Toot, toot! 5 things for your child to do before starting the flute

Kinderling News & Features

Disclaimer: This post does mention the use of a recorder. And no, it's not tongue-in-cheek. But bear with us because the advice is excellent! 

Vanessa Couper is a registered music therapist, flautist and flute educator, and one of three founders of Tip Toe Giants. Vanessa told Kinderling if you have a tiny wind instrument aficionado at your place, it's never too early to get them into the swing - but it's best to start with something a little bit smaller. 

"Flute can be a tricky instrument when you’re really young, for a few reasons. The muscles required to form an embouchure, lung capacity required to produce a sound, and the size of the instrument in little arms and hands, can all make the flute an instrument more suitable for older children," says Vanessa.

But don't let that stop you encouraging your smaller musical humans! Vanessa shares four simple and cheap ways to get the music moving through your little one's veins. 

1. Start with a recorder

Before you panic - hear us out! 

Flute is usually offered in school band programs to children around the age of 7 or 8. You can begin with a curved head joint, so little arms don’t have to stretch so far. In the meantime, the recorder can be a great instrument to begin with before transitioning to the flute, as many of the fingerings are similar and the idea of moving fingers while blowing out air can become more familiar to the child. 

2. Join a children’s music program

There are some fantastic children’s music programs around that are a great way to introduce children to music before taking on an instrument like the flute. These programs really put an emphasis on music being FUN, and this truly is the most important factor when thinking about engaging and sustaining children’s love of music. Early childhood programs introduce children to the foundations of music - rhythm, pitch, tempo, dynamics and meter - through the use of singing, movement, piano, as well as tuned and untuned percussion instruments.

3. Go along to concerts made for kids

There are lots of baby prom/family style concerts that introduce different instruments to young children. The Sydney Opera House has a Kid’s Music Cafe (for 0-2 year olds) where my nine-month-old met the instruments of the brass family. She loved it!

4. Listen to famous flautists online

Listen to their sound and all the different things a flute can do! You might notice the sound they make is warm and rich, or airy and bird-like (tone); that their sound vibrates in big waves or fast, small waves (vibrato); or that they are able to play as soft as a mouse or as loud as a squawking bird (dynamics). And all the different styles/genres a flute can play in, like classical, jazz and pop. Emily Beynon, Emmanuel Pahud, James Galway, Greg Patillo (beatboxing flautist!) and Ian Anderson are among my favourites to listen to.

5. Watch, listen and be inspired!

We know that children are more likely to be motivated and inspired when they have role models who are close in age to them. This can be by being part of an ensemble like a band, flute ensemble or orchestra, or by watching others on YouTube or at concerts. 

At the end of the day, there's nothing more wonderful than encouraging your child to do what they love the most. 

And if you take the steps to inspire them now, who knows what their future could hold!