How to Play
Learning to play any of our instruments takes a bit of practice, but with a little bit of patience you'll be making music in no time. Don't forget the most important thing: have fun! No matter where you are in the process, making music is a beautiful thing.
Sounding the transverse flute is basically the same technique as you'd use when blowing over a glass bottle. Hold the flute gently against your bottom lip, form a gentle smile, and blow a smooth yet strong stream of air over the air hole. It's easiest to get a tone with the finger holes all open, so start there. Rotate (roll) the flute back and forth to find the spot that provides the clearest tone.
If you spend time perfecting a clear, consistent tone with all finger holes open, it will be much easier to sound the lower notes. Patience is key! Once you can make a sound with the finger holes open, proceed to press them down one at a time to see if you can continue producing a clear tone. Start with the finger hole closest to the mouthpiece and proceed down the flute. If you get stuck on a note, stop there and work with it before moving along. Make sure to use the pad of your fingers to cover the holes, not the finger tips.
To hold the flute, extend it outward from your mouth towards your right shoulder. Hold the flute with your left hand behind the flute body (palm facing you), controlling the holes closest to the mouthpiece. The right hand will be along the front side of the flute (palm facing away from you), controlling the holes father from the mouthpiece.
Every flute type plays a different scale. If you have questions about what notes are on your flute and how to finger them, call or email us! We're here to help.
Native American Flute
The Native American Flute is the easiest of all of our flutes to begin playing. It requires no special embouchure (mouth shape). Bring your lips inside of the bamboo mouthpiece and blow a strong, steady stream of air through the instrument. Press the finger holes down one at a time, starting with the one closest to the mouthpiece. The key to getting a beautiful and rich sound from the Native American Flute is your breath. See our notes on breath below!
The quena might be the most challenging flute we have to begin playing, but boy is it rewarding! The quena is my first love, and a flute I always come back to time and time again.
Playing the quena is similar to the transverse flute, but the air stream that's blown into the mouthpiece is tighter, as is the embouchure. Rest the notch along your bottom lip, and begin with all finger holes open. Your chin should close off the opening of the flute beneath the notch, but there's no need to press the flute to your mouth with any force. Form a grin by pulling back the corners of your lips, and blow a stream of air over the notch. Rock the quena up and down to find the spot that will produce the best sound.
The left hand covers the four holes closest to the mouthpiece, including the thumb hole. The right hand covers the three holes farthest from the mouthpiece.
Proper breath may be the most important part of making your sing to its fullest potential. With proper breath control and strength, the simplest tunes will sound full and vibrant. Proper breath comes from your diaphragm, a muscle that sits below your lungs and is the main muscle of respiration.
Start with your speaking voice. Proper diaphragmatic breathing while playing the flute is just like projecting your voice when speaking. It doesn't need to be extremely loud to be full. It's the fullness that we're after. When you breathe correctly while playing your instrument, the tone will be pure, consistent and strong. You will feel its power!
If your shoulders or chest are rising when you are breathing, this is not proper breath. To breathe properly, focus on the rising and falling of your abdominal and stomach areas. Correct posture is also important for this type of breathing. Stand or sit up straight so your body is properly aligned.
Once you've mastered the basics, you can start practicing some more advanced techniques. Here are a few.
By using half-hole fingerings (only cover half the hole) you can play more notes on your flute. Using this technique properly will allow for a Major Scale Flute to play fully chromatically. On our other types of flutes, it will add a large variation in the notes available to you.
You can bend the notes on the flute in a few ways.
1. Very slowly cover or uncover a hole so that the pitch from one note to the next is continuous.
2. Roll the flute toward or away from you. Rolling the flute away from you will raise the pitch. Rolling the flute towards you will lower the pitch.
3. Bend using breath control. Blowing more air will cause the pitch to rise. Less air will cause the pitch to fall. This is particularly effective on the Native American Flute.
Can you roll your r's? If so, trying rolling your r's while playing the flute! It's a wonderful technique to mix in.