Some Tips For A Flute Doubler From Kieth Underwood

I recently discovered a great video that every sax player who is learning to play flute as a doubler should see. This is an interview of Kieth Underwood by Ed Joffe of "Joffe Woodwinds" on learning to play flute as a doubling from sax and clarinet. Most significant in this video is a discussion of tongue placement and location as part of a proper flute embouchure.

Highlights by time stamp in the video:

You can listen from the beginning, of course. But this guy has worked with many principle players in many roles. He started teaching and found that he developed solutions to problems by talking with his students.

I've written about flute embouchure before. But the reason I highlight this video is because in this video, Kieth speaks, among other things, to the issue of

Tongue placement and tongue location with regard to a proper flute embouchure.

I'm highlighting some pertinent points in the video here, by time in minutes and seconds.

  • 7:30 - "people liked my playing and people would ask how I did things" - how he developed "solutions to problems" for people.
  • 11:15 - how is it different working with teaching doublers?
  • 12:10 - "there are specific doubler issues"
  • 12:30 - Flutes are different because they have two embouchure holes
  • 13:40 - pitch and opening of the embouchure
  • 14:18 - "Julius Baker said the clarinet is the natural enemy of the flute."
  • 16:00 - a lot of teachers talk about faster air. What does that mean?
  • 16:44 - what you do with the tongue in your mouth
  • 18:50 - the problem for doublers is that they are used to the mouthpiece in their mouth. When you take the mouthpiece away, what do you do with your mouth?
  • 23:00 - don't start with the lip plate on the lips and roll down; start with bringing the flute up from underneath the lip.
  • 25:20 - BOTH lips are involved in the proper embouchure (as opposed to sax/clarinet where the emphasis is on the lower lip. Flute is upper but also lower lip.
  • 29:50 - "I hang out in the 18th century - the Quantz section on embouchure."
  • 30:14 - when you're going through the octaves, your lower lip has to be active. It has to cover and uncover the hole.
  • 31:58 - "one more wonderful thing to do: bending pitches"
  • 41:58 - "a doubler thing worth its weight in gold - your facial muscles have to balance each other."
  • 48:00 - the secret to brass players with longevity - they don't compress their air by pushing the mouthpiece against the face. They compress the air by making the passage in the mouth smaller with the tongue.
  • 48:30 - what he learned from buzzing his lips that helps his understanding of the relationship of the tongue and the lips.
See also  How To Pick A Flute When You Can’t Play Flute

Issues that are specific to "doublers"

"There are doubler issues, obviously. Most doublers are coming at the flute as adults." They're used to having something in their mouth. So it's kind of like practicing without a safety net. They're trying to find the anchor point for the location of the flute.

"Flutes have two embouchure holes." There is the embouchure hole in the lips and another embouchure hole in the flute.

At 13:40, listen to the demonstration of the pitch changing with the fingers as he opens and closes the embouchure hole in the headjoint.

Clarinets go flat when you push the air, flutes go sharp. But if you "manipulate the hole of the flute, you can manage pitch" and manage the sound. 

What you do with the tongue in your mouth.

Regarding flute embouchure, tongue placement and tongue location are crucial in forming good sound. The role the tongue has in compressing the air is profound. 

At 17:20 - "When you make an embouchure, you bring your tongue forward and your lips wrap around your tongue." A forward tongue position does wonders for compressing the air.

At 18:20 - Joe Allard referred to the forward location of the tongue as "French coning."

Facial muscles have to balance each other: you have muscles that go forward - "ooh" and facial muscles that go backward - "aah" and you have to go from "ooh" to "aah." Check it out at 41:58.

See also  Sometimes Less Is More

Ed Joffe is offering a special course for doublers that may be of benefit to you.


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