Jennifer Cluff

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

A Thousand & One flute tuning ideas

Index of tuning articles:

Fenwick Smith's excellent article on flute tuning
Eric Tishkoff's excellent article on using a tuner

Tuning the flute to itself

Help for flutes that seem 'too sharp' throughout their range

The following are tone & tuning experiments from Roger Mather books dealing with embouchure and pressure points on the lower lip:
Are you consistently sharp on the flute even though your headjoint is drawn 1/8th to a 1/4 inch already? If so, check the following possibilities:

- your headjoint cork is in the wrong place? check it with the line on the cleaning rod

- you are trying to play an A-444 or A-446 European-market flute in an A-440 country? check with the manufacturer of your flute, and query the serial number.

- you are playing with too much air-speed and air-pressure? check with your private flute teacher.

For most of us, however, consistent sharpness has to do with blowing style and embouchure angle. If you're taking private lessons, you will want to address this topic with your teacher, to ascertain whether it's time to start  working with "How much pressure on the lip" and "How to get Great tone without pressure", and "how to play less sharp". All these individual embouchure considerations are covered in the excellent three volumes of Roger Mather's "The Art of Playing the Flute". These books volumes 1-3 are available at . They are a very important reference set for any flutist's library.
(if ordering Roger Mather from the library, order volume One for "Varying your tone colour" experiments to read about and try the following experiments.)

Here are some of the things to consider working on to reduce overall sharpness in flute playing:

1. Experiments with angling the lips north, south, east and west, and using a mirror to insure the lip-hole is centered and the flute is parallel to the face. You'll want guidance in flexing the lips a tiny amount in each direction so you can control the exact angle with the most inner-lip-membrane being used and deciding where the most comfortable postion is for the lower jaw. (this depends on whether you have an overbite or underbite etc.)

2. Creating a long air-reed:
This is about maximizing the distance between the hole in the lips, and the striking point for the air on the far side of the embouchure hole.
It's achieved by gradually lowering the pressure point of the flute's lip plate on the chin so that it goes from squishing the lower lip at the level of the lower teeth (a beginner's sound that is too short and air-reed and has no colouring possibilities) to feeling the flute's lip-plate pressure as against the roots of the bottom teeth. (lowered pressure point of the lip plate allows freedom for the lower lip to move and reposition itself.)
This is combined with uncovering more of the blow-hole in the flute in a series of experiments. Note: The EDGE of the blow-hole still remains at the red-line of the lower lip, but the pressure of it is rotated down and out.

3. Creating an air-pocket between the upper lip and the upper
front teeth.
Many novice and intermediate players pull their upper lip too tightly against their upper teeth, so that there's no space for the upper lip to be stretched out and away from the teeth. You want the airstream to be directed by the upper lip at a downward angle, so that the flute in a low, relaxed position, can stay still while the upper lip changes its angle minutely to blow more deeply or more shallowly into the flute.
See picture.

The more you are able to flex the upper lip away from the teeth, the more experiments you can proceed with.

4. Relaxing the jaw and opening the mouth cavity behind the
This is about creating a resonant chamber inside the mouth, even though the lips are in the "flute embouchure postion." You want to use all the resonating cavities you have (open sinus, open throat, open mouth) so that the flute's vibrations echo back into the body cavities, and create a resonance there. (Helmholtz effect).

5. Puckering vs. drawing the lips back (lips moving together):
Roger Mather's experiments allow the individual to gradually pucker forward to see what effect that has on the tone in various registers, and then to draw the lips back again to see which is more effective for his particular dental construction and lip tension.
When I was taught to experiment with this (when I was 16) it was done by considering the position of the CORNERS of the lips, with the mind on the final feel of the lips in the center; Are they fleshy/pillowy? Or are the lip centers getting tighter and tighter?
Which amount of puckering (move only microscopic amounts at first) works for low notes, high notes, medium notes? etc.

6. Uncovering the flute's embouchure hole more or covering it
This has to do with the lower lip specifically.
If the above changes are being done as experiments, many times the sound will become too "covered" as the lips are allowed to become more fleshy and more mobile. The student has to constantly check whether "rolling out 2 milimeters more than they think they need to" in fact results in a more projecting and ringing sound.
The optimal covering of the embouchure hole is between 1/4 and 1/3, and most flutists tend to cover too much as their lips become more flexible. So at every chance you get, uncover the flute's blow-hole by a milimeter or two, and listen to the sound become more open and free. (rotate the flute down and out on the chin)

7. Releasing the tension in the upper lip so that the hole in
the lips has a rounded arch in it, instead of a long thin slit.
This is the single most effective change to varying tone-colours that I've found once the other experiments have resulted in a vibrant and open sound.
This "arch in the lip aperture" also allows a quick ascent or descent into different octaves of the flute's range, without making too many other changes to the lips.

Since Roger Mather wrote nearly 105 pages with experiments in all the above areas, and since your teacher wants you to experiment......I think that all I'm able to do here, is try and interest you in trying out Mather's Vol. 1 of his "The
Art of Playing the Flute".
You'll find it possibly using the interlibrary-loan function of your local library, or you can order it from

Jen Cluff

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Why do flute students play flat?

There are several reasons why a flute student would play flat, and you may wish to check for them one by one:

1. The headjoint cork has been pulled outward by the student twisting the crown, trying to tighten it. Check the cork with a cleaning rod marker, and advise the student that if the crown becomes loose, that they should tighten it only "finger tight", and not keep turning it. If you do not feel you can move the cork yourself (if it is stuck, or if it moves too easily) take it to repair. See article on this topic.

2. The student is blowing too softly and not using abdominal support when playing. This is fairly common. You'll want to spend time teaching the student to play FORTE and using full abdominal muscles when playing the flute. Teaching FORTE is best taught before teaching soft playing. See article on this topic.

3a.  The student's lower lip is covering too much of the blowing hole or they are rolling the flute inward to create a short air reed.

 The optimum lower lip coverage for flute students is between 1/4 and 1/3 the blow hole. Band students without private lessons often roll inward too far when they play as it makes high register leaps easier, although poor in intonation and tone quality. They use a short-air-reed instead of lengthening the upper lip and using it to angle the air downwards. Rolling in too far is a common habit when trying to obtain a high register with inadequate embouchure development. Having a private flute teacher  to coach them in how to notice when they're rolling too far inward is advised.

