The Flute Show - flute expert

How to change octaves on the flute

This first video of The Flute Show approaches the flute with an important technique

In this video, Robert and Florence introduce The Flute Show with an important flute technique: the change of octave. Robert and Florence perform some of the most beautiful pieces from the flute repertoire.

Released on February 5, 2014

Post a Comment   |   Video problems? Contact Us!
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: Hello, welcome, everyone, to Today we have an extremely special guest. My wife, Florence Estrin, is here with her flute to explain to everyone, how do you change octaves on the flute. Now what is that all about? Well, here's the thing about the flute that's so interesting: There's exactly the same fingering for notes in the low register when you play an octave higher. So how do you know which one's going to come out? I've really been wondering about this myself and I thought it was a great subject for our viewers, for instrumentalists, as well as flutists specifically. So welcome to the show and tell us a little bit, how do you change octaves on the flute?

Florence: Well, as you pointed out, 10 of the notes in the low octave have exactly the same fingering as in the middle octave, so...and there's no octave key like there is on a oboe or a saxophone, so we need to do it with our lips. And it's a really very simple process. When you're in the low register, you simply have your lips spread out, nice oblong opening...and then when you want to go to the next octave, you simply bring the corners of your mouth forward. Now this is not tightening like a tension thing. This is just bringing them forward. So it's just moving them forward. So the 10 notes that have the same fingers...but the interesting thing is that even when you have different fingerings for the low register to the middle register, you're still going to adhere to the change of position. And where that position changes is on the middle ear of the flute, which is on the fourth space of your staff. So that's where you switch into that "corners forward" or I sometimes call it the "ooh position" because I've said that to students many times and, ooh, they come right into the right position. So one of the things that I've taught to many students and they have had difficulty, even knowing this information, is the opening of "The Sicilienne" by Gabriel Faure. And in the second half of the first phrase, it's going from that low position, that spread position. There's a couple of E naturals that you have to just quickly get into position. But you're trying to keep it all smooth, so why don't we try playing a little bit of that.

Robert: Let's do that. And then I have a couple of questions for you after about this.

Florence: Okay.

Robert: Oh, that was really beautiful playing.

Florence: Thank you.

Robert: So my question for you is how does someone practice a thing like this?

Florence: Well, doing what I did, just going from octave to octave is one way. When I was first taught about this, I wasn't a beginner, so what I would do in my music is I would actually put little indications whenever I had to get into that "ooh position" at the point where I was getting from E natural and above and I'd actually make a little notation, actually made a little circle. Made me think about bringing my corners forward into that rounder position and then I was able to remember to do it all the time. And it was actually very easy to incorporate because it's really, it's not hard to do. It's simply knowing to do it.

Robert: Got it. Otherwise if you didn't do that, what would happen? Like, if you just tried, would the note not come out at all or what?

Florence: It might not come out. It might come out flat.

Robert: I see.

Florence: You might not get as nice a sound on the note, but this way, it just, it's right there and it's easier to play in tune when you're using these. Now the next thing I want to talk about is that there's actually a third position when you get to the high register and it's very similar to that middle register "ooh position." It's just simply taking the chords a little further forward and again, there's no tension involved. It's just really just bringing them further forward so that you can play quietly in the third octave, which seems to elude many flute players, young flute players. And so I thought maybe we can show a little bit of that with the B section of the "Ave Maria" by Bach-Gounod.

Robert: Perfect. All right...That was just beautiful.

Florence: Thank you.

Robert: You know, I've heard a lot of flutists, when they play in the high register quietly, the notes go flat, is what you hear a lot of times, the ends of the notes particularly. So how do you avoid that?

Florence: Well, you know, it's interesting because that's actually going a little further than just the basic position, but when you want to get quieter on any notes of the flute, bringing the corners forward into a taper, even in the low register, you're still in that spread position, but you kind of bring the corners forward to control the pitch, to keep it up. So and now that actually takes a lot of practice.

Robert: So that could be maybe another...

Florence: I think so.

Robert: ...another session we could have together. Well, I want to thank you for joining us here at and having you as a guest. It's a real pleasure and we look forward to having you back again. Thanks for coming.

Florence: My pleasure. Thank you.
Post a comment, question or special request:
You may: Login  or  
Otherwise, fill the form below to post your comment:
Add your name below:

Add your email below: (to receive replies, will not be displayed or shared)

For verification purposes, please enter the word MUSIC in the field below

Comments, Questions, Requests:

John Eichrodt * VSM MEMBER * on November 30, 2016 @7:02 am PST
Thanks. I noticed you were moving your chin forward as well when moving up to the higher octave. Your lower lip is also squarely pressed against the embouchure lip plate. It is always a privilege when expert flutists share their approaches. Thanks again. John
Veragra on January 1, 2015 @2:47 pm PST
The position of the lips on the embouchure, especially lower lip.
Thank You
Veragra on January 1, 2015 @2:44 pm PST
How to play fast passages legato or staccato?
Thank You
Florence Estrin on January 7, 2015 @11:09 am PST
I am not sure that I understand your question. If you are asking whether or not to be staccato or legato for fast passages, it depends on the composers markings. If you are asking how to work up passages to play fast in either staccato or legato that is something I can address in future videos.
Vern on May 28, 2014 @2:48 pm PST
Great information, I will have to look at the video a number of times to get the technique down to a fine art. You are very knowledgeable, great job!
Lee LP on February 19, 2014 @10:16 pm PST
Can you show some lower octave changed from a higher octave, eg, Thais Meditation, Czardas, where lower A and B, bars 17, 54 and Bars 5, 8 & 9 respectively? I'm using a C flute where lowest note is C. Thank you.
Angela on February 13, 2014 @4:34 pm PST
Interesting. Having been out of high school band for over 20 years, I no longer remember the explanation for being able to reach the higher notes, even though I can still do it.
Pat * VSM MEMBER * on February 12, 2014 @7:31 am PST
Thank you for adding the flute to Virtual Music's expert video series. I've enjoyed Robert's videos, and now I look forward to more from Florence!
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on February 12, 2014 @8:10 am PST
Dear Pat, you are very welcome! Glad to know you are enjoying our new flute videos! Florence is a wonderful flutist, so expect great lessons from her!

Also, if you have any special requests, ideas, or suggestions, please write them down! Thank you again.
Carolyn Kono * VSM MEMBER * on February 5, 2014 @5:54 pm PST
Thank you so much for this video. I'm a self-taught flutist who has struggled with the higher register for the last thirty years. This is the most helpful and clear information I've found anywhere on the internet. Thank you for sharing this, Florence. I look forward to future instruction.
Florence - host, on February 6, 2014 @7:21 pm PST
There are many more videos to come. I welcome suggestions for video topics.
Gayle on February 5, 2014 @7:38 am PST
Thanks so much for this video. I have been self-teaching myself the flute for 2 years. We travel so much that lessons are inconvenient. I look forward to the next "lesson."
Questions? Problems? Contact Us.