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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Its easy to fall into the trap of doing whats easy to get a sound. So Ive been using a lips almost closed very narrow wide embouchure. My teacher has been saying make more of an oval or teardrop with the aperture opening and feel the back pressure of your air support at the top of your oral cavity. I'm still relaxed as I can be with the lips but this embouchure has really helped my tone. I get a much more vibrant, more overtones, colored tone. Try it out? K
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
and my top lip feels like it comes over and shoots the air right at the mouthpiece tone hole. K
 

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Something to ponder...

Without the flute, blow with your normal embouchure into the palm of your hand, held horizontal with your lips.
Now place your other index finger gently against your lower lip/upper chin area where a flute would go. Notice how this makes the airstream direct downwards, lower on your palm, while you still think you are blowing straight ahead.

So no need to tell a student player to direct the air downwards. It happens automatically.

If a student consciously directs the air downwards they are likely to mask the embouchure hole opening with the upper lip, making the pitch flat, and very likely, later, the high notes difficult to play/control.
 

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Keith,

I think my experience matches yours pretty closely. I had been doubling on flute off and on for more than 20 years without ever having any formal flute instruction and the embouchure that I was using was a horizontally-stretched "smiling" embouchure.
After years of using this embouchure I was able to get a decent tone across the range of the instrument, but my timbre was quite uneven across registers. Additionally, I found it hard to vary my tone color on the bottom end and to play softly in the top octave.

Last year, I decided to take flute lessons for the first time, and one of the first things that my instructor did was to have me change my embouchure. The two biggest changes were that (1) she had me relax my embouchure and use more of a frowning "lips out" sort of embouchure, and (2) she had me consciously attempt to direct the air with my upper lip thinking of it as a "beak".

Both of these changes took time to get accustomed to, but they have immensely improved my tonal control. In particular, the "frowning" part allows me to get a much beefier tone on the bottom end, and the "beak" part has helped me to be able to make large interval leaps much more easily and to better control my tone and pitch on the high end.
 

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"Frowning", to me, refers to the brow, not the lips, so I do not understand the above.

My take on this; take it or leave it:

For a good tone we need a non-turbulent airstream leaving the lips, and one that does not become too turbulent on the way to the far side of the embouchure hole.

Think of an oxy-acetylene welding flame. It's very smooth. Definitely non-turbulent. A long tapered tube is needed to achieve that.
Think of a recorder, which needs a "windway" 20 or 30mm long in order to achieve this "focused" sort of airstream.

When flute playing, we need a "windway" to achieve this focused, non-turbulent airstream. The windway is the gap between our lips, and it is only a few mm long. It is amazing that we get by with such a short windway.

When the lips are drawn rather tight over the teeth, or over-"smiled", this ridiculously short windway is shortened even more, producing turbulent air, which is inefficient at making the flute sound, and air that is travelling in the wrong direction because of turbulence, only makes a sort of white noise... a fuzzy, windy tone.
The highest and lowest notes are the fussiest for getting a good sound so it is mainly these that suffers when the player creates a short windway.
 

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Took my first flute lesson with a local legend, we spent most of it on embouchure....she had me move the edge of the tone hole down to the edge of my lip....keys pointing up....then told me I should feel a little air on my left arm....now most of the air is going into the flute....tone got much better, low notes were really easy....more relaxed, more comfortable...much better sound....
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
/gordon thats a good point. I have beginners who struggle making a tone. I'll use your hand idea K
Something to ponder...

Without the flute, blow with your normal embouchure into the palm of your hand, held horizontal with your lips.
Now place your other index finger gently against your lower lip/upper chin area where a flute would go. Notice how this makes the airstream direct downwards, lower on your palm, while you still think you are blowing straight ahead.

So no need to tell a student player to direct the air downwards. It happens automatically.

If a student consciously directs the air downwards they are likely to mask the embouchure hole opening with the upper lip, making the pitch flat, and very likely, later, the high notes difficult to play/control.
 

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Think "sturgeon face". Joanna Tse discusses it here (https://youtu.be/o_EePsimUA0?t=87).