Often too, it's possible that the student starts out by covering  1/4 and 1/3 the blow hole with the lower lip, but then, unknowingly, the student's flute is slowly rolling inward when they play over several lines of music. This unconscious inward rolling is  due to either having the headjoint put on incorrectly for their chin and lip shape, or by the student not making proper contact with the chin and the lip plate, or other posture and hand balancing problems. See article on best alignment for the headjoint for flute balance.

For more on playing flat by accident, due to rolling inward, see this blog post on the topic.

4. Finally: Sometimes when the student feels that they are out of tune, or isn't playing well, they will suddenly choosesto start playing more quietly to compensate for not liking what they hear. This quiet playing flattens the pitch. The air is too slow to sustain pitch, and the tone quality is quashed.

 I suggest work on crescendo-longtones, done back and forth at the beginning of each lesson, with the teacher, as well as plenty of weekly duets. See article on tone.

The Tuning CD

This is a GREAT new product that I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend!!! This is a CD consisting of the 12 notes of the scale for 2 minutes each. You can order it from it's own website, or very inexpensively as downloadable mp3s at Amazon.

Tracks 1-12 are the pitches C, Db, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B. (All other tracks are just chord frameworks, and aren't necessarily needed, so if you're buying mp3s, just buy the first 12, unless the whole CD is a cheaper price. You'll probably only use the first 12 tracks.)

You can change the volume of playback to hear your flute pitch create "beats" with the open-octave/fifth. Your goal is to play in tune so you no longer hear "beats"  (which are "Wah Wah" sounds that indicate being out of tune.)

 You can press "repeat" on your CD player to repeat the track for as long as you like.

Each track consists of the principal pitch sounded with harmonic tones audible (like an organ chord) so that you hear several octaves and fifths, as well as the basic tonic pitch.

You can use the Tuning CD for any flute tuning project you have:

 You can tune:

- scales, arpeggios, technique, daily exercises

- melodies (change pitch to match modulations)

- orchestral passages prior to orchestral rehearsals

- excerpts from etudes (that remain in one key)

- passages from flute/piano solos

- chamber music, prior to chamber rehearsals

Any piece of music that remains in one key for at least a few bars can be played with the Tuning CD. If you need to modulate to a different key, just walk over to the CD where the tuning CD is playing, and change to a different track on the CD.

This is the best product yet devised for playing in accoustic tuning, which is the tuning system used by choirs, orchestras, bands, chamber groups, and any other combination of instruments that does not include guitar or harp, (fixed tuning) or piano/organ (fixed tuning).

Order it for $25 U.S. by sending a money order to the address given at

You will find thousands of uses for this as an intonation training tool.Note: This CD is NOT the same as a midi or keyboard sustaining a pitch for several minutes. The sound that comes from the CD is "triangulated" in pitch, and includes all the overtones.

Also included are several tracks with intervals given in acoustic tuning against a bass note of C, C# or D, and a final sample of a CMaj7 chord in Equal Temperament (beats are audible) followed by "Pure" tuning, and then in ET, again. Very interesting to use as a comparison to Equal Temperament.

Trevor Wye's & other books on Intonation

A student asks:
I'm having intonation problems. I can tune my flute to a keyboard etc. but when it actually comes to playing my intonation really suffers. I really try and listen but can't hear if I'm going flat/sharp. I notice this in my grade 8 study, which has large leaps over an octave from the middle to the top register. My teacher says, get sharper as I go higher which is to be expected, but I can't hear it and its getting really annoying. Has anyone got any ideas??! Its getting me down now
Jen answers:

Hi there!

First of all, see the information on the Tuning CD above.

If your top octave is consistently sharp, you need to shape the airstream more downward, and also drop the mouth cavity open. Also, you may want to take a look at Trevor Wye's book "Intonation" which is the fourth book in his "Practice books for the flute" series.
He explains at great length what the tendencies of the flute are, in learning to play with good intonation, gives many exercises, and most importantly, gives you the RIGHT exercises so that you learn to adjust your pitch to match what the ear demands.

Check it out, and do the Wye Intonation exercises thoroughly to develop an ability to tune as you play. Get your private teacher to guide you in working with the top octave in tune.
And of course sing often, and learn to sing in tune. Then you'll have both skills: the "inner ear" that allows you to know what "in tune" is, and the physical skills, practiced daily, to subtley change the pitch of your flute using airspeed and embouchure.

Trevor Wye's books are widely available.

Try if you are in the U.S. and TopWind or other UK sheet music company in the UK where these books are published by Novello.
The Omnibus edition contains FIVE of the Wye practice books all in one volume. An excellent resource.
Jen Cluff

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-----------Another great book: ---------------------


Dear Flutenetters,
About a month ago I came across the most interesting book: "Lies my Music Teacher Told Me" by Gerald Eskelin ISBN: 1-886209-11-1; 1997; Stage 3 Publishing.
I found it to be extremely invigorating since, as I have been simultaneously teaching ear-training and flute intonation exercises to my college and conservatory students using a *piano*, while dealing with woodwind and string intonational problems in our developing symphony orchestra.
I needed tuning solutions!
And I needed to be able to turn around and teach them to my own students!
Teaching tempered tuning to young students so that they can play solos with piano was obviously the first order of the day.

[Note: since writing the above, I have now found "The Tuning CD" which solves this dilemma; See Tuning CD above.]

But in coaching chamber groups, I found myself (horrors!:>) *singing* scale intervals for students, and stumbling over my words and demonstrations trying to impart the differences between the acoustic and tempered-tuning harmonies.

Even using acoustic-tuning charts, such as the kind that say: perfect fifths should be 7 cents high, perfect fourths 4 cents low etc., was a system slightly too advanced for some of my young flute students who are not in chamber ensembles, or don't own tuners, and can't yet judge "cents".
And of course, in orchestra, among colleagues, there is always a point of confusion about the differences between the keyboard's tempered tuning and the actual pitches used by woods, strings, brass, and choral groups.

