The foundation of a desirable tone lies in proper breath control. Flute players must inhale a large amount of air quickly, and then exhale over a sustained period of time. Therefore, breath control is an important skill for students to master, which finger breath exercises help to achieve.
To practice finger breath exercises, students should open the mouth in a wide ‘O’ shape, and place the first finger in the middle of the lips, with the knuckle in the middle of the open mouth. Students should then inhale quickly, to produce a low suction noise. Finger breath teaches students the interior vowel shape in the mouth, and encourages the proper amount of resistance in the embouchure. By practicing the finger breath, students can play with a full, resonant tone.
The following describes one example of how flutists could use the breathing bag from Marcel Moyse, De La Sonorité: Art et Technique, p.15. Figure 1 presents a portion of the first exercise.
Moyse states, “Therefore this exercise should be practice with a full tone, as legato as possible, and care should be taken that each note is produced by supple lip pressure, without gaps or unevenness.” This exercise can practice lip flexibility, which impacts large intervals on the flute and the embouchure.
In my opinion, higher notes are better played when the lip corners come downward, as this increases pressure on the embouchure hole, which creates a smaller embouchure. By doing so, this prevents over blowing. In contrast, the low registers need less air pressure, and a looser embouchure. Flute students can also practice shifting the embouchure vowel shape as ‘O’ to ‘E’ with the finger breath technique. The ‘O’ shape is for playing lower registers. Alternatively, the ‘E’ shape is for the high registers, and produces an embouchure similar to the corners of the lip when moved downward. After students practice the vowel changes from finger breath, students can duplicate the feeling while playing the flute itself. By repeating these exercises, students will gain flexibility in their embouchure.