When I was in high school we had the ‘drum closet’.

The ‘drum closet’ was a blackhole where the percussionists liked to hide, but it was also a house for outdated marching band uniform ruins, the marching percussion equipment, and the district’s unused loaner instruments. The ‘drum closet’ was a treasure trove of unused instruments, but it was ungodly hot. Our band room didn’t have AC, so why would the drum closet get such a luxury?

Brass instruments can fair pretty well under those conditions: being locked away for years on end, in the heat and freezing cold; most likely never properly cleaned by their former musicians. I had the privilege in high school of cleaning this ‘drum closet’ to do instrument inventory… I took home a euphonium one holiday break to practice and cleaning the thing- I’ll spare you the gruesome details of what I found inside, but I will tell you whoever played this instrument (which, by the looks of it, must have been at least a decade prior) did not like to rise out their mouth after lunch.

Woodwinds, in contrast, are high maintenance – they have springs/rods, pads, cork… all things that require annual upkeep lest you want to spent an unthinkable amount of money to either replace the instruments beyond repair or make a sad attempt to salvage a horn that has already phoned it in. I will make the argument that at the student-instrument level the flute is the most high maintenance of the woodwind family (only being rivaled by the oboe and bassoon). Most student-clarinets are made of some blend of plastic material, the cork is used to connect the joints which can withstand a little chipping and not impact the instrument’s ability to produce sound, the felt pads are sturdy enough; which leaves only the spring/rods to be the main thing to breakdown from wear-and-tear. And saxophones are the instrument equivalent to cockroaches and could probably withstand a nuclear explosion.

Things to consider about student-flutes:

  • The cork in the head joint should NEVER be exposed to water. It impacts tuning and can form mold if not replaced or cared for properly. (And for the love of Sir James Galway, do not let your band students play a flute that is missing a crown… and then replace the crown with the color guard’s electrical tape, I speak from experience it does not work).
  • They rods and springs are extremely fragile. The mechanism on the body is much more small and thin than on the clarinet and the soft metal of the student flutes can easily get damaged if a student grips too tight; knocks the flute on a chair, stand, etc; or tries to mess around with the screws.
  • Temperature matters… this applies to the other woodwinds as well. But the metal of the flute – as well as other factors – can make the effects of climate more detrimental to the longevity of the pads.

Speaking of temperature effects, the silver plating on flutes will start pitting if not regularly cleaned and maintained. To my knowledge there is no DIY solution to pitting, once that happens it is either replace the flute or have a magical bag of money drop into your repair account and send the instrument out for service.

Alright, we’re through all the perils of up-keeping a flute so how do you actually protect your precious flutes?

During the school year: It depends on your inventory and how many students are actively in the program.

Some districts have only a few spare instruments that rarely get used unless a kid forgets their instrument while other districts are reliant on loaner instruments because the families would not be able to rent a quality instrument.

  1. If you have instruments that are rarely used, make sure you leave them in a space where the temperature can be regulated. Maybe that’s in the back of your office or in the back of the classroom, every school is different. You want to avoid leaving them in an area that fluctuates extreme temperatures or is exposed to extreme temperatures.
  2. Try to rotate instruments. Make sure you’re not letting instruments sit unused. If your program is small, consider having a bright, motivated student become a doubler – that way the instrument is still being used.
  3. If you are in a district that is reliant on school instruments, have a cleaning contract that makes the students aware of how to properly clean the flute. See the next bullet.
During the school year: Cleaning and maintaining instruments when in use.
  1. A cleaning contract for students who are loaning out instruments can be a massive help to saving money in the repair budget. Be proactive, don’t let it sneak up on you! So what should go on a cleaning contract?
When summer break hits: Immediately do instrument inventory and assessment

Don’t let those instruments just sit there in your hot band room or storage closet to fester. As students are bring instruments back to you after graduation ceremonies or after the final concert, use those final days of school to take stock and see what the status of instruments is.

  1. What needs to be sent off for repairs urgently? What can wait?
  2. Find out who is taking instruments home over the summer or for marching band, and do a quick check in on the instrument. (Trade in is necessary!)
  3. Be realistic (not always equal to optimistic), if you have an instrument on its last legs think about the frustration it will cause you next school year. Yes it looks like a flute, but does it sound like one? Especially in the hands of an intermediate student.
Summer break: Alternative storage solutions

In a perfect world, there would be reliable temperature control in public schools at the band director’s disposal. While you may be able to store your percussion and brass equipment in these conditions, communicate with your school and B.O.E. to consider your options for more fragile instruments.

