Jen Cluff ~ Flute Arpeggios

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

How can you practice to improve flute arpeggios?

S.R. wrote:
> Any suggestions for getting my arpeggios to sound smoother and to
> have better breath control with them?
Dear S.R.,
This is very close to being an impossible question to answer without
typing an encyclopedia of flute playing.

First you have to practice the arpeggios daily for several weeks, and
then present them to an educated listener.
There are simply too many facets to type up.
So, work 'em up and then if your private teacher listens to your
prepared arpeggios, they will be able to hear and see what you're
doing and be able to suggest specific flute practice techniques and
areas that require personal study for improvement.

But I love the challenge of trying to summarize the basics:

So I suggest you prepare the assigned arpeggios while asking yourself
the following questions (until your next lesson):

- am I standing with a posture that supports my best tone?

- if I run out of breath during an arpeggio, is it because I have to
play at exrtremely slow speeds? If so, is there a note on which to
pause, and then breathe and the restart?

- have I tried moving the pause and breath to a different place on
each repeat of the arpeggio? Have I broken up and spliced the arpeggio
several different ways until the amount of breath needed has been

- is my embouchure aperture too big? Am I blowing too hard and wasting
air, instead of finding a refined embouchure postion for each note of
the arpeggio?

- is air escaping from my nose when I play? Do I know about focusing
the airstream in a way that corrects this?

- am I using the right the lower abdominal muscles to support the
tone, or am I trying to do it all with my small muscles (throat, lips,
face, jaw)?
Can I shift to supporting lower in the body?

- is the tone quality equally good on every individual note of the

- if the tone is weak on any one note, can I longtone up (or down)
chromatically and FIND the best tone for each note of this arpeggio?

- am I practicing all-slurred first to ascertain the embouchure
position and amount of air support?

- am I moving the airstream constantly between notes so that the
movement from note to note is abolutely legato?

- am I supporting the pitches with the same support that I'd use if
just playing each pair of pitches as a pair of slurred longtones?

- am I moving to the new lip position and increasing the support IN
ADVANCE of actually changing the fingers for the next fingering?

- are my fingers staying low, and close to the keys? (look in mirror)

- am I using the most efficient and relaxed finger motion possible?
(watch fingers with flute resting on left shoulder)

- can I play this arpeggio sequence with the metronome to make it
rhythmically correct, and all finger movements completely equal and
regular in rhythm?

- if the rhythm is un-even, have I tried playing an evenly-written
arpeggio using an imaginary dotted-note rhythm (long note-short note),
and then reverse the dotted rhythm (short note, long note) until the
fingers learn to land evenly in all combinations of long and short

- can I return to even rhythms and then gradually click the metronome
up to higher speeds? (while keeping the original "great tone on every

- have I noticed the need for special fingerings for certain
arpeggios? What are the best choices for Bb/A#, F#3, high B3 etc.?
What fingerings are possible? Which should I use at which speeds?

- when I descend to a low note am I returning to the best embouchure
for the best tone in the low register?

- can I crescendo into the low register to make it equal the
tone-colour and strength of the middle register?

- can I play softly in the high register, when ascending so that the
high notes equal the middle and low register in intensity and don't
get loud for no apparent reason?

- can I play the arpeggios musically? Adding dynamics, tempo choices,
and nuance?

- did I mark the difficult arpeggios for special, focused work for the
next day (some are MUCH harder than others.)

- do I have a musical application for my arpeggio practice? (is there
are musical reward, in a piece I'm playing, where I can use all the
above techniques to improve the arpeggios in a musical context?)

You see?
It's a huge topic.
Try the above ideas and then ask us specifics, maybe?
After several weeks of improvements plus teacher's advice?

Jen :>) Encyclopedia-writing-flute-arpeggio-practicer

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Copyright © 2004 Jennifer Cluff