Is it the instrument, or you? Super high pitches that make you jump are actually quite solvable once you know what is actually happening. The answer to “Why does my flute squeak?” is a combination of air speed and angles.
It’s safe to say that the instrument itself doesn’t make any sharp, high-pitched sounds itself until blown into. So we can safely rule out the flute being the culprit.
If realize the exact moments when the quick screeches sound, you’ll notice that two things are almost always happening.
1. your airstream is being caught on an angle too much
-and, in almost every case simultaneously-
2. this gives the note the feeling of: you’ve tongued ‘too hard’ for the note in question
What does this mean? And how can you lower the probability of squealing as you play the flute?
It’s really common for inexperienced flute players to slightly tip their head joint in towards their face far more than it should be (it really shouldn’t be hardly at all- or none). For some reason they feel they get better tone this way. Too bad this is only true for a second, but then is actually causing other issues.
Besides that tone gets thin and flat / sharp, tipping in towards your face causes your airstream to catch ‘too much edge’ which when you tongue a little harder (which you need to do depending on the note), you get a super sonic squeak until you back off on how much air you’re blowing. Does this all sound familiar?
You’ve tongued ‘too hard’ for the note in question.
So, what’s the fix?
The remedy is not to learn how to play timidly, even though this can keep those quick screeches away. In fact, the quality instruments can be played quite aggressively. You can blow to your heart’s content… once you know how to angle that airstream properly.. for every note.
You can keep the squeaks at bay by simply keeping your lip plate more ‘level’ rather than tipped in. This will allow you to blow with the appropriate amount of air you need to be heard in a nice, full way as well as making those Sforzando type-tongues a total possibility.
The world is a much better place when the flutes keep their highest pitches in the purposeful realm.
Have you had an experience where squeaking on your flute ruined your day? Questions? Leave a comment and we’ll keep this conversation going.