I’ve started to incorporate my teacher training into my warmups by doing ear training/ memorization/ listening to the repertoire. With the isolation of the ongoing pandemic this has been a great way to spark active listening when warming up.
Moyse Gammes et Arpeges
I’ve been working through this book gradually since late-2020. I’m somewhere in the mid 250s currently, in the harmonic minor section of the book. I like to practice this in combination with other scales.
Taffanel and Gaubert
A staple. Currently, I’ve been using exercises #1 (5 notes, Major), #2 (5 notes, minor), and #4 (all Major and minor scales) intermittently during my warmups.
Karg Elert Caprices
Working through these with a new mindset after my Suzuki teacher training. Currently reviewing #4 with small steps/goals per practice session. This slower approach to these caprices has helped solidify technique that otherwise would have been (tbh) subpar if I was multitasking and running through for the sake of running through.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of common services for flutes – keep in mind that the price of these services varies greatly based on instrument level (ie student flutes and handmade flutes), region, time between services, service requested, etc. Let’s start with some general terms*…
*You should consult your local repair tech if you are unclear of what their services cover – these things vary greatly by region!
COA: Clean Oil Adjust
This is a very common phrase because it is a regular flute service. Just like you would get an oil change or keep up the fluids for your car, the flute requires oiling, cork replacement, and minor adjustments. Many service shops recommend getting this service once a year, however, the cost of service as well as how often the instrument is used can impact the specific interval between recommended services.
Pads are the money sucker when it comes to flute repair. One of the reason why student flute repair costs are so much lower (among a plethora of other reasons) is that the pads are made of a cheaper material, commonly felt pads.
Many handmade/professional flutes have Straubinger pads. However, there are flute makers and repair technicians that are use other high quality pads; two that come to mind are the Muramatsu pads and JS Gold pads.
The reason repadding is expensive is because of the time of service for the pads to settle in the cup as well as the number of pads that may need replacing. Two trill keys, Bb key, G# lever, all the body keys, D level, and all foot joint keys… depending on if you have a C# trill key, a B foot joint, etc. the total cost to replace the pads on a flute can add up if not maintained.
Depending on the interval of when you bring your flute in for a service, whether that be a COA or otherwise, the pads require some level of care: Whether that’s removing dusty/grime build up, minor repairs like leaky pads (another common issue), and torn/warped pads.
You can help offset the expensive of replacing pads by being mindful of rinsing out your mouth before playing. Just like vocalists have to avoid certain beverages/food before singing such as sodas, dairy, sugar… a good rule of thumb is to brush your teeth (if possible) or rinse your mouth out before playing to prevent the pads from deteriorating more easily, getting sticky, etc.
Overhauls are less frequent that the first two services since it’s meant to bring your flute back to “new”. Depending on the usage of your flute these could be done between 5-10 years of use. Likewise, flutes that have been sitting (those back of the closet flutes) would require this service; when it comes to student flutes, the cost of the overhaul exceeds the value of the instrument so it is worth getting the instrument appraised before going through with this type of service.
Sometimes you might notice something is just slightly off about your flute. That could be a key being sluggish, tuning/cork issues, noisy keys, etc.
Anytime you notice something not quite right, check in with your trusted repair tech and see if it is a DIY type of fix or if it’s worth bringing in urgently – depending on the pricing, the tech, and the severity of the service needed it may be worth getting adjustments done inbetween regular services like COAs.
Finding a Repair Tech
Trust is important when it comes to finding a person who you are handing over your flute to. Word of mouth is one of the most reliable ways to find a local repair tech that you can trust. If you’re a university student ask your flute faculty or colleagues; if you’re outside university you can ask your flute instructor for recommendations or [with a dash of caution] use ‘reliable’ community forums to sleuth out the most promising tech.
In the US – especially metropolitan areas – there tends to be clusters of repair technicians rather than having an even distribution across an entire state. That’s another factor to consider is location. Are you willing to travel x-amount of miles, even through state borders, to get a service? Or is shipping your instrument to a trusted technician a better option?
Another consideration when narrowing down a repair tech is specialization. In the NJ/NY area there are plenty of flute-specific technicians (going one step further even Straubinger-certified technicians), however, there are also woodwind techs or people who are still certified in flute, but also handle with other woodwinds instruments.
For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:
II. Allegretto scherzando (Dotted Half = 69)
The suggested tempo is included in the G. Schirmer 1965 edition. The text “allegretto scherzando” roughly translates to fairly brisk and playful (or joking). The form of the second movement is ternary (ABA or ABA’) form which has some connection to a scherzo (a major scherzo of note for flutists is Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) which is in rounded binary form (AABA) with a ‘trio’ section that follows the recap of the A form.
A – mm. 1-161
The key feature in this movement is Prokofiev’s use of hemiolas. As far as the Grove Music dictionary is concerned a hemiola, “in the modern metrical system denotes the articulation of two units of triple metre as if they were notated as three units of duple metre.” More info on this term can be accessed here.
The motive that the flute first plays in the A section is an example of a hemiola:
Note the duple notation (duple = 2), but slurred as if they were triplets (3). As mentioned, this opening motive in the flute is prominent throughout the second movement: we see it transposed up a Perfect 5th in measure 15, down a Perfect 5th in measure 34; and we see echoes of it throughout later parts of the movement as the initial A section closes, as well as when the A’ section recaps.
In the primary A section we expect to see multiple phrases, an established tonic key, and an end with a PAC (typically in the tonic):
There is no shortage of phrase variance in this section.
The first section that we see (amid several transpositions) is the hemiola phrase, which is characterized by the constant eighth notes. Each time this phrase appears the dynamic is marked piano and peaks at a mezzo forte. This section lasts from mm. 1-58.
