Bugger of an instrument


Making a good sound on a flute is terribly difficult – there are a lot of factors at play. As Patrick said to me today, “I’m sorry you chose the flute my dear, it’s a bugger of an instrument”. He’s not wrong.

We basically spent the whole lesson trying to fix up my very-problematic-of-late embouchure. The troubles seem to be to do with air angle (we decided, after an hour of experimentation, and me trying not to scream with frustration) and jaw tension. I’ve been trying very hard to turn my flute out a bit so I can actually play above mezzo-forte, but the result is that my air stream is shooting too high and my sound is all fuzzy and annoying as all get out. Also my air just seems to evaporate.

Maybe I’ve been trying to force my jaw back, but it always wants to jut forward, and I have to really apply such incredible mental willpower to make it stay in a natural position (we are talking about millimeters of difference here, but boy do they matter). The trick is just to let the draw drop, find a natural position for the lips that accommodates that shape and then work from there. Sounds simple.

Then getting from loud and drawing back to soft, tubing the lips forward, lifting the air stream to keep the pitch up but still hitting the edge. Still needs to be essentially heading down into the instrument. Not oversupplying air at any point.

Attack. I can’t really tackle that one yet…

Essentially the outcome of the lesson was Patrick saying that I need to spend one hour every morning just finding a good sound. How I will do that without breaking my hand trying to punch it through my practise room wall I do not know. Tomorrow I’ll see how much patience I can muster.

One last point of Patrick’s: if I had a few months to be working on things and not several days until my recital I’d probably be able to settle into a good sound super quickly and it wouldn’t be a problem. My brain hates me.


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