The Flute Show - flute expert

How to Get a Sound Out of a Flute

Begin playing the flute in under 10 minutes.

In this video, Robert and Florence Estrin demonstrate how to start playing the flute in an easy-to-learn approach. And the video is pretty funny too!

Released on November 5, 2014

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robert: Hi, and welcome to the flute show. I'm Robert Estrin here at, with our host Florence Estrin. Today's subject is how to get a sound out of the flute, and today I am the guinea pig. That's right, I do not play the flute. Just a disclaimer here. So, we're going to see if I can actually get a sound out of the flute.

Florence: Okay. Well, you know the funny thing is, when we were both kids we would have bottles from soda pop, and almost everybody experimented with getting a sound out of a bottle. That really helped for flute teachers because it's the same principle. And I bet you can do it too.

Robert: I'm a natural.

Florence: There you go.

Florence: Now, whenever I teach the flute, the lesson one, I always start with just the head joint, because the flute is very unwieldy to hold, so just getting a sound out of the head joint is key to everything. Now, this is yours to play with.

Robert: Oh boy.

Florence: And basically, you want to bring it up to you, mostly directing the hole to the ceiling, but maybe slightly towards you. Let your lower'll feel that bottom hole. Right? Okay, now...

Robert: Is this about right?

Florence: We'll see when you try it. Now you have, he has an interesting thing, he has this little extra bit of lip here so let's see if he's picked the right side, because he's trying to play out of one side there. Not quite. That's the idea. A little more air.

Robert: Wow.

Florence: Okay, there you go. [laughter]

Robert: I didn't expect that.

Florence: So basically, now he started before I even gave him the direction, but he had a pretty good idea, I think he's been watching me play.

Robert: [laughter] For a few years there.

Florence: But basically, you spread out your lips and just open them up a little bit in the middle, and you get a sound. It's
pretty easy, okay?

Robert: It has a much prettier sound there.

Florence: Well, that's not even trying to get a pretty sound. That's just doing a basic get something out. Let's try it again now.

Robert: Oh, I thought I'd end on top you know? Now I have got to do it again, right?

Florence: [laughter} Oh, you're not done yet. Good. Now see if you can do it without blowing quite so hard and still get the sound. Okay. There you go. Now, another thing that's really helpful, I can help him because I can see what he's doing. He can't see what he's doing, so using a mirror if you're by yourself, experimenting with it. Okay, so now I want to show you a little bit about when you put the flute together and we'll put both these flutes together. Now when I line up the flute, again, I want it to be so that the hole is slightly facing the player, okay? And with the flute you have a lot of hardware on the back, so the flute wants to roll. I set it up so that if I have a good balance, that hole is still just slightly facing towards the player. This is set up now. Now, you don't know where to put anything yet though, do you?

Robert: Well, no.

Florence: Okay, so just hold on to it, and I'm going to show you to support the flute because it goes sideways. We need to, oh... you've almost got it but sit tight. Let me show you.

Robert: I'm pretty tight.

Florence: [laughter]. Is to use this part of your finger to create a little shelf to hold the flute up. Okay? You skip the very first key and wrap your index finger around the next one, okay?

Robert: So one on each?

Florence: But you need...No, no don't get ahead of me.

Robert: Ow. [laughter]

Florence: Get under the flute.

Robert: Okay.

Florence: Okay, then you're going to skip another key for that one.

Robert: Oh, you're kidding me.

Florence: And then the next one there, but you keep getting...tilt this back. Let it go back like that.

Robert: Like this way?

Florence: Yes. Okay, now, your thumb should go right there, okay?

Robert: Whoa. Does it push it?

Florence: It does push it.

Robert: Whoa. And what about these? Do they push these?

Florence: Okay, so at this point, you're only going to use the index finger and the thumb and then you're going to put down the pinky on this key right here.

Robert: Is this the right one?

Florence: Yes. That's the right one.

Robert: So, just these three?

Florence: Yes. Now, make sure everything else is off.

Robert: Like that?

Florence: Use the side of your thumb a little bit to support it. Now, bring the flute to you. No, no, no. Don't put your head...

Robert: No, I had to find the hole.

Florence: Okay, now a trick if you can't figure out where the hole is, is feel it with your lips, your upper lip and just roll it down. Excellent.

Robert: You're a good teacher.

Florence: Oh, thank you. [laughter]

Robert: This is hard.

Florence: Okay, let's get your hand underneath a little bit more. Okay, now I know you have heard the piece "Hot Cross Buns" because it's the first piece I always teach my flute students and I know you've heard many of them play it. And you know what the notes are, so we're not going to go into that right now, because he...

Robert: Is it these three keys here?

Florence: Because what we're going to do is, we're going to start on a b. This is the b that is the third line in the treble clef, and the next note is a, and the next note is g. So, it's a three note piece.

Robert: Here's a question. What do I hold down with the thumb? This one, or is it just this one?

Florence: Okay. You will hold this one.

Robert: Alright.

Florence: Because actually if you come over here that's going to be a b flat, but don't worry about that now.

Robert: And I leave this thing down all the time?

Florence: Yes. For these three notes.

Robert: And it's just this, this, this. Is that right? Before I forget I got to do this.

Florence: [laughter] Okay. You are not on something. Here we go.

Robert: I think the flute's broken.

Florence: Tell you what, just get the b out. Don't worry about the piece yet. Okay, now, one of the problems is you're on the wrong key.

Robert: Oh, and you skip one? Okay.

Florence: Yes. So you skip the first key, then your index finger goes down. You skip the next key and then your...


Florence: Excellent. Excellent. Now truth be known...

Robert: I'm getting dizzy.

Florence: He's way ahead of most people because he does play French horn, so one of the things you notice that he's already using the tongue to start the notes. Generally speaking, with a first lesson, I'll start them just blowing into the flute without actually articulating until they get used to it, because there's a lot to get used to, isn't there?

Robert: There is.

Florence: And then adding the "t" to start the note. So basically see how well they do, and then see how good they are at adding that articulation.

Robert: And I just want to mention one thing that I found particularly helpful, even on the bottle, because some people like my mother could never get a sound out of a bottle. Some people might have trouble with that. I've used a technique on the bottle that I used from childhood that I remembered, and I'm using it on the flute which helps. First, like kiss the bottle, and then come down so you can see that you're in the right position.

Florence: So you feel it with your lips, yes.

Robert: And the same thing on the flute seems to work. At first I go like this on the hole, and then roll it out.

Florence: But bring it down a little lower.

Robert: Yeah, I know. I've got to practice all that.

Florence: See, the little indentation in here, the flute really wants to be more in there, so it's not like you're blowing at the flute. It's actually down under your lip and your lip is actually covering a little bit of that hole. But you've got to be careful not to cover too much of it or you get no sound.

Robert: Well, I think I've got enough work for a week now, and I want to really thank you. This is great, and any viewers, you have questions address them to Florence Estrin here at the flute show. We are at It's a real pleasure having you Florence.

Florence: Thank you.

Robert: Thanks for showing me that. I can't wait to try this again.

Florence. Alright.

Robert: See you next time.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Frawn on November 5, 2014 @10:44 pm PST
What a great lesson! Thanks so much.
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