  1. Is there a room in the school (or another school in the district) that will have regulated temperature? Is this room secure or does it get a lot of visitors and foot traffic?
  2. Could the instruments be stored in the school office or in the B.O.E. building for a short period?
  3. As a last resort: Is there an option to take the instruments home?

What kind of solutions have you been using to storage instruments? Share your success or horror stories in the comments!

What should I being doing? Should I take a semester of leave? My student teaching placement just fell through – what are schools going to do? How can we even have ensembles or chamber groups?

These are the thoughts that my colleagues and I have been discussing for months – mainly as a coping mechanism since there is really nothing we can do to change the situation. I live and go to school in New Jersey so I can only speak on what my experience has been here – I can not speak for other states and countries experiences with quarantine and the process of reopening things.

When everything shut down in March 2020, my school was on our spring break – which got extended an extra week when our governor, Phil Murphy, mandated that universities cease in-person meetings. It was scary – a recital was looming, our first spring concert was only a week away, and I am a graduate performance student… how was I meant to perform if we couldn’t be together? I managed to preserve through the Spring 2020 semester. My recital (originally a chamber music program scheduled for April 1st) drastically changed to all solo repertoire and was moved to May 13th. Our orchestra concerts didn’t happen… chamber groups didn’t happen… At the time, I thought to myself that there must be another way for us to create. We can’t just stop performing. But we did, at least for that semester. And now as we are rapidly approaching the Fall 2020 semester I am left with more questions than answers:

Are ensembles going to happen at all? Are auditions happening at all? Are lessons going to continue online? Are chamber groups going to be formed? Are my classes going to be remote or hybrid? Will those classes be asynchronous? Are recitals happening? Will I be able to work? How am I going to survive? Should I just take a semester off?

I hope someone out there can relate to these feelings and know that you are not alone in this.

In New Jersey, we are still trying to figure out what to do with schools come September. Our governor left it open for K-12 public school districts to determine their communities’ needs on a case-by-case basis, but with state universities there is a much larger pool of students. International students and out-of-state students will not have to determine whether or not they feel safe or supported enough to continue their education or wait until some breakthrough allows people to feel safe meeting again (which who knows how long we will have to wait to see that). Especially considering – as a performer – that Broadway and the NY Philharmonic have ceased their performances until 2021 at the earliest, the future for the Fall 2020 semester is looking bleak. And the part of the worry is that no one has answers. No one knows when it will be ‘safe’ again.

Yes, there are virtual learning options, but in the arts it can feel like a fate worse than death. We have this desire to communicate and create with others, but using technology to do so feels like we are removing ourselves, putting up barriers, closing ourselves off. There are technological issues, delays, and a whole lot more effort than the time before quarantine. Is it worth it?

If we want to keep the arts alive… yes. We need to be willing to adapt and be innovative given the current situation to pave the way for a safe future. But it will be tough.

I recently had a conversation with a non-music friend about looking at COVID-19 in the grand scheme of things. I said something like this to her, “You know… we aren’t even half way through this.”

And she said back to me, “What do you mean?”

I elaborated, “We’ve only been in quarantine for 4 months – March to July. We still have 5 more months until December… we aren’t half way through this.”

To which she replied, “You really think quarantine is going to last the rest of the year?”

We continued to talk, and between us (of course, these conversations are merely for our morale and not some factual, data-based TEDTalk) we came to the conclusion that we could be like this until March of 2021. What is ‘this’ by the way, well in New Jersey ‘this’ refers to: not being able to go out in public without a mask, maintaining proper social distancing of 6ft or more, not being able to physically greet people, not being able to meet with friends indoors, keeping small friendship bubbles that follow the same strict quarantine guidelines that you follow, spending a lot of time at home, doing the majority of your work from home, etc.

That was harrowing for the both of us as young 20-something-year olds. To think that we haven’t even made it over the worst part. Where is the motivation to keep working? That is a question I have found myself pondering: I am working on all of these things, but why? What am I working towards?

I’ll be honest – I can’t even say for sure what goal I am actually working towards. I feels like one of those dreams that you just keep falling and then you wake up clammy with your heart racing. At the moment, I am holding out the hope that my colleagues and professors do not give up during the Fall 2020 semester. I hope that we adapt and navigate this strange situation together… the best we can.

The solution is to be persistent, insistent and… some other word ending in -sistent. We need the arts to thrive, especially in a time where people are suffering physically and emotionally. I recently saw a post going around online; it was a picture of a sign that read, “Why should we go to school if you won’t listen to the educated”. I laughed when I first saw it. But why should we go to school?

I go to school for community. I go to school because I want to be exposed to new things. I go to school because I get to experience things I wouldn’t have in my hometown. Those are just a few reasons. I don’t go to school for others, I go to school for myself.