Further to my post #6:
I still believe that what is important is the length of "windway" between the lips.
A wide "smile" where the lips are stretched out sideways will of course pull the lips tight over the teeth, making that windway very short. Hence a failed embouchure.
But a smile can be very slight, just enough to take wrinkles out of the lips, without pulling the lips against the teeth, still enabling a windway with length. This works, and m any top flute players have done just that.
It has become fashionable to diss all embouchures that have a hint of a smile because some top players have achieved a long windway by the alternative of "sturgeon face". I suspect Galway had a lot to do with this spreading pedanticity. Obviously "sturgeon face" works well for him.

I believe both styles are means to the same end - achieving a windway with length. (I suspect that the "sturgeon face" embouchure, after years of doing it, may result in a face with decidedly unattractive age-lines! But that may not concern some players!)
One will suit some people and the other may suit others.
Neither involves pulling the lips tight enough to make the lips thin enough to reduce the length of the windway.
If a player is using a lips-stretched-thin embouchure, it is that that needs addressing, not necessarily a conversion to a face-distorting, sturgeon embouchure.

All IMO.
The following is illustrative of the doubtful merit in being pedantic about embouchures.

http://www.larrykrantz.com/embpic.htm
 

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Further to my post #6:
I still believe that what is important is the length of "windway" between the lips.
A wide "smile" where the lips are stretched out sideways will of course pull the lips tight over the teeth, making that windway very short. Hence a failed embouchure.
But a smile can be very slight, just enough to take wrinkles out of the lips, without pulling the lips against the teeth, still enabling a windway with length. This works, and m any top flute players have done just that.
It has become fashionable to diss all embouchures that have a hint of a smile because some top players have achieved a long windway by the alternative of "sturgeon face". I suspect Galway had a lot to do with this spreading pedanticity. Obviously "sturgeon face" works well for him.

I believe both styles are means to the same end - achieving a windway with length. (I suspect that the "sturgeon face" embouchure, after years of doing it, may result in a face with decidedly unattractive age-lines! But that may not concern some players!)
One will suit some people and the other may suit others.
Neither involves pulling the lips tight enough to make the lips thin enough to reduce the length of the windway.
If a player is using a lips-stretched-thin embouchure, it is that that needs addressing, not necessarily a conversion to a face-distorting, sturgeon embouchure.

All IMO.
The following is illustrative of the doubtful merit in being pedantic about embouchures.

http://www.larrykrantz.com/embpic.htm
Gordon,

I think that the way that Joanna explains it agrees with what you are saying. Moreover, note that I don't actually look like I'm frowning when I play, neither does my teacher, nor does Joanna in the video (when she's actually playing).
My face isn't obviously distorted when I play. Both the "frowning" and the "beak" are very subtle (I can barely see either change in the mirror), but I can feel the difference and thinking about it these terms makes it easy to keep the better, more lips-forward embouchure.
 

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Gordon,
I never thought about the windway length but it makes perfect sense.
Thanks for the insight, it's all about having a good concept and fulfilling it.
Since playing bass flute my whole embouchure concept has changed: more relaxation, lips forward, less tension at the sides of the mouth.
All those things tend to lengthen the windway.
 

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Further ponderings, seeing you seem interested, Adamk:
....
At the fipple end of a recorder windway the edges of the windway (at the exit) are chamfered. I have been told by a top recorder maker that the "included angle" of this chamfer is of utmost importance for a good tone.
My formal education in fluid flow dynamics suggests that this is necessary so that when the airstream leaves the windway it smoothly gets a little fatter rather than becoming turbulent with whirlpool as it leaves a sharp edge.
Now on our lips there is a slight change in firmness and texture where the red skin changes from normally damp to normally dry. I believe that we utilise this change to get just the right support in the right place to emulate the chamfering of the recorder's windway. This only happens with an embouchure that is relaxed or slightly protruded.
 

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Further ponderings, seeing you seem interested, Adamk:
....
At the fipple end of a recorder windway the edges of the windway (at the exit) are chamfered. I have been told by a top recorder maker that the "included angle" of this chamfer is of utmost importance for a good tone.
My formal education in fluid flow dynamics suggests that this is necessary so that when the airstream leaves the windway it smoothly gets a little fatter rather than becoming turbulent with whirlpool as it leaves a sharp edge.
Now on our lips there is a slight change in firmness and texture where the red skin changes from normally damp to normally dry. I believe that we utilise this change to get just the right support in the right place to emulate the chamfering of the recorder's windway. This only happens with an embouchure that is relaxed or slightly protruded.
Quite possible.
I sometimes play recorder and have SATB.
 
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