Whether you’re interested in being a soloist or playing in a group, the flute is a versatile woodwind instrument that lends itself to many musical outlets.
Playing the flute is appropriate for people of all ages — children and adults alike can learn to play the flute. But maybe you don’t know where to start on your journey to learn how to play the flute for beginners.
We’ll cover that in this article. You’ll discover how easy it is to learn to play the flute, and we’ll give you some step-by-step guidance to get you well on your way to making beautiful music.
Table of Contents
- Is It Easy To Learn To Play the Flute for Beginners?
- How To Play the Flute for Beginners Step-By-Step
- Learn to Play the Flute With the Expert Team at Northwest School of Music
Is It Easy To Learn To Play the Flute for Beginners?
Yes, learning the basic techniques of playing the flute — putting the instrument together, correct finger placement, and blowing into the flute — is fairly easy. But just how easy it is and how quickly students master those techniques depends on a variety of factors.
The following factors may make the flute easier to learn to play:
- Having prior music experience
- Playing another instrument, like a recorder or another woodwind instrument
- Age (younger students may learn more slowly)
- Maturity and interest
In addition to these factors, some characteristics of the flute can make it inherently a less complex instrument to learn to play:
- Even though it is a woodwind instrument, there are no reeds to deal with.
- It is a C-tuned instrument, so no transposing is necessary when playing in a group.
- It’s small (only three pieces) and portable.
- Very few accessories are necessary.
- Finding a flute teacher is usually easy since the flute is a common instrument.
Taking lessons with a private teacher may help accelerate learning. Northwest School of Music can help you get started by offering flute lessons with our experienced and highly skilled instructors. Register today and get a free session!
How To Play the Flute for Beginners Step-By-Step
Maybe you’re a James Galway fan, and you dream of playing like him one day. You’re ready to jump in and can imagine yourself playing like a virtuoso in just a short period of time. But, even with lots of natural talent, you’ll need to pace yourself and learn the basics before mastering your musical craft.
When you learn how to play the flute for beginners, it can be a fairly easy process when you follow these steps.
Step 1: Choose a Flute
The first step is choosing an instrument that works for you as a beginner, helps you meet your goals, and fits your budget.
When choosing a flute, you have plenty of options:
- Buy a new one
- Buy a used one
- Rent one (or rent-to-own)
- Borrow one
Flutes are also made by many companies and range in quality from the most basic to the most exquisite models. If you want to buy a flute, you can find an inexpensive (but not cheap) one for around $100. More expensive models can be as high as $20,000.
If renting a flute is more your speed, you should be able to rent a flute for around $20-$30 a month, depending on the model and contract stipulations.
As a beginner, it may be best to start with a lower-end model (or rent one) until you know if you’ll like it and want to continue. You can always upgrade as you progress.
Step 2: Assemble (and Disassemble) the Flute
When you open the flute case, you’ll notice the flute comes in three parts:
- Head joint
- Flute body
- Foot joint
To assemble the flute, simply slide/twist the head joint into the body of the flute and then slide the foot joint into the other end of the flute body. Be careful to avoid pushing on the rods and keys as you put these three pieces together to keep from damaging your instrument.
Once you’ve put the three parts together, line up the three pieces correctly. The mouth hole on the head joint should be lined up with the first key on the flute body. Line up the foot joint so that the long metal pin on the foot joint lines up with the last key on the flute body.
Lining up the three pieces of the flute correctly is essential to holding the flute with the correct form.
After playing the flute (in practice or performance), it’s necessary to disassemble and clean the instrument properly to keep it in pristine shape.
Most flutes come with a cleaning rod and cloth. This should be used to clean the inside of each part of the flute to remove any moisture. Polishing cloths can also be used to clean the outside of the instrument before carefully placing the pieces back in the case.
Though not absolutely necessary, some flutists may choose to use pad savers to draw extra moisture out of the keypads when it is stored in the case.
Step 3: Tune the Instrument
Playing an instrument that is in tune is a blessing for everyone — instrumentalists and listeners alike!
Tuning the flute is done by moving the head joint in or out in small increments. If the flute is flat, move the head joint into the flute body a little more. If the flute is sharp, pull the head joint out some. For fine-tuning, the student can turn the knob at the end of the head joint to move the cork inside either up or down.
Normally, the instructor will play an A on the piano, and the flute player will adjust their instrument to match the pitch. In an orchestra, the first violin player will play the note for the flutes to tune to. Tuners can also be purchased to help students tune instruments, and tuning apps are also available for mobile devices.
It takes practice to tune an instrument by ear.
Tuning can be tricky — that’s why taking lessons from a private instructor can be a plus. An instructor can show you how to correctly tune the instrument and help you learn to tune your instrument by ear.
