- EG-REEDS (Éric González, oboe): The importance of previous postural and respiratory work at the beginning of the study of woodwind instruments.
- Rachel Taylor Geier (flute): The Myth of the Magic Formula
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): For This “Career Ending Condition”, There Is Hope
- The Flute Examiner (Kelly Wilson): Do You See What I See?
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): 10 Ways to Create More Musical Phrases
- Magic Reed (Kathy Sheinhouse): 10 Strategies To Make A Serviceable Oboe Reed In 20-30 Minutes.
- The Flute View: On Vibrato by Laura Jellicoe
- Hodge Products, Inc.: Latest News (Ann Hodge): Student to Professional Oboe Reeds: “Which oboe reed should I buy?” [Inclusion here doesn’t constitute an endorsement of any of the products listed or this particular retailer, but I thought the methodology was interesting.]
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): Quick Fix Friday: Breathe from the corners
- How To Make Oboe Reeds (Tim Feil): Reed Making Technique
- International Clarinet Association (Rebecca Rischin): The Clarinetist’s Enemy: Tendinitis: Part 2
- The Flute Examiner (Kelly Wilson): Recovering…Again
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): The Way I Wish I Had Learned To Play Music (Lessons From My Daughter)
- Josh On That Sax (Joshua Mlodzianowski): 5 Things to Consider When Building Your Saxophone Warm-up
- The Vintage Clarinet Doctor – Blog (Jeremy Soule): Clarinet Re-pad vs. Overhaul
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: Five Thoughts on Returning to the Stage
- Joffe Woodwinds: The Dynamics of Breathing with Arnold Jacobs and David Cugell, M.D.
- Magic Reed (Kathy Sheinhouse): Geographical Considerations When Choosing An Oboe Reed Maker
- Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever. (10 Important Flute Tips For Saxophone Players ):
My own past flute teachers gave me conflicting advice about how much the flute headjoint should press into the lower lip. One would pull on the crown of my flute while I played to make sure it came away from my lip with no resistance. Another would push the headjoint more firmly into my face as I played. (I improved under both teachers’ approaches.)
I got curious about it recently and looked up what some flute pedagogues have had to say. I’m presenting my findings here without taking a personal stance (yet).
It’s a little tricky to parse some of these, since many speak in terms of avoiding too much pressure, but don’t clarify whether that means to use as little pressure as possible or some moderate amount of pressure.
In the avoid-too-much-pressure camp:
A very important point to remember is never to force the mouth plate against the lower teeth as such forcing will limit the amount of flexibility after the embouchure has been developed.James Pellerite: “Improving Tone Production in Flute Performance,” in Woodwind Anthology, volume I, 1999 edition. Northfield, Illinois: The Instrumentalist, 1999, p. 11. Article originally printed in The Instrumentalist in 1953.
Do not press the head joint hard against the lips. Control of the tone must come from the lips themselves, not from pressure.George Waln, “First Flute Lesson,” in Woodwind Anthology, volume I, 1999 edition. Northfield, Illinois: The Instrumentalist, 1999, p. 25. Article originally printed in The Instrumentalist in 1957.
“The chin is, of course, an aid in support, but it must not be depended on for support, since pressure against the jaw will seriously disturb the embouchure.”Edwin Putnik: The Art of Flute Playing, revised edition. Miami, Florida: Summy-Birchard Inc., 1970, p. 7.
In order to correct this problem [sharpness/pinching], the student should be certain that he is not pressing the flute against his lower lip, but rather thinking of the flute as resting lightly against the lip…Mary Jean Simpson: “Flute Intonation Trouble: Spare Not The Rod,” in Woodwind Anthology, volume I, 1999 edition. Northfield, Illinois: The Instrumentalist, 1999, p. 117. Article originally printed in The Instrumentalist in 1972.
Do not press the flute too tightly against the chin because too much pressure will alter the tone and pitch.Kathleen Goll-Wilson, “Erratic Intonation in Flute Sections,” in Woodwind Anthology, volume I, 1999 edition. Northfield, Illinois: The Instrumentalist, 1999, p. 661. Article originally printed in The Instrumentalist in 1992.
