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Getting a Sound on the Flute

How to Blow Your First Note

By Mark Shepard

Excerpted and adapted from the book How to Love Your Flute, Shepard Publications, 1999

For more resources, visit Mark Shepard’s Flute Page at www.markshep.com/flute.

Copyright © 1980, 2001 Mark Shepard. Photos by Russell Redmond. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose as long as no text is altered or omitted.

Getting a sound on the flute is easy! Take just the head joint—the section you blow into. (If you have a one‑piece flute, just leave your fingers off the keys or holes.) Lay your lower lip over the edge of the mouth hole, and blow it like a pop bottle.

Did you get it? What’s that you say? You’ve never blown on a pop bottle? All right then, let’s go at it another way. Following is a description of the basic flute embouchure (pronounced “OM‑bush‑er”)—the way you hold your lips and mouth while playing. Looking in a mirror will help.

Embouchure viewed from above

Embouchure viewed from below

The mouth hole of the flute should be pointed directly upward, and your head should be held straight up. Lay your bottom lip loosely over the edge of the mouth hole—not pulled up, or curled under itself, or pressed down hard against the flute. It should cover about a quarter of the mouth hole.

Now, press your lips together at the corners and sides, leaving a roughly oval opening at the front of your mouth. Center this opening above the mouth hole—even if the opening isn’t in the exact center of your mouth. Point your lips diagonally downward and blow a solid stream of air directly at the opposite edge of the mouth hole. Don’t lift up your bottom lip as you blow!

(The instructions for a thick‑walled flute, such as from wood, are slightly different. These flutes require a more “muscular” embouchure in order to bring out their rich and powerful tone. You would press your bottom lip harder against the head joint—instead of relaxing it—and draw back the corners of your lips more tightly.)

If your blowing produces no sound, check your bottom lip to make sure you’re not unconsciously pulling it up. Rotate the flute to change the angle at which your breath hits the blowing edge. Also, trying varying the shape and pressure of your blowing, and how far your bottom lip extends over the hole. On any but a thick‑walled flute, make sure your bottom lip is relaxed—pressing it down will tire your lips very quickly.

It’s best to try for only brief periods and come back to it frequently. Dizziness and tingling feelings in your limbs are normal at this stage—use them as a signal to rest.

After you get the initial sound, keep the head joint handy and blow it at odd moments to help you gain consistency.

Book cover: How to Love Your Flute
Read the book!

How to Love Your Flute
A Guide to Flutes and Flute Playing
By Mark Shepard

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