Top 9 Flute-Playing Tips for Beginners
I originally played the flute (an instrument I loved playing) in my school days. Then, I discovered rock music and spent many years behind a drum kit! However, around 12 years ago, I felt the urge to pick up the flute again, which I did—and I have never looked back.
I spent the first year reteaching myself to play, as well as taking many music courses and attending workshops. Then, I nailed my first professional booking. I played background music at an event at the stunningly beautiful Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire. Since then, I have played at events all over England, including at many beautiful stately homes, folk festivals, country shows—you name it!
With the new year approaching, it is the perfect time to start a new hobby or revisit an old one. I highly recommend playing the flute—if you used to play, pick it up again—it is fun, exciting and a timeless, classic instrument. Don't think the flute is all about classical music, either—I play jazz, folk, rock, blues, pop and country, too.
Want to get your flute on? Yes, of course you do! Well, here are my top tips to get you started.
- Purchase a flute.
- Learn how to assemble your instrument.
- Get a flute teacher.
- Do mouth exercises.
- Practice every day.
- Play to an audience.
- Study music theory.
- Take care of your flute.
- Enjoy yourself.
1. Purchase an Instrument
In the words of Julie Andrews, let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start... First, you are going to need a flute. Don't think you have to spend a lot of money on your instrument. Purchasing second hand is fine. Look on eBay, Gumtree or your local selling sites. Or, you can get a cheap flute brand new.
I have always used a Jupiter flute; I bought it new from a music shop. It cost £249 and has always been good enough for me. But for brand new, I would say don't go below around the £180 mark. You get what you pay for when you buy a new flute. However, it is always worth having a look in your local music shop; they may have a sale on.
2. How to Assemble Your Flute
Flute sorted! When putting the flute together, which is in three pieces (the head-joint, body-joint and the foot-joint), always be careful. Don't touch the keywork—you could damage it.
Gently twist and turn the head-joint in the body-joint, and line up the blow hole with the first key on the flute. Then gently twist and turn the foot-joint into the body-joint.
Blow a few deep breaths into the blow hole to warm the flute up.
3. Get a Flute Teacher
Okay, there are some brilliant flute-teaching videos on YouTube and many great "flutes for beginners" books out there. But if you are a complete flute newcomer, I highly recommend getting in touch with a flute teacher for some beginners lessons.
With professional instruction, you will be shown how to hold the flute properly, how to breathe, how to blow, the basics of reading music and music theory. You'll also have someone to ask questions to. A single one-hour lesson per week will be plenty; you can practice and continue to self-learn at home. Plus, a bonus with the flute is that it's not a noisy instrument, so your neighbours will be cool!
4. Do Mouth Exercises
Flaustists need strong lips. Give these exercises a bash.
- Stick your bottom lip out, pout!
- Twitch your top lip up and down—kissy, kissy.
- Or, make up your own!
You use your tongue to start a note on the flute. Practice saying "Twen-ty Tur-tles" several times. Then play a note, thinking the same words "Tuu-Tuu-Tuu-Tuu." It will become natural after a while.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Practice for at least half an hour every day. It is much better doing that than practising for a few hours just one day a week. Like an athlete, you have to keep your training up. Practice difficult bits, as well as the easy ones. With whatever you find difficult, play it slowly until it becomes easy.
Be patient with yourself! I remember getting so annoyed at myself when I started to learn to play middle E. It just wouldn't come out right! Then, of course, one day it came out perfectly, and I have nailed it ever since.
6. Play to an Audience
Practice often, and play your flute to anybody who will listen—family, friends or pets. Be it a small audience or a larger one, get used to having eyes on you while performing early on. It will instill confidence in you and your ability to perform.
If you feel nervous to begin with, remember that the only person who knows that is you! Nobody else will know. Just smile away! A smile hides everything.
7. Study Music Theory
Music theory is important. Once you can read music and have mastered the notes, you will be able to play every piece ever written. Learn your scales; they will always come in handy.
Start memorising pieces early on, and get yourself used to playing from memory. The earlier you start, the more natural it will become. You will find learning pieces by heart will become quicker and easier as you advance with your playing.
8. Take Care of Your Flute
Always clean the inside of your flute after playing. Take it apart to clean it, but never pull the rod all the way through the flute, in case it gets stuck.
Wipe the outside with a soft cloth. Then, always put the instrument safely away in its case. You don't want to accidentally step on it!
9. Enjoy Yourself
Most importantly, enjoy your flute. Enjoy learning, challenge yourself and set goals for yourself. Join a flute group or a local orchestra. If you are still learning, tell them that, as every musician had to learn at some stage. Just go for it! The flute is such a magical instrument that will fill you with joy.
Being social with your flute is a great way to make new friends and learn together. Once your standard is good and your performing confidence is up, branch out and start asking around at local events to see if you can play background music. Just get yourself out there.