#01 - The Four Main Points

Important Techniques for Playing Wooden / Irish Flute, Fife and Tin Whistle

Welcome to my series of Tips for playing music on flutes, fifes, and whistles. These methods are the ones I have developed and practice to this day. They have worked for me and with practice they will work for you too!

I like to break things down (de-construct) to their basic points which is what this first lesson is about. To play these instruments we must learn and practice these 4 basic things. If they are all in balance your playing will be too, if they are not in balance, you will have a problem.

 1)   AIR IN:  We are playing wind instruments, no wind, no sound. It's pretty basic. You should open your mouth when you breathe, relax your throat and pull air in with your diaphragm. We all get a bit "dry" when playing from time to time, when that happens, we reach for a glass of whatever and take a good pull off it to quench our thirst. Do the same thing when you breathe. Make sure you actually have an intake of air that is sufficient to play the next passage. Try to fill your lungs and not just your throat with air. You should hear a deep "whoosh" sound when you in inhale, not just a thin air sound.

 2) AIR OUT:  Now that our lungs are full of air we need to deliver this fuel to our instrument. Push with your diaphragm (belly) and control the out flow of air with your embouchure (lips).

 3) FINGER UP:  Sounds pretty easy, no? It isn't! I always say to "explode" your finger up from your instrument and be sure to clear the tone hole by 1/4 inch or so. Any lower, the notes will be flat. Much higher, you may miss the tone hole when you bring the finger down.

4) FINGER DOWN:  Now we need to close the tone holes to create the tone we want. I also say it is VERY IMPORTANT to let the instrument stop the motion of your finger so you created a dynamic seal on the hole. Don't try to guess where the instrument is, your finger will slow down and then you don't seal the hole well and the note will not speak.

Remember with the finger movements what we are doing is creating different air pressures inside our instrument which are the tones that we hear. The more sudden and dynamic these air pressure changes are, the better response and tone you will create.

Suggested Exercise:

To develop the technique of breathing with your "diaphragm," take a belt and place it around your chest. Tighten till firm and take a shot powerful breath.  Now practice playing long tones of roughly four beats in duration. Repeat this exercice four times holding the final note until you are out of breath. Keep track of those final beats--that is how you measure your progress. I suggest starting on low G. Stop immediately if you get dizzy...

So there you go, Skips Tips for the 4 Main points of flutery.