Sunday, March 17, 2013

Intermediates Ask; Teflon tape, thick lips, flashy pieces

Dear Flute Lovers,

Here are three big intermediate flutist's questions from the past few months. Enjoy this fascinating read. These are questions everyone asks at some time or other. Enjoy and comment too! Best, Jen
1. Using teflon tape to make new headjoint fit.

Question: Dear Jen,
I've received a marvellous new headjoint that makes my old flute sound AMAZING. But I'm having trouble using teflon tape to make the slightly-too-small new headjoint fit. I don't want to re-size the headjoint, because one day I may get the chance to upgrade my old flute body. But in the meantime, is there a way to apply teflon tape so that it stays on? Mine keeps unravelling.

Dear Teflon slip dude,
If you wrap the teflon tape (and make it wrinkle free) in a clockwise direction then insert the headjoint also in a clockwise direction, you will be able to go for several weeks before the teflon tape falls off or needs replacing.  See diagram below.
Hope this helps. Best, Jen

 (click to enlarge and then use Back button to return here.)

2. Thick lips and lowering the lip plate

Hi Jen, I was wondering if you could answer a quick question for me. A few months ago I realized that I had my lip plate way too high on my lip. It used to smash my bottom lip and my tone was very thin and squeaky. I was also very tense which made it hard to play for longer than an hour at a time. Recently though, I have found articles online about fixing this problem, especially yours! I found it very helpful and I am starting to put the lip plate lower on my chin. The problem with me is that my lips are a little thick, especially my bottom lip. Everytime I place my embouchure on the white line seperating my skin from my lip, it feels like it's too low. I have such a hard time getting notes out and octave changes are a nightmare. I can't be very soft either, and it's very hard to even roll my flute out. It feels like my lips and chin and stopping me from rolling my flute out. Also, the last time I was at lessons, my teacher said my old embouchure didn't seem like a problem. She said I still had a good tone, but I felt like something was wrong. Do you think I should place the flute a little higher on my lip? I am just so worried I'll revert to my old embouchure. On my old embouchure, I could play softly a lot easier but there was no resonance to my tone. With the new embouchure though, I feel a lot more relaxed.
If you could give me any tips, I would appreciate it soo much! Thank you! P.


 Hi there P!

I think you're just putting the flute a tiny tiny tiny bit TOO low when you 'lose control of your tone'. It's possible that a very thick lower lip will require your flute's blow hole to actually be in the red part of your bottom lip. Yes. I've seen that before. But thicker lips honestly are not something I have alot of experience with (I have the world's thinnest lips) but I know that you can discover the answer yourself with slower and smaller changes when you're experimenting. That's what we all do.

If you feel like your tone is no longer in control,or you lose tuning or the ability to make dynamics, you're probably making too large a change. Just make your changes more slowly and gradually until you can change only by a tiny fraction at a time. Experimental changes have to be very small.
If you feel like the flute's blow hole is too high or too low, change only by a tiny fraction again.

The exact comfort spot that gives great tone is usually only 1-2 millimeters away from where you think it is.  If you're not sure what a millimeter is, think of the width of a human hair.
That will make you think mircroscopically. (hahahaha.) :>)

And you want to avoid "over-correcting". When you make embouchure changes,do so in microscopic increments. I say in lessons "One hair's width at a time...."

Otherwise, you "over correct" and go right past that "sweet spot" you're looking for.
A step-by-step method from Roger Mather is here on my website, and also with many more details, explained in his book "The Art of Playing the Flute" (on right sidebar of this blog if you're interested.)
So don't worry; just be more tiny in your experiments. You've been finding out the larger parameters, and now just have to refine.
Feeling relaxed and flexible is good; going slowly and easily is also good.
Here's some more information:
Updated 2013 from website article on Tone Experiments.
Thicker lips?
Lowering lip plate?
Lowering pressure?
How do I know which?

I highly recommend the exercise called "Lowering the lip-plate's pressure on the chin" by Roger Mather in Vol. 2 of "The Art of Playing the Flute." as it takes you through every hair's breadth of a change when you're working on creating great tone.
There is no substitute for well-thought-out flute teaching exercises, and Mather has figured them all out.