To be persistent for me is to preserve through these unknown waters and see it to the other side (think like Moana – a movie I finally watched during quarantine). And to be insistent for me is to not let others or the world’s pandemic stop me from from pursuing something that brings me joy. Yes, I believe it is nonsensical to meet in groups of 30 people and play in an ensemble, but my insistent is finding a way to make it work given the new rules we have to play by.

What brings you joy?

In my MISC blog post for July 2020, I list several performances that have brought me comfort and joy. Ranging from Elgar’s Nimrod (from the Enigma Variations) to Rimsky Korsakov’s 3rd movement of Scheherazade. As music majors (whether we are focused on education, performance, composition, therapy, etc) one of the core elements is creating.

While listening to performances may be a good bandaid for a short time, it isn’t much help when what we really need (in this metaphorical sense) are stitches. What are some ways you can tap into that creativity?

  • Chamber music – yes, chamber music as we know it will be on hold for a while. That doesn’t have to prevent us from playing it: whether you are playing with a recording of your self, collaborating with someone else virtually, or playing with a track someone else recorded. The process of creating music can still be collaborative.
  • Notation software – maybe you picked up Sibelius for one orchestration class and just left it to collect dust after your final project. Notation software is great for a plethora of reasons: Musescore, for example, has an online database where you can find arrangements of music (in the even you want to do a chamber piece, but don’t have the right instrumentation). You can also take you current repertoire and put it in and listen back to – especially if the piece is for your instrument and another – this can help you be more actively aware of what other parts are doing and how everything fits into the larger picture.
  • Take up a secondary instrument or find a way to push yourself out of your comfort zone on your own instrument. As a music education student, if you have access to a secondary instrument, this is probably the best time you have to really hone in on an instrument outside of your primary area – take advantage of it! If you don’t have access to an instrument, consider extended techniques or repertoire that you are less comfortable with.
  • Explore other music technology. Being familiar with recording software – BandLab, Garage Band, Audacity – can be extremely beneficial even after the pandemic is over. Likewise, learning what kinds of recorders/microphones are on the market and being knowledgeable of their pros and cons.

How are you feeling during this pandemic? What has your experience been thus far and how are you coping? What are you hopes and plans for the upcoming semester? And what are you doing to be creative?

On May 13, 2020, I gave my first ‘recital’ as a Masters student. My recital was initially planned for April 1st and the repertoire was WAY different I had a lot of chamber music programmed that couldn’t happen given the COVID-19 pandemic – all the music learned in my recital was done in less than a month (minus the Honegger).

Here we will be looking at excerpts from the 4 pieces on my program and how I approach theory and analysis – especially with an very short time frame to research, analyze and really take in the framework of these pieces. The 4 pieces being J.S. Bach’s Partita in a minor I. Allemande, Jacques Ibert’s Pièce for solo flute, Arthur Honegger’s Danse De La Chèvre, and Paul Hindemith’s Acht Stücke.

J.S. Bach Partita in a minor, Allemande

Recital notes: I will only be playing the first movement, the Allemande, from Bach’s Partita in a minor. However, each movement of this work refers to a dance. The allemande being a German style dance… Bach did not actually give a specific tempo as the performer would be very familiar with the dances during the Baroque period and would be able to play in that style. As this piece is for solo flute, the demands of the music are to act as the melody, harmony and bass all in one. There are also no rests or places to breathe marked by Bach, so the phrasing utilized in shaping the melody, harmony, and bass are imperative in creating natural space to breathe.

As the title would suggest, the Partita is in a minor. The first page of the Allemande uses the root (A) and third (C) on the stronger beats 1 and 3 to outline the minor tonality. Because the piece is for solo flute, the flute is acting as the melody, harmony and bass. Therefore, one of the compositional techniques Bach uses to keep momentum and engagement is through sequences. Sequences are taught to young children as a math principle: find the pattern and figure out what comes next. Musical sequences work similarly, they can be seen as a repeating pattern between intervals (melody) or rhythm units. In this excerpt, although there are repeated 16th notes (as seen throughout the entire movement), the motive is bracketed in green. From m. 14-15 the intervals are very similar (not always exactly, but the motive is still distinguishable) denoting a mostly chromatic sequence. The motive in the first group is G-F#-E-G, goes down to F#-E-D-F#, down to E-D-C-E, and ends on D#-B-C-A. By the end group, the intervals have strayed from the original group, but the placement of the notes G, F#, E, and D# on the strong beats (1 and 3) are prominent enough to draw the ear to their downwards motion. A similar sequence happens in m. 16, but is much more concise. The ascending chromatic pattern in m. 16 is G-G#-A-A# on each beat in the measure. Finally, a new pattern emerges m. 16-17 where the final 16th leads to the first 16th of the next beat. The E resolves down to D#, D natural down to C#, C natural to B, and finally Bb to A.

