Wonder why your flute sounds flat? Noticing you’re out of tune is a good first step, but droopy, flat tone isn’t pretty. You may be stuck wondering “Why does my flute sound flat?” And, you may wonder if it’s your flute that has the problem or something you’re doing as you play that is the reason why your flute sounds flat.
My flute sounds flat (!)
There are a few different reasons, and usually, it’s a combination of circumstances that cause droopy, lower than A-440 pitch. How to improve tuning your flute is a great place to start, but it doesn’t just have to do with your instrument being the issue. There are certain things we should do while we play that really help intonation – a lot!
First of all, let’s look at your playing ability and then we’ll check a couple of instrument-specific items:
Blowing too softly.
Is this you? You may not even know it is until you try to blow harder on your instrument. A weak airstream causes insufficient airspeed. We need a certain or exact airspeed for each note in order to have it sound firm and on-tune.
Lip Plate Tipped in towards your face.
Do you do this accidentally? Tipping your lip plate towards your face seems like a good idea when beginner players figure out that the higher notes pop out easier, but they don’t usually realize the repercussions of this little trick. Without getting too wordy here, I’ll let you know that this causes more issues than it fixes. Sure, the pitch will lower, but so will a lot of other things. So, in short- this isn’t the fix you’re looking for.
Is it your flute that has the problem or an issue with your playing?
Things you can do with your instrument to help it not sound so flat:
Furthermore, you can learn about the following related to your instrument (flute):
1. Your head joint is pulled out too far.
Really? This is a thing? Yes. Tuning by placing the head joint more ‘in’ or ‘out’ from the body of the flute is a perfect way to get “in the ballpark”. Experiment and you’ll see what I mean. We get into the nitty-gritty of why a flute sounds flat in the lesson modules here at Learn Flute Online.
2. Your flute may be cccold.
Since our flutes are made of metal, there’s a fluctuation in temperature that happens to it as we play. When we first retrieve our flute from its case on a cool day, the metal will be cold. And, you usually notice this immediately when placing the lip plate to your sensitive skin on your face. (Brrrr. It’s not the most fun feeling) But, after playing for a few minutes (or even seconds) it warms up and we don’t notice the temperature difference anymore.
So, after playing for a long while, the instrument is verrrry warm and kind of drippy wet. These different temp conditions dictate a few things, and one of them is the pitch. The colder the flute is the flatter it will be. Interesting?
3. Your cork is out of place.
Cork? What cork? Haha, there’s a hidden cork in the top of your head joint. It has to be sitting in the exact perfect spot in order for the intended all-around pitch to be accurate. If you are one who tends to play with the cap/crown of the flute (it twists), then chances are that your cork has slid out of perfect place.
Most importantly, you’ll want to check this periodically throughout the year. Use your cleaning rod end by placing it into the head joint and peeking through the little window of the blowhole. If the cork is in the proper place, you’ll see the line on the rod perfectly in the middle of the blowhole.
Believe it or not, there are a few other reasons you could sound flat as you play the flute. No need to fret or worry “why do I always sound flat?” because this issue can be fixed with some education, time and attention.
For more tips on improving your flute playing related to this subject, check out these articles: Breathing Secrets for Flutists part 1 and Breathing Secrets for Flutists part 2
I hope this helps you today in your endeavor to improve and enjoy your flute playing, even more, this week.