High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Basics of Flute Playing, Tone Production and Fingerings

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FluteMomDB
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High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by FluteMomDB » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:26 am

Hello :) My daughter plays flute in the school band and this is her 2nd year. She is very good for her age (she's the one the teacher brags about to everyone), but she has been having a problem lately that is frustrating the heck out of her. When she first gets her flute out and starts practicing scales, she can't get a couple of high notes out (high Bb and ??- I will ask when she comes home). It isn't that they come out "not quite right"; it's that nothing but air comes out. We at first thought it was that she needed to get warmed up or take a bunch of slow deep breaths, but we're thinking now it is something with the flute. She tries and tries and everything else comes out beautifully, but those two high notes are just forced air. UNTIL after a few minutes of playing, they suddenly come out just fine. Then she can continue to play them perfectly for as long as she wants. She can put the flute away, take it back out an hour or so later and it still is okay. But after several hours of not playing, the problem is back. It also seems to be getting worse recently.
Would a leaky pad or two cause this? We got the flute new and the pads have never been replaced. She has been playing on it for 1 1/2 years. If it is a leak, does it make sense that it would be fine after several minutes of playing? I was thinking maybe the moisture from her breath causes the pads to swell just enough to seal the leak. Could that be? When she gets home from school and hasn't played for hours, she is going to try those notes right from the start and if they don't come out, she is going to try pressing the keys harder to see if that makes a difference. By the time we thought of that this morning, she had already gotten the flute to produce the notes, so she couldn't do this little test. Until then, I'm really curious if any of this indicates leaky pads.

I appreciate any comments or advice!

~Diane

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pied_piper
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Re: High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by pied_piper » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:03 pm

It's difficult to diagnose a problem like this without being able to see and hear what is happening. Does she study flute with a private teacher? If so, the private teacher should be able to figure out if it is the flute or the player. Either can be the root cause of such an issue. If she isn't studying privately, consider doing so.

However, in case she does not have a private teacher, I'll take a stab at helping. First, I need to know for sure which Bb and ?? she is having problems with. There are three Bb's playable on the flute. Let's call the lowest one Bb1. It's on the middle line of the staff. Bb2 is above the first ledger line above the staff. Many first and second year students might call this high Bb. There is also a Bb3 which is five ledger lines above the staff. Most second year students are not yet able to play that high, but to diagnose the problem I need to know precisely which Bb is causing her a problem.

Two ways to diagnose the problem would be to have another, more experienced flutist to try her flute to see if they experience the same problem and if there is another flute that she could try, that would help to determine whether it is a problem with the flute or a problem with your daughter. You could also take her flute to a repair shop to have it checked.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

concertmaster3
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Re: High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by concertmaster3 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:31 am

This sounds more like an embouchure control issue rather than a leaky pad. One quick way that usually eliminates that possibility is if the lower octave of the notes mentioned play. If the lower octave plays, then it might be helpful to get your daughter flute lessons, and work out with a teacher on how to get those notes to play. Long tones can be a great cure for this!

Good luck!
Ronnal Ford
Adjunct Professor
Guilford Tech Community College
Forsyth Tech Community College
http://www.RonFordMusic.com

FluteMomDB
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Re: High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by FluteMomDB » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:41 am

Thank you both for your replies :)
It is the high Bb and A. Bb3, as you called it. And then the A.
She does not have a private flute teacher, but I am going to try to find one. I did a quick search for one in the area and nothing came up, but I am going to ask around. A couple of weekends ago, she was in the Honor Band at Virginia Tech and it occurred to me that I surely could find someone in the music department there that gives lessons, or at least could point me in the right direction.

That is a good idea to have someone else try her flute, and for her to try another that is known to play correctly. For what it's worth, when she was first learning those two notes a few months ago, she struggled for a little while, but it sounded different during that struggle. Kind of like it kept going down an octave. Then she learned them and all was great. This is a new problem, and it seems odd to me that it goes away after a few minutes of going at it. Maybe she is doing something different with her embouchure than she used to do.

I will definitely have to find a way to get her to try another flute. Thank you so much for your suggestions! I'm going to add a link to a video of her playing this morning, just so you can hear the type of sound that is coming out. Please excuse the fact that she was rushing. We were about to leave to get her to school. She mostly wanted to see if pressing the keys a little harder made any difference, which it didn't. And also to get the notes coming out before school because she might be having a test on scales this morning. Once she gets them coming out, it plays fine for long enough that it should be okay through Band.

http://youtu.be/_pBadTSLA_o

~Diane

concertmaster3
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Re: High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by concertmaster3 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:41 pm

It sounds as if she needs to make a more focused airstream. But that's just a quick guess at what the problem could be. I tend to have my students that are starting to use that register learn to play harmonics, so that they learn how to manipulate their embouchures for the third register.
Ronnal Ford
Adjunct Professor
Guilford Tech Community College
Forsyth Tech Community College
http://www.RonFordMusic.com

FluteMomDB
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Re: High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by FluteMomDB » Thu Feb 14, 2013 7:51 pm

I THINK we may have figured something out. She told me that she noticed some of the other flutists at the honor band clinic blowing into their flutes before getting started (I mean, covering the entire hole with their mouths and just blowing). She was never taught to do that! So just now, she played the Bb scale and had the same problem as always. She warmed her flute by blowing into it about 4-5 times, tried again and the notes came out!! I can't believe she never knew to do this. In the morning she is going to try to play the scale before warming, and it will sound horrible as usual, then immediately warm it with maybe 6-8 breaths, then try again. And I hope so much that it works! She is feeling much better about herself and her flute. She was getting so frustrated and down because she has never really ever had any issues with playing.
This makes sense because of how once it starts playing right, it stays playing right. Well, no kidding, that's because the flute was finally warmed up... the hard way. I'm anxious for morning to see if this test works.

I really do appreciate all the input. I still will take the advice given because it will better her playing anyway. Definitely need to find a private flute teacher too. She has a real talent for the flute (though I'm sure it doesn't come across in the rushed video from this morning ;) ), and she has a desire to be the best she can possibly be, so anything that can help her along is great :)

~Diane

FluteMomDB
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Re: High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by FluteMomDB » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:56 pm

Just to follow up, she warmed her flute this morning by blowing into it about 8 times and she was able to get those notes out on her second try. Weird. And I noticed that all the other notes sounded amazing as well! Much nicer tone right off the bat. So it seems we've figured it out.
Thanks again :)

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Zevang
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Re: High notes not coming out at first, leaking pads?

Post by Zevang » Sat Feb 16, 2013 7:51 am

Generally, leaking problems are detected when you feel a change in tone quality. Normally a leaking pad causes the tone of a note to turn dark and airy, really ugly.
As a regular procedure to check for leaking pads, begin playing from the second C of the flute (not the lowest, the one immediatly higher). This note has only the thrill keys and the C key itself closed, so you can see if any of them has a leak. After that, go down the scale 1 semitone at a time, touching very lightly each key. Any change in tone or difficulty in taking the note may be an indication of a leak.
Leaks may be caused by problems with pads and with the regulations between keys as well.
Then, if any is detected, it's time for taking the flute to a technician for proper repair.

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