For Band Directors – Starting Students on the Flute

Starting beginning band students on the flute is challenging. You’ve taken method courses on woodwinds, but how much do you remember about the smallest details of flute embouchure to help your students be successful in their first few tries of getting a sound out of the headjoint? This short article will detail key phrases and check points to help your students be as successful as possible when they are learning how to produce a sound on flute.

  1. Limit the number of instructions you give the student before they attempt to make their first sound. Giving more than three directions about embouchure shape, size, air speed, or air direction will overwhelm the student, often times leading to an unsuccessful first attempt at producing a sound. 
  2. Have the student practice creating a flute embouchure and producing air speed by using their right hand index finger BEFORE giving them a headjoint. Eliminating the headjoint when giving first instructions about flute embouchure will allow the students to focus more on what instructions you are giving instead of being enamored at the shininess! 
  3. When students try to produce an initial sound on the headjoint, often times their first attempts at air speed are too slow. Have students practice producing a fast enough air speed by demonstrating how fast of air is required to move a sheet of paper held in the air in front of them, or by using an analogy such as, “pretend you are blowing out 100 birthday candles on a cake on the opposite side of the room. How fast will your air need to be?” (this analogy should only be used to get the air moving quickly enough if a student’s air speed is dramatically slower than necessary.)
  4. Explain the importance of a relaxed (not loose) center of the embouchure while the sides of the lips are sealed. Please avoid using words such as, “kissing, puckered, or puffed” to describe the motion of the lips coming SLIGHTLY forward to form the flute embouchure. The insides of the lips should remain touching the teeth even when the flute embouchure is formed.
  5. The corners of the lips should remain firm – avoid using words such as “tight, pulled back, or smiling” to describe the corners of the lips. The placement of the corners of the lips in a natural resting position of the mouth is nearly identical to the placement of the corners of the lips for a flute embouchure. 
  6. The size of the aperture should not be discussed in great detail in the initial stages of sound production. Simply tell the students that it should be “about the size of a Capris Sun straw” and be in the center of the lips. This imagery should be enough to clarify the size, shape, and location of the aperture. 
  7. Take the time to set up each student’s headjoint on their lips individually while they are working to produce their first sound. This will pay off in the long-run, although it will take a significant more time initially. Be sure they can replicate the placement on their own (allow them to use a mirror) before moving on.