So i have been playing the flute for 5 years and a couple months ago, I purchased an intermediate level yamaha flute. I practice every single day for a minimum of an hour and i try to do long tones as often as possible. However my flute tone doesnt seem to be improving. It is very frustrating especially considering how much time i put for practicing. My tone for notes above third octave D become VERY airy. As i said, i am not a beginner however i have tried almost everything to fix my tone but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions?

  • 4
    Do you have a teacher?
    – user48353
    Mar 27, 2019 at 18:56
  • What specifically are you practicing related to improving your tone? Just because you are practicing doesn't mean you will improve in all areas, just the ones that are being practiced.
    – b3ko
    Mar 27, 2019 at 19:39
  • I used to have a teacher up until a few months ago but the only advice she gave me about this issue was to play with more air with isn’t helpful when trying to play third octave notes at pianisimo.
    – Natalie
    Mar 27, 2019 at 20:58
  • 2
    Look for a different teacher; sometimes one simply does not resonate with the style of a teacher to make sure, you don't exercise the wrong things. An airy sound could indicate, that embouchure needs to be tweaked. While 5 years are considerable, they are not yet a guarantee for master level when starting as normal human.
    – guidot
    Mar 27, 2019 at 21:09
  • 1
    Model of flute? Amount paid? Mar 28, 2019 at 8:10

3 Answers 3


A standard rule that your teacher should have told you is

"Practice does not make perfect. Good practice makes perfect."

It may well be that your embouchure is not quite correct, and a teacher should be watching that -- and you might try playing in front of a mirror to observe any failing of position.

One thing to try: play the lower registers and verify that you have a clean attack and a full "non-airy/breathy" tone. Then play a couple notes higher. Don't play any higher than that until those notes are clean. This way you will slowly build both ability and confidence in your playing. Reaching the top octave &1/2 or so on the flute is not easy, so patience is necessary.

  • A better way of saying this is, "Practice makes permanent", meaning whatever/however you practice becomes the normal for you.
    – John Doe
    Mar 28, 2019 at 17:43
  • 1
    @JohnDoe well said. Mar 28, 2019 at 19:09

As someone that worked in a band instrument repair and sales shop for eight years, I wanted to append my answer to Carl's, which is very good from a technical standpoint.

From an equipment standpoint, there are a number of things to look at.

Used or new? How old is the flute? Is it "brand new" (as in the flute could theoretically be five years old but never taken out of the box)? If it's used, when was the last time it saw the inside of a NAPBIRT-Certified band instrument repair technician?

The biggest influence on how you sound is you: lung capacity, sinus cavity shape and size, mouth shape, etc. You and I could play the exact same setup and get completely different sounds. Therefore, even if the flute is brand new, just because it's a Yamaha (which, admittedly, is a good brand, assuming it's not super old) doesn't mean that it's a good fit for you.

Before you purchased this flute, how many other flutes did you try? If you're thinking about purchasing any sort of musical equipment, you should be trying as many different varieties of that equipment as you can find.

And don't immediately disregard an instrument because it's "student-level" or a brand you've never heard of. Obviously, there are what I would refer to as ISOs: instrument-shaped objects. The really obvious ones are the ones where they take a well-known brand name and change one letter. Before purchasing any piece of equipment, consult a trusted NAPBIRT-Certified band instrument repair technician.

As for other brands you may want to try, here's a list:

  • Yamaha (within the last 20 years)
  • Jupiter (within the last 20 years) (yes, they make non-student-level instruments)
  • Gemeinhardt
  • Azumi
  • Armstrong
  • Powell
  • Amadeus
  • Pearl
  • Trevor James

I want to make special mention of a brand that we sold in our store: Di Zhao. Don't be put off by the fact that it's a Chinese instrument. The price-to-sound-quality ratio of these flutes is, in my opinion, unmatched by any other flute brand. In other words, there are better-sounding flutes, and there are less-expensive flutes, but you're not going to find a better-sounding flute at the prices that you'll find Di Zhao.


I would be surprised if the problem was your flute. Leaking pads, the most common issue, will kill your low register but often don't affect the high register as much. (Check that the headjoint cork is in the right place though.)

Carl's answer is good; I have some details I'd like to add:

In general, a high register that sounds bad is probably due to too much tension in your embouchure and airway. It's pretty natural to tighten up and close your throat when reaching for those high notes, but that doesn't help and will make for a shrill, breathy, unpleasant sound.

Practicing harmonics can help. An exercise I learned recently, that has really helped my high register become more open and pure, goes something like this:

  • Play a long tone on low D. Try to get the note sounding as full and resonant as possible, which means you'll create lots of space inside your mouth and throat.

  • Now, WITHOUT MOVING OR CHANGING ANYTHING, not your fingers or your embouchure, try to play up the octave to middle D. It's possible - the trick is to just slightly increase the pressure of your airstream. Engage those core muscles and use your diaphragm!

  • Once your harmonic middle D is secure, try for the A above that, then the 3rd octave D.

  • If you need to "cheat", use your lower lip to do so. Everything else stays put. The point is to practice maintaining that space inside your mouth and throat.

  • Try other notes for your fundamental, and practice them the same way - slowly work your way up the harmonic series, as far as you can go without tensing or forcing anything.

Hopefully that will help, but a good teacher will be able to offer you more specific and personalized advice, seek one out if you can.

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