Updated: Jul 13, 2021
This is a common question I'm asked by many students. But fear not! There are a couple of factors that come into play that you can work through to improve your sound!
Embouchure (mouth formation)
Your mouth needs to be pinched at the sides (left and right) with a small hole in the middle (or slightly to the side if you have a peaked lip). When you blow, your air stream should form a small triangle on the mouthpiece. But be quick, it disappears quickly!
Everyone will be different, so don't be afraid to experiment. This is my flute embouchure while I play. As you can see, I pinch my lips at the side and have a fairly large hole. Yours might be smaller, so grab a mirror and experiment!
You also need to consider the space inside your mouth. Drop your tongue and lift the soft bit in the top of your mouth as if you have a ball or gobstopper in your mouth. Imagine that your mouth is a guitar or violin body, you need to create space for the sound to resonate from.
Do you stress about the sound that is about to come out? Your shoulders and neck tense preparing for 'that' note. Well, believe it or not, this is also part of the problem. You need to relax, let the air flow out without restriction.
Again, a mirror can help. Or better yet, record yourself playing 'that' passage or note or scale that you 'always' stuff up and watch your body tense. Our mind is a powerful thing.
Some exercises that you can practice to improve your sound include long tones. Basically, you choose a note that you are comfortable with such as a Bb, play a long note and then move chromatically up or down. In the video example, I start on Bb and then move to A. Then A to Ab.
Think about the sound and experiment with your body. Move the tongue slowly around the mouth and see how that affects the sound, roll the head joint a little in or out, up and down to see how that affects the sound and take note of the tension in your body. By choosing a simple note you can stop thinking about the technical side of playing notes and concentrate on your body. Once you get 'that' sound, the one that is dark and pure, stop blowing and blow again. Can you replicate the sound? Figure out what you needed to do to get that beautiful tone every time.
Why does it work?
As you do this exercise over the coming days, weeks and months you will gradually become more aware of your body and what you are subconsciously doing while you play. Once you are aware, then you can start changing your habits and create new ones! Eventually, you will just make the right position for your body.
Need some help?
Still not sure getting the sound that you want? Get in contact with us today to organise a lesson! You can book one lesson, no obligation, to simply ask your question and get a trained set of eyes to see what you need to improve on. You can even do this online via Zoom!