Flute re-discovery – Part 2
Re-beginner flutists. These are folk who once played flute in high school, or as a child, and would like to return to the instrument for the love of it.
Last week we listed the steps which will ease your return to fluting. Now let’s start to look at these in more detail. Here’s a breakdown of why each step is important:
1. Get the flute checked out by a reputable repair technician
A leaking head joint cork, or a host of leaking pads will frustrate a beginner flutist very quickly. The flute sounds muffled, dull? The keys are hard to close without a lot of finger pressure? Then take your flute to the best repair place. Phone the top players in town, and/or top flute teachers (you’ll be calling the flute teacher asking for lessons later too; so, two birds/ one stone!) and find out who to send your flute to. Within a week or so (sometimes same day service while you wait) you’ll get a flute back that’s working perfectly. Do it. Don’t try and play on a leaking flute. It’ll only make you think that YOU’RE the problem, when you’re not. You can also check your own flute to prove that a repair visit is needed. But do it.
2. Learn to assemble the flute so that it balances in the hands
A lot of flute playing problems in beginners are caused by the instability inherent in the balancing of the flute. After all it’s one slippery cylinder. You owe it to yourself to learn how to put the head joint and foot joint on so that they ergonomically fit your hands, your face, your lips, your fingers and your own wrists and arms/shoulders. Ask your new flute teacher to observe and help with this too, later on when you start official lessons. The starting point is lining up the center of the blowing hole with the center of the keys on the middle section, and lining up the silver ball on the foot joint with the center of the lowest key on the middle section. From there you adjust the points to suit your own ergonomic needs.
3. Check your ability to stretch, breathe, stand with balanced flute posture
Flute playing is like a sport; if you start all gung-ho and try really really hard, you can really really hurt yourself if you’re out of shape, have poor posture, have shallow breathing, and don’t do any stretching or breathing exercises before beginning. In a flute lesson, this might be some of the first things you learn, so take note. There are some great stretches in Paula Robison’s Flute “Warmup Book” which you can order in at your local library. Breathing exercises,simple stretches, specific musician’s stretches, warmups (depending on your progressing level of playing, warmups can be novice level, intermediate and advanced), and basic blowing and posture information can be found online, but these things are best taught in a live flute lesson. Remember too about standing up to practice, with a tall music stand at eye level. If you’re seated, for whatever reason, sit on the front edge of the chair, with feet flat on the floor, and the chair turned 45 degrees to the right on the music stand, so that the face and flute face the stand, but the knees and hips turn to the right. All these things will help you ease into a new posture comfortably, without strain or fatigue.
More next week.