Saturday, February 03, 2007

Why are flute discussion groups like Cartalk?

Hi Fluters,
Two questions came in this week that would be easy to answer if I just talked into my mini-disc: so I did!
Here my chatty, Saturday morning replies. LISTEN

Question 1: How do I teach a 7 yr. old beginner who can't get a sound?
I'm a sax doubler teaching a 7 yr. old flutist.
She can't make a sound yet.
I know the answer is working on the headjoint by itself.
Any thoughts?

Firstly: See information on sizing the flute to suit the child, to be sure you're not expecting too much in terms of co-ordination. you want to check the size of the child's arms, and whether the full flute is being started too soon. Fifes, curved headjoints, and pennywhistles can be substituted for young children.
Of interest: a friend put up a youtube video of their young daughter.
Here's a video of the difference between a curved and regular c-flute:

Headjoint-only games can be part of each lesson of course, that's the standard answer. And of course you'll move more slowly ahead with a child who has problem getting a sound. I deal with that in the mp3 answer.

As you work with this child, if there are any more specifics you can give, it would help us spot the problem.

Basic Teaching flute for students who can't get a sound on the flute:
I give my answers on the above mp3, but I really think that the novice teachers should consult a local flute teacher who can share their own experiences and show "Hands On" methods.

If you are a flute teacher reading this blog, can you add your answers too? Just send in your teacher's ideas about how to help a 7 yr. old learn to get a sound on the flute. Send your ideas here, on the comments section. (scroll down to COMMENTS below.)


"How to Play the Flute".
Not a great video (you should see how technically-repair-oriented the Trumpet video is in this series!)
but has a demonstration of the exercise: "Make the letter M with your lips and blow them slightly open".
Also has a good face-brain co-ordination demo, when the student blows at an ink-dot on their wrist:
Sigh...I wish that someone would make a better "how to play the flute" video!
I have to figure out how not to crack my microphone on my tiny little webcam.

Other instruments to try for those flute students who can't get their mouths around the flute. Try these in a fun lesson or two before giving up teaching the concert flute to the student.The skills may transfer over to flute eventually.
Check out the child's flute to be sure it works. Part of the problem may be a malfunctioning set of keys that make practicing uncomfortable.

For smaller, less adept children you can also switch to:
Fife and Goodwin fife book:
This book and plastic side-blown fife are also available in the U.S. at Fluteworld.
A plastic or clay easy-to-play Ocarina:

There are several places online with fingering charts and books of folksongs.
Penny whistle (tin flute):

$8 U.S. tin whistle on Amazon
Tutorial on pennywhistles for beginners, online.
A QUIET $20 pennywhistle for the overexuberent child who's parents are exhausted:

For inexperienced teachers see:
Jen's videos on teaching beginners:
Headjoint only and right-hand-on-the-barrel referred to in my answer mp3.

My first video on teaching the novice student if you are a novice teacher.
You may wish to download the handout from Mary Byrne on teaching the first lesson which is there. It includes headjoint only work.

Question #2 links: Why are email flute discussion groups like Cartalk?
I talk about this on the above mp3.
Basically we're just one big happy family, and Cartalk calls are very similar to Flutenet's email questions. Most can be answered by taking flute lessons, or taking the flute to be repaired.

To listen to CarTalk Radio show (updates each Saturday)

Anyone with a mind for metaphor will see the similarities.
And we're all learning (we should have "stump the chumps" on flutenet! :>)

Thanks for these interesting questions!!!

Best, Jen
Comments (5)
Blogger Elmo said...

Excellent Blog post about performing on the flute. my wife is a flute player and I will definitely turn her on to this awesome blog.

By the way, she just bought a Miramatsu head joint and loves it.

God Bless,

Mark Ellis

Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:24:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Mark, let me know how the Muramatsu works out. J

Saturday, February 03, 2007 9:18:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha, cartalk, I did not know that played way up north in Canada? Great site, great information and thank you for your efforts and help. By the way when is your book coming out?

Best from down Boston way,


Tuesday, February 06, 2007 8:37:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

And this comment was sent from "M":

I very much enjoy reading your articles, and have integrated many of
your recommendations in my daily practice routines. They have helped me
improve tremendously and I can now better focus on and deal with problem
areas which I had given up any hope of ever solving. For this I am very
grateful to you. Thank you.

Please let me know when the Magic Flute will be available. It sounds
like it will be a wonderful and precious tool.

Cheers, M
My answer is that I'll announce my book being ready on all my flute discussion groups, at my blog and webpage; but it is taking a long time to illustrate and transcribe all the etudes etc.
Sorry for the delay.
Meanwhile, anyone who wants to ask a question, ask it at Yahoo's discussion group: FLUTENET
Jen P.S. Thanks for the positive comments!! :>) YAY!! :>)

Friday, February 16, 2007 4:13:00 PM

Blogger Christina said...

This is in response to teaching a 7 yr old flutist. When I begin younger students on flute,

1. I start out by placing the headjoint in position for them (and positioning the headjoint there until we find the "sweet spot.")

2. With the headjoint in place, I have them talk to me, answering questions like, "what is your name?" "...birthday?" "...favourite colour?" etc. This helps to relax the embouchure before playing. After a few questions, I tell them that how their mouth is on the flute is how (relaxed) it should be to make a sound.

3. As for actually making a sound, I have the student just blow air out of their mouth and voi la! There should be tone that you can work with.

I find that the relaxed, do-nothing-to-your-mouth embouchure is the best way to make a good sound, starting from Day 1.

I realise my response is late, but I just came across your blog.


Friday, April 20, 2007 3:28:00 PM


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