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How to Love Your Flute

A Guide to Flutes and Flute Playing


How to Play the Flute, Choose One, and Care for It, Plus Flute History, Flute Science, Folk Flutes, and More

Book cover

By Mark Shepard

Preface by Paul Horn
Illustrated by Anne Subercaseaux

Here’s a complete guide for anyone who plays the flute or ever wanted to. Use it along with flute lessons or even to teach yourself! This book covers everything you need and more—selection and care, flute technique, fingering, playing by ear, reading music, flute history, flutes around the world, and modern folk flutes. How to Love Your Flute will appeal to all flutists, from beginning to advanced.

Mark Shepard is the author of How to Love Your Flute, hailed by Paul Horn as “a model for our times,” as well as the craft guide Simple Flutes. He has played flute professionally in a folk music trio, as a modern dance accompanist, and as a solo theater musician.

Shepard Publications

Paperback ~ 1999

Panjandrum Books

Paperback ~ 1980

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Reviews and Comments

“Shepard has come up with the most unique flute manual I have ever seen. It is direct, complete, informative on every aspect, and—most important—comes from the standpoint of pure love and respect for the instrument. . . . [This] book serves as a model for our times, and it is an inspiration for those who want to get more out of life through the joys of flute playing.”—Paul Horn, from the Preface

“Shepard’s soul-felt passion for the flute resonates through his book like music. It’s a comprehensive guide with something for everyone, from novice to professional, and so well written that it’s a pleasure just to browse through it. This book inspires.”—Diana Barich, in The Next Whole Earth Catalog

“Comprehensive and concise. . . . A highly readable and inspirational guide for flutists of every age and ability.”—Jeanne Baxtresser, first flute, Toronto Symphony Orchestra

“This book is guaranteed to have one of three influences on readers. For those who currently play, it’s an affirmation to continue playing. For those who haven’t picked up their flute in a while, it’s encouragement to resume playing. As for those who’ve never played, Shepard provides a good compass for beginning your own musical journey.”—Linda Dailey Paulson, Dirty Linen, Oct./Nov. 2000

“Highly recommended.”—Midwest Book Review’s The Bookwatch and Internet Bookwatch, Aug. 2002


Preface, by Paul Horn


My Love Affair With the Flute

About This Book

Common Questions From Beginners

How to Love Your Flute

Flute Lore

The World Family of Flutes

South America

North America


The Middle East

Eastern Europe

Western Europe





The Story of the Western Flute

The Baroque Flute

The Boehm Flute

Since Boehm

Materials and Manufacture

Looking Ahead

Selection and Care

Finding Your Flute

Buying Name Brands

Metal Flutes—The Flute Hierarchy

Wooden Flutes

Flute Quality—General

Plateau Model, French Model

Other Options and Variations

Features to Look For

Checking Out a Used Flute

Other Sizes of Flutes

Electronic Amplification

Caring For Your Flute

Assembly, Playing, Disassembly

Minor Maintenance

Head joint cork


Professional Servicing and Overhaul

Flute Technique

Embouchure and Breath

Getting a Sound—Basic Embouchure

Basic Breathing


Flute Assembly and Hand Position

Head and Arms

Torso and Legs

Other Aspects

Practicing Posture

Posture Checklist

Playing Notes

Fingering and Blowing Principles



More About Embouchure and Breach

Taking Breaths


Volume Adjustments

Developing Tone


Fingering Technique

Difficult Combinations



Concert Pitch

Tuning With Others

Advanced Techniques


Tonal Variation

Alternative Fingerings, Trills, Tremolos


Special Effects

Acoustic Effects

Electronic Effects

Making Music

Scales and Chords



Playing by Ear



Help for the Tone‑Deaf

Reading Music

Learning How

Staff and Clef


Key Signature and Accidentals



Volume and Dynamics

Tempo and Expression

Miscellaneous Symbols


Learning a Piece of Music


Nonclassical Music

Living Music

Expressive Techniques

Beyond Technique—Playing From Within

Modern Folk Flutes

Finding a Folk Flute

Why a Folk Flute?

Where to Find Folk Flutes

Side-Blown Flutes


Other End-Blown Flutes

Caring for a Folk Flute


Other Materials


Playing a Folk Flute

Side-Blown Flutes


Other End-Blown Flutes


How the Flute Works

A Tube With Holes



Miscellaneous Fingering Charts

Baroque Flute, One Key

Eight-Key Flute

Modern Flute With Open G‑Sharp Key

Reading List


Flute Technique

Other Flutes


Sample Text

Basic Breathing

A major part of flute playing is learning to manage the flow of breath from your body into the body of the flute. Much of the expressiveness of your music will come from the degree of control and flexibility you have in your breathing.

In flute playing, breathing is done mainly from the diaphragm, a muscle that extends horizontally across the bottom of the chest and presses against the bottom of the lungs. To find your diaphragm, push your stomach way out as you breathe in; then pull it way in as you breathe out. (Make sure you're not getting the directions backward!) The muscle that does that is the diaphragm, as it moves down to allow the lungs to fill (stomach out), then up to squeeze air out of them (stomach in).


Here is an exercise to give you the feel for proper breathing: Stand erect, holding your elbows away from your body. Now push your diaphragm straight down, and your chest muscles slightly outward. The sensation should be that your entire upper body is a bellows that's filling up, evenly and all at once. Your stomach should not protrude very far forward, as it did in the initial exercise given above. Instead, there should be a slight expansion in the stomach, and a similar expansion in the small of the back, directly behind it. An even smaller expansion should be felt around the chest, in the front and back. There will be a very slight raising of the shoulders, but this should come only as a result of the chest expansion, without any movement of the shoulder muscles themselves.

Fill your lungs only as much as is comfortable, then exhale by reversing the above instructions. When you have the feel of the breathing, use it while blowing a note on your head joint.

Though this is actually a very natural way of breathing, many people do not normally breathe fully, and they may have trouble with it at first. You may have to build up the strength of your diaphragm slowly over a period of time. The extra oxygen in your system may cause dizziness and tingling feelings in your limbs, especially the hands. This is called hyperventilation. Beginning players usually aggravate the condition by using much more air than is necessary to produce the sound. Hyperventilation will stop bothering you as you get used to the extra air in your lungs and learn to blow more efficiently.

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