(click to enlarge cartoon above - then use back button to return here.)
Have you ever actually kept a record of what works for you when you're practicing to improve your flute tone?
For advanced flutists working with a teacher, this dissertation on flute tone makes excellent reading. I found it in a free pdf online, and it's truly helpful. (if the link above doesn't open the pdf, go here, and click on the pdf .)
As the author of the dissertation notes on pages 29-31, there are conflicting instructions aplenty when you read flute "how to" texts. Every flute author seems to leave too much unsaid, and not agree with eachother on almost any of the tone instructions! No wonder there is so much confusion!
Add to that the various levels of tactile sensitivity and listening skills, of each player, and you have myriad half-described tiny feats of accuracy and precision. Then add to that the widely varying ability in students to goal-set, experiment and focus, and then finally, add the fact that flute students and teachers are not always able to be perfectly clear about what it is they are physically doing to improve the tone, and you have "the art of playing the flute" is "Practice Practice Practice".
I mean, gosh, even all the great "how to" texts completely disagree!
See sample below: (click to enlarge - use back button to return here.)
Hilariously wild in the disagreement department: to wit:
So setting ones own flute tone goals, creating ones own embouchure experiments with the help of a teacher, and taking notes, like a scientist, is the best method of self-educating.
Re-reading past note books and self-reminders can be illuminating too. So often embouchure and head-throat instructions are more "thought" then performed. A single idea can make sufficient changes. For example:
I found a book of scales up to high B the other day where a previous flutist had written "blow your throat open" and it saved the day once again. (gets rid of unconscious throat-tightening and keeps air moving quickly.)
And of course, I highly recommend flutists who want to improve their tone to consistently record their lessons and/or take notes while working with their teacher, and then, when practicing at home, take quick notes of which ideas worked and what changes were effective.
It's also incredibly helpful to record yourself and listen back.
A student the other day phoned to say: "I listened back to what I thought was a gorgeous full low register, and suddenly heard that I was too rolled in! Ack!"
(see 3rd comment below).
Well, ha ha. We are not alone.
And there is no faster method to re-creating your embouchure and air-speed successes at will, if you know what they are and have made notes to yourself!
Comments from flute teachers who are interested in this topic are truly welcome!