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Learning to Play the Flute

One of the most widely recognized and pleasing instruments is the flute. It is loved around the world, and has taken many forms over the centuries. With its portability and simplicity, many students of all ages are drawn to the flute.

One of the attributes that sets the flute apart is its accessibility. This explains why parents so often choose the flute as the first instrument their child will learn. Before enrolling your child, there are a few important factors to keep in mind. First, make sure your child’s arms are long enough to reach the holes and that he or she has the strength to hold the flute off to the side for minutes at a time. If you don’t think he or she is ready for a full-sized flute, a small plastic recorder can offer a similar sound and introduce your child to the joys of playing an instrument even before taking on the challenges of the flute.

As a new flute student, one of your greatest difficulties lies in getting the embouchure or lip formation correct. Consequently, a strategy often employed by instructors is to have the student begin by imitating the teacher’s embouchure. Sometimes, they recommend that only the mouthpiece portion of the flute be used until the student can reliably produce a sound, after which the flute is assembled. The other challenge to be mastered is breathing. Proper posture and drawing air up through the diaphragm will help you to create a beautiful, sustained sound on your flute. Breathing and lip position are nothing, however, without fingering. Over time, you will learn how to correctly play the entire range of notes on the flute’s spectrum. Doing so involves ongoing practice and patience.

Although this instrument can be played by virtually anyone at some level, learning its secrets and perfecting your sound can be the source of a lifetime’s worth of pleasure. Setting a strong foundation of practice is a great way to integrate the flute into your daily life. There are some suggestions that may help you as you put together your practice schedule. Most important, be realistic. Ask yourself how much time you can devote to daily practice. Of course, you always have permission to lengthen that time, but you should strive never to go below it. Next, be consistent. Many teachers believe that fifteen minutes of dedicated practice each day is better than an hour one day and nothing for the next four. Finally, scales and exercises are necessary and important, but give yourself time in each session to have fun. If there is a piece you like, play it. Remember, you picked the flute because you loved its sound and wanted to create it for yourself. Beyond all the scales and etudes, playing the flute is about joy.

As you begin to gain confidence in yourself as a flutist, you will discover that there is a tremendous world of musical styles with which you can experiment. Perhaps you might prefer to focus on the classical genre, which contains some of the most challenging and beautiful works of art for the flute player. Another avenue for exploration is modern folk and sacred music, where countless woodwind arrangements are available. Modern performers have demonstrated the flute’s flexibility and have made it an integral part not only of the orchestra, but also of many popular and New Age music ensembles as well. As you become increasingly comfortable with your first flute, you might also choose to play other types and styles, including Native American wooden versions that create a unique and hauntingly beautiful sound that cannot be replicated on the traditional concert flute.

Musicians of all skill levels love the beauty and versatility of the flute. They are attracted to the purity of sound, the endless opportunities for challenge, and the joys that come with gaining skill. So if you are considering learning to play the flute, listen to recordings and see if the instrument speaks to you. If it does, take that leap and you will be a flutist in no time.

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