Do you play the single and double reeds? Are you ready to add the flute to your woodwind arsenal? Consider a few flute tips to help you start the instrument on the right foot!
The flute share many qualities with other woodwinds. But it can also be quite different and therefore difficult. Fortunately, you can learn to play the flute if you already play other woodwinds.
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1. Start as a Beginner
One of the biggest flute tips I can give to a woodwind doubler is to start as a beginner when learning the instrument. When I started the flute, I’d played the saxophone before. It helped a bit with the fingerings, but it didn’t help with everything.
You have to learn the flute’s embouchure, how to hold the flute without dropping it, and more. When you start to learn the high register, you have to learn how to read more ledger lines.
Treat the flute like its own instrument, not just another woodwind. Then, you’ll be able to learn the differences between the flute and any other instruments you play. And you may be able to have an easier time learning the flute.
2. Begin With the Headjoint
When someone learns to play the flute as their first instrument, they typically spend a bit of time just playing the headjoint. The flute embouchure is quite a bit different from that of other woodwinds, so take time to learn it well.
Using just the headjoint allows you to learn how to form your lips. You can do that without worrying about the weight or position of the flute body. That can help you learn exactly what your lips need to do.
After a bit of practice, you can add the flute body and footjoint. Then, you may find it’s much easier to get a good, consistent sound. If that happens, you’ll probably like playing the flute much more.
3. Find a Specialist Teacher
If possible, start taking lessons from a flute teacher, not a woodwind teacher. I had a couple of general woodwind teachers, and they were great. They helped me learn the basics of the flute, but they only knew so much about it.
Working with a teacher whose main instrument is the flute is extremely beneficial. They will know more of the common problems that beginners experience, so they can help you through those issues.
Also, you’ll be able to keep working with that teacher for a while. If you start with a saxophonist who also teaches flute, they may not know enough to help you get to an advanced level.
4. Get a Good Flute
If you only follow one of the flute tips I give, let it be this. You NEED to have a good flute to support your studies. Cheap instruments can make it harder than necessary to get a sound out and to get a good sound.
When you’re first starting to play the flute, get the best one you can afford. You can start with a beginner model, but it should be from a reputable brand. I’d recommend Yamaha, Trevor James, Di Zhao, and others.
Think about the brands you used when you started on saxophone, clarinet, or the double reeds. If there are flutes from those brands, they’re probably worth your time. The cheap flutes on Amazon and eBay are not worth it.
5. Practice Regularly
It’s one thing to start playing the flute, but it’s another to keep up with it and be able to do doubling gigs on it. If you want to take on a gig that involves the flute, you need to add the instrument to your practice routine.
You don’t need to practice it every day. That can be hard if you play multiple saxophones, multiple clarinets, and more. But try to practice it for 15 to30 minutes at least a few times a week.
Adding it to your practice schedule can help you work on your skills. You can also keep from losing what you learned when you first start the instrument. As you get better, you may be able to take on more gigs.
6. Use Flute Music
Another one of my flute tips for woodwind doublers is to use flute music to learn the instrument. You can use your clarinet or saxophone books, but the written ranges don’t overlap exactly.
Start with some beginner flute books that can take you step by step through the process of learning the instrument. Then, you can move to intermediate method books or even flute sheet music.
But no matter what, use music originally for or arranged for the flute. That way, it won’t go too low like clarinet music. And it can go high enough for you to learn the top notes, unlike saxophone or oboe music.
7. Consider the Piccolo
Once you master the fundamentals of the flute, you’ll have to decide if you need or want to play the piccolo. The piccolo can be useful for reed 1 parts and any other doubling gigs that use a lot of flute.
I wouldn’t recommend learning the piccolo at the same time as the flute. But once you’ve played the flute for a few months, see how comfortable you are when playing it.
Then, you can decide if you want to also learn the piccolo. If so, check out some piccolo tips for woodwind doublers to help. Soon enough, you may have access to more opportunities as a woodwind player.
8. Rotate Instruments
As you incorporate flute into your practice, you should rotate quickly between it and other woodwinds. Maybe you have an upcoming gig that involves a fast switch between flute and alto saxophone. So you practice that switch multiple times.
Even if you don’t have any gigs coming up, you can practice quick switches. So when you do get a gig that requires a swap, you won’t have to learn how to do that. You can figure that out now to save time later.
Consider some common woodwind combinations involving the flute. You may want to practice switches with the clarinet, the alto sax, or both. Then, you won’t be in for such a shock when you get a gig that uses them.
9. Don’t Give Up
Another one of the best flute tips for woodwind players is to not give up. The flute can be very difficult at first, so you may feel tempted to quit. But playing the flute can open a lot of doors for you.
Whether you want to perform more or expand your teaching studio, consider how adding the flute will help. Then, you can remind yourself why you started the instrument whenever you don’t feel like playing.
Over time, playing the flute can become easier and less stressful. You may find it’s one of your favorite instruments to play. And if you’re like me, you might start to prioritize it over all of your other woodwinds.
Which Flute Tips Will You Use?
Woodwind doublers have a lot on their plate. If you’re a woodwind player and want to add the flute, you need to start with a few flute tips. That way, you can give yourself the best chance of success.
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