Learn to Play the Flute: Lessons to Play Flutes

Follow Step-by-Step Instructions to Learn How To Play Flute Instruments

Girl playing flute

As with any musical instrument, learning to play the flute can seem like a daunting task, but it's simply a matter of mastering a few basic steps.  

Follow these steps to learn how to play the flute. 

  1. First, you'll need to acquire a flute instrument. It's not necessary to spend a lot of money on flutes. In fact, a good used beginner flute can be found for around one hundred dollars. Before purchasing the instrument, have it checked by a flute repair shop to be certain it doesn't have any major problems.
  2. Next, become familiar with your new instrument. When you open the case, you'll see that the flute is in three pieces. The long, smooth section is the headjoint. It's closed on one end (the "cork"), with a round opening about one-quarter of the way down (the "embouchure"). The longer section with many keys is the body. The short section is the footjoint.
  3. You're ready to start playing! It's best to look in a mirror while learning these first steps. Flute instruments are easier to play when kept in a horizonal line, so looking in the mirror will help you keep that position. Take the headjoint out of the case. Hold it with your left hand. Put your lower lip on the wide side of the embouchure. Cover the open end of the headjoint with your right hand. Tuck in the corners of your mouth slightly and blow across the hole. If the flute produces a low, airy sound and there's a small, triangular patch of condensation on the opposite side of the embouchure, you've got it. If not, roll the headjoint slightly inward or outward and try again.

    Once you can easily do this, uncover the end of the flute. Tuck in the corners of your mouth a little more and blow a little harder. This makes a note that is an octave higher than the first. Do not puff your cheeks when you blow. The air should come from your diaphragm. Practice this for several days until you can easily make both notes.

  4. Now, it's time to assemble the flute. Pick up the headjoint and hold it in your left hand. Grasp the body in the smooth area above the keys. Gently insert the headjoint into the body. If there's any resistance, twist the headjoint slightly back and forth while pushing. Next, pick up the footjoint. Hold it at the end so that you are not pressing on any keys. Insert it into the opposite end of the body.

    To line up the keys properly, look down the length of the flute from the top of the headjoint. The embouchure hole should be in line with the keys on the body and the rod that runs down the length of the footjoint should be lined up with the center of the keys on the body. You do not want the footjoint keys to be in line with the body keys, because they are played by the fifth finger on your right hand, which is shorter than the others.

  5. When playing the flute, you will put your fingers on the following keys on the flute: Your left-hand thumb will go on the triangle-shaped key on the back of the body. Your first finger will be placed on the second, small key on the front. You will skip the next key, then place your second and third fingers on the next two keys. Your pinky finger will go on the lever that extends out from the body.

    Your right-hand thumb does not have a key - it is used solely to support the flute. Your first, second and third fingers will be placed on the last three keys before the footjoint. Your right-hand pinky finger will rest on the semi-circle key at the top of the footjoint. For most people, this feels quite awkward at first. In spite of this, try to keep your mouth, throat and fingers relaxed. It's impossible to produce a smooth, rich sound if you have a lot of tension in your body.

  6. Depress the keys on which your left-hand thumb, left-hand first finger, right-hand first finger and right-hand pinky finger are resting. Put the flute up to your mouth and blow, just like before. This note is either a low B-flat (third line on the treble staff) or a high B-flat (second space above the treble staff), depending upon how much air is used. Practice the low B-flat until you feel that it's as clear as you can make it. This may take several days or more.
  7. Using the fingering chart in a beginner lesson book, gradually work your way down the scale of the flute from your original B-flat. Again, take your time and really work to make each note the best it can be. Repeat these steps, this time starting with the high B-flat.

By now, you should be familiar and comfortable with your flute and your confidence should be great as you learn to play the flute better and better. You may begin working out of a lesson book, or take formal flute lessons. It's always best to take formal lessons when learning a new instrument, as a trained teacher can help you break bad habits before they become ingrained. However, if you practice very carefully, you can learn a lot on your own, also. The important thing is to have fun and enjoy your new talent!


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