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Playing Flute With a Teardrop Lip (Part 2)
23 September 2014

After receiving a comment for some clarification on my technique for flute playing with a teardrop lip, I am attaching a photograph (as requested by my anonymous commenter,) some further details plus an update.

Firstly, if you are young and have a teardrop lip and you want to be a top notch player across the instrument's range, the flute may not be the best choice for you.  You might consider the oboe or one of the saxophones.  Don't be put off with comments about difficulties with soprano sax.  Some of the cheaper, modern Chinese instruments are pretty well in tune when used with a decent mouthpiece.)

If you have decided you want to continue with flute, I would suggest getting a mirror and having a careful look at the shape of the aperture your lips create for playing. Obviously, everyone's mouth is going to be different.  If you see that there is a sag from the upper lip into the aperture, rather than a clean oval, you likely have a teardrop lip - lovely to look at and kiss, an absolute pain for flute playing.

As you will know, from my earlier blog on the subject, I experimented, with dogged determination, and found that if you cut a piece of sellotape (or similar) into a squareish section, turn it on its side to form a kite/diamond, get your mirror, wipe the moisture from the teardrop area and insert the pointed edge of the tape into the upper part of your lip.  You just need to catch the edge of the sag sufficiently. Then, press the tape in place with index finger and thumb.  You will have to move it around to find exactly how far in you need to place the tape.  I have found it is not as far as you would think.  If your notes sound soft and fuzzy, you are too far in.  Having cut a square of tape, you have all four sides to play with as you re-apply.

If you experiment with a lower note and slur up to your problem higher, you should find you hit the higher much clearer and easier (once that tape is in the right place for you!)  (The slurring octaves is a great way to practise higher notes too.)  The down side to wearing tape - a little loss of power and resonance on the lowest notes but I felt that was a small price to play for clear, ringing, beautiful high notes.  At this point, you also need to be fair with yourself and recognise that, you may never be a junior Sir James Galway but you can lose those horrible, broken, split, jarring high notes.  One annoying aspect of placing the tape was I had to fiddle about with it to find the right spot before I could begin practise.  That means, once your tape is right, keep practising for as long as you can!


Some flutes and heads are more suitable for teardrop players.  Here, in the U.K., we have a number of flute dealers who will allow you to try several flutes, on approval, at a time - I am sure there must be similar dealers in the U.S.  From Top Wind, of London, I finally discovered a solid silver, B foot, Pearl flute played with a Mike Allen head (the aperture on this head is a narrower oval) made it easier to reach high notes, even without tape.  So, it might be an idea for you to try as many configurations of flutes and heads to find what suits your mouth best.  I also found that I had to keep the head turned in considerably further than normal players.

On a much more positive and surprising note (sorry!) I now primarily play an Andrew Oxley C Flute and - amazingly - though I had to tape continuously to hit clear, high notes on this one, at the beginning, I can now play it untaped up to a G or A.  I have accepted that that is probably as high as I will ever go and, I've lightened up about that so that I enjoy what I can do, which is so much better sounding than it was before.

I hope these suggestions might help someone else struggling with this problem and might inspire you to continue experimenting.

Wishing you continued success with your playing!




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