Flute/open the throat

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Question
What does it mean in playing to "open the throat"? I've seen this in didgeridoo instruction (regarding circular breathing) and in flute books.  How do you "open your throat"? Isn't it already open?

Answer
Hello Joel!

The throat obviously is open enough naturally to allow air to pass into the lungs and such, but it can be consciously opened more.

Imagine yawning (or even better, just pay attention to the sensation the next time you do so).  Your tongue changes position, your chin likely rises (further aiding the easy passage of air), and your airways open.  Some of these same changes should occur when you're playing.  This is important in playing flute not because it allows more air to pass, but because the mouth, sinuses, and other cavities in your head and throat create a resonance chamber that greatly impacts the sound that you derive from the instrument.  It's not possible to play with a huge, rich sound (as one must to cut through an orchestra, for instance) if your throat is constricted.  Even tiny changes in the placement and arch of your tongue in your mouth have drastic impacts in air speed and direction, which directly impacts the tone you get from your flute.

Under the direction of a good flute teacher, you'll be able to develop an embouchure that facilitates a big, open sound without any unnecessary tension (which can be just as harmful to tone production as an "unopened" airway), so I do recommend that you find yourself someone to study with if you have not already pursued private lessons.  Under their guidance, and with the aid of a series of tone exercises that you'll play for the rest of your flute career, you'll be able to develop an embouchure that utilizes an "open throat".  This will allow you to create a beautiful, focused sound on the instrument.

I hope this clears up any confusion.  If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Herbert

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Herbert Smith

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I can answer questions about almost any flute-related topic.

I have trained professionally as a flute repair tech and music educator, and have a broad range of experiences as a performer. I also have experience with a huge array of flutes with any imaginable material or specification, and can comment on the quality of various instruments, as well as guide people through the flute-buying process. I'm willing and able to discuss various flute gadgets (Valgon rings, Foster extensions, etc.) as well.

I'm very familiar with piccolo, alto, and other harmony flutes (including those in unusual keys, such as Eb flute, Db piccolo, G treble, Ab alto piccolo, Flute D'amore, Contrabass, etc.).

I am also glad to offer advice on how to approach difficulties within pieces of music, offer teaching tips to those who give lessons, or answer just about any other flute-related query you can throw at me!

Please note, however, that I am not an appraisal service, and will not provide estimates of value. Please do not ask me about the value of your flute. I also must decline to date instruments based on their serial numbers.

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I'm a professional repair tech with years of experience, and a veteran high school band director. I've maintained a successful studio for private flute lessons for many years, and have performed professionally in just about any imaginable venue.

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I have bachelor's degrees in music education and performance from highly regarded universities, and have trained with one of the best flute techs/flute makers in the US.

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