Warmer vs. Darker tone quality

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Warmer vs. Darker tone quality

Post by cflutist » Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:41 am

I play principal flute in our local community orchestra. I have a handmade thin-wall (soldered tone holes) Haynes flute with a 14K Williams Headjoint.

After listening to recordings of the orchestra, my tone can be best described as warm, clear, bright and singing. The second flute player has a "dark" tone.

My orchestra conductor prefers the "darker" tone, so what should I do to attempt to get a darker tone (short of buying a Conservatory Powell which is what he has)?

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Post by fluteguy18 » Thu Dec 24, 2009 3:08 pm


Everyone has their own sound. Some players tend to be brighter and others tend to be darker. If you are correct in describing your sound as warm and bright at least you have the warmth going for you in this regard. Too often there are players with a bright THIN sound. And unless they are a very competent player it is easy to come across as sharp and shrill with such a sound. The warmth gives the sound depth.

I can't really tell you anything without seeing and hearing you play. However, when I try to go for a darker sound I do several things. First I try to have the air come through the "wet" part of my lips rather than the "dry" part of them. My mouth syllable is usually a variation on the French "ou" sound (say the word Oh with the back of your throat but the word Flew with the front portion of your mouth). I also do a variation on the British/English "Oh" as in boat.

I also spread my vocal cords. This takes practice to tell if you are doing it. You can watch it in the mirror. Your voice box/ vocal chords will shift DOWNWARD in your throat. When you swallow you can feel your vocal folds moving up. Do the opposite.

I generally also put a lot of height between my teeth, move my jaw forward slightly and a lot of things that I can't really describe. Then again I have a naturally dark/rich sound and I have spent the last few months opening it up (it was a bit closed sounding) and sweetening it a little bit.

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Post by cflutist » Thu Dec 24, 2009 4:29 pm


Thanks for the tips. I'll try them out soon.

hmmm, definitely not a "thin" sound which is what I've heard from some of the other second flutes previously. They don't seem to support which gives them a tone that lacks character.

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Post by pied_piper » Thu Dec 24, 2009 8:54 pm

I agree with Fluteguy18. If your throat tends to be tight or semi-closed (like "ee") it will create a more shrill (brighter) sound. Practice the "ou" suggestion on long tones. Start your long tone as you normally do and then consciously change to the "ou" and listen to the tonal difference. There are uses for both types of sounds. I tend to use the "ou" more often, but when I want the brighter sound I simply adjust to create it. For me the change is about equal parts throat and embouchure but it's difficult to describe the embouchure change. Fluteguy18 described it well for the darker sound. I think for the brighter sound the embouchure is less like "flew" and more like "tea".
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."

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Post by Zevang » Fri Dec 25, 2009 8:27 am

I'd say you should try some singing technics. Good singers work very easily with their throats to obtain the richest timbre and color combinations. This is particularly true also for flute playing.

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Post by wkzh » Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:13 am

IMO, it's best if the flautist can get both the "dark" and "bright" tone to colour the music. A potential problem is that the "dark" tone requires much much more air to play and can be rather tiring.

So develop a dark tone, but keep your bright one.
The flute family: probing the lower limit of human hearing and the upper limit of human tolerance.

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