When it comes to understanding how to teach your students to play with characteristic flute tone, it comes down to being able to teach your students to conceptualize the transit time and maintain consistency in the transit time. So what is transit time? It is the time from when the air exits the aperture to when it hits the strike edge of the blow hole. Having the optimal transit time has everything to do with whether the sound is focused and in tune rather than being dull, shrill, diffuse and out of tune.
In this blog, we have been looking at this issue in as many ways as I can think of over the last two school years. These articles include “The Value of Consistency“, “To Roll or Not to Roll“, “Independence for Lips“, “Why do my Flutes Sound Thin and Squeaky in the Third Octave?“, “What do you do with your corners?” and “The Legend of Kiss and Roll“.
Here is a video to demonstrate consistency in the transit time contrasted with rolling in and out. You will notice that when I am being consistent with my embouchure, I never cover more than about a third of the blow hole. You will also see that I often reach quite far over the embouchure hole with my top lip (I do have an overbite), but that the relationship of the bottom lip to the opening and blowing edge is consistent. When I roll the flute on my bottom lip, notice how much not only the pitch changes, but also the tone color. You will see that the amount of the blow hole you can see goes from less than half open to completely open. However, you can see when I restrict the movement to just my lips forward and back, I can still manipulate the pitch, but the amount of coverage of the blowing hole (approximately 1/4-1/3) remains the same. There is not nearly the change in color doing it this way than if I’m rolling the flute in and out. This is because when I am moving my lips independently, I am still maintaining consistent transit time, thus preserving the tone quality even while adjusting for register, dynamic or pitch.
There is no question that learning where to place the flute on your bottom lip and learning consistency in the transit time is a challenging idea to conceptualize. But it is also really the crux of the matter when it comes to producing characteristic flute tone. We have to rely on ourselves to develop that consistency rather than on the equipment as with reed or brass instruments.
Have a great summer, everyone. I may pop in occasionally over the summer with an announcement or two. And I’ll be back in the fall with more flute tips for you. If you find these entries useful, please subscribe, share with your colleagues and come back regularly. Feel free to comment. If you have a topic you would like to see explored more fully, you can contact me via IM/Messenger on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about clinics, workshops and performances, click here
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