Ory’s Flute Tips
Why flutists need to stop speaking about ‘support.’
Were you once given advice by a teacher to “support more” or a remark like “you’re missing some support”? I bet most of you have.
But, did you understand what that actually meant, or how could you solve that? I’d bet again that you were actually left confused and not exactly sure what you have to do. Most probably, you were given an observation that might have been in fact true, but you didn’t receive the tools for solving it. I’d love to hear about your experiences on this topic, so feel free to leave your comments below about it.
Personally, when I teach I try to avoid the term “support” as much as possible. I find it too vague and the students (at any level) have normally hard time making sense out of it. What do I do instead? I choose a more physical approach:
Understanding resistance and air pressure through your body
What many call “support” is in fact the combination of 3 actions: increasing the air pressure inside the body (inside the lungs), controlling your abs to push the air and creating higher resistance for the air coming out of the mouth.
To understand better the process I want you to try the next little exercise (without the flute) while focusing on how that feels in your body:
Inhale a good, deep breath, close both your mouth and nose completely and try to exhale strongly. Don’t allow any air to come out, even if you push the air quite strongly. What do you feel is happening in your body? Which parts of your body move and react to it?
Naturally, as your air stream is blocked and can’t leave the body, your closed lips will create a lot of resistance for the air (as the air can’t leave through the lips) and that will increase the air pressure inside your lungs. Because of this high pressure, your lungs will expand and push your ribs cage out. You’ll use as well your abs muscles in order to help pushing the air out. Physically that’s what happening in your body.
This physical feeling might be too much for what we actually need for the flute, but somewhat less than that is what you need for the flute and the understanding of how it physically feels is the key for understanding how to use your muscles and create the right pressure you need for playing.
Now you know the most basic concept of how to increase your air pressure. What you have to learn next is how to control the air pressure to fit the register you are playing in. The higher we play on the flute, the higher air pressure we’d need and learning how to control and change your air pressure according to the different phrases you play is a must for us.
You can easily learn through dedicated exercises exactly what you have to physically feel (as I teach through my warm-up routine courses) and develop your control over your air pressure. You’ll see that you’ll forget completely about “the support” and you’ll rather know how to use your body’s muscles to create the air pressure you are currently missing.
Enjoy practicing and keep healthy.