In this next excerpt, the tonality has shifted. It is common in Baroque music to modulate from the tonic to the dominant key, and then to eventually return to the tonic (the dominant in a minor is E Major). This excerpt is fully in the dominant (E Major) section: note the V4/3 over IV (which translates to a E seventh chord in 2nd inversion moving to an A Major chord) which is the pivot from em (denoted by the i) to EM. 

Like in the first excerpt, there is another sequence feature – this one is directly related to the Circle of Fifths. Measure 23 starts the sequence in E Major (1), m. 24 moves to A Major (IV), m. 25 is d minor 6/5 (vii6/5), m. 26 D Major 7 (VII7) LET’S PAUSE… I provided the Roman Numerals in parenthesis to denote the chords’ function in the dominant E Major. However, look at m. 25 and 26, the first red flag should be the different qualities of the 7 (D). In Major chord progressions, the 7 is usually fully-diminished so the fact that is is minor and then Major should be getting those alarm bells going. Hence, why this section can be looked as a sequence within the Circle of Fifths: E to A to d (D)… rather than a common chord progression. Continuing our sequence, m. 27 is in G Major which is extended all the way to m. 29 until our sequence ends in m. 30 in C Major. The sequence ends there because if you look at the following measure, the harmonic rhythm (or the rate at which the harmony changes) drastically increases and moves to a tonal area that does not fit in the Circle of Fifth sequence. 

Jacques Ibert Pièce for solo flute

Recital notes: Coincidentally, Ibert’s Piece for solo flute was composed in the same year as the Hindemith Sonata I mentioned earlier. This piece starts with a cadenza-like introduction that centers around the note “D”. Like Ibert’s well known Flute Concerto (composed 2 years prior), this piece is good for demonstrating virtuosity and freeness in playing. Despite studying at the Paris Conservatory, Ibert didn’t emulate any of the popular genres during the early 20th century, and in this piece you can hear how he’s style transforms multiple styles rather than honing in on just one.

Ibert was an early 20th century composer – a time were tonality was less rigid, an the exploration of serialism and atonality were becoming commonplace. The Pièce for solo flute goes through many tonal areas – like mentioned in my recital notes the opening is a cadenza-style featuring the note “D”; and the remainder of page one doesn’t strictly follow a traditional key/tonal center. In this first excerpt, the 9/8 “Vivo” is the first time in the piece that Ibert emphasizes a tonal area -in this case Db Major (the diatonic notes are Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C). Here I used green to visualize all the notes that were diatonic (in the key of Db) and any non-chord tone or chromatic note is highlighted in orange. By doing this, it is very easy to see the patterns within what may look daunting at first glance, especially in a key of 5 flats.

This next excerpt from Ibert’s Pièce is building a climatic resolution on the final page (visually, you can tell those tiny 32nd notes are going somewhere). Our last excerpt was in Db Major, this one has moved to a tonicization (not a fully-fledge modulation) of the IV (Gb Major) – this is clear because of the downward arpeggios (the yellow denoting notes diatonic to Gb). The ‘F’s are functioning as a supertonic or a 7th scale degree that is creating a rising tension. The swells on the 6s to 7s to 9s emphasizing the 7th briefly calm down for 2 measures before a sequence of minor 3s ascends to an E natural where the piece relaxes (and resolves) to return to a familiar theme stated in the beginning of the piece.

Arthur Honegger Danse De La Chèvre

Recital notes: This is the earliest 20th century piece on my program, composed by Arthur Honegger in 1921. The title Danse de la Chevre translates to Dance of the Goat. The piece starts very delicate with a series of tritone phrases – as if the goat is just waking up from a dream. Quickly, the “goat-like” or more active theme comes during the Vif or the 9/8 section with a skipping/dancing goat. At the end, the piece returns to the delicateness and serenity of the introduction, as the goat has tired itself out and is going back to sleep.

Important to note that there are several versions of Honegger’s Danse De La Chevre that are in circulation this particular score is from the 1932 edition. The piece was composed in the early 20th century and the intervallic relations (and lack of tonality) are indicative of Honegger embracing serialism.

The opening motive is highlighted in purple and it lasts 2 bars (each time it is restated it uses the opening 4 notes to lure you in before launching into a new idea). This motive starts with a tritone (TT) from C to F# and is followed by two Perfect 4s. And interesting discovery I made was how Honegger follows the motive, in phrase 1 (m. 1-2) note that the motive goes down a 2nd (E down to D). While in phrase 2 (m.3-6) note that the motive goes up a 2nd (E to F). Then in the phrases following the 1 bar Vif, phrase 4 (m. 8-9) the motive goes down a tritone (E to A#) whereas in phrase 5 (m. 10-13) the motive goes up a tritone (E to Bb). Wow. At a first glance it might just look like crazy, random music, but when analyzed critically it is actually symmetrical and systematic.

