Unusual problem

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fluteguy18
Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:11 pm

Unusual problem

Post by fluteguy18 »

Hey everyone,
I know that suggestions can't really be offered without seeing and hearing a person play in person but maybe someone might have an idea. After almost a year off (in which I lost close to 100lbs) I returned to playing. I've now been playing for a solid 6 months and have noticed a problem in my playing. At first I thought it was because I was regaining the musculature in my embouchure but now it is a definite problem.

When I play in the top half of the range I get a very odd.... UNDERtone. Not an overtone, but a sound UNDER my tone. It sounds like someone is putting air through a flute without really playing it. Furthermore the interval is a perfect interval (like a 3rd/4th etc), but the interval isn't always the same one. Sometimes it's a 5th, etc. It's this odd lower partial that is very clear, almost like a multiphonic.

I have no idea what to do and I've been working on it for about 2 months now. Any ideas?

I'll try to post some audio clips soon. I've become so preoccupied with it that I've put aside all technical work and it's tone only, all day, every day. It's very frustrating. I'm wanting to compete again, but this is in my way. I think it has to do with my lip shape. Before the weight loss I had rather full lips for a guy. Now my lips are on the medium/thin side of things. My face is CERTAINLY thinner (I'm sure cflutist can verify from my facebook pics, and I've lost another 5-8lbs since the last pic I posted was taken --- size 42 jeans to a 30/32 waist).

It's very frustrating. It's like my body is an alien when I play. My hands are completely without pain and in a lot of ways I have improved, but in so many ways I am miles behind where I was.

Ugh.

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cflutist
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Re: Unusual problem

Post by cflutist »

Have you tried to run this by your fellow associates and your employer. I'm sure they will have some ideas when they hear your playing.

Congrats on the weight loss, that is quite an accomplishment.

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pied_piper
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Joined: Sat Mar 31, 2007 1:31 pm
Location: Virginia

Re: Unusual problem

Post by pied_piper »

FG18 - Since you have lost so much weight, you lips are certainly thinner than before. The result is that the embouchure hole is now closer to your lip opening than it was before. That would cause some slight changes in the angle of your airstream. Perhaps you can compensate by rolling out a bit while aiming the airstream a bit lower. It's also possible that you may need to consider changing headjoints to find one that better matches your new physical attributes.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

fluteguy18
Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:11 pm

Re: Unusual problem

Post by fluteguy18 »

I've asked the people at work. No luck there really. That's a good idea PP about airstream angle. I've also submitted my plight to the Larry Krantz list and the Galway flute chat lists. They've been shooting some good ideas my way too.

I've been referred by several people to the leading teacher in the Dallas area because she's evidently a remarkable technician. I asked her about it when she came into the store and she's agreed to help because 'it's a very interesting problem and I like fixing puzzles.'

One way or another I'll fix it. I made a beautiful sound once before and I'm almost there again.

fluteguy18
Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 3:11 pm

Re: Unusual problem

Post by fluteguy18 »

You were very close! I had my lesson this evening and all I can say is WOW! Claire Johnson is a MAGNIFICENT pedagogue. I think in those 30 minutes I learned more about the way the mouth, tongue, jaw, throat, and diaphragm work than I have learned in the past 6-7 years combined. The problem was not my embouchure. In fact she felt I had great control over my lips but rather it was my tongue and the back portion of my jaw.

She pulled out this GIGANTIC book of human anatomy (which was mostly pictures but it was a good 2 feet tall and 1.5 feet wide when CLOSED) and went to the anatomy of the human head. She discussed it for a while and had me try different exercises. To make a long story short I needed to think more like a singer. Use my 'head holes'. Bring the jaw downward more (feel the holes open up in front of my ears), relax my tongue muscle and allow it to slide forward in my mouth almost curling up against the base of my lower front teeth. Doing this was difficult. So she had me lower the jaw and do flutter tonguing. It turns out to do frontal flutter tonguing your tongue has to be completely relaxed, so she had me flutter tongue and then go straight into a straight tone. That cleared up my sound immediately.

So basically it was lower the back portion of the jaw, and soften the tongue! Immediate fix. My sound became clear, all of the pre-weight loss richness returned and a surprising amount of sweetness appeared out of nowhere. It will take time to make this a permanent habit, but I am very pleased with the results.

:D :D :D :D :D :D

WOOHOO!

