How to play the highest note on the fluteMay 09, 2023
Well, winter has definitely arrived in Sydney this week! Most people are rugged up warm inside their apartments, so it's not the best time for me to be delighting my neighbours with some loud high note flute practice! Instead, I'll teach you everything you need to know about the highest note on the flute (and you can serenade your neighbours with your new high notes instead!)
In this article, you're going to learn how to play the highest note on the flute. I'll show you the fingerings to use, plus tips on how to make these high notes come out, and sound strong!
Here are some quick links for you to jump right to what you want to learn: What is the highest note on the flute? | Easy flute high notes | Flute high note finger chart | High C on flute | High C# on flute | High D on flute | Flute high note finger chart | How to start a high note softly
What is the highest note on the flute?
Officially, the "highest" note on the flute is a C - this one:
But unofficially, it's common, amongst advanced flute players, to actually play up to a C# and D. These ones:
A quick note: Keep your cats away when practising these notes! They will probably hate you forever otherwise!
Flute highest note
Check out this great 4 minute mini-lesson on playing the highest notes on the flute: C, C# and D.
I'll demonstrate the notes for you and show you the fingerings, so watch it, and enjoy!
Flute high notes
Learning to play the highest note on the flute is fun, but did you know that it's not a good measure of how well you can play the flute?
The true way to discover the measure of how good you're getting on the flute is by these 2 ways:
- By how easy your high notes are to play; and
- How sweetly, softly and in tune, you can play them.
If you think of playing a high C, C#, or D more as a party trick, it will help you get in the mindset of learning to play the flute with proper flute technique rather than just how fast or high you can play!
Easy flute high notes
Luckily, there is a special technique that makes high notes sound both easy, and sweet-sounding.
One of the very first videos I recorded for YouTube (and it's also one of the most popular!) is how to easily play flute high notes. It's a great way to learn the proper embouchure technique for playing higher notes on the flute, which helps you truly sound great at the flute (not just bust out a high C!)
Flute high note finger chart
Most flute fingering charts show you that the highest note of the flute is C. You could say that C is the "official" highest note on the flute.
Below are simple diagrams for you that I drew myself and is the way that I teach all of my students in The Flute Academy how to play any new flute fingering. You'll notice it's a super easy way to see which fingers you need to put down.
If you're learning these super high notes, you probably already know how to read a flute fingering chart, but in case not, here's a quick hint for you:
In the diagrams below, I've only drawn the keys that you actually use on the flute. The coloured in (black) circles represent the keys you press down, and the empty (white) circles are the ones you don't press for this note.
High C on flute
Here it is in a simple diagram (hand drawn by me!)
A great way to explain in words how to play a high C is that you put your entire left hand on including your little finger, but take your thumb off. And then on your right hand, the only key you press down is your F finger.
Take note that if you have a B foot as part of your flute (instead of the usual C foot), you'll need to also press down your gizmo key. Watch the video above for a demonstration of what this means
High C# on flute
This note is technically out of the standard range of the flute, and many fingering charts won't show this note. I've included it for you here because it's a really useful note to know if you're playing more advanced scales on the flute and want to play your C# major scale 3 octaves!
Put your left hand middle finger on here, and take your thumb off. On the right hand, press down your F key, and then your low C roller key. You'll actually need to press the low C and C sharp key together.
Watch the video above for a clear demonstration.
High D on flute
This note is great to play if you want to start playing D major scale in 3 octaves. It's the way that I practise my D major scale, and if you're at that level, it's a great way to improve your finger dexterity in the top octave of the flute.
On your left hand, press down your thumb and ring finger. On your right hand, press down your F finger, second finger and low C again.
Why are flute high note fingerings so complicated?
Well, this is exactly the question that was asked in one of the recent Flute Q&A videos!
A lovely reader of the flute school blog called Eli asked literally asked me "Why are the flute high note fingerings so complicated?"
If you're interested in the answer, have a look at this quick answer to Eli's question here. It's quite a fascinating reason why the high note fingerings are complex!
Music that uses the highest notes on the flute
It's very rare for compositions to be written up as high as the 3 high notes I showed you in this article, purely because a lot of music for flute was written before the flute was physically able to play up this high. The flutes that existed before around the year 1850 couldn't play anywhere near as high as modern flutes now can.
And for that reason, contemporary classical composers are much more likely to write up super high for flute that baroque, classical and even romantic period composers.
Flute high notes in action!
By the way, one composer who has written up to this high D is Prokofiev. If you have a look at his Classical Symphony, there's a nice little flute bit that goes up all the way to high D, and is one of the trickiest orchestral excerpts for flute players to learn when they're auditioning for an orchestra!
Have a look at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra flute players playing up to high C# and D throughout this piece:
How to start a high note softly
Playing high notes softly on the flute takes a very special technique, some time to practise it and get used to the technique, but it's worth the effort.
You may like to look through this Flute Q&A where a reader asks "How would you start a flute high note softly and gently? I don't have enough room here to go into details, so I recommend that you check out the Q&A video for demonstrations of how to start high notes softly.
Did you know that The 45 Day Flute Transformation course contains an entire module on play high notes with proper technique? You'll learn the exact embouchure technique that you use to play high notes with ease. It's a fabulous way to instantly feel and sound a whole lot better on the flute.
In The Flute Academy, I call this Faster Progress Through Proper Technique. Learning the tweaks of proper flute technique really is the fastest (and easiest!) way to improve your playing!
Common problems with playing flute high notes
Now it's time to point you in the right direction if you're having trouble with your high notes! Here are some common problems and how to fix them.
If you get dizzy
You might find that you have to blow really hard to get a sound out for the these high notes! If that's the case, you're probably also getting dizzy!
I've got you covered. Watch this video on how to stop getting dizzy when playing the flute for some simple and highly effective tips to make you much more comfortable when you play.
If you run out of air too quickly
If you're taking huge breaths, and barely getting through a few seconds of a melody, it sounds like we need to tweak your embouchure a little bit.
Check out this Instant Flute Fix #5: how to stop running out of air so quickly for some great quick tips on instantly getting you longer phrases.
If your sound is fluffy
If your high notes are sounding fluffy, or you're running out of air really quickly, there's a good chance that your embouchure needs fixing!
It might sound pretty difficult to fix an embouchure, but in actual fact, there are 3 easy tweaks to make to your flute. Join me in this free mini-course to instantly get a clearer flute tone! I'll show you exactly how to fix your flute embouchure (for free!) that makes all of your notes sound clearer.
Your real measure of high note success
I hope you had fun getting a high C or even higher!
Don't forget that the real measure of how good you're becoming as a flute player is not how high you can play, but how easily and sweet-sounding you can get your high notes.
The students in The Flute Academy often comment about how much higher they can play after they learn proper high note technique. Not only can they play higher, but they comment on how much easier it is to play higher.
Come and join me in this free mini-course to instantly get a stronger and clearer flute tone. It's free to register, and is a great introduction into how learning the tweaks of proper flute technique gets you seriously faster progress!
You'll learn a little tweak a day, for 3 days, and you'll literally instantly hear a huge change to the quality of your flute tone.
I'd love to see you there, because I know how good you'll sound afterwards!