You'd have bassoonists with their tuners switched on, in a Mendelssohn chord saying:
"We MUST be wrong---my tuner says I'm 18 cents SHARP!! That is incorrect!" when 20 minutes of sectional work has resulted in an arbitrary tuning stasis that is just on the edge of working, but no one knows why!!! :>)

So after reading "Lies my Music Teacher Taught Me", all enthused by what I saw as the teacher's connection to the "instincts of in-tune players", I went to Eskelin's website and ordered a second set of materials:

"Natural Ear Training".
This is a folder containing 'flash card' like teaching charts for leading group-tuning exercises, forming chords, in a choral class or sightsing class.
The charts can also be used by the self-teaching adult using single piano pitches and following the instructions of what to listen for in pitching their own voice in harmony.

This slim folder and its well written 4 page instruction sheet arrived two weeks ago, and I've been following through, slowly, trying to teach myself how to *teach* a level of wonderful flute intonation, and merge all the disparate bits.
I'm convinced enough by the materials to order Eskelin's hardcover book, now:
"The Sounds of Music: Perception and Notation."
(includes recorded samples on CD)
I find his explanations are just terrific reading all around! John Zornig put me on to this author. So thanks again John. I'd love to discuss this with you all, to find out if other teachers are discovering htis as a 'breakthrough' in ear-training.

For more info. see the following Eskelin links:

For those interested in orchestral tuning phenomena that affects flutes,

For more info. on author of the above book titles: 

A quote from "Natural Ear Training" ~ Eskelin
"The value of a natural approach to ear training is immediately evident to anyone who realizes that keyboards cannot accurately reproduce pitch relations in the same way that ears hear them.
While the keyboard is limited to one tuning per digital, the sensitive musical ear naturally tends to adjust tuning according to the harmonic and melodic context of pitches.
It follows then that any approach to developing musical aural skills should focus on the nature of relative pitch perception and avoid the compromised sound models produced on a keyboard.
Our current fascination with digital electronics and computerized methods of teaching tends to distract us from natural perception of pitch relations. Unfortunately, accurate acoustic tuning cannot be expressed in digital tuning based on 100 cents (divisions) per "half step."
The human ear----even of a novice----is more sensitive than that. Just a single click of the knob can go right past the point of an "in tune" perception.

Therefore it seems unlikely that computer-based drills will lead to success in learning to hear and produce well-tuned pitches. Fortunately, computers and digital drills are not needed to accomplish the task.
Youngsters reared in musical environments usually have no difficulty assimilating acoustic truth.
For the adult who missed that opportunity, the materials contained in "Natural Ear Training" can help. A simple sustained sound source and a willing and curious spirit can lead to the discovery of harmonic reality and musical insight."

____________end Gerald Eskelin quote

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Thoughts on working with an electronic tuner

Question: A Flutenet member writes:

>Dear Jen: What are your thoughts on tuners? Training tool, necessity, useless waste of money? I wonder if I should start working with one, but then big players like Galway says "throw them away!". He recommends singing, singing and more singing. What's all this about? JT
Jen replies: Dear JT and other Flutenetters,
Tuners are controversial in one sense: You cannot come to rely on their "tempered tuning" setting when it comes to non-tempered instruments.

There is a terrific article on this that explains it all on this clarinet site.

 If you're playing with a piano, yes the tuner will tell you what pitch the piano will play. But almost every other instrument uses ACOUSTIC tuning, which is not "equal temperament". So you need to use a drone that sounds from an electronic tuner or a Tuning CD to train your ears to hear pure intervals instead of the kind the piano provides.

This can be confusing to contemplate.

So in general: Developing a very good 'ear' and the ability to sing in tune allows you to start to react much more quickly to any intonation errors that come from your flute playing. If you can hear the exact pitch that is going to work, then in milliseconds  you can adjust your flute's pitch almost instantly to match the sound that is "in your mind's ear".

But for the middle-ground of student, those without fabulous 'ears' for hearing pitch, some systematic way of developing pitch could be used, and a tuner might be of some help. [Update: see The Tuning CD above ]

For a start, flute and piano is a *very* common instrumental partnership, and therefore tuners are very helpful tools to the degree that you play with tempered instruments (harp, piano, organ etc.)

I could list the myriad of warmups and intonation exercises that I do with a tuner if that would help? (overblowing octaves etc.) Or maybe all our Flutenet flute teachers could all list our favourite exercises for using with a tuner.... get everyone's current opinion on "what is useful"? What do you other Flutenet teachers use?

Here are some of my uses of electronic tuners:

Four sample uses for an electric tuner (equal-tempered scale):

ie: Setting up your cork position and how far to draw out the headjoint/footjoint for A440 or A442.
ie: Crescendos and diminuendos done with the ear fixed on keeping the pitch level, and then checking the tuner to see how well your ears are picking up pitch changes.
ie: Bending notes purposefully to see how far each one can be sharpened and flattened.
ie: Playing perfect octaves to establish embouchure formations (as opposed to the stretched octave that the ear prefers)
To see more on the human preference for stretched octaves (making any advice about teaching yourself octaves without a tuner somewhat dubious for later intonation-with-piano)

Note on stretched octave phenomena: Read Susan MacLagan's NFA convention report on tuning in the Flutenet archives: Sent: Sunday, August 17, 2003 1:24 PM

Look for: Subject: [flutenet] Convention - Tuning for Flute Players with Peter Middleton.

You can do an archive search for "Middleton" or go to Aug. 17th, 2003 to look it up.
Excellent post that reviews some recent research on how we tune.

Lenny Lopatin also commented on the net recently that he modified the modern flute scale NOT to stretch octaves, and play sharp in the third register, but pro-players who tried it found it too odd, compared to what they were used to.

All very interesting food for thought........glad you brought up this topic. Always new info. coming to light........ see below for "why is it so hard to explain?"


P.S. [Update: see The Tuning CD above ]

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Why is it so hard to play in tune? And why are the theories so confusing?

Follow up question: M. writes:
>let's see if I have some of it right - tuning to a tuner isn't always effective because playing "in tune" is work and can change with embouchure, registers and possibly volume; .....(signed: slightly baffled and wandering aimlessly in circles).


Dear M,
I hesitate to add much more intonation information for folks to swim in, , but you do ask so sweetly, so I will do my best to cover each of these topics as best I can without drowning anyone else in too much information! :>)

Important Update 2005: see The Tuning CD above

First of all:
A tuner will help you anticipate the exact pitch of a well-tuned piano. If you are going to play with a piano at any point, the tuner will be a good substitute in practicing flute-alone.

