THE FLUTE NERD blog

Beginner Flute Crash Course: #3 Your First Notes

Now that you’ve learned how to make a sound and hold the flute, let’s get you playing some real notes! In this blog we’ll review the basics and introduce you to your first notes on the flute

Beginner Flute Crash Course: #3 Your First Notes

Now that you’ve learned how to make your first sounds and how to hold the flute, it’s time to learn your first notes on the flute! This is where things start to get more exciting as you’ll start to learn how to read music and playing your first songs!

But before we dive in, let’s make sure you remember the basics we covered in Lessons 1 and 2.

What’s in this blog

Refresh the basics

It’s worth taking a quick step back to make sure you’ve got a solid understanding of what we’ve covered so far in your first few lessons. For this lesson, we’ll only be building on the previous two, so if you don’t yet feel comfortable making a sound or holding the flute, I strongly recommend revisiting those lessons before going on. 

Your first sounds

Hopefully by now you feel comfortable finding a good embouchure shape and have spent some time playing around with all the different sounds we can make with just the head joint. 

Finding a good embouchure. Remember that embouchure is just the fancy word for the shape of our mouth when you play. You’re aiming for a relaxed shape, without any pulling or pursing of the lips. The opening of the mouth should be round and rather small. I like to imagine I’m saying the word “pooh” while trying to blow out a candle. If you’re still struggling to find this shape, here are some more tips and tricks

In that first lesson, after mastering the embouchure shape, we moved onto making a sound with just the head joint as it offers less resistance than the full flute. If you struggled to make a sound on the head joint only, you may find putting the whole flute together even more difficult, so I recommend experimenting more with just the head joint until you feel very comfortable finding a sound most of the time. See Step Three on the first lesson for more tips on how to find your first sounds if you’d like to refresh. 

Remember that it might take you a while to get used to finding a sound—and that’s totally OK! This is the hardest part of learning the flute. But keep practicing and don’t get discouraged. Enjoy the process and have fun exploring the possibilities the flute!

How to put the flute together

In the second lesson we learned how to put the flute together and properly align everything. There are three parts of the flute—the head joint, the body joint and the foot joint—which are put together in that order. The embouchure hole and lip plate of the head joint should align with the main row of keys on the body joint and the foot joint is slightly off centred (the rod of the foot joint should point to the middle of the last key of the body joint). 

Always handle the flute with care and avoid putting pressure on the fragile keys and rods to prevent damage while putting it together or taking it apart. 

How to hold the flute

Holding the flute is not really a natural position so ensuring that you have great posture from the beginning is super important to avoid injury.

The key points to consider are the points of balance (the left hand first knuckle, the lip and the right hand thumb) and making sure your shoulders, elbows and wrists are buoyant. Overall, we’re aiming to hold the flute in as comfortable and natural a manner as possible. Review the second lesson if you’re not sure about the posture. 

flute body position

A quick introduction to reading music

If you’ve never read music before picking up the flute, let’s have a quick introduction to help get you started. You’ll spend a while working through just your first three notes, so you won’t quite need to know all of this just yet, but it’s handy to know! 

The staff and treble clef

Music is written on a group of 5 lines called a staff. A staff will have a clef symbol at the beginning to help the reader determine the pitch of the notes. The two main clefs you will likely come across are bass clef (F clef – for lower pitched notes) and treble clef (G clef – for higher pitched notes). Flute music will always be written in treble clef.

intro to the treble clef and staff

Note reading on treble clef

There are a few mnemonics we can use to remember how to read the notes on the treble clef. 

Treble clef lines (from the bottom up) are E, G, B, D F. You can remember this order with the phrase Every Good Boy Does Fine or—my personal favourite—Evil Grannies Buy Dodgy Food. 

Treble clef notes on lines
Evil Grannies Buy Dodgy Food

Treble clef spaces (from the bottom up) are easy to remember because they spell out F A C E, which conveniently rhymes with ‘space’. 

treble clef notes on spaces

Note length

You’ll also need to understand how to read note length to learn your first songs below. Let’s introduce you to three different types of notes: a quarter note, half note and whole note (also known as crotchet, minim and semibreve in the UK). 

note lengths

A quarter note (crotchet) is worth 1 beat, a half note (minim) is worth 2 beats and a whole note (semibreve) is worth 4 beats. In other words: a whole note is twice as long as a half note and a half note is twice as long as a quarter note; and four quarters fit into one whole (which is why I like using the American names for these notes). 

Your first notes

And now for the fun part! I’m going to introduce you to your first three notes: B, A and G. These notes are the easiest starting point on flute as they’re simple fingerings that have a steady balance on the flute, and are relatively easy to sound. 

Starting with just these three notes, you can focus on producing a clear and consistent sound with the whole flute put together—like you did previously with just the head joint. 

How to read a fingering chart

In order to help you learn these notes, you’ll first need to understand how to read a flute fingering chart. This will help you visualise where the fingers go and which keys to press for each note. 

Here is reminder from the last lesson where your fingers go on the flute:

And here’s what a flute fingering chart will look like for each of those fingers:

B

Here’s your first note, B!

first notes on the flute B

Notice that the note sits in the middle of the middle line on the staff and our fingering chart has us only pressing down our left hand thumb and first finger and right hand pinky. If you blow steady air angled slightly down, the note should sound something like this: 

A

Once you can successfully play a B, try your next note: A. 

first notes on the flute A

Notice that this note sits in the second space (it is your only space note for the time being) and the fingering is like the B but adding the second finger of the left hand. If you blow steady air angled slightly down, the note should sound something like this:

G

Now for your final note for today: G.

first notes on the flute G

Notice that this note is on the second line of the staff and the fingering is like the A but adding the third finger of the left hand. If you blow steady air angled slightly down, the note should sound something like this:

Experiment with low and high B-A-G

Now that you can play all three notes, try each of them again, but while blowing faster air angled slightly further upwards. You should be able to hear the next octave of each, which will sound something like this:

You might find this difficult, but it generally requires much faster air than you think! We’ll mainly be playing around with lower notes at the beginning, but the quicker you become comfortable playing the upper octave, the easier it will feel later on. 

Your first tunes

Now that you’ve got your first three notes, you can start to play full songs! Here are a couple to get you started. 

Mary had a little lamb

Can you make up your own song using just B-A-G? 

Share your progress

Why not let me know how you’re getting on in the comments? If you’re struggling, let me know what’s happening and maybe we can try some other tricks. Or get in touch if you think you might be interested in some one-to-one lessons to help get you started!

Keep going!

Congratulations! You’ve just learned your first notes on the flute! Why not keep that momentum going?

If you’d like to add a few more notes to your belt, why not download this free flute fingering chart? It’s a comprehensive 17-page resource that includes fingerings for the flute’s full range, fourth octave notes, alternative fingerings, and trill fingerings! 

And make sure you check out my blog full of beginner essentials–including tips on everything from breathing to buying a flute.

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Alexandra Petropoulos

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