At the end of the piece, the motive comes back (note that it is an exact copy just shortened) before the B resolves to the C harmonic.

The slower section before the recap (Lent) is weaved throughout the piece each time it uses the echo effect – repeating material at a softer dynamic, but to keep the intrigue Honegger adds a tag at the end to differentiate the fragments. For example, m. 55 compared to m.57 (where Honegger presses on the breaks and starts to makes things slower and softer). And m. 58 compared to m. 59-60 (where there is one last – slower – iteration of the Vif theme).

Paul Hindemith Acht Stücke

Recital notes: One of Hindemith’s most well-known works is his Sonata for Flute and Piano which he composed in 1936. About ten years before he composed this Sonata, he wrote a piece for solo flute called Acht Stucke which translates to 8 Pieces or movements. These 8 movements are very short – some of the shortest movements in the piece such as the 2nd movement are only 40 seconds long. Also, these movements don’t have a stable tonal center and not all movements have an indicated meter so the motives and gestures within movements is what shapes the piece.

Welcome to Hindemith were key signatures don’t matter and the tonality is irrelevant. How does one cope? In my analysis for movement IV of this piece, I realized the rhythm was the true star of the piece so how did I learn the rhythm? By making a song:

Is it silly? Yes. But when the tonal patterns and rhythmic sequences are so brief there needs to be some way to connect ideas to form a coherent piece. I can’t be entirely sure if this what Hindemith intended when composing this movement, but if there is an evidence to suggest he DIDN’T intend this then send that my way. All jokes aside, let’s look at a more structural movement…

In movement VIII, there is some semblance of musical structure. The beginning is repeated at the end, and there seem to be two distinct sections (the presto and the offset section).

Both in the opening and end, the specific pitches aren’t so important (more so the intervallic relationships) it is clear with m.1-2 that 3-4 is similar while expanding the ‘motive’ by getting louder, faster and expanding the range. The F# don’t serve much tonal significance rather the note acts as an anchor to ground the piece as it ascends to A6 before dropping to D4.

The presto section beginnings suddenly quiet and with an indicated meter. There is a brief sequence with the downwards G-F#-F motion in m.8-9 and m. 11-12, but it is fleeting. There is more anchoring (similar to the opening) now on E as the melody ascends.

The register descends and the volume gradually diminishes. As a new section emerges, here the quarter note and eighth note are offset. The measures were the quarter note starts on beat 2 as a pickup are the string tying this section together. Note the pitches highlighted in yellow Eb D and the 3 repeated C#s (each C# rising more than the last). The rhythmic content for these highlighted pitches is all the same until the 3 C#s where the material is expanded yet again to return to a restatement of the opening.

Thank you for making it through this maiden voyage of explaining how my brain comprehends music theory. If you have any questions, additional thoughts or want to see the lyrics to the other Hindemith movements comment down below!

  • Francis Poulenc – Sonata for Flute and Piano

The challenge with this piece has been playing what’s on the page versus playing in a stylized manner (as many recordings of this piece often exemplify). The technical elements such as the sept-tuplets, 32nd note pickups, or double tonguing in the 1st movement require a practice approach that will make the end result sound seamless or effortless.

  • Sergei Prokofiev – Sonata in D op. 94

This edition includes both the violin transcription along with the flute line – being aware that there are variations (and other editions of the piece) was really important when studying and listening to the piece before practicing. The infamous D7s are just one of the challenges this piece presents where the goal is for them to blend into the ascending arpeggio pattern.

  • Katherine Hoover – Kokopeli for solo flute

With no indicated meter and no accompaniment the challenge with this piece is maintaining rhythmic values. As well as keeping an active ear for intonation, especially on repeated pitches. And finally keeping a sharp eye on the accidentals since they do not carry through the octave. Despite these initial challenges, the phrasing and overall mood of the piece drive the player to overcome these visual hurdles.

  • W.A. Mozart – Concerto in D Major for flute (K. 314)

Mozart has 2 concertos for flute – one in G Major and this one, in D Major (which is really just a re-voicing of the oboe concerto in C). This Barenreiter edition is great for analysis and understand the solo flute’s role – it includes the principal flute part, piano score, suggested cadenzas, and a reference score.

What is on your stand this month?

Unpopular opinion: I love flute warmups… if that was not abundantly clear by my extensive collection of flute warmup resources.

