How to Avoid Cracking Notes on the Flute
Now that we are all in some stage of Quarantine, now is the time to practice and fine-tune our playing. Following is an article from Ory Schneor, directly from his wonderful blog, "FLUTEinWIEN", re-published with his permission.
Ory’s Flute Tips
How to avoid cracking notes on the flute?
I’m sure you are familiar with the issue:
You are playing a passage and you seem to not be able to hit certain notes – you crack them: you get a different note than the one intended. It could happen in the first moment of the note (the attack moment) or it could happen in the middle of the end of the note as well.
How many times, for example, has that happened to you with the first note of either the G or the D Major concerti by Mozart?
Cracking a note is a result of various potential problems and if you crack notes often, I can highly recommend you invest the time needed to explore why it happens and find out the solutions to solve it and reduce the chances of it happening.
🌰 Better crack nuts, not notes
Basically, cracking a note is playing a different note (higher or lower) than the one you wished to play. There are a few main reasons for it to happen:
- The airstream you blow hit a too high/low point on the wall of the embouchure hole
- The air stream/pressure you blow is too strong/weak
- Your attack changes your aperture too much
- Your lips aperture is too far away from the embouchure hole
- Your fingers are not well coordinated
- The flute is leaking and not sealing well
In general (besides when the flute leaks and the coordination issue with the fingers), the cracked note is happening when something you do affects the air stream you blow and make it hit the wrong place inside the flute’s embouchure hole. If you imagine your air stream as a laser ray, you move the placement of your laser ray on the embouchure’s wall, and very suddenly the laser ray hits another place on the wall.
I remember myself struggling with this issue as a young pupil/student. The advice I mostly received was ‘simply blow less and it won’t crack’. Today, many years after, I can tell you this is in fact only a small part of the real solution. If I only had received the right advice back then, it could have saved a lot of time and frustration…
Become the Flutist You Wish to Hear.
Quickly and Efficiently.
👨⚕️ Play as a medical surgeon – it’s all about stability and precision
Imagine for a moment you are a medical doctor and you’re about to perform a very sensitive surgery. There’s a very small point where you have to make the cut and there’s a nerve just next to it. If you cut in the wrong place, you’ll hit the nerve and the patient will jump from the sudden pain. Your hands should be extremely stable and nothing should be able to prevent you from achieving the highest precision needed to cut exactly in the right spot.
With the flute, it works exactly the same. Stability plays a very important role when it comes to cracking. If your flute is moving too much, if your lips are moving too much and ruining your aperture, if your airstream is interrupted, if the air can’t hit precisely how and where it should hit, then the chances are that you are going to crack the note.
The precision is needed in order to make sure your airstream hits exactly where it should hit and the stability is needed to make sure nothing interferes with your air stream to hit that spot.
The good news is that you can learn about developing such stability and precision. Your warm-up routine should allow you to build up your awareness and control over your muscles. Naturally, the cracking problem could result from a mixture of issues and only when you learn how to address each one of these topics and practice it separately, will you be able to gain the stability and control needed to avoid the cracking from happening. In my Intensive Masterclasses these are exactly the topics you’d be able to work on intensively and you’ll learn a powerful warm-up routine that addresses all of these topics.
You are very welcome to leave your comments and questions,
Ory Schneor is a principal flutist with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Tongyeong Festival Orchestra, and member of the Geneva Camerata. He is teaching masterclasses around the world and he is the founder and instructor at FLUTEinWIEN – Intensive Masterclasses in Vienna.