We’ve all dreamed of learning to play a musical instrument at one time or another and, while it may have once been just a pipe dream, excuse the pun, it no longer has to be.
We are living in the age of technology where online learning can help us to not only expand our skillset but achieve those bucket-list goals like learning to play the flute from the comfort of your own home.
Learning to play the flute on your own is definitely achievable. However, how easy or how challenging it will be will come down to what previous experience you have with music, the amount of time you have to commit to learning, your age, physical capabilities, as well as what you can afford to put into it.
If you plan to learn the flute by yourself, then it’s good to be aware of the challenges you may face. In this article, we will discuss how you can overcome challenges like lack of experience, practice routines, and physical barriers.
The Challenges of Learning Flute by Yourself
As with most things in life, there are both challenges and rewards to pursuing a musical education on your own. If you are looking to teach yourself the flute, then you need first to consider where to begin as well as the potential challenges you may face.
If you are considering learning an instrument at home or through online classes, then a flute is a great instrument to invest your time and money into.
If you are curious about the various merits of the flute compared to other instruments, you can check out this article on whether the flute is easier to play than the piano.
Those who have little or no experience with musical instruments may find the challenges more significant; however, that is no reason not to give it a try. After all, there are so many great online resources available at your fingertip nowadays.
While the internet is a wonderful place, it can also be a bit overwhelming. So before you hop online and start googling “how to play the flute,” let’s take a look at what you may experience as you begin your musical journey, as well as the ways you can negotiate some of these challenges.
Experience and Musical Theory
While there may not be as much music written for flutes as for other classical instruments such as piano or the violin, you are still required to know basic music theory to play the flute (source).
If you have any previous experience studying or playing music, then this may not come as such a challenge to you; however, if you are a complete beginner, then you need to be prepared to lay some groundwork.
Musical theory is extensive, and how far you intend to study is entirely up to you. You may only want to learn your favorite songs, or you may want to learn how to read music like a pro.
Whatever your inclinations, a good first step is to learn basic music theory.
This includes basics like the music alphabet. Then, you can move on to minor and major scales, compositions, and chords (source).
You will also need to familiarize yourself with finger placements on the flute. Again, online resources are going to be really useful in this case. There are excellent flute fingering charts available, such as this one on Wikibooks.
There are numerous free and paid resources online to assist you with note learning. You just need to make sure that you access a reputable online source.
If you are keen to dive right into musical theory, then the University of Edinburgh offers a free Fundamentals of Music Theory course which is available on Coursera.
Finding Time to Practice and Set Routines
If there is one commitment that learning an instrument requires, it is time. Finding room in your busy work and personal schedule to practice the flute is going to make a massive difference in how quickly you progress.
When considering how much time it will take you to learn the flute by yourself, the first question we need to ask is, “how hard is it really to learn the flute?”
What is most important is to remember that people progress at their own pace. While some people might learn quickly, others may take a bit more time.
It is thus important to take it at your own pace and be comfortable with what you can achieve in a given amount of time.
That being said, you need to carve out room in your day to practice. Factors that contribute to the challenges of learning the flute include the following (source):
- Mastering how to blow air in your flute correctly.
- Getting the shape of your mouth right.
- Learning how to control your breathing.
- Learning and maintaining the correct posture.
- Keeping your arms elevated for extended periods.
- Learning the correct finger positions.
- Balancing the flute correctly.
However, you can overcome all of these challenges with practice and by setting up a devoted “flute-time” in your day.
Whatever your age, there will be physical challenges when learning to play an instrument, and the flute is no exception.
As someone older, you may have the patience and motivation which younger people lack; however, you may find yourself falling short in areas such as dexterity and durability.
As such, physical barriers are something that you need to address when considering learning the flute. Let’s consider some of these physical challenges and how you can overcome them.
Here are some ways to avoid or overcome the physical challenges brought on by flute playing:
- Learn the proper techniques and posture.
- Use warmup stretches before you begin.
- Take frequent breaks to allow your body time to rest.
- Make sure that you learn gradually and don’t overdo it.
- Practice mentally when you’re physically overwhelmed.
- Build up strength using methods like yoga and pilates.
Another essential physical challenge to touch upon is breathing and breath support, both of which are incredibly important to play the flute well.
Learning to train your lungs and to control your breath will come with practice. However, you can master the art of breathing correctly by practicing breathing exercises (source).
It’s helpful to remember that all instruments require different amounts of air. The flute requires a large amount of air because, when you play, you are blowing over a tiny hole, and only a limited amount of air is entering the instrument at any given time.
There are some factors you should consider when discussing breathing exercises. These are knowing how we breathe, how much air we are taking in, and how to use the air most effectively and economically (source).
Here are some steps that you can take at home to help you learn to control your breathing. These steps focus on diaphragmatic breathing, which means breathing from your diaphragm as opposed to your throat and chest.
The first step in any breathing exercise is to maintain good posture. Whether you are sitting or standing, make sure your back is straight and your chest is open. The next trick is learning to breathe into your stomach and not into your chest.
A good way to begin is to close your eyes and focus only on your breathing. Close your eyes and place one hand lightly on your chest and the other on your belly. As you take a deep breath, you should feel it inflate.
Then, as you exhale, you should feel your stomach deflate. The more you practice diaphragmatic breathing, the better you will become until it becomes something you do without thinking.
It would help if you tried to practice diaphragmatic breathing for about 10 minutes a day to improve your overall lung capacity.
Costs are another challenge that you’ll have to consider when choosing to learn to play the flute from home.
Learning to play an instrument is often an expensive hobby, but the good news is that by doing it from home, you are probably already going to save some money.
Investing in a flute will be your first major expense. There are many different types of flutes available on the market, all with varying price tags. There is quite a distinction between beginner flutes and flutes for people with more experience (source).
However, it is imperative to invest in a flute which is good quality as this will invariably impact on both your playing and your sound. Since you’re learning at home, you want to make sure you can rely on your flute to give you the best possible sound.
The Ultimate Challenge: Doing It All on Your Own
While doing all of these things will definitely help, you may still find yourself struggling to learn the flute on your own, and it’s good to remember that it’s okay.
It’s not uncommon for self-taught flute players to develop poor technique or bad habits.
If you genuinely want to learn the flute, then you have to be prepared to admit when you are struggling and when you might need assistance.
There is a reason why professionals exist, and that’s because they are good at their jobs. So if you need to seek out professional help to get to the place that you want to be, then you should do it.
You can look online for a music teacher who may be able to help you over Skype or Zoom. If cost is a huge concern, then perhaps look for a music student who may be willing to share tips and techniques for a lower price.
The main point is not to be afraid to ask for assistance just because you’ve decided to go about it on your own.
It’s important to remember than learning an instrument is a challenge, even in a formal setting, so don’t be too hard on yourself and be ready to ask a teacher or experienced flute player for help.
If learning to play the flute is something that you’re determined to do, then you have the option of going ahead and learning it on your own.
With the vast number of online resources available to you, and armed with the correct tools, methods, and routines, there is no reason why you should not succeed in becoming an accomplished flute player.