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pied_piper
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Location: Virginia

Re: Unusual problem

Post by pied_piper »

I'm glad that she was able to help you find the reason and help you fix it. It's really great to hear stories like this because it points out that teachers are truly necessary. We often thrash about searching for an answer by ourselves when a good teacher can quickly show us the way.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

JamieFluteNewbie
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Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2020 12:06 pm

Re: Unusual problem

Post by JamieFluteNewbie »

I am curious (I have posted a question elsewhere about this) what a "normal" or "typical" tongue position/shape should be when playing flute. I hear "relaxed" and "flattened" here. My particular issue is that it seems I cannot get the high notes to speak no matter the shape or size of the opening of the embouchure without a corresponding "closing" of the volume of the oral cavity by NOT flattening my tongue.

I'm wondering if most people playing the flute have maybe not even spent a lot of thought trying to determine what an optimal "oral cavity shape" really is when playing flute. I'm wondering if a majority of people maybe more or less "stumble into it" somehow, finding something that works naturally.

I'm new to flute but have played sax for years. On sax, it is difficult or next to impossible (depending on which horn) to effortlessly hit low notes without opening the cavity by flattening the tongue, especially with tenor and baritone saxes) and also very difficult, if not impossible, depending on the mouthpiece setup, to hit the altissimo notes without making a smaller "oral cavity" by moving the tongue higher/forward in the mouth.

Do you (assuming you've had to pay attention to this) find that you need to adjust the shape and placement of the tongue to accomodate where you are playing over the range of the flute (octave changes and/or volume changes)?

Thanks. I would appreciate the input. I'm getting a bit of an "undertone" myself (seems like an octave below) and wondering if a better understanding of what is optimum tongue placement is a part of the missing link for me.

Jamie

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pied_piper
Posts: 1915
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Location: Virginia

Re: Unusual problem

Post by pied_piper »

Playing the flute is quite different than playing sax. The various registers of the flute are controlled more by embouchure flexibility rather than the oral cavity. You can't think about flute registers in the same way as the sax. Yes, oral cavity is very important for sax altissimo, but not so much for flute. In fact, most flute teachers will stress that the mouth and throat always be kept as open as possible for the best sound. If the upper register notes are difficult for you, it is most likely that your embouchure has not yet developed enough to reliably play those notes. When moving higher, the lip opening must become smaller and the air speed must be faster (not to be confused with harder). Think of it like putting your thumb over the end of a water hose. When the hose end is open and unrestricted, the water just sort of falls out. If you start to place your thumb over the end of the hose, the water stream will become smaller but shoot out farther. Just like the placement of the thumb controls the direction of the water flow, the lips control the angle of the air hitting the embouchure plate. For low notes the air stream will be more open and should be directed lower and more into the embouchure hole. For higher notes, the air stream will be smaller and higher (think splitting the air column on the embouchure hole edge). You can practice this without the flute. Hold your hand about 3-4 inches in front of your face. Blow and direct the air toward the base of your palm (low notes). Then start moving the air stream up to the top of you palm (high notes). That is a great exaggeration but principle is what should happen when playing flute. Lower notes are blown more open and downward, middle notes blown in the middle and upper notes blown more closed and more upward. The oral cavity can have a small effect - more "oo" for lower notes and more 'ee' for upper notes, however, the MOST important thing is to keep the air stream flexible as described.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

JamieFluteNewbie
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Joined: Wed Jul 15, 2020 12:06 pm

Re: Unusual problem

Post by JamieFluteNewbie »

Well, Piper, I will have to tell ya I was a bit skeptical at first, but I thought I need to explore things a little based on what you were saying about keeping the tongue relatively in the same location regardless of register.

I can see that what I was doing may have either been giving me a "shortcut" that was cheating up to it but causing the "undertones" I was getting, or else it might have been inadvertently putting other things in a different position (throat most likely, and probably jaw, etc, etc, without noticing).

I was having trouble at first. So I went up to the high D and worked at lowering (flattening, I suppose) the tongue while up there and played my way down through the second register.

What I found was a) I had to go with a MUCH smaller embouchure than I had anticipated, and b) I got a sweeter sound (and could play the notes longer as I had less "leakage" of "wasted air" that wasn't doing much except making a lot of wind noise.

I'm glad I asked; I was doing something incorrect based on related experience.

Thanks for your feedback. That gained me a few weeks of "trial and error."

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pied_piper
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Location: Virginia

Re: Unusual problem

Post by pied_piper »

Glad I could help.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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