I was thinking about starting up flute because I think jazz and rock flute is the coolest thing, but how hard would it be to learn it? I've been playing sax for 5 years now and I heard that the fingering are very close.
The fingerings are about the same in the first two octaves and just about everything else is different, LOL. But that shouldn't stop you if that's what you want to do.
Holding it comfortably, getting a good sound, control and intonation in the upper register and getting a wide dynamic range are what I find the most challenging. But considering how similar the fingerings are, that leaves you time to work on the other stuff when you are first learning.
Compared with everything else, the fingering is a total non-issue. You quickly learn that.
Getting an embouchure and breath pressure that works well, with decent tone throughout the range, and decent control of pitch and volume in the third octave, are far, far, far more difficult than fingering issues. And this seems to be especially true for players going from a reed instrument, but definitely possible.
A lot of sax players have found the following to be helpful. (It is also accessible from the SOTW home page.):
Personally, because of fingering and embouchure issues, i find it a better/easier double with sax than clarinet is. The embouchure is obviously totally different but it makes quite a nice "rest" from sax playing (very much IMHO, that one!). I also like the fact that the instrument has a totally different energy to the sax. It's brilliant for improvisation and playing an instrument tuned in C can give you some nice options. With pupils, I note that the main difficulty in comparison with sax is that flute breath control can seem more demanding. Tuning up high and dynamic control are v difficult, as has been said.
Playing flute since this past June and can hit low C (C1) to G3 but having trouble going higher.
Also, I think my sound is a bit breathy but I'm working on it.
I noticed you can use sax fingering except for left hand C on flute but you'll be out of tune on a few notes. Mainly E and F#.
Also, holding down that Eb key on notes above Eb helps keep the instrument from falling to the floor.
One thing I was wondering is................
What is typically the highest note you see for flute in concert music?
I'm talking community band type concert music, not symphony orchestra.
For example: on alto sax, i rarely see above high D but some songs do go to F#.
Fingering is the last thing you should worry about. Many people (even fellow musicians) who don't play woodwind think just because the fingerings are the same for sax it's easy to learn how to play the flute. Big mistake. But don't let this stop you.
IMHO, flute is also more versatile and suits most modern (aka, pop) music better than the clarinet. Most of the woodwind pros I know now play sax and flute all the time vis-a-vis sax and clarinet. They say the clarinet is almost obsolete in club gigs compared to sax and flute.
I took up flute and clarinet at the same time, in December of 2004. Flute came to me largely intuitively, I had no teacher for my first year pursuing the instrument, save one lesson with my sax teacher who is a very fine woodwind multi-instrumentalist. Clarinet, on the other hand, has been a much more difficult road, and still does not feel natural to me, even after a similar amount of practice time spent on both instruments in the past two or three years.
On the flute I am playing repertoire by Bozza, Ibert, and Sancan to a pretty decent level. On the clarinet I am barely able to play the Mozart. Different strokes for different folks, it seems. When I started taking serious legit flute lessons in September of 2006 with a very fine player, she had to make very few corrections to my technique, embouchure, and air use. I have a feeling that with the clarinet, the process will be a bit more difficult once I start pursuing serious legit lessons. "Too similar to be different" regarding clarinet and sax, or something to that effect: they feel so similar in the mouth at first that it can be hard to mentally differentiate and adjust your embouchure and air speed accordingly; whereas putting a piece of silver against your lip with no reed completely changes your mindset over to something else. Something to think about.
Another thing to think about: if you want to pursue musical theater type work, the clarinet is FAR more important to know how to play in most cases. It is the "ticket" to getting a lot of pit orchestra gigs, and around here that translates to a lot of $$; whereas the flute is, obviously, required to be played to a high level on these types of gigs, it is not as popular in the reed books for many of the more oft-played shows.
I'm not alone in my experiences. Most woodwind players whose first instrument was sax that I've spoken with have found flute to be a lot more natural of a change than clarinet. It seem to come more readily to sax players these days, especially in a jazz context, where in modern music it is usually more appropriate than a clarinet.
I think that you will have a lot of fun with the flute and be able to pick it up and do a good job as long as you play it EVERY DAY. Do NOT give up ONE day while you are learning this instrument, even if you feel a little dizzy that day, play for five minutes and see how you are and if you can keep going. Just keep blowing away, playing fairly loud at first, to get the feeling for putting air through this instrument and learning to "Finesse" the sound out of the instrument. It demands greater control of air pressure and speed than the saxophone and you will just have to keep at it in order to start getting good at that. And of course, Gordon's online correspondence is of great value and was very useful to me in the beginning as well. Good luck!
