes timber, and seems to also have a strong affect on pitch.

Tuning the throat doesn't affect airspeed (the flow rate from your lungs is the same, as is the airway between your lips), and doesn't seem to affect pitch as mutch as embouchure changes, though it seems like it should. I can't do it quickly, but it's a larger motion than with your lips, so it seems like it might be easier to control once mastered.

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  • Actually, narrowing your throat does affect the speed of the air, just as narrowing your lips does. There is probably some difference in tone, but because of the latency of the air in your mouth, I suspect that you are generally more in control with your lips than with your throat. Nov 12, 2021 at 15:16
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    @ScottWallace well, but the air would only be the same speed when is actually reaches the flute, wouldn't is? If the throat is narrow but the lips wide, it would slow down again there. (Unless you're able to breath out a supersonic flow, which would be impressive...) Nov 13, 2021 at 9:11
  • @leftaroundabout - It would depend on how the air passes through your mouth. Flutists don't usually puff their cheeks out much, so the passage is not all that big. This means that there would be some effect of the throat on the speed. It might be very little, though, and you might be right that it wouldn't materially affect the difference the lips make. Nov 13, 2021 at 16:01

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It's not usual and certainly not recommended for a beginner. And it's much more difficult than the standard method which works very well for all other flute players.

There are several techniques for expanding the tonal range of the flute but these are normally only attempted by players with a sound grasp of the basics of flute playing.
The very rare exception to this is perhaps Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull), who developed his own personal technique and sound. Only later in life did he discover that what he was doing was 'wrong'.

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