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I'm having a really hard time playing the lower notes on my flute. When they even come out, they sound really weak.

I can play high notes really well, so I usually adapt my sheet music to an octave higher.

Is there any advice you can offer?

  • Check that your flute isn't leaking around the joint. – user207421 Mar 5 '16 at 23:39
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+50

I'm going to assume that you've already checked your flute to see if it needs repairs. Here are a few tips I can give you to improve your output of low notes (I've been playing the flute for about 6 years, so I used to encounter these issues in the beginning too):

  1. Practice the lower notes:

If you are adapting your sheet music to an octave higher, then you're avoiding the issue, not fixing it. Lower notes can be tricky to hit, especially on the flute, so to get the rich tone you're looking for, practice makes perfect.

Try playing two octave scales that start above octave, and then work your way down. After you practice this, challenge yourself by starting lower, and then working your way up. This might be frustrating in the beginning, but actively addressing the issue is the key to fixing it.

Furthermore, try playing short pieces at slower tempos (without changing the octaves). It's better to start on easier pieces and then work your way to harder ones. This will let you concentrate more on your tone and clarity then on playing the piece correctly. When you come across a low note that you can't get out, stop there and hold out the note until it sounds clear and steady. As you practice, you should find that you will need to hold out the tricky notes less to get a clear sound (this is a sign of improvement).

  1. Practice your tone:

Try to hit lower notes and hold them for a few beats. Play with the tone until you hit richer notes. Try to do this on a full breath, and play the note until you just run out of breath. Try to maintain a steady tone during this process. If you try this technique on the lowest notes you can play (if you have a B-foot on your flute, this could be especially challenging in the beginning), then working your way up will make other low notes easier to hit. You can also try this exercises out on scales, or as mentioned above, on short pieces of music.

  1. Embouchure:

I think that embouchure can be a big issue for many flute players. When playing lower notes, you should be dropping the corners of your mouth more, and your mouth should have an ovular shape. Remember, for lower notes, the breath has to be directed steeply downwards, so your embouchure has to accommodate this need. You can practice this by holding high notes for a few beats, and then holding a low note for the same amount of beats (this is easier if you have a metronome). Switch between the high and low notes. Keep practicing this until you are used to the change in embouchure, and then try this out on two octave scales, and work way your way to longer pieces of music. Remember, in the beginning this could be frustrating, but mastering these simple techniques is the key to better playing.

  1. Keep the flute closer to your mouth:

I used to have a lot of trouble with lower notes, but a few years ago, my music instructor informed me that lower notes are easier to play if you bring the flute slightly closer to your mouth, and remember the above information about embouchure. I found that after trying this technique, my low notes became much richer. Give this a try, and play with the tone. Try to play steady, rich notes.

Good luck on your flute playing, and remember to practice. That's the best way to ensure that your low notes will develop richer, clearer sound.

  • 2
    I once heard that, when playing lower notes on the flute, you should hold your embouchure as if you had water in your mouth and you were relaxing your jaw/lips so that the water would seep out of your mouth and down your chin. – SirPython Oct 22 '15 at 0:20
  • I've heard that before too, actually. I think that flute students psych themselves out over lower notes when really, it should come naturally after some practice. Rich, low notes on the flute are so beautiful (in my opinion, at least). After developing a good tone on low notes, I would suggest that students play with their vibratos on low notes. That is definitely a challenging exercise, but it's so rewarding in the end. – JVas Oct 22 '15 at 14:41
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How low are we talking? Flute gets naturally weaker at the bottom, so this is pretty typical. You need to blow the air lower and more gently. Think "wide air stream".

  • I'm having trouble around middle C. :S – Melanie Shebel Mar 31 '15 at 3:03
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I play the flute too, so I DEFINITELY can relate to what you mean by how hard it is to play those low notes.

I still have trouble playing low notes, like the low C, but there are a couple simple tips I use when playing them.

1) Tilt the flute, preferably closer to you as you play each low note.

For me, it helps if I slightly tilt the flute closer to me. I'm not a professional, so I don't really know why, but for some reason, it definitely helps me as a flutist.

2) Close your eyes while practicing.

An odd tip, I know, but it does help. Playing low notes, in my opinion, is much harder than playing high notes because of how focused you have to be. You have to blow extremely carefully, not overblowing, but blowing enough that the note plays. When closing your eyes, you can easily concentrate on the note you're playing, blocking any distractions you could have. What helps me and could probably help you is pretending you're in a dark cave while closing your eyes...just a suggestion.

And 3) Take a LONG breath before playing the note.

When playing a low note, the note doesn't come out perfect at first. It gradually begins to be heard, not right away. Therefore, you might want to take a deep breath so you have enough air to sustain the note for as long as it has to be until you can hear it. I would say the lower the note, the more air you should breathe in before blowing out.

Hope this helped! Again, I'm not a professional, but I'm just adding my own feedback and suggestions from personal experience of playing the flute myself.

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This fall I was playing a piece with a very large flute range. It would be up in the higher octave and then drop down lower very suddenly. My flute teacher told me to do this: when you get home each day, set your flute out and between whatever you are doing walk over and play your lower notes. The goal is to be able to play them consistently and with good tone quality. I played my low notes all the time, even when I was in the middle of practicing a piece I would quickly stop and just drop down and pay low notes. Honestly, it paid off a lot, low notes are no longer an issue for me and I can play them with a rich, gorgeous sound.

My advice to you is the following things. Firstly, try to loosen your embouchure. Often times as flute players, we get in the mindset of higher notes and think our embouchure should still be tight for the lower notes. This is not true at all, lower notes should be played with a more relaxed embouchure, while still being precise. My second suggestion is to take the advice that I stated in the first section. The method of playing low notes regularly and at random moments helped to mature my sound. My third suggestion is to avoid bringing your music an octave up. Rather than adapting to only your strengths, you should apply to both your strengths and your weaknesses in order to improve both. By letting one favor the other, your strengths can become weaknesses, or your weaknesses can become weaker. By keeping the low notes in your music, you are allowing you lower sound to mature and improve. Even the smallest amount of added practice can make you a better flutist.

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Finger the low note you want to play, but leave the left hand ring finger up until you are ready to tongue the note. As you tongue the note, slap the left hand ring finger down, and the note will pop out instantly with a clear attack.

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