Thursday, August 07, 2008

Questions from beginner flute players

Hi Jen, its me again! Thanks for the answer! I think I was ahead of myself by asking that question (of how to tune a flute)... gosh.
Ive only had 2 lessons and none now, and sort of teaching myself for awhile while settling into my new place. I'm actually struggling to produce a tone with the headjoint alone, especially the covered-lower tone. I'd find it and loose it almost instantly!
This got me wondering... do all students/beginners find it hard to produce a tone ? If so, usually how many lessons/weeks/months does it take for them to produce and sustain a tone (with practice, of course) ? Or, do they actually get to do it pretty quickly (first lesson) ?
For now I'll be just blowing into the headjoint and hopefully start to develop a sustainable and consistent tone...
I hope I'm not alone !
Thanks! J.

Dear J.

Are you kidding? ((:>)
Have you ever tried to sustain a plain, simple, but nice-sounding tone on any other instrument? Trumpet? Violin? Cello? Tuba???
For that matter, have you ever put on a baseball mitt and learned to consistently catch a baseball?
Hand-eye co-ordination takes time and practise.
And then there's arm-hand-flute-face co-ordination.
Cheer up, dude. :>)
Give yourself three weeks minimum of ten minutes or more a day of headjoint only.......then see how you go...

As an adult your ears are FAR ahead of your ear-mouth co-ordination.
Be patient, and stay encouraged by even the most minute improvements.
Optimism is everything. :>)

Another commenter wrote:

I've just started last week to learn flute.
My memory is the worst! there any easier way to possibly learn the flute fingering? it really takes me FOREVER to learn just ONE note to memory.

Dear "Help!"
A week isn't very long at all when it comes to learning a new skill. Think how long it took you to memorize the alphabet when you were a child. Didn't it take more than a week? Fingerings are the same. Take one at a time, learn it really well.
Then add the new fingering to the one you learned most recently, and go back and forth between those two notes (B and A for example.) Play little tunes with two notes or three notes ( The beginner book: Abracadabra Flute by Pollock with CD is a fun way to do this.)
And I might add, definitely sign up for some flute lessons. Good flute teachers know how to make this kind of thing easy for beginners; get lessons for sure.
That's what lessons are for, to make things EASIER for you.
Best, Jen
Comments (19)
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started re-teaching myself the flute again about 7 months ago, and I have used/been using the Essential Elements Books 1 & 2, I played for about 2 years about 15 years ago, (I'm 27)I feel I have relearned all that I already knew and I'm trying to progress, I will take lessons eventually once my budget improves.

Anyway, The Essential Elements books have the Rubank Scales and I noticed you said you don't care for those, should I avoid them? I figured better to practice those for now than no scales at all.

I have read mostly all of your articles on adult learning/relearning, and scales, but I haven't seen any books you recommend for beginner scales, all of the books I find online and even in your recommendations go into notes I don't know yet..any suggestions?
I did print the F Major scale you had linked.

Thanks in advance
Your site has been extremely helpful!

-Flute Player

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:11:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear FlutePlayer27,

The scales that are in the Rubank are fine as scales go. If they go too high or low into realms where there are notes you don't know, try learning one new note every day or two. If you have a fingering chart (and there's one on this blog that's free) you can check off the new notes you learn.
The real problem with Rubank's Intermediate and Advanced Method books is that they forced first and second year middle school flute kids into the high register so quickly that their tone suffered. With proper instruction that's not the case; but with self-teaching super-tight-squeezing band kids, that's a bit of a problem that later has to be undone. You'll find out all about it as you progress. :>) As for scales, everything you want to know is here in this previous blog post:


Tuesday, August 12, 2008 9:17:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

The free flute fingering chart is here:

Like I said, try learning one new note a day, and see how you manage.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008 9:18:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of your help! I greatly appreciate it!

-Flute Player27

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 2:32:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi There,
I'm not sure if you'll get this since this is an old posting but I am really struggling with something lately.
I am self teaching right now until I get a teacher(I used to play years ago, )and when I used to play I was always taught to play sitting.
Right now, I feel so much more comfortable standing, and from what I have read on your site and other articles, it's actually better to stand.
I read all your articles on posture, and I even looked on other sites but I can't seem to find anything that tells you how far away you should stand from the music stand, all I have come across is to stand at "45 degrees" which is the same as sitting but it doesn't say how far away to be, and I'm not exactly the best with angles..
Also for some reason I always feel "twisted" when I am playing, I look in the mirror and angle myself correctly but as soon as I get in front of the music stand I feel like I'm twisting & I can't quite get the right angle and distance and then I lose my focus and can't play!

I have looked at numerous videos of flute players to see their angle and where they are in relation to the music stand and every player is somewhat different, some are really close, and some are very far away..others are so straight some are very angled out... do you have any tips on how to know that you are standing correctly in relation to the music stand? What if you are not in front of a mirror?

I'm sure it varies from person to person, but when you play how do you know your not twisting?

Sorry for rambling on and on..
Thanks for your time!

"Feeling Twisted"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 5:32:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

To the self-teaching flutist who asked "How far from the music stand should I be standing? and "How to untwist?", see answer here:


Wednesday, September 10, 2008 9:12:00 PM

Blogger jaabarlow said...

