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Is Flute Easy To Learn?

The flute, in historical terms, goes back thousands of years. Over 10,000, to be a little more precise. From those days when it was made of animal bone to today with its sophisticated design, it has seen many designs and uses.

But with today’s flute and its sophisticated design come problems that the ancient players didn’t have. It is a complex instrument today, and people ask, “Is flute easy to learn?”

The word Flute has had many meanings

Over the years, the term flute has come to mean different things. Today, we know it as an instrument, made of metal, that is played with a sideways blowing action. But, instruments, more like the recorders of today, were also prevalent in the past. And they were also called flutes.

Even up until the Baroque days, into the middle 1700s, the word flute was still employed to describe both types of instruments. It was a period that included JS Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. And complex music was already being composed.

It was also during this period that keys were being added to the sideways flute. A few at first, but the possibilities for the future were clear.

Paris In The Mid 1800s

This is where we saw the first signs of the flute we know today. A German manufacturer, Theobald Boehm, exhibited his ‘new’ flute. This had a metal tube and was given some extra keys.

Gradually the ‘sideways’ flute became a different instrument from those played vertically. And it developed into the instrument we know today.

A Great Experience

A Great Experience

Learning to play the flute is a very rewarding experience in many ways. And not just because you are learning an instrument. The flute has its own set of points to consider that add to the ‘feel-good’ factor as you improve.

One of those is that you don’t blow it like a clarinet or a saxophone. You blow ‘across’ it to create the sound. A wholly new, and to most people, alien experience. So, is flute easy to learn?

Looks Effortless and Easy

It might do, but like any instrument, it will be hard at first. And the flute carries a unique set of problems for the beginner. I will talk about how best it is to learn this instrument later, but it will not be easy at first.

Not Just The Technical Challenges

When you watch the flute in the hands of a professional, they make it look easy. But then that applies to all instruments. In the hands of someone that knows what they are doing, they all look easy.

But it takes quite a bit of time, patience, and commitment in the very early stages. And the action of blowing and passing air through the flute is one of the big technical challenges. But it is a little more than just making sure the flute has air, as we shall see.

There are also physical challenges to playing the flute. Even the position of the arms can be tiring until you get used to it. And the shape of the mouth when you blow will also need to change to suit what you are playing. I’ll come back to this.

A Medium Difficulty Overall Rating

The flute is what is known as a medium-difficulty instrument in terms of overall difficulty in learning to play. To put that into context, a Clarinet is considered slightly easier with an Easy-Medium rating, as is the Trombone and Piano. 

Trumpet and Saxophone are considered easier with an overall difficulty rating of Easy. That is quite surprising, in my opinion.

What Is More Difficult?

So, you are thinking, what is more difficult? Well, Violin and Cello are two examples. Both are considered harder than the Flute. And there are plenty of those around. So, maybe the flute isn’t impossible to learn.

But don’t think it is all bad news when asking, “Is flute easy to learn?” As you keep plugging away, with the right information given to you, then you will improve.

What Are The Main Challenges?

But let’s get down to identifying exactly what is involved in learning the flute and what challenges you are going to face. There are five principal areas to consider:

  • The shape of your mouth while playing.
  • Physical challenges.
  • Breathing control.
  • Posture.
  • A suitable tutor.

The Shape Of Your Mouth

The shape that you produce with your mouth is known as your embouchure. This is the first thing to consider when you are trying to create sound on the flute. One of the first things you will learn from a tutor is how and when to use a specific mouth shape or embouchure.

To create different sounds, the shape of the mouth changes, and flutists have to learn this. As I said earlier, this can be a difficult task, but don’t let it put you off. When you are still learning, there are some simple things you can do.

Embouchure Practice

What can you do to practice? Firstly, you can purse your lips and blow through a straw. That simulates one part of the process. Secondly, you can blow over the top of an open bottle. 

You may have done this for a bit of fun, to get a musical sound. Well, that is the same principle of passing air over and through the flute. You don’t blow ‘into’ the bottle. You blow ‘across’ it.

That is how you play the flute. Practicing on the bottle will allow you to create different sounds by changing the shape of your mouth.

Physical Challenges

You might find that a strange thing to consider. It doesn’t look like a heavy instrument or one that is awkward or clumsy in its shape. You would be right. It is neither of those things. But, it does place you in an awkward position to play it. And that can be a physical challenge for some.

For The Beginner

The positioning of the instrument when it is being played could raise issues for the beginner, especially a young player. It is not an instrument like the wooden clarinet or oboe. To play those instruments, they are in front of you, and the hands are close to your body.

With the flute, the instrument is positioned to the side of your head. That means your hands are going to be in an elevated position all the time you are playing. That means a greater load-bearing on your upper body.

An Unnatural Body Position

It is an unnatural position that can be tiring until you get used to it. Your hands will be constantly at or above shoulder level. That can compromise your neck position. Then, the instrument has to be balanced. 

You are not blowing into it, therefore, the instrument hasn’t even got a slight anchor point in your mouth. That would be the case to a certain extent with clarinet where the mouth grips the mouthpiece tightly.

This balancing of the flute while playing can cause upper back and shoulder aches and pains. Of course, this will begin to ease as the body gets used to the extra stresses and strains by the posture required.

Other Physical Problems

Some new players mention pains in their wrists and fingers. Again, this is caused mainly by the body position while playing. These particular problems also can apply to other instruments like the clarinet or oboe.

But here is the good news. They can be prevented to a certain extent with proper physical warm-up exercises before you practice or perform. But if you do find yourself experiencing them, don’t just ignore them. 

Take a rest for a few days. Perpetual use of the same muscles when they are struggling can cause chronic problems later. But, I have to say, this is extremely rare, so there is no need for concern.