Step 4: Learn Proper Hand and Arm Placement
The left hand is placed closest to the headpiece with the hand turned palm facing up, and the right hand is toward the end of the instrument with the palm facing down.
Rest your left thumb on the key on the bottom of the flute, and place your index, middle, and ring fingers on the second, fourth, and fifth keys, respectively. The pinky goes on the key that hangs down below the other keys.
Your right hand will support the lower part of the flute. Place your index, middle, and ring fingers on the last three keys of the flute body and the pinky on the first key of the flute foot. The right thumb will support the bottom of the flute just below the index finger.
Remember to keep the fingers curled — rather than flat — for the best ease of movement from note to note.
Now, simply lift the flute and hold it parallel to the floor or with the right end of the flute slightly tilting toward the floor.
Step 5: Practice Correct Embouchure
Once you’ve learned the basic steps above, this next step is key — it’s where you actually practice making sound with the instrument. Getting the embouchure right is important and may likely be the hardest part of learning the flute for a beginner.
Understanding the following factors will be helpful in learning and maintaining good embouchure.
Blowing Into the Flute
Place the hole of the mouthpiece directly under the center of your bottom lip and rest the lip plate under your bottom lip. You may find it comfortable to use your chin and bottom lip to help support the flute.
Tighten the corners of your mouth and blow the air across the mouthpiece rather than directly down into the hole. It may be helpful at first to practice with just the head joint to find the right embouchure.
To get the best sound, you may need to experiment with your mouth and jaw placement, the direction of the air, and the force of the air.
Whether you are standing or sitting while playing the flute, practice good posture for optimum breath control and the best sound.
Tonguing for Articulation
Individual notes are articulated using the tongue, not blowing puffs of air. Move your tongue to the roof of the mouth — like you’re saying the word “too” — to separate each note. This technique is used to play staccato notes or to give a more subtle separation between each note.
Notes can also be slurred together for a smoother sound without using the tongue for articulation.
Once you’ve made progress with embouchure and blowing into the flute, another challenge is making sure your fingers are on the right keys and knowing which keys to press down for particular notes.
You’ll rest your fingers on the top of the keys (as mentioned above) and press down particular keys to play specific notes.
Fingering charts can be helpful and are easily found in flute books or online. Keeping a chart posted while you practice is helpful for easy reference and to avoid learning incorrect fingerings.
In addition to fingering charts, use these fingering tips to master the technique:
- Learn one note at a time.
- Learn notes in a logical order to help with muscle memory.
- Practice playing scales.
- Learn with an instructor who will model proper fingering and correct mistakes before they become habits.
Step 6: Read Music
Learning to read music and understanding basic music theory will be invaluable when learning to play the flute — or any other instrument, for that matter.
Of course, you can attempt to learn to read music on your own, but learning one-on-one or in a group setting with an instructor will help you learn systematically and at your own pace.
At Northwest School of Music, our music coaches will combine music reading instruction with instrument lessons in a way that is fun, educational, and encouraging.
Step 7: Practice
This goes without saying – you’ve got to practice to improve.
As a beginner, aim at practicing up to 20 minutes four to five times a week. As you progress in your skills, you will want to lengthen your practice session to 30 minutes or more.
Regular practice is preferred over one long practice session a week so you can more easily remember what you’ve learned in each practice session.
Always strive to make practice time as fruitful as possible. Getting the most out of your practice time probably won’t involve merely playing songs over and over again. Use practice time to perfect scales and drill difficult passages for mastery.
Step 8: Persevere
Learning anything new takes motivation and willingness to stick with it — especially when you’re struggling to see progress.
Other than practicing on your own, finding other ways to play, like in a band or an ensemble, can give you some more opportunities and outlets to play to keep it interesting and fun.
Hard work pays off. Stick with it, and you’re sure to see results.
Step 9: Take Lessons With an Experienced Instructor
As a beginning student, learning to play the flute with an instructor has lots of benefits:
- Learning correct technique
- Learning faster and progressing quickly
- Receiving instruction in basic music theory
- Addressing incorrect techniques
- Assistance with setting goals
- Choosing quality music pieces to learn
- Lots of fun
Learn to Play the Flute With the Expert Team at Northwest School of Music
Come learn the flute with us at Northwest School of Music. Our desire is to help you reach your musical goals in a fun and creative way.
We offer both live and online lessons aimed to fit your schedule, availability, and lifestyle.
At Northwest School of Music, you’ll have access to:
- Qualified and educated teachers
- Lesson opportunities seven days a week, including morning and afternoon lesson times
- Our streamlined lesson portal
- Rewards for achievement
- Month-to-month lessons with no contract
- And more
Take the first step on your flute-playing journey today at Northwest School of Music, and we’ll cheer you on each step of the way.