Pure tuning (where there are no "beats" bashing into each other in midair, sounding like "wha....wha...wha...") however, is very different from the equal-temperament of the piano.

Pianos are a compromise. They can play in any key, but they produce "beats" that prove 'out-of-tuneness' like crazy.

The ear's sweet and innocent desire for the "beat-less-ness" that we need for acoustic tuning must be shut-down when we play with tempered instruments, so we can tolerate the piano's being out of tune with itself..

ie: I can sing perfectly in tune (acoustic tuning/pythagorean/sensitive-tuning etc), but when I sing with a piano, I have to modify my pitches to match the piano's equal temperament.

A very good article on this phenomenon and how to come to terms with it is here:

Secondly; If you already play out of tune, then

Over time you will train your ears to no longer notice out of tune notes that occur frequently as you practise alone. You actually will begin to think that your sharp high E sounds 'normal". This is why you may want to check your overall intonation with a tuner at first; to dispel the out-of-tune notes that you have grown immune to hearing.
An electronic tuner will help you discover where your own personal
embouchure and air-speed is typically going to put your flute's pitch. Mark down a home-made graph of each pitch of your flute played at mezzo forte, with a fabulous, full tone. You'll soon get an idea of where you've started to become habituated to typically sharp and flat notes. Chris Potter has a useful leaflet called "Seven Steps to Intonation" which is available at

ie: if your entire top octave is sharp all the time, you will want to
use the tuner to change the position of the headjoint, and perhaps the embouchure that you use on the flute. These changes take time and the tuner can show you how you're progressing.

Learning to shape the embouchure differently and to gradually learn
to bring the pitch down on sharp areas of the flute can take several months, but is work well worth doing until you've mastered a new embouchure or way of controlling the air-speed so you have a choice NOT to play sharp in the high register.
By the same token:
If your entire lowest octave is flat all the time, you will use the tuner to figure out what you must do in the low octave to bring the pitch up,.

This work is actually fascinating, and the tuner helps until you've learned a new embouchure etc. so you will have the choice NOT to play flat just because a passage is marked pp or is very low in the flute's range.

Now, why would your entire top or low register be so sharp or so flat, and why wouldn't your ears have told you this already?

- You've been playing alone for so long that you've accepted your out-of-tuneness and no longer hear that it's out of tune. (and your flute may have been set up incorrectly in length, cork position etc, and you may have learned how to play with this set up by blowing a certain way for various octaves.)

- Even the best ears will begin to accept "out of tuneness" in under one hour of being subjected to out-of-tune playing---I read this in an article about a band adjudicator who tuned his harpsichord BEFORE going band-adjudicating, and could not do so again until the next day, as his ears had accepted the cacophany of the band pitches and were 'blown' for the rest of the day in terms of sensitivity.
More reasons for playing out of tune without knowing it:


- You're a bit rusty and your embouchure and air-speed are still being
invented fresh every day with no way to yet find the balance of all
the variables. After an hour or so, you're de-sensitzed to pitch while
you've been searching for other tone solutions.

- You're developing your dynamic range and experimenting with tone
colours, and pitch has taken a back seat to trying to expand to HUGE
fortissimos and triple "P" pianissimos.

- You've been playing with an orchestra or chamber group that uses extreme dynamics, and don't know how to correct the pitch while maintaining very precise tone-blending (non-vibrato) and extreme-dynamic matching sessions (changing your ear's focus like this can cause you to lose the pitch center.) You may not use the tuner in situ, but you may want to use it in preparation to "get you into the ball park" of the pitches you're going to use at extreme blends and dynamics.

Important Update 2005: see The Tuning CD above

M. continues:
>flutes are made to be in tune at different . . . keys (?A440, A442)
so adjusting head/foot joint may not help; ears need to be used to
check for "in-tune-ness" at different registers/volumes/styles.
> And to train ears, we need . . . a tuner??


Yes. Playing a 442 (or in the case of Yamaha, one rep. tells us....443) flute at 440 is very challenging in terms of control of air and embouchure.
While practicing alone, your ears may make corrections possible at first, but after an hour or so of playing, they will then start accepting anomalies as "normal". And even once you know for a fact that you can bend each pitch up or down 20 cents from the "440" setting, you may have to bend even farther if you're in an orchestra (in worst case scenarios, up to 30 cents!!!)
Add to that:

Apart from having to test dynamics AND bend the pitches according to the prevailing pitch of a musical group, you may also have to deal with the temperature fluctuating in the hall or room you are in.

To prepare for both these problems, using a tuner is faster than using the ears.
If you can play in tune with the tuner at all dynamics, you will be closer to the pitch you will eventually have to bend to, when acoustic tuning is required. (you won't be 20 cents flat, you'll only be perhaps 4 cents flat; and therefore having to suddenly play 13 cents sharp will be within reach when required.)

And if and when the temperature of the room changes (and just turning the heat on or off can cause the flutist to need to move their headjoint up to 1/8th of an inch in compensation as small metal instruments react quickest to temp. changes), the tuner quickly shows you whether you've moved it enough for ease of play at regular dynamics etc.

Other uses for tuners that the ears-alone can't help:
- Playing perfect unisons with other woodwinds (including piccolo/bass
clarinet etc.) when you are not used to the harmonic content of their sound, and your ears are being "fooled".

- Understanding why, in an orchestra, you are being asked to play so
sharp or so flat that the flute is actually out of position on your face, ruining your tone (ie: another set of instruments is so high or so low, that the flute's headjoint length would have to be changed to play to their pitch, so therefore they are TOO far away from the pitch, and only the tuner will really confirm this on any given passage; ie: whole passage goes from A440 to A448 over eight bars.)

In the above case, the solution is hopefully NOT to have to move your headjoint just for one passage, but to fix the problem in rehearsal by referring to the tuner as a guage for everyone to consider.
And finally: Acoustic tuning:

In The Flute Player's Book by Vernon Hill, he prints the following chart:

To tune acoustically (not tempered tuning) the flute needs to make the following alterations to the tuner's indicated pitch. Play sharp/flat by the following amounts depending on the interval you are playing with another wind, string or brass player (obviously not piano or other tempered keyboard):

If you are playing this interval, you will need make this correction in order to have intervals sound "pure" and "musical":

ie: A pure major 3rd should be flatter by approx. 13.7 cents  than what the electronic tuner says is "in tune" in order to be a beatless major 3rd.

