How to Improve The Note E on The Flute

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How to Improve the Note E on the Flute

E in all the octaves are one of the famous problem notes. But is doesn’t have to be that way. This article will teach you how to improve the note E on the flute. The fingering of E acts kind of like an overtone, that’s why it’s much harder to control.

Middle E:

We need to treat E like we would treat a higher overtone.

An overtone is when we blow a note too hard and it creates the pitch of a higher note instead. Most of time flutists don’t mean to have this happen. It’s one of those ‘oopsies’ that we just have to learn to control over time and with lots of practice.

Included in my online lessons are some harmonic studies and pattern studies that really help those learning how to play the flute.. especially to hit those E’s on tune and on time!

E is one of the sweetest and most poignant notes on the flute

We also need to use a little extra head resonance and faster airspeed. Think of blowing medium-warm air straight up the back of your mouth, like you’re following the line of your spine. Then let the air follow the curves of your head up and over and down through your nose. What this does is access your sinus cavities and engage them so that they are resonating and vibrating too.

High E:

If we make a smaller embouchure with a more delicate but defined shape. Create a shape a little bigger than the head of a needle or a pin with a little colored ball on it, then pull down on the muscle under your nose a little. Then target your air like a laser from the point directly between your eyes.

E is one of the sweetest and most poignant notes on the flute. All it needs it a little extra love! 🙂   

I guess we should take time to mention that not only is the E note harder to hit, but it is also more out of tune than other notes. Depending on your flute condition, make, model, level, and of course your own flute-playing ability, the note E can be a real bugger.  

For example, many flutes seem to naturally play the second octave E kind of flat, and the third octave E is quite sharp. This can pose quite a challenge when trying to learn to play consistently on tune. It’s a tricky trick!

There is a mechanism that some flutes are built with called an “E facilitator”. Not only is the response time of the high (3rd octave) E improved dramatically, but because it allows an extra key to be closed, usually the E is more ‘flat’ than it would be without the facilitator. This can be a really good thing since the notes in the higher octave are generally always sharp (especially for new players) anyway.

This E facilitator key is an ‘add-on’ to the standard flute. So if you want one, you’ll have to speak up when you are searching around for the perfect flute for you.
New things to think about everyday in the world of flute learning! 🙂

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

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

9 thoughts on “How to Improve The Note E on The Flute”

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    This is a very timely post for me too; only yesterday I went all the way back to early Gold level to review your video on Squeaky Middle E, as these so often (usually!!) come out badly.
    I have two questions:
    *Whilst I can achieve a ‘pinhole aperture’ without the flute, even the lightest touch of the flute in position is enough to flatten the aperture and I waste a lot of air. Attempting to correct this has been an ongoing two year struggle which I’m not winning!
    * I’m not sure what you mean by ‘Target your air …. from a point directly between your eyes’. Target air upwards/ straight ?
    Thank you!
    Your slowest pupil,

    1. Hi Sheil, yah the E is one of those notes, but it’s okay because we just have to learn the personality of each octave and then we’re in business. Yes, ‘target’ means to aim your air. I, personally have to aim my second octave E up a little because it’s notoriously flat. Also, make sure your right hand pinky is ON for second octave E. (you might need to take it off for third octave E though depending). You’re doing great! Let’s keep learning.. and I’ll put this question in queue to talk about at an upcoming class in the Member’s Area. See you soon, glad you’re here! Rebecca

  2. This was timely. However, I’m more confused now trying to follow the actions for the middle e. I understand about the faster airspeed, but not about engaging sinus cavities and letting air through my nose. That completely sabotages the pinhole aperture for me. Off to go practice breathing. 😉

    1. Hi Katy, aw no worries about trying to get fancy with sinus cavities – let’s get the first stages simplified first: the middle E has problems if you forget to use your right hand pinky (remember this*). And.. the third octave E is really sharp unless you do a few things with your technique (that I show you here at LFO) as well as experimenting with the idea that your right hand pinky *might have to be off for this third octave. It will depend on your flute and a couple of other things. Enjoy your “E’s”! Rebecca

  3. Rebecca, you’re reading my mind by sending this out today. I’m struggling terribly with the E, especially at the faster tempos. For the last six-to-eight weeks, I’ve been going back and forth, trying to master the E in Lully Gavotte and Scale Pattern F major in the Intermediate level. I can’t seem to move on. I practise daily and I love practicing and I psyche myself up and tell myself today is the day I’m going to nail it. Yesterday I tried again and kept screwing it up. I was already having a bad day with some disappointing news in another area of my life and I decided to go practise the flute to relax and do something I love, but the on-going E problem made me feel even more hopeless. So, yes, seeing this article in my in-box immediately made me feel like you uncannily sensed what I was going through. I’ll try your breathing technique of imagining the warm air travelling up my spine and down through my nose and flexing the muscle below my nose and shape my mouth round like a pin-head.

    1. Rebecca Fuller

      I’m glad to hear this was timely information for you, Julia. Yes by elongating the skin from your nose to your lips, you’ll find the shape works better for the E especially. (elongate, not flex or tense) Good luck, you’ve got this! It’s best to play music that warms your heart when you’re having a larger amount of stress in your life also – then you can decide mid-practice what you’d like to work on more. Hugs! Rebecca

  4. I love all your informative posts with tips. I also have a challenge with the middle and high E’s being airy. I remember in previous posts you have said to make the aperture as small as possible and the lips in the ‘pooh’ position? I just can’t get them to sound more solid. My E’s continue to be very airy…I can hear the wind blow like an open window… Is it just practice?

  5. Thank you so much for this article. It’s exactly what I needed along with the one before it regarding the pretty high notes. It was also good to read that it’s not just a problem for me but normal. This has helped my tone on the lower octave notes too so bonus!

    1. Hey Myra, awesome. It’s great that you can see the parallels with the information here and your own playing. Keep it up! See you in a lesson soon. 🙂 ~Rebecca

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