I know you are excited to start with your instrument, but let’s get a few things in place before you pick up your instrument.
Posture and Breathing
In order to play properly you first have to sit up straight. This allows you to breathe deeply and support the sound of your instrument as breath controls all of the sounds you will be making on your trumpet.
One way to do this is to stand up, bend at the waist with your arms hanging loosely to the floor. Now slowly roll up, aligning your spine so it is straight up and down all the way to your head with your arms at your side. Think of a string pulling straight up from the top of your head stretching your body out. Shrug your shoulders up and down, then back and forward. Your shoulders should sit in a relaxed position at rest between each of these places. Now, sit on the front edge of your chair and do the same thing. This puts you in the proper position to support your sound by breathing deeply.
Embouchure and Buzzing
So you’ve figured out how to put your instrument together, and hopefully how to hold it without it falling. Now it’s time to figure out how on earth to get some sound out of it. To start with, let’s understand how the instrument produces sound. This happens when the air stream is split by the edge of the embouchure hole. Essentially, it is the same way that you produce a sound from a bottle. You blow across the hole, and the air stream is split. Now we just need to figure out the best way to do this in order to achieve the best sound. I will give you a step by step guide on how to produce the proper flute embouchure. The embouchure is the manner in which you for your lips and mouth in order to play an instrument.
- Take the headjoint in your left hand, and cover the open end with the palm of your right hand.
- Rest the lip plate in the saddle of your chin. Make sure the center of the embouchure hole is lined up with the center of your lips. Also make sure that the headjoint is parallel with your lips as well. It is helpful to use a mirror to check this.
- Make sure your teeth are slightly apart. The teeth should never be touching when playing.
- The edge of your lip (right where the red part starts), should be right where the edge of the embouchure hole is. Minor adjustments can be made from this guideline to accommodate for individual lip/facial features.
- Keeping the headjoint steady, blow a steady stream of air by saying “too”. This typically leads most people to a natural flute embouchure. If no sound is produced, make sure you are blowing across, and not into the embouchure hole. You can also experiment rolling the headjoint in and out to find the “sweet spot” that will give you the best sound.
You will know you have produced a good flute embouchure by the sound of the headjoint. A good embouchure and airstream will result in a lower tone, that is round and dark. If you are getting a higher tone, then try slowing the airstream down a bit to see if you can get the lower tone.
Holding the Flute
Now that you have basic breathing and embouchure, let’s make sure you can hold your instrument properly.
The flute rests on the lowest section of your left hand’s index finger. This part of the finger meets the flute body between the two topmost keys (C and C#) and supports from below.
If you are guiding the end of the flute forward with your right hand, the left hand feels like it can support from beneath the the flute, and does not have to push the flute toward your chin. Elbows are comfortably down. Picture the flute as pivoting on the left index finger, so that it acts as a hinge. Any amount of guiding the footjoint away from you brings the headjoint closer to your chin.
As you can see from the picture of the person holding the flute at right, the flute is NOT parallel to the shoulders. In band, turn your chair to the right at a 45 degree angle. When standing to practice at home, turn your feet and hips to the right at a 45 degree angle. Then gently turn your upper body and your head so that you’re looking over your left elbow.
The flute should make an angle or pie wedge between the line of your shoulders and the line of the flute’s body. Guiding the foot joing away from you with the right hand should allow a relaxation of your left shoulder down and into its socket.
Only allow your hands to touch the smooth cylindrical sections of the flute and do not clasp any of the moving parts. Rods and keys are easily bent and expensive to straighten again. Bent keys cause leaks and leaks cause poor tone quality.
Use a gentle twisting motion so that the tube ends stay round and “true.”
Line up the CENTER of the embouchure hole with the center of the keys.
Align the small silver ball on the footjoint’s rod with the center of the lowest key. (D key). Later you can experiment with moving it closer to your right hand pinky’s reach depending on the length of that shortest of fingers.