Thanks for this wonderful site. I am trying to improved after a long "plateau" of average. This looks like just the thing. I can't wait to delve in (and make donations!).

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 2:51:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thankyou in advance!!
So nice to hear from you JaaBarlow. I hope you have a wonderful experience. My adult-beginners and re-beginners seem to love playing in their lessons. Make sure you find a duet partner (or teacher) to spur you on. Looking forward to hearing of your progress. Best, Jen :>)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 6:59:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I am trying to teach my daughter to hold the flute without resting it on her shoulder, she is 10 but her arms are about 3" too short to hold it properly. She starts band for the first year next school year which is in August. I want her to impress her teacher by knowing what she is doing and how to hold it properly. Is there a way to get her to hold her flute without resting it on her shoulder and having her head turned to the side. I know she is supposed to rest it on her chin and then have her thumb hold the bottom half of the flute but she has to turn her head over to her shoulder just to play it and then she ends up resting it on her shoulder instead of her chin. I can't afford lessons for her and since I know how to play I figured I can get her started but I need help with how to teach her to hold it properly and still be able to reach the keys.
Thank you

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 12:08:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Cheri,

I could point you toward various pictures and diagrams on how to hold the flute, but they will only be of SOME help with little ones. is one.

You likely truly need one of the following:
a) flute lessons with a quality teacher who's expert in small learners
b) a curved headjoint (about $400 but you can resell it.)
c) to wait until your daughter grows a little taller. Meanwhile, she can play the headjoint and and then the headjoint and middle joint. (I would leave the footjoint off because the weight being off makes the whole thing easier.)

I started at 11, and I too rested the flute on the left shoulder.
Yes, it's a big problem.
But part of the difficulty was that no one explained that your body is supposed to be angled at a 45 degree angle to the right of the music stand, whether standing or sitting.
Is your daughter and you aware of facing the body to the right?
Or is she trying to hold the instrument parallel to her chest instead?
That could be the first mistake you're possibly making.

I would get a curved headjoint (rent one even) and some flute lessons.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009 4:27:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Have a look at an 8 yr. old who's a bit of a genius, but she's holding her flute with her body facing 45 degrees to the right and only her head turned to face the front:

Best, Jen

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 4:29:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Cheri,
Please see HUGE article I've just written on this topic of "beginner rests flute on left shoulder":


Thursday, June 04, 2009 2:50:00 PM

Blogger Imman said...

Hi Jen !

This is Imman !
I play keyboard for more than 10 years in my church.But i play by hearing and i dont kno to play using sheet music.
I always wanted to learn sheet music but somehow i couldnt bc of no time.
Now that i have decided to learn to play by seeing the notes.
I always admire flute a lot.
So here comes my question.
Learning Flute with notations(sheet music) help me to learn keyboard/piano as well?
I mean is there a big difference in the notations for flute and piano???

Friday, May 31, 2013 6:59:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Inman,
Yes, reading sheetmusic or reading notation of music is the same for every instrument. If you learn to read for flute, you'll be able to translate your abilities to piano.
Best, Jen

Friday, May 31, 2013 8:12:00 AM

Anonymous Jane Cavanagh said...

It's such a great idea having a good quality Q&A blog like this! I hope more flute players find it!

Friday, May 23, 2014 9:54:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Jane! The questions really do help me focus my thoughts too; so they really help ME. :>)
Best, Jen

Saturday, May 24, 2014 12:09:00 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

I found that playing flute in a marching band has a kind of group dynamic that helps one to improve and stay focused. It is important not to get discouraged and to remember that all of the other members were once at your stage. When I joined my first marching band aged 14 I played the clarinet and began to learn how to read music at the same time. It took 3 years of staying at before I could say that I had mastered the instrument, notwithstanding that I still could have improved my tone somewhat That is the downside of playing in a group, you don't practice your soloist skills, although I made rapid progress during my time in my first band.
Later in life at aged 57 I joined my second marching band, this time playing the flute. My musical endeavors had lapsed over the years, as life gets in the way and I found myself in a beginners situation. But the same thing occurred..the group dynamic kicked in and my music reading ability came back after 40 something years. I play the Bb simple system flute which I consider the most difficult as most of the band marches are in the 3rd octave...but you know what, I had already done the suffering and been through all of the self doubt when I was 14 and the memory of that time of trial has carried me to continue with my present instrument.I can already play most of the band material and a selection of about 100 or so other pieces...both reading and from memory.

I enjoyed your blog immensely. Keep up the good work.

Saturday, February 13, 2016 1:01:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Hey! Im completely new to flute. But I signed up for the band. School starts Aug 15 BTW. I've been learning for about the last three weeks. The people teaching me are saying i! Learning fast, but im still a little worried, our first game is the first month of school, do you think I'll be ready? And i haven't started trying to remember songs but I can tell I'm going to have a little trouble remembering them..any tips?

Saturday, July 09, 2016 7:16:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Hi Choc/complex,

Just go with it; have fun. You learn fastest when it feels fun. :>)
best, Jen

Saturday, July 09, 2016 9:15:00 PM


Post a Comment