"I noticed you can use sax fingering except for left hand C on flute but you'll be out of tune on a few notes. Mainly E and F#."
-This could be your flute, or this could be you. This may also relate to this next sentence...
"Also, holding down that Eb key on notes above Eb helps keep the instrument from falling to the floor."
If it is the flute, true twisting the cork (up the top of the headjoint) IN, not out as this can be costly. Otherwise it will be a fingering problem. On sax you don't have to hold down the Eb key to play E, but this is the contrary with the flute. It will not only make your E quite a bit flatter than what it should be, but it also makes the tone really 'airy'.
Hold an E without the Eb key until you've got the sound in your head, then put the Eb key down and listen to the difference.
Thanks for the help but just so you know,
I'm making sure to learn the flute in the traditional manner.
The sax fingerings were just for comparison.
I do catch myself playing F# with the middle key (instead of the bottom one) and sometimes moving my first finger to where the bis key is on sax for Bb.
Funny thing is, it actually works.
I am trying to break my sax habits on flute but it takes time.
I've been using the Eb key on every note above low D (except for middle D), lifting the first finger for middle D and Eb and so on.
Took a lesson to get some pointers too.
Tone is improving but I'm still not happy with it.
I've been playing out of my Rascher book on flute as well as a Brubank intermediate book.
I still don't understand how people march with a flute since walking around while playing totally upsets my embouchure.
I'm still having issues holding the flute securely so I've been talking with some flute players for advice.
Overall, I would say my flute playing is coming along much faster than my clarinet playing.
I also picked up a Piccolo and contrary to what I've heard, it actually has helped my flute embouchure.
the best thing about the flute is that you don't have to worry about reeds. you just put it together and play it and it works. no fuss no muss. the fingering is the same mostly but another great thing is that you don't have to transpose! you can have so much fun with this doing recording projects where you just pick up some music like a bach chorale or something and you can arrange the voices with a synth and lay the flute part over the top with no effort. you can get a pretty good instrument fairly cheaply too. go for it!
"the best thing about the flute is that you don't have to worry about reeds."
Well, not really. For a flute, the reed is the airstream, which you make as you play. It vibrates up and down, just like a reed. And there is no part of flute playing that needs more attention than that airstream!
For flute, as you play through the pitch range, and from fff to ppp, that reed has to be constantly changed, unlike clarinet, where one reed does all.
I don't agree with Razzy on the musical theater part. Most doubling shows I run across have flute in the Reed 1 book and often another book such as Reed 2 or 4. If you play alto, you'll usually have to play flute too and likely some picc. A generalization is that more modern shows (rock/pop style) have more flute and less clarinet. Some shows are scored "legit" with separate books for flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon etc and no sax....so if you want to play them you'll need to be good on another horn.
As has been discussed already, flute is more similar to sax in fingering while clarinet is more similar in terms of sound production. Some folks get the flute embouchure right away while some folks never quite get it.
MM, you right about some folks never quite get it, I've heard a few very fine professional sax players that can play very nice on the flute, but their sound is somehow poor, with lotsa air, perhaps the lips endurance they've got by playing the sax for so long.
If you want a nice fat full sound on the flute you must relax the lips as much as you can while making the air flow thin and exact, it's a perfect balance between both things.
Actually, I think knowing BOTH clarinet and flute is essential. I have been busting for about 4 years to get the flute playing in order. I actually rather enjoy practicing it. I have worked a whole lot more since flute has been part of my arsenal.
Unlike Razzy, I took to the clarinet rather easily. Of course I started it 35 years ago when I was 12, after 4 years of saxophone study. There are times when I actually think I am a better clarinet player than saxophone player, mainly because the saxophone is the LAST instrument I practice, after flute, clarinet and sneaking in some oboe when no one is at home to hear it.
There are some monster guys in the area who have the flute/clarinet/sax thing down, and one of the guys is also killer on oboe/englsh horn as well. I am lucky when I get called to do show work with all the super doublers around here.
Original question: are the sax and flute similar. Not at all to me. Someone said the fingerings in some cases are similar, but fingerings are the least of your concerns when you're a flautist. As others have noted, sound production is what it's all about!
Many, (most?), sax players are not very good flute players. They haven't put the time into lessons and practice. A BIG problem is switching from sax to flute many times on one job. After 35 years of this, it's still not easy. Try screaming altissimo on alto for a couple of hours- then play something delicate on flute! Darn near impossible! In a Broadway show, it's a lot easier, because you switch a lot- but it still can be hard! Gordon's email lessons for a sax player taking up flute, are excellent!
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