Flute/Fuzzy notes

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Question
Hi,
My Flute has been making "fuzzy" or"stuffy" noises when i play notes especially when i play my E flat.Do you think this is an instrument problem that i must take to the repair shop or is it normal?
Thanks!

Answer
Hello, Marisol!
Uh-oh.  This is one of "those" questions, the kind that I could answer with more certainty if I could see, hear, and physically examine that flute.  Yet I can offer some advice, which may be helpful.

If your problem just started recently, or has progressively worsened over time, it is most likely an air leak.  Air leaking out under closed key pads will do exactly what you describe.  It is part of normal wear and tear on the instrument.  When you close the keys, the nice soft padding underneath each key presses down on metal.  Over time, even with normal usage, grooves form in the padding, and as these grooves wear deeper and become more pronounced, they don't seal the holes as well.  To check this, a repair shop has a light on a cable, or a thin post, which they thread into the inside of your flute.  Then they close the keys and look for light under the padding.  Sometimes they shim up, or readjust a pad.  Sometimes they change a pad.  Sometimes they change ALL the pads.  Please don't think you are at fault if this has happened to your flute.  It falls under the category of "routine maintenance."

Eliminating air leaks really makes a big difference in the way your flute plays!  You may even notice that you don't have to push so hard on the keys, or grip them as tightly when holding a longer note.  

Another kind of air leak can happen if you are just beginning to play an open-hole flute.  (For those readers who don't know what that is, it is a regular looking flute with holes in the middle of some of the keys.)  Notes like Eb are the hardest to play well, because you have to close all of the keys.  Always make sure that your playing posture is perfect.  Especially at the shoulders.  That way, you will properly reach and cover all the holes in all the keys COMPLETELY.  If you have a problem playing open-holed flute, the hardest hole to cover will be left hand ring finger, because reaching for the G# key, we unconsciously tend to change our hand and shoulder position.  Then our ring finger is not properly lined up to cover that key hole.  Not completely covering the open holes with the fleshy part of your fingertips, will make the notes fuzzy sounding, or not sound at all.


Speaking of fuzzy and stuffy sounding notes, I have to confess a funny thing I did once.  I was in a hurry to get to band class, and I quickly sat down and assembled my flute.  Then I tried to play the first note.  Eeeeuuuuwww.  That FUZZY, STUFFY non-sound!  Oh no!  I left the cleaning fuzzy inside my flute.  OK, so I am sure that this is not YOUR problem.  But I remembered that I had actually done that, and it made me chuckle.  But it also made me wonder, do you have dusty, fuzzy residue packing itself in around the key mechanism?  And while you are looking, are all your springs (little wires) in place, and not bent?  That is probably not causing your particular problem, but it is good to keep your flute clean, and get used to visually inspecting it for obvious problems periodically.  (I threw that tidbit in for free, because we were talking about routine maintenance.)

So, Marisol, I hope you get that flute problem solved.  Let's hope it's only a small and inexpensive repair.  May you get back to playing even Eb with a beautiful, clear sound!  My best to you!  

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Denise J. Sipe

Expertise

These are the topics I CAN answer... How to play, from beginner to professional. Tips and tricks, breathing, auxilliary fingering techniques Tone Quality Listening--Developing your ears Technique --Bringing the notes up and off of the page, and making them "your own music". Playing solo, small groups, bands, orchestras Digitally reproduced, vs live accompaniment Accompanying vocalists, dancers, other instrumentals.

Experience

Soloist, small groups, large marching bands, symphony orchestras, stage bands and orchestras, theater, church music, jazz, classical, folk music

Organizations
I'm independent. But professionals have often hired me to play in their groups. Giving back to the community where I played in the High School Band, I am a former member of Williamsport, MD Community Band, a current member of New Horizons Band in Hagerstown, MD, and Bass Flute Player for the TOOT UNCOMMON FLUTES flute choir of Williamsport, MD. I often perform solo as "Toot Uncommon" and had a web-based business where I sold flutes of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The show is uncommon. The locations are often uncommon. And the variety of musical instruments is definitely uncommon! I am a member of NFA, the National Flute Association.

Publications
I didn't write for any publications. I leave that up to the more elite musicians.

Education/Credentials
This should have been my career. I am an engineer,and a trained professional clown. But my music is my passion. Flute is my favorite, though I also play many woodwinds and some brass. I am currently playing percussion in a volunteer concert band, and have drum corps experience, where I often played marching bass drum. I am totally self-taught. But I have often played in groups made up mostly of professionals. All in all I am still the area's best-kept secret.

Awards and Honors
Biggest honor of my career was playing an emotional piece, and looking out over the audience. Two big, tough construction workers had tears rolling down their cheeks.

Past/Present Clients
I've been teaching beginning and intermediate flute/piccolo students of all ages in MD and PA since the early 1970s.

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