I'm working hard on my embouchure at the moment. Apologies if that's caught you unawares. I realise you don't come to this blog expecting that kind of language.

First, let me explain what it is, in case you don't know. (Unless you play a wind instrument, you might not.) The Oxford English dictionary defines it as "the way in which a player applies their mouth to the mouthpiece of a brass or wind instrument, especially as it affects the production of the sound".

Embouchure is important to me at the moment because I am learning to play the Irish flute—the wooden, simple system precursor to the modern Boehm system concert flute.

Music has always been part of my life. I was forced to take piano lessons as a child and also learned classical guitar, which I played regularly until my late college days. I was never better than mediocre. My wife would consider me positively harmful on either instrument these days.

Photography and the Irish flute

My interest in learning to play an instrument was rekindled when I spent time with US photographer John Barclay recently. He's very good on a ukulele. He even knows how to pronounce it properly. It's "ookalele" rather than "youkalele", apparently. There—another wisdom bomb dropped. Tell me you're not getting value from this issue, I dare you.

Anyway, long story short, John inspired me to seek out an instrument suitable to my current lifestyle. A piano is a pig to bring on a landscape shoot, and my ardent nail biting makes playing the guitar practically impossible. The Irish flute is perfect, though. It's portable. And I have the correct number of mouths and fingers to play one. Better still, one of the leading artisan flute makers lives in Ballyvourney, a village not far from where I live. Sadly, he's closed his order book. I'm assured it is nothing to do with me and the current state of my embouchure. So I bought a handmade unkeyed flute from a leading craftsman in Belgium. (The name Irish flute doesn't really do justice to the international roots of the instrument.) I’ll trade this against a keyed flute from the same maker at a later date. For now, this is perfect for me to practice on.

Learning to play the flute has had an unexpected side effect. It has turned the volume of my creativity up to 11. My photography is benefiting and I suddenly have the creative energy needed to start work on my next big book project. Music is good for the soul. It also helps remove mental blockages.

My Unkeyed Irish Flute
The unkeyed flute I'm currently learning on

Love photography? Want to learn how to produce images like this yourself? Check out my sister site, Elevation, where I list the photography tours and workshops that I organize.

I run trips within Ireland and abroad. Past destinations include Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and the Faroe Islands.

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