I think quarantine is a great time for people who normally don’t prioritize warmups to step away from repertoire, and find something that resonates with them. My philosophy regarding warmups are that they are not a one-size fits all plan – everyone lives different lives. Some people have more time to practice than others, some people having certain restrictions regarding space and time they can play, etc. I am here to share what my current resources and warmup plan are – DO NOT feel less than or pressured to have a warmup that is exactly like mine. I will also take the time here (as this is my first post about warmups) to discuss HOW I got to this plan.

What you need to keep in mind regarding practice planning:

  • Time – both how much time you have AND the amount of time it takes for you to learn and process material.
  • Introspection – you need to reflect and BE HONEST with yourself that is the only way to improve. You must be active, not passive, during practicing. And you are only competing with yourself and no one else, don’t feel like you are racing against anyone else.
  • Practicality – know your limits and what you are capable of. Like any goal or plan, don’t set yourself up for failure; and this also goes with time, you will learn what works for you. Experiment, trial and error, and don’t give up when you fail.

What Is My Current Warmup?

Breaking down what resources I am currently using*:

  • George and Avidan Louke – The Flute Scale Book
    • Harmonics
    • Variations on scale patterns
  • Paul Robison – Flute Warmups
    • Singers Warmup – tone and resonance in scales
    • Radiating Arpeggios – arpeggios with extended range and varied rhythm
    • Bells Warmup – long tones
    • Nightingale Trills – coordination and balance
  • Kujala – The Flutist’s Vade Mecum
    • Extending technique
  • Moyse – 24 Little Melodic Etudes
    • Simple melodies focusing on honing techniques (dynamics, articulation…)
  • Moyse – Scales and Arpeggios
    • Variations on scale and arpeggio patterns
  • Taffanel and Gaubert – 17 Daily Exercises
    • Versatile simple scalar patterns

*I DO NOT practice all of these every day, I vary my warmup (following a general plan) to avoid injury and to tailor to what I need to work on depending on the day.

My warmup plan – what do I practice and why do I practice?

  • Harmonics – Tone/Focus
    • Control – being able to get a clear pitch (on whichever partial I play) and move with ease
    • Resonance – being aware of what I’m using to get a particular sound (regarding my nose, chest, tongue, vowel, etc.)
    • Lips/Apperture – finding and experimenting what works and what doesn’t.
  • Contrast
    • Dynamics, articulations, etc.
    • Being active in my warmup and having to assess whether something sounds different or the same.
  • Scales
    • To move air, get it spinning.
    • Get fingers and mind coordinated.
  • Range
    • Experimenting with what I need to do to make all registers sound even – tone quality; as well as balance and blend.
    • Finger coordination for extreme registers.
  • Coordination/Balance
    • Stability and consistency – make playing seem as effortless as possible.
    • Challenge myself with tricky finger changes while maintaining balance.

How I got to this point of structuring my warmup?

When I was in high school I was a violinist that started flute on a whim to be in the marching band with my friends. I didn’t start taking lessons until a year after I started playing when I knew I was going to take college auditions for music. During this early period, I mainly focused on scales (Major and minor) and maybe arpeggios. The book I picked up from my local music shop was actually the “Foundations For Superior Performance” book for wind band.

In my undergrad I was exposed to A LOT of warmups… I was given warmup after warmup (because I really had and still have this love for doing them – so much so that, during my undergrad, I would actually spend more time on warmups than on actual repertoire), but for the warmups I did in my studio I was rarely every told WHAT I was actually working on when given a PDF. I have filled in the gaps now as a Masters student, so here is the wide range of things I worked on in my studio as an undergraduate Music Education flute student:

  • Taffanel and Gaubert*
  • Moyse Exercise Journaliers*
  • Moyse De La Sonorite
  • Paula Robison Warmup Book
  • The Flute Scale Book
  • Andersen Op. 33
  • Berbiguier 18 Etudes
  • Karg-Elert Caprices

*These first two were the STAPLE books for our studio – our technique class really hinged on the patterns from these books.

Now in graduate school, I have a lot more (if you can believe it) books that I have used. I tend to cycle through books to keep things interesting. This is what I have studied on my own and with my teacher as a Master of Music Performance student:

  • All of the above
  • Moyse 24 Little Melodic Studies
  • Maquarre
  • Andersen Op. 15
  • Paul-Edmund Davies 28 Days Warmup Book
  • Kujala Vade Mecum
  • Trevor Wye Omnibus Edition

An example of a typical warmup (July 2020):

Every time I take my flute out I do the same thing: I get my KORG tuner/metronome and set it to A440 drone. I take a moment to listen to the A, and try to match my first notes to that drone. I’ll play that same A4, the As above it, and then a bit of noodling until I feel like my ears are discerning where I am for that day. By that I am referring to intonation (am I sharp or flat today?), resonance (am I playing too forward and shallow or am I supporting the sound?), and focus (do the notes speak and what am I doing to get them to speak).

