The flute is a complex instrument that relies heavily on breath and finger positioning to create the best sound. Every new flute player shares similar goals to learn notes and positions, read sheet music, and master melodies.
It’s necessary to learn music theory, hand positioning, and how to breathe when learning to play your instrument. If you’re just starting on your flute-playing journey, the article below will guide you through learning to play as a beginner flutist.
How to Play Flute: The Basics
As a beginner, you may want to jump right into learning notes, but you must start with understanding your instrument first. The parts of the flute can help you better know your instrument so you’re more prepared when playing.
There are different types of flutes that come in varying sizes. It can be helpful if you start by renting flutes from a music store as you become familiar with the instrument before purchasing your own.
The basic parts of your flute are as follows:
- Head joint
- Foot joint
- Lip plate
- Rods and Keys
- Flute body
Assembly involves connecting the head joint to the end of the flute by pushing and twisting it. Do this gently because you don’t want to accidentally press any of the rods or keys, which could damage them and affect sound quality.
Next, line up the hole in the head joint with the first key on your flute. You can check that it’s lined up correctly by looking at the flute at eye level to make sure; if it’s too far one way or the other, it will be challenging to play with full sound.
Lastly, you want to push the foot joint into place and line up the metal pins with the keys. Ensure you have a snug fit against the flute body.
Proper Embouchure and Producing Sound
Now that your flute is assembled, you can work on creating sound. This involves having proper embouchure, which is the positioning of your breath into the instrument.
Place the lip plate against your bottom lip, with the hold underneath the center. Hold your flute parallel to the floor, which involves having your hands and arms up. Balance the flute between your chin and bottom lip for support and correct position.
You want the mouth hole directly in the center of your lips before you blow. This is so you can achieve the best tone when you blow into it. Tighten the corners of your mouth, and try to keep your lips relaxed.
For the next step, ensure the sides of your mouth feel firmer without putting pressure on your lips. Try to pretend you’re staying the letter “M” to get the right embouchure for producing sound.
You can tune your flute by adjusting the head joint. Use a piano to hear the proper keys, or you can utilize a tuning app to check for flats and sharps and then adjust to the proper note by moving the head joint slightly.
Breath Control and Support
When you blow air into your flute, push from the middle of your lips directly toward the hole in the lip plate. Open up your mouth slightly to blow, and exhale a controlled stream of air to make your sound.
If you’re struggling to hear the sound come up, adjust your jaw slightly forward or backward. Work to direct your breath by properly supporting it with a deep breath and then a slow, steady breath out into the hole.
Don’t open your mouth too wide. The air won’t travel correctly into your instrument.
You can experiment with longer and shorter notes with your tongue, holding your embouchure in the same position on the outside with your lips. You can also change the speed of your breath to change the pitch of the notes.
Posture and Hand Position
Proper posture and hand positioning are essential when learning how to play the flute. After learning the parts of your instrument and creating sound, you can work on learning how your posture and fingering will benefit your playing.
With your left hand, control the keys that are closest to the head joint. The first key on the bottom of the flute body should be where you rest your thumb, with your palm facing you.
Wrap the rest of your fingers around the other side of the flute. Your index, middle, and ring fingers go on the 2nd, 4th, and 5th keys in that order.
Your pinky goes on the side key that looks like a little scoop. Use the part between your thumb and index finger to help support the weight of the flute.
Your right hand controls the keys at the end of the flute body. Make sure your palm is facing away from you to press the keys easily. Your right-hand thumb should continue to support the flute’s bottom.
For your posture, you hold the flute parallel to the floor with the end pointed downward slightly. Sit on the edge of the chair so your back is straight, and you face forward. Your arms should be relaxed and away from the body when raising the flute up.
Your fingering can be aided through the use of fingering charts. A fingering chart can help you learn how to play the notes on the scale. Depending on the type of flute you have, the fingers can be slightly different between charts.
Many practice books for the flute already have fingering charts within them. This way, you can quickly reference them if you’re having a hard time with the sheet music. And, once you’ve mastered one technique, you can look at new fingerings to practice.
Beginners often make errors when learning fingering, so don’t get discouraged. The difference in sound may be subtle, but it makes a difference in your technique.
Much of practicing your fingering techniques works through muscle memory. You’ll create habits in the pattern of your fingers when playing notes with lots of practice.
Practicing Basic Scales
One of the best ways to learn flute as a beginner is by starting with the notes of a scale. Scales help you break down each note within a particular key that can later show you how to play songs in their entirety.
To get a good start, you should begin with the B flat major scale, which uses the notes B flat, C, D, E flat, F, G, A, and then B flat again. This fundamental flute scale will establish your music theory and help you understand note sounds and how to properly execute playing the notes up and down the scale.
How to Learn the Flute Notes
It helps to make associations when learning basic scales to easily recall the notes. Practicing scales involves knowing the notes you’re playing and which finger goes to each note specifically. Here is a breakdown for learning the notes on your flute.
