How To Fade On The Flute

How To Fade On The Flute

The fade away of a long note can be one of the most effective musical techniques in the playbook. But it also can be a little tricky, because it’s really easy to go flat, or dive bomb the longer you go and the softer you get.  

Here are three analogies that explain some crucial principals about good flute playing and will help you feel comfortable and confident with fade-aways or any type of tapers and fades.

The Plane on the Runway

Think of a plane on the runway. As the plane gathers speed, getting faster and faster as it runs out of road, then at the very end, it lifts its nose, and takes off into the air. When we hold out a note, it is the same idea. We need to see every long note like a runway. The longer we hold the note the more energy and faster airspeed we have to use, to compensate for the loosing running out of air. Otherwise, we can lose control of what we are playing.

This is the basic motion you should be making to fade or taper..


Near the end of the note, we need to redirect our air so it points up, just nose of the plane, but we can’t do it all at once, otherwise the engine can’t handle the movement, just like our air can’t handle such a fast adjustment. Instead, gradually direct your air higher and higher until at the very end of the note, you are basically blowing up into your nostrils. Then you can just fade the air away into glorious nothingness. 🙂

The Fishhookhow to fade on the flute

Now when you do this, your bottom lip will basically meet your top lip and seal off the air flow, which stops the note. If you do this gradually enough, then it will sound really natural. It is important to know that when you direct your air up, you are bringing your bottom lip out and up in order to do that.

When you do this, make sure you use your lip more than your jaw. In other words, the movement has to be subtle and small, concentrated to the fewest muscles possible.

If you use your jaw, you’ll start to depend on it, and that will make it tight. Think of a fishhook. Look at how small it is. Think of the hook hooking to the very tip of the middle of your bottom lip, and pulling it out and up just enough to see the wet part of the lip. This is the basic motion you should be making in a taper or in other words, a fade.

The Balloon

Now pretend that your rib cage (front and back) make up the walls of a large balloon. When you hold a note, think of exhaling the air in your diaphragm up into your rib cage, just like filling up a balloon. This helps you save every bit of air you can, and puts it to maximum use. If you let your rib cage collapse, it will make you go flat. Using the balloon idea helps avoid that.

From here, all it takes is getting to know what works for your lips and your lungs, so have at it, have fun, and good luck!

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller



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  • Caroline kido

    Reply Reply August 4, 2017

    This is awesome. Always wondered how to taper off, can’t wait to give it some practice, loved the illustrations too, very easy to understand. Thanks Rebecca, full of flute wisdom!

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply August 6, 2017

      Yay- glad you can use this info, Caroline. There’s so much to making the flute sound good. Hope to see you again soon in a lesson here at Learn Flute Online. ~Rebecca

  • Esther

    Reply Reply February 8, 2018

    Wonderful! I’ve been working on this, but have been having some problems with it. This will help a lot! Thank you so much!😁

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply February 9, 2018

      Glad you can use this info today, Esther. Good job! ~Rebecca

  • Anne-Marie

    Reply Reply February 2, 2019

    Thank you Rebecca, I have been working on this too and gone flat or couldn’t get the note to fade so well. This is very helpful. Sounds better already. I am wondering if the (lovely) image of the balloon and the diaphragm also should be used when playing regularly, so when sounding the notes – exhaling- the diaphragm should work in and up instead of just exhaling with a ‘lazy diaphragm’ – ? In other words is the diaphragm active always when playing the flute? Thanks for your great articles and Podcasts and courses:)

    • RebeccaFuller

      Reply Reply February 4, 2019

      Yes Yes, Anne-Marie the diaphragm is always engaged– if you want better tone and intonation. Always. I like your words here “lazy diaphragm” because that’s exactly what happens to most. We have to ‘teach it’. It’s normal amongst so many to take a while to get it engaged and going. And so so good when it works! ~Rebecca

  • Anne-Marie

    Reply Reply February 6, 2019

    Thank you for your reply. They are always so helpful. I am wondering if my ‘lazy diaphragm’ also is the reason I have a hard time slurring the scales? I listen to your wonderful podcast 🙂 and in one you suggested practicing slurring the scales so you could focus on the fingering. That has been super hard, especially getting the high notes like f, f# and g on one breath starting low?

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