This takes no more than 2 minutes, there are good days and bad days – I do this drone every day I practice as a gauge to figure what I will need to focus on for that day. So for this example of a typical warmup let’s say I am having a bad day – my pitch was very flat, I am playing too forward and tense, and the notes are not speaking right away. I move onto 2 exercises (the order can be reversed, as I use these exercises for the same reason):

(1) Harmonics – this can be stacking harmonics (C4, C#4, D4) or following the patterns in the “Flute Scale Book”. Here I am focusing on getting that deeper resonance and support. I reflect on what I am doing internally and externally with my body to get sound – usually my shoulders need to come down and I need to unarch my back when my resonance is too forward and shallow. By making these adjustments, the harmonics begin to sound more focused, in tune and come from a better place.

(2) A 5 note stepwise patterns – examples of this would be Taffanel and Gaubert “17 Daily Exercises” #1 and 2; or the Singers Warmup in the “Paula Robison Flute Warmups Book”. Again, I am focusing on achieving that deeper resonance and support. Here I may hum while playing the 5 note pattern to bring my resonance backwards in my mouth and nose. The 5 note patterns are great because they are taking out the complications of registers (particularly evenness) so I can focus on getting small groups of notes to all have one sound.

This part can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Say that after all of that work I have only slightly improved my tone quality, still playing forward and tense, I will move onto to a full register or full scale exercise and will do chromatic, Major and minor (depending on how much time I have – I will either play all forms or if I do not have much time I will just do harmonic) scale patterns:

Examples include the Moyse “Exercise Journaliers” extended Major and minor scales; a B3-D7 chromatic scale; Taffanel and Gaubert #3 or 5; “The Flute Scale Book” Major and minor scale patterns; the Maquarre chromatic exercise; or the “Paula Robison Flute Warmups Book” Orange Juice warmup. This is usually where the most improvement happens (in my own experience – my learning style is understanding a concept but it taking awhile for my body to catch up) because I am now mostly in the right mindset; and focusing finger coordination distracts my mind enough that the issues with tone quality will resolve themselves.

The scales can take 5-10 minutes. By this point, I will switch to a short easy piece or etude. Examples include “Andersen Op. 15”; Moyse “24 Little Melodic Pieces”; or duets from the Voxman books. I take this time to enjoy the sound and be less critical than I had been in my earlier warmup. Here I focus on dynamics, articulation patterns and musicality – looking more at contrast rather than trying to be ‘perfect‘.

The piece or etude will take another 5-10 minutes depending if there are variations or if I want to isolate any part of the exercise. The final part of my warmup is technique – I will focus on more precise or tricky articulation patterns, extreme dynamics especially with register, or tricky fingering patterns. Examples include Kujala’s “Vade Mecum”; Moyse “Scales and Arpeggios”; and or Taffanel and Gaubert #4, 10, 12. This final part of the warmup taking anywhere from 15-25 minutes.

This quarantine warmup can take about an hour, whereas, before quarantine I might not have had a full hour to spent just warming up I can take advantage of this time to focus on my weaker areas.

Let me know in the comments how you warmup, has it changed significantly since quarantine started? And what resources are you using in your warmup?

Summer practicing blues and unexpectedly bad auditions are the usual culprits of draining motivation. But this year is different, with a pandemic looming for an indefinite amount of time, how are we meant to establish tangible goals when we aren’t even sure what horrors tomorrow will bring?

What do I work on? What am I working towards? When will I get to play with others again? When will I get to play live again? When will I get to see live performances again? What’s the point of all this?

These are all questions a good handful of musicians have been mulling over since March 2020. Things are uncertain and look like they will be for some time.

Gone are the days of routine and structure that we knew just one short year ago. As a college student in New Jersey that would mean 3 months of summer break (just 3 months of uncertainty) and the other 9 months of the year are familiar, stable and secure in a fixed, predictable school and work environment.

You skip a day of practice, that day turns into 3 days… to a week. And then you realize you haven’t practice this entire month. Why would you? What are you practicing for? You feel torn – an unspeakable loss at the fact that the last time you performed may be the last time you will ever perform with that group of people again… or just perform live again. A bit dramatic, but for graduating students that is a reality that this past semester may have been the last chance they had to perform live. So how do you keep going?

