The flute is one of the most popular and versatile woodwind instruments in the world. There are many different types of flutes, and different flute varieties can be found in music around the world, spanning genres such as classical, folk, jazz, rock and more. There are a surprising number of benefits associated with learning how to play flute and practicing/playing regularly.
Whether it's your or a loved one's first time playing or you're at the stage of considering learning the flute, there are so many benefits to learning the instrument. Regardless of experience level, it is my hope to inspire you to learn how to play the flute by sharing what I consider the top 11 benefits.
The top 11 benefits of learning and playing flute are:
- Strengthens Breathing
- Enhances The Understanding Of Music
- Improves Coordination/Dexterity
- Improves Discipline & Concentration
- Improves Memory
- Builds Confidence
- Provides A Creative Outlet
- Yields Translatable Skills For Other Woodwind Instruments
- Building Relationships
- Introduces A New Language
- Therapeutic Benefits
- Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
- Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
In this article, we'll discuss each of the benefits listed above to understand better how learning and playing the flute can improve our lives.
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Learning & Playing Flute Strengthens Breathing
Flutes require a lot of air and mastering the instrument demands that we also master our breathing (along with the embouchure). Like with many other woodwind instruments, if the flautist stops blowing air, the flute stops producing notes.
Developing the breathing technique for playing flute will translate to life outside of music, at the very least in terms of being more aware and conscious of our breathing.
Working our diaphragms and controlling our breath to play the flute gives us a good workout and helps strengthen our breathing and overall respiratory system.
Music therapy, including the learning of woodwind instruments like the flute, help improve already healthy respiratory systems. It also shows promising effects on improving the overall respiratory health of those living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (source).
Note that concert flutes require more air in terms of volume, while the smaller piccolo requires greater strength and force. Becoming proficient at all flute types will really benefit our breath control.
Strengthening the respiratory system and breath control improves our overall health and has benefits beyond music, spanning to exercise, meditation and more.
Related article: How To Hold A Flute Properly For Optimal Posture & Technique
Learning & Playing Flute Enhances The Understanding Of Music
From being a single voice in a small ensemble to part of a group of 2-4 flautists (as is the case with a typical modern full-scale symphony orchestra) to taking the lead in a jazz group or providing a strong melody in a folk band, learning the flute gives us ample opportunity to deepen our understanding of music.
The variety of genres alone makes the flute a superb instrument to navigate the depths of music. Knowing the typical techniques of the various genres, along with the flute's role in such genres, will teach us a tremendous amount about music as a whole if we choose to study.
Learning to play the flute will generally call for learning sheet music and, notably, the treble clef, which will be invaluable for your musical development.
As mentioned earlier, playing the flute relies on proper breath control, much like singing or speaking. This causes flautists to play a bit differently with their phrasing compared to more “continuous” instruments from the string and percussion families. This limitation gives flautists an interesting view of music and arguably makes their phrasing inherently more “human-like”.
Being monophonic is another limitation with which flautists must play. Only being able to produce one note at a time can be a blessing when it comes to learning chord theory since chords must be arpeggiated with monophonic instruments.
Learning & Playing Flute Improves Coordination/Dexterity
Along with developing proper breath control, playing the flute proficiently requires coordination between the breath and proper fingerings for the notes we intend to produce. This has to be timed appropriately for the song's rhythm, all while maintaining proper posture. Needless to say, playing the flute demands dexterity.
Learning to play the flute means developing and refining hand-breath coordination. Furthermore, we must include the visual system into the mix whenever we read sheet music or interact with visual cues from a conductor or other musicians.
The dexterity and coordination we develop playing the flute will translate to our every life, connecting the respiratory system, mouth/embouchure, hands, posture and eyes. Of course, the coordination developed by playing the flute will help us learn other woodwind instruments as well.
Learning & Playing Flute Improves Discipline & Concentration
Improving our discipline and concentration is another huge benefit of learning and playing musical instruments like the flute.
Becoming a skilled flautist takes time, dedication, humility and a willingness to improve continually. From the mechanics to the in-depth theory, learning to play the flute is a fun way to learn music and also develop discipline and concentration.
Mastering the flute is undoubtedly a challenge, and choosing the flute as the first woodwind instrument to learn will present a steep learning curve. Building the resolve to continually enhance your flute skills will build your discipline “muscle” and carry over to many other aspects of life.
Learning & Playing Flute Improves Memory
There are many studies, including this one, aimed at researching and understanding how learning and playing musical instruments can improve memory. The findings show how both listening to and learning music will improve memory.
Learning and playing the flute stimulates parts of our brain linked to memory, as our memory can be improved by stimulating our brains (source). The auditory and tactile stimulus and the visual aspect of reading music make learning the flute a fantastic memory-enhancing workout.
To be more specific, musical instruments like the flute stimulate the amygdala and hippocampus, which play a role in processing emotions and memories (source).
Additionally, playing musical instruments works the hippocampus, which activates neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons. Neurogenesis is linked to improved learning and memory (source).
Consider all the factors of learning and playing the flute that involve memory:
- Memorizing songs (with rhythm, harmony, melody, timbre/tone)
- The notes of the flute (and their transposition from the written music)
- Chord arpeggio fingerings
- Breathing techniques
- Embouchure techniques
- Theoretical knowledge of music (rhythm, harmony, melody)
Learning & Playing Flute Builds Confidence
Developing skill in whatever we're interested in has the tendency to build self-confidence. The Meriam-Webster Dictionary defined self-confidence as the “confidence in oneself and in one's powers and abilities”. As we learn to play notes, phrases and full musical pieces on the flute, we develop confidence.