Excessive pressure against the chin should be avoided.William Dietz, Jerry Kirkbride, Hal Ott, Mark Weiger, Craig Whittaker: Teaching Woodwinds: A Method and Resource Handbook for Music Educators. Belmont, California: Schirmer, 1998, p. 174. Note: Hal Ott is the flutist among the authors, so this presumably reflects his opinion.
…the flute should rest lightly against the chin in order to leave the lips free and flexible.Nancy Toff: The Flute Book: A Complete Guide for Students and Performers, third edition. Oxford University Press, 2012, p. 94.
[Common problems:] Too much pressure into the lip. The teacher should be able to tap the flute off of the lip with very little effort. … [for piccolo:] Too much pressure into the face, especially upper register. Excessive pressure makes high notes much more difficult if not impossible.Charles West: Woodwind Methods: An Essential Resource for Educators, Conductors, and Students. Delray Beach, Florida: Meredith Music Publications, 2015, p. 17.
These are the ones I could find that seemed to advocate for at least some pressure, although neither is explicit about how much:
Students should keep in mind the three points of pressure… [including] the lips pushing out against the flute…John Knight, “Flute Intonation,” in Woodwind Anthology, volume I, 1999 edition. Northfield, Illinois: The Instrumentalist, 1999, p. 529. Article originally printed in The Instrumentalist in 1989.
“Keep a relaxed embouchure, but place the flute firmly on the chin.”Michel Debost: “Basics of Flute Playing,” in Woodwind Anthology, volume I, 1999 edition. Northfield, Illinois: The Instrumentalist, 1999, p. 632. Article originally printed in The Instrumentalist in 1991.
John Knight is the only author to speak in terms of the lips putting pressure on the flute, rather than the reverse.
In any case, among the sources I consulted, there seems to be some consensus that pressure of flute against lip should be light, or at least not “excessive.”
- Just Flutes Blog (Chris Hankin): International Women’s Day – Fabulous Works by Female Composers
- Jenny Maclay (clarinet): 101 Clarinet Compositions Written by Women Composers
- joanmf.com (Joan Martí-Frasquier, saxophone): Women Composers
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: The Magic of a PLAN
- The Theisen Journal – Alan Theisen, musician (saxophone): Issue No. 22: Kill Your Teacher
- Practice Monster (David Pope, saxophone): The Greatest Saxophonists in the World – and how the very idea is harming us
- Just Flutes Blog (Roderick Seed): “Can you play it in one breath?”
- International Clarinet Association (Barbara Heilmair): Collaboration with Boehm and Oehler Clarinets
- Steve Neff Music Blog (saxophone): An Inside Look into the Joe Allard Approach of Saxophone Playing: Memories of the First Three Lessons
- The Flute View (Paul Edmund-Davies): Why I Left the London Symphony Orchestra
- Joffe Woodwinds: Pedagogical “Doubling”
- The Flute Examiner (Jessica Dunnavant): Silver Linings and a Daily Routine
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): An Important Thing To Notice The Instant You Prepare To Play
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: Why Do We Practice?
- oboeinsight (Patty Mitchell): Teaching
- Joffe Woodwinds (article by Ron Odrich): Science in the Art of the Clarinet Sound
- Hodge Products, Inc. Double Reed Supplies Blog (Rebecca Watson): Bassoon Wire Gauge: Does It Make a Difference?
- How To Make Oboe Reeds (Tim Feil): Reed Response
- Jennet Ingle | Oboist: Harder Isn’t Better
- International Clarinet Association (Marcus Eley): Clarinet Works by Black Composers
- International Clarinet Association (Katherine Breeden): An Overview of Making Clarinet Reeds by Hand
- Bill Plake Music (saxophone): Awareness In Playing Music: “Looking For” In Contrast To “Noticing”
- Indy Flute Shop (Erin Nichols): Open-holed flutes
- Best. Saxophone. Website. Ever. (Zhenya Strigalev): The Secret to Reaching Below the Saxophone’s Low Bb