Major 2nd - 3.9 cents sharp
minor 3rd - 15.6 cents sharp
Major 3rd - 13.7 cents flat
Perfect 4th - 2.0 cents flat
Perfect 5th - 2.0 cents sharp

minor 6th - 13.7 cents flat

Major 6th - 15.6 cents sharp
minor 7th - 17.6 cents sharp
Major 7th - 11.6 cents flat.

Important Update 2005: see The Tuning CD above

If you have a tuner that is only showing you tempered tuning, you can
still use the above chart AND the tuner to figure out why you sound out of tune in a piece that has just modulated 4 times (into mulitudes of flats and sharps) when practicing alone, without an orchestra.
Your ear may tell you to raise a certain note, but you've modulated so many times, you don't know why. A chart like this will help you and your tuner put your embouchure and air-speed into the correct ball-park, so that you don't get a narsty tuning surprise in rehearsal.
Real life scenario:
You prepare Rimsky Korsakov or Tchaikovsky using a professional CD of a UK orchestra at A442.

 This high pitch center drives you totally crazy, so you finally borrow a US orchestra CD at A440. Okay, step one completed.

You match the overtones (and intervals) of every single pitch-problem area using your ears, the electronic tuner, and a tuning CD.

Finally you have figured out exactly the air-speed and embouchure you'll need to land every chord and melody perfectly in tune with the professional orchestra on the CD.

You arrive to rehearse with your own orchestra, and as it turns out the oboe player has only 2 bars to switch to English horn (or the clarinets to A clarinet).

Picking up the cold second instrument means they play much flatter than you anticipated.

Or conversely, the violins decide as a group to keep getting sharper and sharper in pitch as they play a long string passage, and by the time you enter with your flute harmonies, they are now up at A-444, and you're expected to join them there.

The pitches you so carefully prepared with the professional Tchaikovsky recording of this work are now "out" to the pitches all around you, and you have to dive down 15 cents (cold woodwind instruments play flat) and then soar up again to 20 cents sharp. You have to do this in both directions at once, often.
When would you ever have "practiced" diving down 15 cents and soaring up 20 cents if not during daily use in pitch bending with the tuner or Tuning CD?
Open to responses (not-including; join a different orchestra!)

Jen Pitch-obsessions-*are*-my-forte :>D

For more 'tuning your flute in ensemble articles click here.

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Important Update 2005: see The Tuning CD above

Follow up question: Dear Jen, any thoughts on electronic tuners to check out??
Dear M,
I have a Korg DT-3 chromatic tuner which, 14 years ago, cost around $100 Canadian ($75 US). I picked it because it goes high enough for the full piccolo range and can be callibrated to 440 or 442 (or other).

I also have a $25 small sized tuner that can play 12 pitches aloud, and can be calibrated for A-440 to A445. Both these tuners are useful in different settings.

I've also recently read on the net that some new tuners can also be switched over to provide "acoustic" or "just" tuning, and this idea sounds GOOD!!!

I would suggest getting a tuner that generates a good electric pitch or tone,
instead of just showing lights, which actually trains the ear to hear, rather than one with lights only that is of dubious use (training the eyes to see lights flashing doesn't help the ears at all.)

Also, if you're a fan, like me, of the book "The Physical Flute" by Fiona Wilkinson, there are  intonation exercises that require a tone being sounded in that warmup book; very good.


Important Update 2005; A Tuning CD is very much more useful than an electronic tuner.

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Stages of flute student intonation development

Teaching Intonation for flute

A Quick overview of the steps to good flute intonation training by Jen Cluff
Level One:
1. Flute set up:
a) Cork position-cleaning rod check-cork care and function
b) Inserting the headjoint to leave room to push in.
c) Headjoint alignment-balancing the rods on top of the flute
body-flute holding and balancing to keep mouthpiece stable during
d) Prewarming a cold flute before judging its intonation center.

2. Blowing angle and coverage:
a) Lower lip coverage of the embouchure hole
- 1/4 to 1/3 coverage; lower lip stretched the length of the lip
b) Use of the upper lip to aim air at correct striking angle
c) Refining the size and shape of the lip aperture to find "sweet
spot" for each pitch
d) Steadying of the embouchure through chromatic longtones.
3. Determining whether your flute is tuned to A440, A442 or other.
(May have to be the teacher's or expert's domaine):

a) Knowledge of flute manufaturer; examining tone hole placement
(Adrian Brett posted on this topic too); Which scale your flute is
designed with; what to expect with RH and LH notes, C#s being sharp;
Bennett and Cooper scales and how they are corrected.

Trevor Wye's chart of flute scale physics and measurement:

b) Overblowing low C fingerings to match C1 and C2 to establish over all length of flute with footjoint, followed by overblowing low D1 to D2 until octaves match perfectly. This must be done with minimal embouchure distortion, and careful airspeed adjustment and aids in determining how much to push in or pull out headjoint so flute plays octaves in tune with itself.
This exercise tells you what your flute was manufactured to play at: A440 or A442 or possibly higher (European flutes.)
4. At this fourth stage in early ear training, the student must
practice specific exercises to gain the physical skills necessary for
"in tune" playing.

a) LONGTONES: Tuning to 440 on a chromatic tuner: set the tuner to
A440, and learn the vagueries of your flute's scale embouchure adjustment as you ascend and descend chromatically. Determine how to alter your flute to get it to play at this pitch, even if it's a 442
(May want to use a concept from "Seven Steps to Intonation" by Chris Potter for her graphing-your-pitch method of determining which pitches need to be altered for tempered tuning on your own flute.)

b) HARMONICS: See Dean Stallard's Flutewise article (back issue 2002 or search for online versions at on overblowing octaves and fifths and matching to real fingerings:
E1--E2---B2(harmonic)-----B2(real fingering.)