The main thing to understand when you first read the "lower lip plate pressure"  terminology, is that this really means lowering the PRESSURE of the lip plate on the chin, which often, is all you need.
It isn't the same thing as lowering the 'placement' of the lip-plate on the chin.
Lowering the placement would lengthen the distance the air has to travel down to the splitting edge of the blow hole.
Lowering the pressure point is only freeing the flesh of the lower lip and upper chin area from being crushed beneathe the silver lip plate.
Roger Mather then goes on to give experiments in lessening the pressure of the lip plate; an embouchure improvement that's excellent for novices and intermediates, as they learn not to clutch their flutes, and push them too hard into their chins.
So, in the first case, it is the pressure of the lip plate we are thinking of; where you can feel the pressure through your skin onto your bones. The best, most secure placement of the lip plate is usually found to be against the ROOTS of your lower teeth. You feel the pressure on the roots, through the chin skin.

This secure anchoring of the chin plate against a bone-like structure allows the arms to rest, the hands to unclench, and most importantly, allows the flesh under the lower lip to be more mobile and extend
sideways and down (like a very slight frown) to form a comfortable cushion for the lip plate to meet.
This security of feeling allows the lips to then be more mobile because they are not pinned into any position, but can move flexibly.
Lots more individual experimentation also has to be gradually performed to obtain the best possible tone.

Lowering the lip plate pressure is only one of many variables.
Some more variables for tone work are mentioned below in this extract from my website.
In fact, almost all the individual embouchure considerations are covered using step-by-step self-experiments in the excellent three volumes of Roger Mather's "The Art of Playing the Flute".
(Also see his chapters on "Varying your tone colour" experiments.)

From my website articles: Tone Experiments.
Here are some of the things to consider when you're working on tone and embouchure:

1. Experiments with angling the lips north, south, east and west, and using a mirror to insure the lip-hole is centered and the flute is parallel to the face. You'll want guidance in flexing the lips a tiny amount in each direction so you can control the exact angle with the most inner-lip-membrane being
used and deciding where the most comfortable postion is for the lower jaw. (this depends on whether you have an overbite or underbite etc.)

2. Creating a long air-reed:
  This is about maximizing the distance between the hole in the lips, and the striking point for the air on
the far side of the embouchure hole.   It's achieved by gradually lowering the pressure point of the flute's lip plate on the chin so that it goes from squishing the lower lip at the level of the lower
teeth (a beginner's sound that is too short and air-reed and has no colouring possibilities) to feeling the flute's lip-plate pressure as against the roots of the bottom teeth. A lowered pressure point of the lip plate allows freedom for the lower lip to move and reposition itself. This is combined with uncovering more of the blow-hole in the flute in a series of experiments.

  Note: The EDGE of the blow-hole still remains at the red-line of the lower lip for those with thin to average lips, but the pressure of it is rotated down and out.  See diagrams and original article at Tone Experiments.

Note: For those with thicker lips, the edge of the flute's blow hole may be placed slighly higher on the red of the lower lip, but experimentation done in tiny increments will be needed to determine best placement. And your ears and your teacher will help you decide what's working for you. There are many variables.

Thicker lipped flutists may find they place the flute higher on the red of the lip than thin-lipped flutists. With lower jaw natural and comfy, experiment slowly, and leave space to relax chin and lower lip onto the chin plate. The skin of the chin is much more malleable than most think.

More Embouchure Experiments:

3. Creating an air-pocket between the upper lip and the upper front teeth.

   Many novice and intermediate players pull their upper lip too tightly against their upper teeth, so
that there's no space for the upper lip to be stretched out and away from the teeth. You want the airstream to be directed by the upper lip at a downward angle, so that the flute in a low, relaxed position, can stay still while the upper lip changes its angle minutely to blow more deeply or more shallowly into the flute.   See diagrams

The more you are able to flex the upper lip away from the teeth, the more experiments you can proceed with. Using the upper lip as a better aiming device really reduces stress on the embouchure overall.

4. Relaxing the jaw and opening the mouth cavity behind the embouchure:
   This is about creating a resonant chamber inside the mouth, even though the lips are in the "flute
embouchure postion."   You want to use all the resonating cavities you have (open sinus,
open throat, open mouth) so that the flute's vibrations echo back into the body cavities, and create a
resonance there. (Helmholtz effect).