Reading Flute Sheet Music
It’s critical for a student to learn how to read flute sheet music. But it can be tricky to learn fingering and sheet music together. Your brain has to work with reading notes and understanding proper fingering to play the familiar note.
For the flute, staffing is done with the treble clef. There are five lines in the staff that start with notes F, G, A, B, C, D, and E on the lines and spaces, which represent a whole step and half step. You’ll learn how to play whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and eight notes.
Knowing which line and space equal which note helps you become more fluent in reading sheet music for the flute. Practice is going to be the best method for nailing down music theory and reading music.
Commit to One Note at a Time
Learning just one note at a time and how to play it properly may seem tedious, but it can help you learn and advance in your flute playing more quickly. When you’re working on a scale, for instance, go through each note on the scale going up and down until you know the tone is full and brings out a clear sound.
Each note has particular keys that need pressing on your flute. If you try to learn them all at once, it can feel overwhelming and stressful, resulting in your discouragement. Go just one note at a time, and review them multiple times so you can commit them to memory.
Learn the Notes in a Logical Order
Learning the notes in a logical order help you to practice positioning and fingering technique. Your very first notes go something like this: A, B flat, C. It requires you to press four keys.
When you learn notes in an order, it helps to associate them and puts you in a good place to advance. That way, when you have to move from note B to a low D, you can exercise your muscle memory and play with a good tone.
Tips for Memorizing and Practicing the Notes
The best way to learn your notes more quickly is through as much practice on your instrument as you can dedicate to playing. You can use videos, a picture, or diagrams to help you if you’re a more visual learner.
Some other helpful tips when learning the flute as a beginner include:
- Don’t shift your fingers to press different keys when playing so that you don’t create habits that throw you off and hinder your ability.
- When playing standing up, keep your feet planted firmly at shoulder-width.
- Practice your embouchure with the head joint of the flute before attaching it to play the full musical instrument.
- Keep your lips smooth and unwrinkled when playing to get a good tone.
- Playing a higher pitch on the flute means pointing your airstream out in an upward fashion.
- Take a little time each day to dedicate to flute practice, so you can continually make progress and benefit in your skills.
- Consider taking a course for beginners or taking private flute lessons.
Choosing a Flute for Beginners
Choosing a flute can depend on a number of factors. For instance, young children may not want to play on a professional type of flute. It may be difficult to reach the keys without straining their neck or hands.
Smaller children may opt for a flute with a curved head joint or look into a beginner-model instrument. There are also bamboo flutes you can purchase for your initial learning to meet basic needs, or you can rent a used flute until you’re ready to purchase a full-size silver professional-grade flute.
Many beginner and student model types are made out of nickel and silver alloy. The nickel-plated beginner flutes offer more affordability.
The models also have some closed-hole keys to make your flute playing easier to start. Serious flute players can eventually upgrade to an open-holed flute to exercise more control over the different notes.
Depending on how quickly you’re aiming to learn, your skill level, your age, and how much you plan to put into practice, there is a flute that will work for you. It may take some time to decide which provides you the most success, so take your time making your choice!
Is It Easy to Learn the Flute? Can I Teach Myself?
Whether learning the flute is easy completely depends on your ability and skill level. For example, if you’re already familiar with woodwind instruments like the clarinet, learning the flute may come more easily.
You can teach yourself how to play an instrument if you’re genuinely dedicated. The flute is one of the most popular instruments for people, along with the guitar, piano, violin, and others. However, the most important thing is your preparation and discipline.
You may utilize tutorial videos, online courses, or read guides (like this one) to help get you started. But the best way to learn the flute isn’t going to be by teaching yourself.
Teaching yourself how to play an instrument can result in learning bad habits since you have no one to check if you’re executing proper fingering, posture, and positioning. That’s why working with a professional flute teacher is your best method for playing like a professional.
Finding a Flute Teacher
It can feel stressful when looking for a flute instructor. You can ask for recommendations for local teaching in your area, check for music schools, or find online flute lessons.
Before you make a commitment to your flute teacher, see if you can have a trial lesson. You may want to try out more than one before you decide which one you get along with best to learn the most from.
Flute teachers are excellent at helping you progress and advance quickly. They know how to help you learn theory, read sheet music, and master your instrument in the most effective way possible. They can also quickly adjust and adapt learning methods that suit your individual needs for the flute.
Play the Flute Like a Professional
As you begin your flute learning journey, work on getting comfortable with your instrument. Once you feel comfortable committing notes to memory, you can practice simple melodies and short songs. With more practice, you’ll improve your breathing and stamina to get through longer, intense sessions with an instructor.
Set realistic and small goals for yourself to learn notes, read music, create clear tones, and practice often. Ultimately, your flute learning will increase your knowledge and flute abilities. You’ll be a professional-level flute payer in no time!