These patterns of harmonics and overtone exercises allows several things:
i) teaches the embouchure to not be over-manipulated but very accurate in small motions. Teaches the amount of forward &/or closing motion of the jaw and/or lower lip.
ii) teaches not to blow with excessive pressure or force for the high register
iii) teaches the student to refine the forward lip motion of the center of the lips.
iv) teaches the student to sense the center of lip "resistance" and microscopic lip pressure changes that allow the flutist to ascend octaves easily

Other sources for good exercises such as the above can be found in:

Robert Dicks book "Tone Development through Extended Technique" &

Werner Richter's book "Conditioning Training for the flutist"

Using Etudes and Intonation exercises from various authors (Trevor Wye's "Intonation book Four"; daily exercises; Taffanel and Gaubert exercises; standard arpeggios etc.) the student learns how to anticipate air-speed and lip shape requirements for rapid, flexible movements within a tonal center.

The student is urged to HEAR the pitches before playing them, even in rapid passage work. Harmonic understanding of key-changes also important part of ear-training at this stage.
This stage continues indefinitely into pro-level practicing to keep the aim of the embouchure accurate and flexible, and to keep the player in daily practice for hearing chords in advance while sight-reading.

Level Two:

At this next level the student has a controlled approach to producing a fine tone in the three octaves of the flute.
The next stage of development is to teach the student to have
"sensitive" ears for melodic intonation.

2.1.Playing flute solos with tempered tuning instruments:
Guitar/Piano/Harpsichord etc.

a) Checking melodic material against A440 tuner to erradicate erroneous pitch errors caused by embouchure, air stream angle, and air-speed and pressure miscalculations.

b) Adjusting your dynamics to avoid airstream errors (Use Fiona
Wilkinson's "Vowel dynamics" from "The Physical Flute" and Moyse's
"Fullness of Tone" exercises from "De La Sonorite".)

c) Upper lip aiming more downward to correct sharpness; lower non-retraction, or lower jaw coming forward to correct flatness.

d) Opening of the body's resonating cavities to correct thinness of tone and sharpness. See Roger Mather's book "The Art of Flute Playing" or Ann Cherry's book "
Playing in Colour: Improving Tone for Advanced Players".

e) Both audible and silent singing of a flute's pitch to increase lung resonance

f) Covering less embouchure hole and making lip aperture taller, in order to invite lower fundamentals into the sound (see: "The Physical Flute" by Fiona Wilkinson)

g) Listening to, and matching, the fundamental pitches of chords in
order to match octaves and fifths with a tempered instrument.

Developing pitch memory and standard ear-training levels of pitch

h) Choosing the placement of a third in a chord to match fixed-pitch instrument. (or having them eliminate a 3rd or play it softly, as advocated by Trevor Wye in his intonation articles on the web.)
2.2 Using alternate fingerings for pitch correction:

a) Alternate fingerings that adjust high register pitches. (ex: no righthand 4 on high E3 allows forte playing without going sharp. Middle finger F#3 is flatter, etc.)
b) Alternate fingerings to raise problematic low notes (ex: half-holing F2; or adding trill key to E2 in order to sharpen slightly.)
c) Other alternate fingerings for raising pianissimo notes up to pitch.
ex: High notes that are "ppppp" and no-vibrato.
2.3 Matching pitch with another flutist.
a) Experimentation of vertical harmony with teacher, utilizing visual charts that explain just intonation.

Examples of acoustic tuning (non-tempered tuning):
Minor second -- raise the pitch slightly [+3 cents]
Major second -- raise the pitch slightly [+5]
Minor third -- raise the pitch significantly [+15]
Major third -- lower the pitch significantly [-15]
Perfect fourth -- lower the pitch slightly [-2]
Augmented fourth -- lower the pitch
Perfect fifth -- raise the pitch slightly [+2]
Minor sixth -- lower the pitch significantly [-15]
Major sixth -- raise the pitch significantly [+15]
Minor seventh -- raise the pitch significantly [+20]
Major seventh -- lower the pitch significantly [-7]

b) Listening for difference tones:
- Use Trevor Wye's "Intonation Book Four" for duets that include
difference tone as a third flute part
- Spend a great deal of time playing duets with teacher.

2.4 Tuning with stringed instruments (violin/cello/viola/etc.):

- Understanding human tendency to "stretch octaves" ie: rise in pitch
during solo lines
- Understand soloistic tendency toward sharp playing for audibility
- Balancing the flute's dynamics to play in tune and blend with
- Listening for low chordal pitches to match octaves, fifths, and
- Temperature changes while performing with a large group (cold
stage-warm stage.)
- Discouraging vibrato as a method of pitch blurring. :>)

b) Tuning in orchestra:
-Prewarming instrument before entries
-Hearing pitches PRIOR to playing them
-Studying the score for harmonic content
-Studying the score for melodic dovetailing
-Studing the score to match pitches prior to flute entry.
- Learning the tendencies of other woodwinds and brass

The above serves as a guide for the specific skills that a flutist
needs in order to become a player known for their fine intonation.

I hope that with further input that we might come up with a document
that will help flute teachers cover more areas of expertise when it
comes to teaching intonation for flute.

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Important Update 2005: see The Tuning CD above

Student flutes & older flutes with sharp C#s

A Sharp C# on your flute?

Question: I've been told to never again buy a flute with a sharp middle register C# (example; some of the older Haynes before 1986 are really cheap right now, and I really want one.) My regular flute is apparently "old scale" and I never notice a problem with the C# (although my teacher tells me to lip it down all the time.) Can someone clear this whole thing up for me? Thanks.

Jen replies:
I think to clarify the whole issue I should simply describe the difficulties that occurs if a flute has a single pitch that is sharp to the other notes surrounding it in its scale such as found on the new Powell Sonare, and some other flute brands in which the C# is far too sharp (old Haynes, old Powells, any flute that is pre-Cooper or pre-Bennett scale.). For example, if you have a single sharp note on the scale of your flute:

- You have to adjust your lips quickly when changing from the "lip down this sharp note" position to "normal embouchure position". This is fine at certain slower tempi, but can become impossible when playing a line of music, in tune, at faster tempi, forcing the player to have to leave the sharp note out of tune.
Play this example all slurred , slowly and at a quiet dynamic:
C#3 (lip down), D3 (lip up slightly), E2 (lip up more), C#2 (lip down profoundly.) Repeat the above pitches, checking with a tuner, at faster and faster tempi, until you feel that the embouchure changes become too demanding. Now imagine the myriad occasions when such lip gymnastics will have to be accomplished at high speeds.
These lip gymnastics can create terrific tension when playing in unison with another woodwind in an exposed orchestral passage, or when playing in harmony with another flutist who does not have the same scale on their flute, or playing with the piano in a professional recital.