5. Puckering vs. drawing the lips back (lips moving together):
  Roger Mather's experiments in "The Art of Playing the Flute" allow the individual to gradually pucker forward bit by tiny bit, to see what effect that has on the tone in various registers, and then to draw the lips back again to hear which is more effective for his particular dental construction and lip tension.    When I was taught to experiment with this (when I was 16) it was done by considering the position
of the CORNERS of the lips, with the mind on the final feel of the lips in the center; Are they fleshy/pillowy? Or are the lip centers getting tighter and tighter?
 Which amount of puckering (move only microscopic amounts at first) works for low notes, high notes, medium notes? etc.

6. Uncovering the flute's embouchure hole more or covering it more.
  This has to do with the lower lip and specifically how much it bulges into, or lays across the near-side of your flute's blow hole.

  If the above changes are being done as experiments, many times the sound will become too "covered" as the lips are allowed to become more fleshy and more mobile. The student has to constantly check whether "rolling out 2 millimeters more than they think they need to" in fact results in a more projecting and ringing sound.   The optimal covering of the embouchure hole is between 1/4 and 1/3, and most flutists tend to cover too much which hampers their tone and tuning as their lips could instead become more flexible. So at every chance you get, uncover the flute's blow-hole by a millimeter or two, (roll out) and listen to the sound become more open and free. (rotate the flute down and out on the chin and compensate with using more aim from the upper lip.)

7.  Releasing the tension in the upper lip so that the hole in the lips has a rounded arch in it, instead of a long thin slit.  This is the single most effective change to varying tone-colours that I've found once the other experiments have resulted in a vibrant and open sound.   This "arch in the upper lip aperture" also allows a quick ascent or descent into different octaves of the flute's range, without making too many other changes to the lips.
Since Roger Mather wrote nearly 105 pages with experiments in all the above areas, and since your
teacher wants you to experiment......I think that all I'm able to do here, is try and interest you in trying out Mather's Vol. 2 of his "The Art of Playing the Flute".
Again, Mather's work is unsurpassed when working with a teacher, or alone.

I highly recommend the exercise called "Lowering the lip-plate's pressure on the chin" by Roger Mather in Vol. 2 of "The Art of Playing the Flute."

Good luck and get your teacher to help.

Best, Jen
Wow, thank you so much for the help! I will look into getting that book and try out those experiments. Thanks! :)

3. Repertoire good for competitions: Grade 7/8:

 Repertoire good for competitions: Grade 7/8:


Dear Ms Jennifer Cluff
 My name is K. and I am 17 Years of age and have been playing flute for nine years and piccolo for one. I was hoping you could recommend some flute and piccolo pieces (with accompaniment) to me that would be suitable for eisteddfods and competitions.
I am at a grade 7-8 standard at the moment and would love to study music next year at university.
I enjoy pieces that give me a challenge and help me to develop my skill such as the Games from Richard Rodney Bennett's Summer Music.
At the moment i am working on pieces such as William Mathias' Sonatina and Mozart's Concerto in D major adagio ma non troppo.
Could you recommend any beautiful classical or romantic sonatas for flute and piano or any good competition pieces that are uplifting and enjoyable for both the player and the listener?
I have found pieces for piccolo such as the Wren Polka and Vivaldi's Concerto in C.
Could you recommend anything else that is upbeat and exiting on piccolo that i could perform at a competition? I am willing to wait approximately six weeks for new flute books as i usually get my music from the UK. I would really appreciate your help and flute knowledge

Kind Regards, K


Dear K.
Have you checked out all these lists of flute solos listed by link below?
Have you gone through lists of "winner" pieces with your flute teacher?

Jen's fave repertoire (basic pieces A-D in difficulty with B+ being grade 8):

National Flute Association's Intermediate repertoire list: (this is a great list!)

Also, there are really great books of graded flute solo with piano books by the Royal Conservatory.

There's a graded syllabus of all published works for flute, by grade level is also here:

You may want to print out your grade level in one of these syllabus lists, and then take the list to your teacher to help pick out the real "audience pleasers" from those repertoire lists.
Your teacher may have some of these pieces for you to play-test while you're waiting to order new books.