The immediate auditory feedback from musical instruments gives us a solid idea of whether we're making progress or not. If we can make the flute sound the way we're trying to make it sound, we build self-confidence.
Confidence in the area of music has the tendency to spill into other parts of our lives. If we can learn the flute, surely we can learn whatever else we put our minds to (music-related or otherwise)!
In addition to the confidence we build by learning to play, there's more to be gained by performing live in front of an audience or on record. This can help us overcome the fear of public performance and of being recorded.
Developing the confidence to perform in front of friends, family, strangers and even virtually/online will pay dividends in many other areas of our lives. Becoming proficient with our flute playing gives us the opportunity to engage in such performances.
Learning & Playing Flute Provides A Creative Outlet
There are many aspects of creativity, and music and the arts are unmistakably creative (source). Learning and playing the flute is one of the many ways to express ourselves through the creative outlet of music.
Studies show that learning musical instruments creates connections between the brain's two hemispheres. More specifically, playing and practicing the flute regularly can actually grow the corpora callosa in the brain, the bundle of axons that effectively connects the two hemispheres (source). With new neural pathways, we add additional ways of thinking (consciously and subconsciously), which surely improves our ability to create innovative and unique musical ideas.
Whether we're playing written songs or writing and/or improvising our own, the flute is an excellent instrument for expressing our innate creativity.
Learning & Playing Flute Yields Translatable Skills For Other Woodwind Instruments
Although the flute is a reedless woodwind instrument, it still requires many of the typical skills for woodwinds. Learning the flute, then, will give us many of the techniques and mindsets needed to learn other woodwinds.
First off, learning the flute will put us in a great position to learn the piccolo, which is effectively a half-size flute with the same basic mechanics.
Beyond other reedless woodwinds, the breath control we develop while learning the flute will carry over to other wind instruments. This even extends to brass instruments.
Flute embouchure and headjoints are unique. However, understanding the importance of proper technique can translate to other instruments, even if the exact embouchure does not.
Though the fingerings and key mechanisms will differ between flutes and other woodwinds, the muscles used to play such instruments will be trained with all woodwinds.
Learning & Playing Flute Helps Build Relationships
Music is best enjoyed with others and has the tendency to bring people together socially. Learning and playing the flute will introduce us to other musicians, and once we begin playing live, we'll have the chance to meet audience members as well.
The skill and knowledge we acquire by learning the flute (whether we're a hobbyist or a professional) can make connecting with other musicians easier, especially if they play the flute as well.
The teacher-student relationship may be the first one you build when learning the flute. If you choose to go down the path of hiring a flautist to help you learn, you'll build a relationship with that teacher by default. This is true of in-person lessons and one-on-one online lessons.
Once you've learned how to play sufficiently, you can choose to also become a teacher and build relationships with your own students.
This may seem obvious, but musicians play music with other musicians. Learning to play the flute will make it easier for you to connect with other musicians.
Whether you start a band, join an orchestra, or simply jam for fun, becoming a skilled flautist will get you noticed by other musicians.
Learning & Playing Flute Introduces A New Language
Like written and spoken language, music has the power to evoke emotions and tell stories. Tapping into such power with the flute can teach us about the great musical language and help us to tell our own stories.
By learning the flute and, therefore, a certain dialect of the “musical language,” we can expand our understanding of music and the world.
Additionally, studies have shown that learning a musical instrument like the flute helps strengthen the same parts of the brain responsible for language processing (source). Learning to play flute not only introduces the language of music but also enhances the brain's capacity to learn other languages.
Learning & Playing Flute Has Therapeutic Benefits
Debra Shipman (Ph.D. RN) states, “Learning to play a musical instrument provides a peaceful retreat from the pressures of daily life. Therapeutic outcomes of playing music include better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety and agitation. Musical training promotes cognitive function, mental health, and a connection to others.” (source)
Music is being studied thoroughly as a promising tool for therapy for the brain, lungs and heart (source). These health benefits are readily available with regular practice on the flute. The American Music Therapy Association lists the following benefits of music therapy:
- Promote Wellness
- Manage Stress
- Alleviate Pain
- Express Feelings
- Enhance Memory
- Improve Communication
- Promote Physical Rehabilitation
Learning & Playing Flute Bonus Benefit 1: Monetizing Your Skills
An obvious bonus benefit worth mentioning is the opportunity to become a professional flautist. By professional, I mean playing the flute as a paid occupation, and even as the main income source, rather than as a pastime.
Once you've become a capable flautist, there are many different methods to monetize your skills. Here are just a few to consider:
- Performing original music live (clubs, dinner parties, coffee shops and even busking)
- Performing covers live
- Record streaming royalties from original music
- Teaching flute lessons
- Recording as a session flautist
There are plenty of other opportunities to monetize our flute playing. Marketable skills (whether they're high-paying and/or capitalized on or not) are undoubtedly a benefit of learning and playing the flute.
Learning & Playing Flute Bonus Benefit 2: Opportunity To Learn Instrument Upkeep & Construction
Learning and playing the flute isn't only about the technique, music theory and songs. It's also about the physical instruments themselves. Leaning the flute gives us a great opportunity to learn about the physics of sound and woodwind instruments more generally.
Furthermore, learning the general upkeep of the flute teaches us about plenty of other topics, including:
- How to disassemble and reassemble flutes
- How vibrating tubes of air produce sound
- How to clean flutes for optimal health and performance
- How to properly oil the keys