- You will find that a sharp C# will work in certain key centers where
this note is needed to be sharp, but conversely you will have to
strain the embouchure when in key signatures where that pitch needs to
be considerably flattened.

Ex: C# needs to frequently be flattened as much as
Major 3rd - 13.7 cents flat (A major)
minor 6th - 15.6 cents flat (e minor melodic)
Major 7th - 11.6 cents flat (B major)

Flattening the sharp note this much can require additional fingers on
the righthand which can affect timbre, or lipping down so far that the tone colour is darkened or muffled compared to the notes played just before or after. To create a tone colour change for no other reason than intonation is highly limiting to the flutist.

That's why a flute's inherent pitch problems only become noticeable atethe higher levels of flute playing. Simply playing unaccompanied at the novice or intermediate level, without the demands of tuning to an orchestra will NOT show up the need for excessive embochure or fingering compensation.

Just to clarify, as perhaps students don't foresee this when purchasing a flute that they hope will see them into their first orchestra or first recital. I advise that students do not purchase step-up flutes without having a professional flutist check the flute's scale to determine whether the compensations are excessive or not.
Jennifer Cluff

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Tuning observations by Albert Cooper &Philip Farkas

Jen writes:

Despite North American pianos being tuned to A440, I've discovered that some orchestras that I play in can rise in pitch as high as A444 to 446 during a single overture, at which point my A442 flute is pushed in all the way, I'm blowing my face off, and rolling so far out that it's a menace to keeping the flute on my chin (especially if there's a sudden pianissimo passage among all that sharpness).

I've learned now to adjust the headjoint between certain sections of music, and in fact push in and pull out according to what I figure out in rehearsals.

Ex: Push in for soft solo---pull out for fortissimo tuttis.

I never thought I'd see the day when I have to do that, but that's the current reality.

I once played with a second flutist who was playing a Brannen flute tuned to A440 and could not push the headjoint in any farther when the strings got so sharp they were beyond matching. On occasion this A440 player had to drop out of soft passages that got too sharp. So there is some consideration to buying A442 flutes even in North America, since the tendency is always toward sharpness and brilliance, rather than flatness.

In my experience of playing a 442 flute in a professed A440 ensemble means that at times, I have to make all sorts of top register pitch adjustments when playing with piano. But in orchestra, the tendency is for the players to go sharp over time, and this was even commented on in the '50s in the great book 'The Art of Musicianship' by Philip Farkas when he wrote:

Farkas quote:
"Serge Koussevitzky would not condone the slightest bit of flatness in the pitch of any player, although to be slightly too sharp was apparently acceptable.
All of us in the Boston Symphony, being well aware of this attitude, made certain, in our solo entrances, that the pitch was well up----at least as high as the previous player.

This led to a gradual climbing of the general pitch in the this orchestra over the duration of the concert. This was so gradual that at no time was the orhestra really out of tune.

One broadcast which I heard after leaving the orchestra was checked for pitch by means of a stroboscope.

The opening note of the concert had a pitch of A442 and the closing notes, two hours later, had a pitch of A447."

________end P. Farkas Quote

Note: Naturally, when playing with piano, I simply reign in the extremes of dynamics in my top register, adjust fingerings, lip down as required, and generally stay within tempered tuning---which is alot more predictable, and hence LESS scary than rising to obscene pitch-heights during a concert.

I'd dearly like to hear more from other orchestral players who experience similar pitch rises.Apparently, this is a human phenomenon. :>)

Dear Flutenuts,

Just dug out an Albert Cooper article on the tuning of flutes which
may help you feel less bizarre. Read what he said in "Choosing a
Pitch" (Flutist Quarterly, I think)
Albert Cooper writes:
" I have discovered that two players in an extended test both before and after tea, and without altering the headjoint in any way, blew a flute 7 vibrations apart; one at A439 and the other at A446! And this may not at all be the widest variation possible.
So, while one flutist may blow a flute at A442, another may play it comfortably at A444 and another at A440, and there are some variations evn greater than this.
To point out what differences exist, there is a very good Canadian player, Robert Aitken, who plays an old A435 flute at a higher pitch than Peter-Lukas Graf uses with (his) new A446 scale. However it must be said that he (Aitken) admits to doing this with some difficulty and is currently moving up to a higher-pitched instrument when he plays at around A448."

Jen continues: Perhaps we all need a cup of tea between pitch tests, just to even out our sense of time and space?? :>)

For my own admission, the first tuning graph I did based on Chris Potter's book "Seven Steps to Intonation" [Falls House Press] was all over the shop too, and out of curiousity I then I had a student (a band player who always played horribly out of tune every time I heard her perform) play chromatically while I graphed *her* pitch, and she hit the tuner's tempered pitch almost bang on every note!!! Evidently this player doesn't HEAR out-of-tune playing when actually in an ensemble, but DOES manage not to overmanipulate their embouchure. That was the only explanation I could come up with.

Yes, indeed there is a horrible mystery going on here.
No one, not even Cooper can explain it.
(And clarinetists are STILL blaming the flutes for being out of tune... sigh......

It's probably only because they go flatter when they play louder and we play sharper as we get louder, and vice versa)

Another curiousity: Recently I tried the tuner on an overblown series of harmonics (fingering low C and then blowing up to C2, G2, C3, E3) and each of these notes registered exactly in tune in NON-tempered tuning (using Vernon Hill's tuning chart for accoustically tuned chords that he gives in his "The Flute Book with demo CD"). It seems that the flute tube itself plays accoustically correctly on its own harmonic series, which is a good thing...but when I use the tuner to try and tempered-tune the flute, I too have to work hard to memorize where each pitch is, throwing off my sense of "rich and full" tone centering.

