I can play from C4 up to about half way through the second octave - the highest note I can (reliably) play would be around the G5. I cannot play C6, even when blowing as hard as I can.

I'm told being able to play the top notes is fairly advanced but I have no frame of reference.

Can anyone offer an answer how a flautist's range should correlate to experience?

  • 1
    Sounds like you don't have a teacher. Get One Now! Otherwise you'll almost certainly come up with an incorrect approach to producing all the notes. <-- in fact, it appears you already have. Jan 5, 2015 at 14:37
  • I do have a teacher. I haven't mentioned my technique except for C6 but we haven't covered the 3rd octave yet except in one lesson where I had a go and couldn't do it! But I'm not sure if even getting into the 3rd octave is a more intermediate-level skill.
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 5, 2015 at 14:50
  • 1
    The best thing to do would be to bring it up. Ask how you should approach the high notes. Jun 26, 2015 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


To play from C6 upwards, you don't need to "power" your way through it. Instead, think of a garden hose. The more you cover the end with your thumb, the faster the water comes out. To play that third octave comfortably, you'll need to use a very concise aperture and a lot of fast-moving, concentrated air.

Think about it like this:

The tone hole of the flute splits your air column. Because sound is the way it is, it will split your air column according to the harmonic series. This first division would be to a perfect octave. If your air speed is slow, the flute will physically be unable to split your air column into a higher octave. Faster air = higher frequency = split into the high octave.

Now, the third octave also has it's own special fingerings, so you'll want to make sure those are correct.

To echo others, I would also definitely approach the subject with your teacher to avoid developing improper technique.

  • I wonder if anyone has ever developed a transparent flute and used smoke (clever optics) to allow visualising the airflow/standing waves that you describe. It would be pretty fascinating if a real-life demonstration could be perfromed
    – Mr. Boy
    Aug 24, 2015 at 11:10
  • @Mr.Boy The best visualizations I've seen pretty much always incorporate strings. A string was how Pythagoras discovered the core elements of how sound acted - the harmonic series. Smoke and mirrors would indeed be difficult (and perhaps a bit disingenuous :) ) Aug 24, 2015 at 11:49

You should be sure to have a good breathing technique and play from the diaphragm. The muscles in that area, should remain hard for support, even when you are low on breath. You can do excises, when breathing normally (not playing). When you breathe out, think of pushing your diaphragm down. Your abs should be firm at that point. This combined with keeping your lip opening small will increase the air pressure and make high notes a lot easier to play.

It should be relatively easy to reach G6. C6 is a relatively easy note to play, you will definitely get it! Just thing about the diaphragm. These things take some time, but I'm thinking you should be able to play C6. I can't put a time frame on it, as it can be learned in seconds. It's not about blowing hard. It's about diaphragm.

Good luck! You will no doubt learn it fast.

  • 1
    "Play from the diaphragm" is a catch-all statement that too many people use for too many different reasons. You also know that you can't consciously control your diaphragm, right? Aug 22, 2015 at 14:06
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    You can control your diaphragm by tensing certain ab muscles. I tried to explain my experience with it (and what my teacher taught me) as well as possible. It's about having "support" in the belly. He used to make us lie on a table and breath in and out. On the out breath, a hand was place just above the belly button, slightly pushing down. He wanted us to learn that the hand should not go down, the abs should support it. It's a way of enforcing breathing from the diaphragm.
    – dorien
    Aug 23, 2015 at 22:02

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