Flute Embouchure 

In the more than ten years that I have been making  pvc flutes, I have used a simple circular embouchure hole of about 9.5 mm in diameter. My original idea was to keep the embouchure area rather small to compensate for the large cylindrical bore (20 mm dia.) of the pipe that I was using for the large bore flutes. The small blowing area forced the player to form a focused embouchure in order to play the flute. I think that this helped beginners conserve air that they may have wasted on a larger embouchure hole. It is likely also that the smaller embouchure hole  helped beginners by creating blowing resistance by the mere smaller size of the embouchure hole. I should say that flutes with these smaller round embouchure holes are being used professionally around the world and seem to be well-liked by most players. For this reason I  think that this embouchure is a good choice for the beginning student as well as for anyone at any skill level that wants an easy-playing flute with plenty of volume.

Recently, I have been encouraged to also offer a larger,  more conventional oval-shaped embouchure, since most Irish flutes have some form of an oval or ellipsoidal-shaped embouchure hole. A larger embouchure hole allows more air to enter the flute and gives the flute greater possibilities and more power. However, a larger embouchure hole can also create air-management problems for the beginner and even for a seasoned player who isn't accustomed to playing a large-bore flute with a larger, openly-cut embouchure hole, requiring a tighter, well-developed personal embouchure. Keep in mind that the traditional wooden Irish flute has a smaller bore, tapering to the end of the flute, both of which lessen the air management demands.  Therefore, I am recommending the new larger embouchure for intermediate and advanced players, many of whom may still find it a bit challenging in the beginning. Players willing to master the embouchure demands of the larger oval embouchure will find the effort rewarding, in my opinion.  

I wrote the above two paragraphs about a year ago, and, since then, I have a different thought on the larger oval embouchure. I now recommend the oval embouchure for all players, even for someone who has never played the flute. It simply has so much more potential, and the air-management demands that I mentioned earlier can be mastered with practice. Having mastered the oval embouchure on a large cylindrical-bore flute (like my flutes), the player should find a very easy transition to a conical-bore flute, if the desire should ever arise to move in that direction.

The photo (thanks to Rob in London) below shows the oval embouchures of three Irish flutes from well-known makers. From top to bottom: Rudall Rose @ 10.8 x 12 mm, Wilkes @ 10 x 11.5 mm, and Doyle @ 9.5 x 11.5 mm.  While the embouchures for my flutes will vary slightly, depending on the size of the flute and whether or not there is a lip plate (offering greater chimney depth), I intend to cut oval embouchures that are in the above range, with the embouchure of a low D flute with lip plate being around 9.5 mm x 11 mm.  Keep in mind, however, that the above dimensions are about the outer shape of the embouchure hole, and that is only one of the variables in the design of an embouchure hole. Equally important are the chimney depth of the hole and to what degree the blowing edge, sidewalls, and backwall are cut. With all of these variables the possibilites for embouchure hole design are nearly endless.


The following photo shows two of my lip plate headjoints, one with the larger oval embouchure and other having my smaller circular embouchure hole.  Also see the photo at the bottom of "My Low Flutes" page.