Breath Control

Breath Control

Problems with breathing control can apply to any instrument that requires air to be blown into it or across it, not just the flute. Breath control is an issue that relates to the embouchure. The larger the embouchure that is required, the harder it becomes to maintain a constant flow of air.

Learning how to control your breathing not only for the quality of what you are playing but also for yourself is important. Good habits and techniques you develop for breathing will be an enormous help. It is a skill that can be learned and needs to be mastered at the outset.

Deep breathing techniques are one such area to develop. Practicing them every day will be important. Continued practice along with one other important element will take you on the road to success. The other important element is the last thing you should consider. I will address that soon.


Your posture will be important, and that also must be learned and practiced. It is important to be relaxed when you play to avoid muscle fatigue. That will include things like finding a comfortable and effective hand position.

But, having a correct posture has an effect all over the body, especially with the back and shoulders. It will also make your breathing easier to master and control.

A Suitable Tutor

And so to the “other important element.” There can be no substitute for a tutor. The reality is you will have to have one, especially in the early days. 

There are plenty of online resources or books that some may think you can use. But, all the potential problems in learning the flute we have just looked at cannot be solved in that way. 

It takes face-to-face contact. So, here is a potential problem because it is not going to be cheap. But we will return to that at the end.

What Should You Look For In A Tutor?

There are some things you should be looking for when you hire a flute tutor:

  • Make sure they are experienced.
  • You need to make sure they can explain things to you.
  • You need to see that they know what to teach and at what part of your development.
  • They need to agree to be available to answer any questions you have in between lessons.
  • Can they demonstrate a successful record of teaching at starter to improver levels?

If a student says that the flute is hard to learn, there is usually one of two reasons:

  • The tutor is not explaining themselves and following a routine that is good for your development.
  • The student is not practicing enough and not putting in the time and effort.

Some Things To Be Positive About

There seem to be a lot of keys available to be pressed. This makes the flute look like a complex instrument. But in reality, it is not as bad as it may look. 

Finger Placement

The finger placements you use to create the notes are quite simple. And once you have mastered the placement for a note, there isn’t another placement for the same note to learn again.

Did You Ever Play The Soprano Recorder?

If you did, you are going to see a big benefit. The flute uses the same fingering structure as the soprano recorder. That is going to be a big help when learning the notes on a flute.

How Do You Go About Learning?

Let’s return to the question of a tutor. As I said, this is not going to be a cheap option, nor will it be that easy to find a good one. But it is essential. Find your tutor and work out a budget you can afford for your lessons.

Even if you can only afford one hour every two months, that will be better than nothing at all. You can supplement your learning with some online practice. Your tutor will probably be able to refer you to a reputable site. They will also design a practice routine for you.

It will be the tutor that helps you with your embouchure, posture, and breathing. They will monitor your progress and give you advice as you go along, and correct any technical problems that may arise.

Caring For Your Flute

Let’s just have a word about this important aspect. This is all part of the learning process because you have to learn how to take care of a flute. Ensuring it is maintained correctly will make the instrument perform well, which will also help you as a student.

Cleaning the flute is easy and only requires you to have some cleaning alcohol and finger pads. Once again, your tutor will advise you and show you what needs to be cleaned and how often.

The Cost Of The Instrument

The Cost

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the cost of the instrument. There are some very good flutes out there. And there are ones that it is best to describe as not so good if we are being polite. 

If you go for a very cheap one, the likelihood is that it won’t be one of the better ones. Some budget companies produce a decent quality, cost-effective flute. For example, this Eastar C Flutes Closed Hole C Flute.

If you want to move up the pricing scale a little, then the best instruments, in my opinion, are Gemeinhardt and Yamaha. Here are two options from their starter flute range, the Gemeinhardt 2SPGLP 2SP Flute Gold Lip Plate and the Yamaha YFL-222 Intermediate Flute for Student.

At the higher levels, Yamaha is still one of the best for the money, in my opinion. You can see for yourself with this Yamaha Professional 577H Series Flute (offset G C# trill key, split E, gold-plated lip-plate).

A Vital Instrument

In many areas, it makes a vital contribution. Since it started to be used widely in orchestras in the 1800s, it has become recognized as essential to the sound. But, it is not only in Classical music that you will find it.

James Galway, the Irish flutist, plays and is well-known for his classical work. But, he has also played with Pink Floyd and other bands. He was the flute you hear in the “Lord Of The Rings” films and has contributed to too many musical events to mention.

Then you can take the flute a stage further and talk about Ian Anderson of rock band Jethro Tull and Thijs Van Leer of Dutch band Focus. They both took flute playing in a different direction which provided stunning results. Great musicians both.

Interested in Playing The Flute?

We can help with that. Take a look at our handy articles on How to Choose a Flute – B foot or C footHow to Learn Flute Notes for BeginnersHow Many Notes Can You Play On A FluteHow to Improve The Note E on The Flute, and How Much Does a Good Flute Cost for more information about flutes.

Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Flute, the Best Student Flute, the Best Ocarinas, the Best Tin Whistles, the Best Melodica, and the Best Blues Harmonicas you can buy in 2023.

Is Flute Easy To Learn?

The same applies to every instrument that you may want to learn. I wouldn’t say any instrument is “easy to learn.” They will all have their challenges, and it will take discipline and plenty of practice. Not just practice, but ‘good’ practice.

Practice doesn’t make perfect; good practice does. That will apply especially with the flute because it has some unique technical and physical challenges to be overcome. The message is you can overcome them as well. And when you do, it will be one of the great experiences that you can have.

Happy practicing!

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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