Playing the rim blown flute

In order to make a sound on a rim blown flute you have to do three things simultaneously:

  1. Occlude the end of the flute

  2. Create a thin stream of air which blows directly across the cutting edge

  3. Create an opening in front of the cutting edge to make a sound hole

The original flute from the broken-flute cave in Arizona, had only a continuous thin rim for the embouchure.  

This style of embouchure was probably played either obliquely









or intradentally

More recent adaptations of the embrochure have included a ramp along one side of the edge. This is based on the Japanese Shakuhachi flute embouchure.  This  creates a shallow notch to aid in creating the sound hole.  The Shakuhachi is designed to be played along the wide edge, creating variations in the sound and amounts of air.

My more recent adaptation of the embouchure has in internal ramp, based on the southern Chinese Xiao. The Xiao is a meditative instrument designed to create pure tones. This is closer to the sound we admire in the ancestral pueblo flutes,

This is a diagram of the more recent adaptations.


To generate a sound with the rim blown flute you position the cutting edge just above the middle of the lower lip.  The lower lip and chin occlude the rest of the opening.  Then you create a thin stream of air that blows directly across the cutting edge.  The flute may have to be moved up or down on the lip, and angled up or down to create a tone.  There is only one "sweet spot" that will create a tone.  Each flute will have a slightly different sweet spot.  It requires patience and practice to learn how to develop a sound.  I recommend practicing daily for five or ten minutes, to avoid getting frustrated.  I recommend starting with only the top three holes closed.  The lower notes are harder to play because they require a very gentle, smooth stream of air.  Once you can play all the notes in the lower octave, you can work on the second octave.  This requires thinning the lips, increasing the airspeed, and narrowing the sound hole.  Occasionally, a third octave is also available.  The fingering for various notes is shown in the tuning diagram.