Procedures For Tuning the Instrument
Note: The head joint has a moveable tuning cork plugging the closed
end of the flute. Be sure the cork is in good condition and the cork
position is adjusted properly. The exact position of this cork is
critical to proper intonation in all registers. To check cork
placement, carefully insert the bottom end of the cleaning rod into
the open end of the headjoint until it touches the metal plate at
the cork end. The etched line on the cleaning rod should be in the
center of the embouchure hole. Ask for help from a teacher or
professional repair person when adjusting the cork. If the cork
moves easily in the tube, it should be replaced. This is a minor
- Warm up thoroughly before tuning if possible. Be sure the
instrument is warm. Cold flutes are flat. If flutes are tuned cold,
they will play sharp.
- Tune at a mezzo-forte dynamic and do not use vibrato.
- Tune to a reliable frequency (electronic tuner or stable
- Hear the pitch to match, then play, hear the pitch again, then
play again. Do not adjust your pitch. Compare the two sounds so that
you may judge if you are higher or lower than the tuning sound.
- Adjust the amount the head joint is pulled out from the flute
body to change the pitch. If you are higher than the tuning note,
pull out. If you are lower than the tuning note, push in.
The main causes of poor intonation in flute/piccolo playing are poor
listening habits, unsteady breath, unstable tongue position or
poorly placed tongue, poorly formed embouchure, inefficient hand
position and incorrect flute assembly.
Inherent Intonation Flaws
Techniques for Adjusting Pitches While Playing
- Low "C", "C-sharp", "D", "E-flat", and "E" tend to be flat. Be
sure air speed is fast and enough air is hitting the strike wall.
Lift and point the upper lip forward to make this adjustment. Be
sure your head is level and balanced on your spine.
- Notes from high "E-flat" through high "C" (with the exception of
*B-flat) tend to be sharp. To lower pitch, relax lips and avoid
pinching the corners together. Relax your tongue. Move the air
forward in your mouth to increase air speed. Aim the air into the
strike wall with your upper lip.
- Third space "C" and "C-sharp" are sharp. Direct the air down into
the tube by lifting and pointing the upper lip (without rolling the
flute or bending head) to adjust the pitch. Check to make sure that
the line between your lower lip and skin is not pressed behind the
lip plate. If it is, gently reposition it so that the lip is just
inside the embouchure hole. This allows for improved upper lip
- Keep air steady.
- To lower pitch, adjust embouchure by relaxing lips and directing
air into the tube with upper lip.
- To raise pitch, lift head slightly while maintaining arm position
to blow more above the tube, keeping the lower lip on the lip plate
while still pointing the upper lip forward.
- Alternate fingerings.
- Combinations of the above.