The work continues.
Best, Jen :>)

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Overblowing octave D's to find flute's best length (headjoint draw) & cork position

Question:I'm really confused by this. Is the overblown D3 supposed to be in tune with D1 or is the T.23./...4 supposed to be in tune with the D1? It seems like one is either sharp or the other flat. When I move the mouthpiece out, the D's are more in tune to eachother, but every note is flat compared to A=440 and the headjoint is pushed all the way in. What am I doing wrong here?
Dear M.,
This question has come up before, and was answered by both Joe B and Adrian Brett. To read Joe B's explanation,
click here.

(Adrian Brett's email from the Flutenet ARCHIVES is below):

Re: Tuning the 3 D's by overblowing:
Question: How on earth do you move the cork to re-tune??
Adrian Brett answers:
I would say that this question of the correct position for the cork assembly
is one of the most misunderstood facts regarding the flute.
Howzat for a controversial opening? <G>
Previous post that needed correction:
> Play low D then the D an octave above. Move the cork until the two
> are in tune exactly an octave apart.
> Now do the same thing with the D3 above the staff. Get then dead in tune. Now all three should be Ok and your cork is in the right position.
Adrian writes:
Upper D 3 should be FLAT to middle D2 if you want the cork and the parabolic curve of the headjoint taper to do its job correctly...which is to keep the 3rd register notes DOWN in pitch.

This is not an opinion but a scientific fact....

All the notes from the bottom C or B up to little C sharp are fundamentals.
Middle D and D sharp are vented octaves by the opening of the little C sharp ( which is roughly half way up the flute tube) so that the first note you actually have to produce as a 2nd harmonic with the lips and air-speed is middle E2...a problem note for many players and prone to split hence both Galway and WIBB add the vent of the 1st trill key and close the D sharp key.
From E2 to C sharp3 the notes are all 2nd harmonics...octaves from their low register but requiring a faster air-speed, by resistance at the lip-centre
and NOT by blowing harder. Faster NOT harder.
D3 is the first note which is produced from the note a fifth below, G, and all these 3rd harmonics...D3 to G sharp..are naturally flat but we add additional fingers with the RH to sharpen them.
Try this experiment to prove my point, starting on G sharp.
Play the fundamental G sharp, increase the airspeed by resistance and you
will allow the tube to divide in two and produce G sharp2. Further rersistance will sound a FLAT D sharp 3. Add the RH fingers 123 and the D sharp will sharpen. Do this with all the notes E/F/Fsharp/G/Gsharp.

Play the natural harmonic 5th and then add the additional fingers of the RH for the normal 3rd register fingering and you will notice the note rise in pitch.
Now if the cork were placed in a position which made D3 with its normal fingering of Th -23/---4 an exact octave from D2 you would be tampering with science...never a good thing <G>..You would then SHARPEN all the natural 5ths upon which the 3rd register notes are based and further sharpen them by the additional RH fingers............result?...3rd register sharpness...the most commonly encountered problem in players.

So where do you put the cork?

Well I have never found a mark on a cleaning rod which is "correct"...and why? Because the starting position for adjusting the cork is the diameter of the actual HJ you are playing measured at the centre of the mouth-hole and moving the faceplate of the cork assembly the same distance to the left of this if the diameter is 17mm then the cork should "start" at 17mm from the centre of the mouth-hole. No one cleaning rod can accommodate all the many diverse measurements and though 17.35mm is most common it is by
no means mandatory.

Find out the bore of your HJ at the mouth-hole centre either with a disc..I had made a set of discs from 19mm down to 17mm in half mm increments. Failing this measure the outside of the HJ at the centre of the mouth-hole with calipers and deduct TWICE the tube you need to know whether this is .012/.014/.016 or .018 (French tin flutes are sometimes more)
Now from the "starting position"... whatever it is..let's say 17.35... if you were now to test the three D octaves WITH THE SAME FINGERING you would be much closer to getting the BEST position. Think about it a moment.
The octave and double octave are perfect intervals. D1 is x cps (cycles per second) D2 is 2x and D3 with the same LONG fingering is 4X. (an A2 lurks around in between and is 3x..and is the sharp fingering we use for Boheme on the piccolo for the famous sustained A). Therefore we can rely on this...but we must not confuse the normal D3 fingering with these it ain't one!!
D3 with the normal fingering is a 3rd harmonic from low G and as our experiment showed SHOULD be slightly flat as we do not ....normally...add additional fingers to sharpen it as we do with all the other 3rd register notes which are 3rd harmonics. This why we always need to lift high D3 slightly and utilise the other fingerings in p and pp...most usefully:

Th -23/1st trill - 3

So if your D2 and D3 regular fingering ARE an exact octave then the cork is too far towards the body of the flute and you are exacerbating 3rd register sharpness.
One final remark....the cork position seriously affects the ability to articulate middle E and if having gone through the preceding rigmarole you have difficulty with this you might try a very small adjustment..or open the trill key all WIBB and Galway..or add the low C sharp key as well as opening the D sharp (thereby removing the high Gsharp harmonic).
C.P. asked about the piccolo...well the above would be true for a cylindrical piccolo (Ottavino) but not for a conical instrument where the taper occurs in the body and how good this taper is depends on how good the octaves are...often they are flat.

Adrian Brett
________________end quote

Another flutenutter added:
When you get D3 in tune with its lower bretheren you have a solid base for the upper register but you have to use the tunnel in your lips more & more forward and airspeed less & less the higher you go to stay in tune. F3 is the easiest 'high' note to pitch from F2 - scarcely needing to raise LH2. Try it and compare intonation: it must be exactly the same pitch [not timbre] with either fingering.
As the uppers have to be pitched rather than just blown, practise quietly playing the harmonics on the lower octave, especially the foot notes, to gain mastery over the embouchure and make your inconsistencies consistent.

Jen adds, the technique described above is a fine way to work, especially the sensation of a "tunnel between the two lips" for the 3rd register of the flute.
However I believe that the reason the overblown lower register fingerings should be matched to the upper register real fingerings, in pitch, is in order to:

a) find a good embouchure suitable for controlled high-register tone quality
b) to ascertain the amount of lower lip should be covering the blow hole for pitch accuracy in the high register.

Jen Cluff
(Sherlock in Intonation areas.)

Links to online Tuning Theory Articles (for the scientific mind):

Basic Info:

Complex info:

Important Update 2005: see The Tuning CD above

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Go to 'How to tune your flute in Ensembles' articles

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