by Patricia George
used with permission
The following is a posting Particia George made to the FLUTE listserv about teaching beginnning students about the second octave.
I start beginners by having them spit rice. Then once they are putting out a good air stream while spitting, I have them sit, close their eyes and then I bring the headjoint to their air stream. Every time it works. Then we repeat the process until they can bring the headjoint to the air stream. Once the student can bring the headjoint to them (not them to the headjoint--we want good body alignment!), then we get a $1.00 pinwheel ( a kid's toy) and practice blowing getting the pinwheel to spin fast and evenly. It is really fun and gosh it makes your tone wonderful. (I have been doing this the past week with all my university students....excellent results.)
Then we put the body on the headjoint. With the right hand on the barrel, and the left hand on the G, A and B keys, we begin. About 1/2 of the students will play in the lower octave first and the other 1/2 will play in the second octave. I take what I can get....lots of praise etc. We learn the songs and simple exercises that can be played with the notes G, A, B, and C. When they are playing, very soon they will (by accident) end up in the other octave (I love discovery in teaching) and that is when we talk about the two octaves. This would include angle of air, speed of air, placement of tongue, lips etc. depending on the student's age and maturity. A cute trick to get a student go from the first octave to the second octave is to have the student play the lower octave and then play again (same note) as they stand up....works every time.
This is when I teach the left hand G scale (for you all that were at my warmup class---this exercise is the one that I call "Run the G") ----GABC, and then at the harmonic of the same fingerings now producing a one octave G scale starting in the second octave going into the third. This allows the embouchure to evolve....rather than my saying, do this, do that. After having studied the photos in Roger Stevens' ARTISTIC FLUTE ( see Larry's web site for them), you realize that there are many ways to build a successful embouchure---and this way of letting the student discover the best way for them to get into the third octave is a winner.
To repeat---Run the G----Finger G2A2B2C3,GABC with the last set producing DEF#G. Eventually do this up and down the scale...really fast. Always right hand on the barrel. Why? It gets the flute into the flute chin. It gets the lip fat spread across the embouchure plate. It gets the flute triangle set up (end of flute forward, not back like marching band). It gets the keys pointing to the ceiling. It helps the left hand get into a good position. It keeps the left shoulder down. Etc.
Then I teach the three harmonics that you can produce with just the left-hand notes. These would be G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C, and C#. I only do the first three partials (so the intervals are the fundamental, then an octave higher and then a perfect 5th higher). I also use movement when I teach this so help the student move the air forward. Right hand still on the barrel.
When we eventually put the right hand in its proper place (still no foot joint), then we add the harmonics on the lower notes too. I have the student place their right little finger on the tenon. When we put the footjoint on, there is no problem in keeping the pinkie on the D# key.
Playing in the second octave and on harmonics is such a winner. It helps develop the embouchure---most Americans speak with the lips in a very inactive way.....not at all like our French or Hispanic friends. I have my students check out the Spanish TV channel...without sound and look at how much more lip movement there is compared to the anchors on the nightly news on ABC, NBC or CBS. Since we don't use this movement in everyday speech, we have to develop these muscles by doing harmonics.