Here are my tips for being motivated when life feels unstructured and insecure:

  • Create a routine – this doesn’t have to just be in music. Make a morning, afternoon, night routine that leaves the time you need to practice. If you make small changes all around rather than trying to wedge practice in you will be more likely to stick with it.
  • Listen/watch performances that bring you joy – I will link a couple of my own at the bottom of this blog post.
  • Determine what you want to achieve before you practice – do you just want to play? Do you want to work on technique?
    • This can be hard when you feel like you don’t have anything to work towards. If you are stumped on this one, record yourself playing and WAIT. Listen back to it a day or so later, and be honest with yourself with what you did well and where you can improve.
  • Be kind to yourself. This is not the time to beat yourself up because you think you sound terrible or whatever hurdle you are trying to surmount. Take the time to become aware of how you talk to yourself and make it a priority to be your own cheerleader.

Performances that bring me joy:

Elgar – Enigma Variations – Nimrod

Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1997, dedicated to Sir Georg Solti.

Holst – The Planets – Venus, Bringer of Peace

Hickox conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in 1991.

Dvorak – Symphony No. 9 – Mvmt. 4

Dudamel conducting the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

Rimsky Korsakov – Scheherazade – Mvmt. 3

Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1978.

Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet

Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms 2007

How are you staying motivated during this pandemic? Share you strategies and thoughts below – as well as any performances that bring you joy!

Hello! I’m Emma Piedilato, thank you for taking an interest in my blog. In this introductory post I will be giving an overview of what my current flute set-up as a graduate Master of Flute Performance student. This is my current set-up as of July 2020 which I’ve maintained since the 3rd year of my undergraduate degree several years ago.

I currently play on a Haynes, Weissman model flute. It is a handmade, custom flute that I bought pre-owned from the Flute Center of New York during my 1st year of undergrad in 2015. I’ve kept the original head joint which has a large squoval-cut hole, is made of silver, and has a 14K gold riser. The body is also silver, with Straubinger pads, a C# trill key, D# roller and B foot.

Getting a new flute (and making the jump from student to professional) meant that I had gone from a latch-style case to a french-style case. The different being that I now needed a case cover to properly carry my flute around. During my undergrad, the university would hold a Woodwind Day where vendors would come with limited stock for the students (usually at a discounted price). It was at one of these events that I bought my Jean Cavallaro case cover.

In 2017, I made the decision to add a LeFreque to my flute set-up. I made this choice after trialing several colleagues’ LeFreques of different materials and seeing (1) which metal I preferred and (2) if I really thought it would improve my sound quality. I eventually decided on the rose-gold plated, solid silver sound bridge. My recommendation is to try any flute product before buying it (especially if the price tag is expensive), and despite the varying opinions on LeFreques: I have used mine since 2017 to present day. Originally, I was struggling to adapt from a student Yamaha flute with a small oval lip hole to the Haynes Weissman flute with the large squoval lip hole. Getting low notes, overall control, and stability had been a challenge for about a year and a half since purchasing the flute. I do believe, in my case, the LeFreque was a tool in helping me bridge the physical gap between the two flutes – it is not a necessary tool for everyone, but is certainly is cheaper than buying an entirely new head joint.

The original Haynes case my flute came in was not sturdy enough to support my flute. I found this out one long day during my undergrad when my flute (in the case) was knocked off a chair, no more than 2 feet of the ground, and resulted in a bent key. Over the following summer, I saved up my money to invest in a sturdy case recommended by my repair tech to decrease the amount of movement of the flute while in the case (it can’t be seen well in the attached photo, but my repair tech glued additional black felt inside the case to make the fit custom to my flute). The case I ended up getting was the Valentino B-foot Wood Case.

Over time, I began to accumulate all of the gadgets inside of my case… I made the transition from a flute rod and cloth to a Valentino flute flag the same time I bought the case. Quickly, the flute flag has become my favorite method for cleaning my flute – it is washable, and doesn’t fray like the interior cloths tend to do.

The pad paper has been part of my set up from day 1 – especially in New Jersey with our ridiculously high humidity, pad paper is essential!!!

The mini screw diver was studio gift from my undergraduate flute professor, although I never use it on the body, I do use it for the screw holding the D# roller on the foot joint does which I occasionally need to adjust; I always keep it with me for that emergency.

The coffee straw may seem like an odd thing to keep in my case, but I always keep one on me for when I am teaching. The validity of teaching students the approximate apperture size with a coffee straw is vital… also sometimes if I’m having a subpar playing day I use it to retrain myself.

Finally, I have an abundance of Beaumount cloths. I use one to rest my flute when I’m taking a short break from playing or taking a quick note to prevent dirt or dust from getting on the flute body or pads. And the other one I use for exterior cleaning.

What is your flute (or other instrument) set up? Let me know what you’re using.