There are also some great graded repertoire lists from England: (UK Grades ABRSM):

See more grade appropriate repertoire lists here:

For fastest ordering, I would use for sure.

At your particular grade level I can list pieces that everyone who I've taught them to instantly enjoys:
These are people-pleasing pieces for sure.
Romantic works with flash and flair:
These are always crowd-pleasers:

Morlacchi The Swiss Shepherd (Galway youtube)

Doppler Hungarian Pastorale Fantasy sections 1 and 3 (eliminate middle part. Play opening two pages of the A section ending with overblown harmonics. Cut B section, and recommence with last two pages of the Gypsy Dance. A+C work great together!)

Impressionist pieces, slow, mysterious and lovely, for flute and piano. For contrast with your flashier pieces. These are about 3-4 minutes in length and nice and broody.

Faure Morceau de Concours
Gaubert Madrigal
Ravel Piece en forme de Habanera

Modern Pieces for flute piano:

Samuel Barber Canzone for Flute and Piano (this is very slow, passionate, and moving)


Ernest Bloch  Suite Modale mvmts. 1 and 3 for flute and piano. Almost Celtic, almost Oriental and very beautiful.
John Rutter  Suite Antique (Aria highly recommended to be played with one fast mvmt like Ostinato.)

Classical Sonatas: Since you already have a Mozart, you probably don't need this right now, but it's nice to have to hand:

See list of pieces under Classical graded G-H here:

Grade 7/8 in the UK system are seen as G-H in the NFA repertoire guide used to grade the pieces at the above link.


For piccolo, you can bring down the house with Piccolo Espagnol for
flute and piano by Christensen
. (see title/publisher here.) Super high sections can be brought down the octave as necessary.

And there are lots more barn-storming piccolo pieces listed here:

And definitely get your flute-teacher's help.
You'll want to try these pieces before you buy and your teacher may have many of them already for you to read though.
Best, Jen
Dear Jen
Thank you so much for your advice and taking time to reply so quickly
I look foreword to finding and playing the music you suggested
regards, K.

You're very welcome K.
For your next competition, when you're looking for Baroque and Classical, here are some additional titles: many of them are found in the Overtones Flute book collections with various works bound together in one book.

More repertoire for Grade 7-8 level:

The Overtones Comprehensive Flute sheetmusic collection.
These are books of flute repertoire compiled by grade for flute and piano.
All sheetmusic with demonstration and music-minus-one CDs:

See table of contents for grade 7 book:

See table of contents for grade 8 book:

More Baroque and Bel Canto-Romantic pieces to check with your teacher:

Baroque Sonatas and Concertos (selected movements):

J.S. Bach Sonata in G minor (2 mvmts.)
J.S. Bach Sonata in E minor (2 mvmts.)
J.S. Bach Sonata in Eb Major (mvmts. 2-3)
Marais Les Folies d'Espagne
Pergolesi Concerto in G (mvmts. 2-3)
Tartini Concerto in G (mvmts. 2-3)

Also, look through graded repertoire lists for sonatas from the Baroque such as:
Blavet Sonatas
Quantz Sonatas
Telemann Sonatas or Fantasias
Vivaldi Sonatas and Concerti

Bel Canto Style (Romantic): These new Paul Edmund-Davies books are great too!

Rabboni Sonatas arranged for flute by Paul Edmund Davies Volume 1 with CD

I especially enjoy the brand new Rabboni Sonatas Volume 2,  of Sonatas for Flute and Piano by Edmund-Davies, although it does not yet come with a CD.

 You can see and order the new Volume 2 here:
(click on Rabboni and look for green cover for Vol. 2)
These are uplifting and gorgeous!!!

__________________end three intermediate questions
Comments (2)
Blogger Iris said...

Hi Jen,
this is really great for head joints, rather than teflon:
it is a copper strip designed for that purpose.
Have used it - really works well, does not deteriorate, and is a metal-to-metal joint.


Monday, March 18, 2013 6:15:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Allan, that looks like a good quality substitute. Great that it can be sanded too.
Best, Jen

Monday, March 18, 2013 10:29:00 AM


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