Why you can't play low C on the flute

Why you can't play low C on the flute

Mar 04, 2024

If you can already play low C on the flute with a strong sound, you don't even need to read this! Most flutists find that (contrary to what they think) the lowest note on the flute (a low C) is actually one of the harder notes to play!

Why you can't easily play a low C on the flute

But if you can't play low C easily, this mini-lesson is just for you...

I show you a little "test" that you can do to work out if the reason you can't play low C strongly is because of:

  • Your fingers
  • Your embouchure, or
  • Your actual flute

Join me in the 6 minute video above.

If you can't play the lowest note of the flute

If you are having trouble playing low C on the flute, it's gonna be one of three thing: either your fingers, your embouchure or your actual flute. And I have a little test for you to work out, which one of those it is. A good test, a fun test.

My name is Jane Cavanagh. I live been Sydney in Australia and I teach the flute. You probably guess that I love showing people just like you, how to make tiny little changes to their flute playing, tiny little adjustments that get them huge results.

Flute hand position for low C

This tip this week is more of a bit of an understanding about how the flute works, how hand position works and how embouchure works specifically for low C.

Now low C is not the most important note on the flute. A lot of people want to be able to play it because it's the lowest note on the flute, but don't think that it's a beginner note on the flute. It's not the easiest note to play.

Is low C on the flute hard?

It's definitely not one of the first notes I teach a beginner. But it's good that you're watching this video because if you can't play low C it's a sign that something isn't quite right.

And that's what the little test that I'm going to show you is going to figure out if it's your fingers, hand position, your embouchure or if it's your actual flute that needs to be fixed. For low C all of these holes in the flute, all of them, every single hole in the of flute has to be closed for the low C to come out.

Closing the holes of the flute

So that involves every single pad down your flute being in good enough condition that it can close the hole. It also involves mechanically everything being aligned perfectly so that they can close. So as you can imagine, low C being the lowest note with all of the holes closed has the most that can go wrong.

Flute embouchure for low C note

On top of that, it's tricky for your little finger and you really need to have set yourself up with a good embouchure to be able to play down that low as well.

So there's a few factors. If you can play low D but not low C, then your embouchure is probably fine. And it's probably either your little finger going having a bit of a hard time or your flute needs to be fixed.

So let's figure out which one of those two it is. Let's see if it's your little finger or your flute. And for this, we need an assistant. So pause the video and go grab an assistant and it can be a kid. If you've got a kid handy, they are fine.

Your assistant is going to stand about here somewhere near the end of your flute. And they're going to use three of their fingers to make sure that this key is closed properly closed. And to make sure that these two keys are properly closed.

Fingers for low C note on the flute

So you are going to finger low C and they're going to use their fingers to push down these three keys. So firmly but gently, and see if you can play low C with them pushing down those three keys. If you can. Great. It's definitely not your embouchure that's the problem if you can play that.

Now this finger. Remember I said, this is not a beginner note. Lot of people think that to play low C they'd need to just push this roller  key, that is not the case.

Flat pinky finger for low C

You actually use a flat little finger to push both the C sharp  and the C roller key down both of them. And at the same time, you need to very much avoid this D sharp key. If your finger just touches that D sharp key it's going open this hole here.

And like I said before, all of the holes on your flute need to be closed for low C. If that cracks open, it won't work. This is what will happen. So I'm gonna play low C, but I'll accidentally touch a little bit of the D sharp key. It just instantly won't work.

So after we've had your assistant push down these three keys, see if you can get the same sound by yourself by deliberately missing that D sharp key, using a flat finger and pushing both the roller C key and the flat C sharp key down. If you can do that by yourself, congratulations, you have solved the dilemma.

It's not your flute. It was your finger. If no matter how hard you carefully avoid this key and carefully push down both of those keys. If you are still not getting your C and you find that when someone pushes down one of these keys and it may an instant difference to your low C, it's probably your flute that needs a little bit of adjustment.

Maybe your flute needs fixing!

The good news is it's likely going to be a really quick fix, which means a cheap fix. So take it to a repairer and get a really quick fix down here.

If you've established that it's your little finger struggling to wrap itself or around skipping this and getting those check that your right hand is not too twisted. If it's twisted, you are obviously gonna really struggle to reach that because your hand's too far twisted this way. So make sure that it's not too twisted, ideally not twisted at all.

And now the last thing is, that's figure out if it's your embouchure. If you're struggling with low notes in general, so low D’s and C’s and you just can't get that sound out. It's a good chance. It could be your embouchure. So I have a fix for that as well.

The best way to improve your low notes in is to improve your embouchure in general. There's no trick to getting low notes if your embouchure is not good.

So the very first step is to make sure you have a good embouchure . If your embouchure is not quite right, whether the hole's too big, whether you're too tight, whether you're blowing in the wrong direction.

Fixing your low notes on the flute

One of the first things that's not gonna work is your low notes. So let's fix your embouchure and I have the tool for you. It's free. It's a 3 day tiny course. You can sign up for it here: come and join me and I'll show you the basics of instantly improving your tone, which is improving your embouchure.

Lower notes on the flute

And that is your first step to getting your low notes better. If you've been struggling with those. So I'd love to see you there. And if not, I will see you next week, but come and do it. I recommend you do it. See you there.

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