The Hissing Sound.

Basics of Flute Playing, Tone Production and Fingerings

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The Hissing Sound.

Post by JasonTongRulz »

When I play the Flute, I can't help but notice the hissing sound. The Hissing is obviously my Air being blown..

My Flute tone is okay I guess, Good at best but most notes I play come with the Hissing when I tongue each note, it's particularly noticeable when I hold notes and play in the lower register.

Is this normal? To have a Hissing Sound when you tongue notes?

It sounds kind of like..
When I perform for friends they tell me my tone is very nice but they can hear me blowing..

I am pretty sure this is not my Flute, as it produces a nice tone, albeit, with the blowing sound.

Is there any way to correct this or is this normal?

Is this an Airy Tone?

I've often found my Embouchure.. Irregular. It doesn't look quite right but it works. I would like to have a prettier looking embouchure though. I'd compare my Embouchure to a Trumpeter's Embouchure? I do have a Private Teacher but she says she will sort things out later, but I fear it will be too late. Perhaps this is a reason why?

I am willing to post a video.

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Re: The Hissing Sound.

Post by remnantpark »

Well, a hissing noise is certainly not normal. Perhaps it counts as an airy tone.

The thing is, we won't know what causes this problem unless we actually look at you play. A video may be nice, but your teacher may know best.

Also, you never know if it is the flute that is causing the problem. My flute overall works fine, but one time, the cork got loose and my tone got very inconsistent. It just wasn't resonating. I then got my cork fixed and the tone magically came alive. So you never know. Check if there are leaks or anything...just in case.

But the fact the sound is hissing when you are articulating is weird. Perhaps it is a bad habit. Some people tend to go "pfft" (form embouchure, close lips, open, tongue + blow) when they tongue the first articulated note in a phrase/piece, half articulating with the actual mouth. You are reforming your embouchure over and over again as you articulate, stopping the air with your mouth. When you do this, the sound gets fuzzier and fuzzier, because the embouchure just doesn't focus from the constant reformation. I used to do this before as a beginner, and I got frustrated as I kept tonguing, since the sound just became fuzzier and fuzzier. So go back to the basics, with a simple articulated passage, and play slowly all slurred. You should aim for that clear tone when slurring. Then, slowly play legato, separated notes (tongued, but very smooth). Try to look at the mirror, to stop yourself from reforming the embouchure, you should only use the tongue and diaphragm as you are articulating. Eventually, continue on, playing more and more separated notes. BUT DON'T GO FAST.

Once again, I have no idea though what is causing the airy tone. I suggested a possible cause, but you never know. Ask your teacher again, seriously.

Also there is no "right" embouchure. Everyone is born with different shaped mouths, so thus we have different kinds of embouchure. The right embouchure is one that will produce the best sound and optimum facility in airflow. Some of the best flutists had weird embouchures..Moyse, Rampal, Taffanel, etc. I myself have a very crooked embouchure, and it's really not that "pretty-looking" but it works, and I'm happy with the sound it makes (though not too happy...every sound has room for improvements). Keep practicing tone every day, CONSISTENTLY. The embouchure will settle into the one that works best, and will eventually work very consistently.

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Re: The Hissing Sound.

Post by jmdewey60 »

I can't diagnose your problem, but someone else here probably can.
I just wanted to give a little general advice which is to have several
flutes, even if they are not really nice like a professional model.
Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with me, or my
flute, and picking up another one or two helps me to figure it out.
Of course you need to keep your flutes all in good working order.

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Re: The Hissing Sound.

Post by lianeandflute »

As remnantpark said, we can't help you out really unless we can actually see you playing in a video or something.
The other thing is, we don't know how advanced you are a flute player. Are you a beginner? All my beginner students always complain to me about not having a nice tone, but as they are beginners, that's to be expected. It can take people years to form a nice tone and then years after that to really refine it - we are always trying to improve it, so really it can take a lifetime!

First and foremost, you need to know whether it's your flute or you. A simple test is to ask your teacher or someone you know who plays flute with a reasonably clean sound and see how they sound on your flute. If they have no problems with hissing sounds, then you know you need to take it to a flute specialist to have it repaired - you could have leaking pads or a loose cork or something else. It maybe be worth having it serviced anyway, when was last time you had it serviced? Your flute needs to be in working order for you to be able to work properly on it. If there is nothing wrong with the flute then you know you can do something about it.

As I also don't know anything about your practice routine, don't get annoyed if you already do this and I'm suggesting it unnecessarily; but I suggest doing long notes (or, I think they call it "long tones" in America) before you play anything else. start in the low register, this is the only way to fix your problems. If you practice an hour a day, I would recommend doing at least 15 minutes of long notes. But other people may suggest otherwise. I put a lot of emphasis on working on tone, but some people don't worry about it so much.
Good methods are the Trevor Wye method book on tone, Moyse's "De la Sonorite" or you can make something up. Even if you played every note for, say, 10 seconds, listening closely to what works, and watching yourself closely in the mirror you can start to improve you tone. You also need to be prepared to experiment with your embouchure to see what works and what doesn't - your teacher would be able to help you out with this.

The other thing you mentioned it articulation. It's not uncommon among beginners (again, sorry if you are not a beginner) or less experienced players to have a fuzzy sound when articulating. This is about clarity of your tonguing a lot of the time. You have to place the tongue behind your top teeth and tongue clearly like "tu" or "ta." It can be quite hard to tongue clearly so you have to practice this very slowly at first. Practicing scales is a good way to practice tonguing. The other thing is that you have to support your tonguing with a lot of diaphragm (abdominal muscles really).

I hope something I said can be helpful, I don't really know what the problem is because I can't see you, but I hope you can find a way to fix it.
"It's happening inside you; not in the flute!" - Emmanuel Pahud (At a masterclass in Sydney, Nov. 2010)

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Re: The Hissing Sound.

Post by psylocke24 »

I agree with them that you should post or upload a video where we can see how you play it.

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Re: The Hissing Sound.

Post by switch »

When i started playing the flute I was also aware of a hissing sound when playing the flute. In the beginning I experimented with a lot of different ways of blowing into the flute and slow but surly my tone improved and the faint "hissing" is now almost gone.

What also makes a very big impact on how clearly the air stream is heard is where you play the flute. If you a play in a place when there is no echo (very dry) it is more audible.

Even when the pros play you can hear the air stream but from what you describe it seem quite loud, can you make it louder or less audible when blowing differently into the flute?

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