The next phrase section is the sixteenth notes. The repeated figure “C-D-Eb-F Gb-Ab-Bb-C D-Eb-E-F” is accompanied by the piano playing Gb-Eb-Bb (which would be some borrowed chord, not quiet a Neapolitan because it is minor rather than Major) – perhaps it is simply put to be the tritone juxtaposing a minor (a to eb as a diminished 5th)?
Either way, this section is fleeting and promptly resolves to F Major – mm. 59-76.
The third section is interesting because unlike the first two which had very clear features, this one has a several elements. The first being the leaps/skips (the 1st and 2nd phrases were both stepwise) and particularly the use of the Perfect 4th followed by a Perfect 5th. Then following this with a dotted quarter to driving eighths. This section lasts mm. 77-102.
The fourth section could be lumped in with the third, however, I see the key change and addition of a new rhythmic figure (the triplet) as one of two possibilities: (1) a brief extension that is stretching the phrase to the return of the first phrase OR (2) a variation of phrase 3. Either way there are recognizable similarities between the 3rd and 4th phrases – take for example, mm. 107-112 and compare it to mm. 87-92.
Key/Establishing a Tonal Center
Considering how Prokofiev plays with intervals in this movement, the tonal center is relatively ambiguous – especially if one was to just regard the opening 6 bars of just the piano alone.
However, given the opening motive the tentative tonic is a minor, however as soon as Prokofiev has moved out of the hemiolas he begins to explore F Major and its relative minor (d minor). What’s interesting here (for all you advanced theory nerds) is that these are the notes of a d minor arpeggio: a (5), F (3), and d (1) which would be the parallel minor of the first movement set in D Major. How neat!
For simplicity’s sake I will refer to the section by key rather than scale degree, but the d minor arpeggio relation is an interesting avenue, perhaps to explore the next time you work through this movement.
We see the movement towards F Major punctuated by the octaves F’s in measures 75-76. The references to d minor are more apparent in the piano score, for example before the flute has the sixteenth note runs, the piano (mm. 58-61) plays an inverted d minor arpeggio d(1) a(5) f(3).
Ending with a cadence (PAC?)
There is the brief key change to c minor, however, as discussed in the section on phrases, it is more or less an extension or variation used to cycle back to the first phrase. By m. 123 the d minor version of the first phrase is back. The punctuation of the A’s in mm. 153-155 is a versatile choice on Prokofiev’s part as this can either be regarded as the 5th of d minor or the 3rd of F Major. The ambiguity is all part of the game – given the context of writing during Socialist Realism in Soviet Russia – Prokofiev could easily claim either to be the case, whichever put him a favorable light. As far as a PAC is concerned, I see the As as an IAC in d minor, however, I have seen other scholars regard it as the same but in F Major. To support my argument for d minor I point towards the use of C# and F#s which allude to the parallel Major – perhaps forecasting the key change that will begin the B section. Futhermore, I see the transition from F Major to D Major – not impossible, but the chord functions during the transition “o, m, o, m2, m3” given the context of the piano score which allude much more to minor tonalities than Major.
B – mm. 162-227
Contrast is a fairly simple concept to understand in music theory. Opposites are a general concept that can be transferred from daily life (ie. Day and Night) which in music theory can translate to A and B sections. The B section is noticeably different than the A section, here’s what to look for: key the new key is usually related either the parallel Major/minor; this section ends with a PAC or HC; and there may be a short bridge that leads into the recap of A.
The most noticeable contrast between the B and A sections in this movement is the way Prokofiev alters the meter! Notice how the B section is in 2/2 while the A section is always in 3/4.
Tracing back to the end of the A section, my argument for the cadence being an IAC in d minor fits neatly since the B section is starting in the parallel Major – D Major. The key signature makes this key transition abundantly clear, as well as the opening statement start with an inverted D Major arpeggio.
Okay, hold on for this wild journey of keys/interval-play that I am about to suggest – with the knowledge that most of these transitions would be intervallically motivated (whether that is pushing the boundaries with something as ‘offensive’ as a tritone or maintain a Major quality to mask the deviation from traditional chord progressions).
There is a notated key change in measure 174 (removing the C# and F#s). Looking at the notated figure of a quarter triplet and two quarters – one could guess we have returned to a minor… there is after all an A being sustained in the piano mm. 174-176. However, isolating the arpeggio in m. 174 it appears to be two arpeggios combined a d minor with an inverted G Major (A-F-D-B-G-D). Prokofiev continues to play with that Perfect 4th (D to G) with the running sixteenths m. 177 and m. 181. However, keep in mind we are still technically in ‘a minor’ therefore at m. 182 we see an immediate shift to E Major (G#-B-E) because it is a the Dominant (V) in a minor. This is followed by a bm – g#m. Which is similar to the A section and how it brings out the d – f – a of d minor, this brief tonicization of the Dominant is bringing out E – B – G#.
By m. 190 the key of D Major returns… only for a short while. With a nod to the E Major, mm. 194-195, as well a a minor, the C# and F#s are quickly removed from the key yet again in m. 202. And this is where we begin to see the bridge back to A/A’.
The bridge out of the B section and back to the return of A is punctuated by the time signature change to 3/4, a return to the triple feel, while still closing out the motifs and tonal exploration featured in this contrasting section. This bridge spans mm. 208-227.
The piano part while the flute is playing the espressivo phrase and resting (mm. 212-227) is particularly of note tonally speaking. The inverted arpeggio running under the espressivo section is a bo (b diminished) arpeggio. Once the piano is alone this shifts into an alternating AM – C7. Again, an interesting (and safe) choice because these are common chords (although the quality varies) from D Major/minor and F Major.
Cadence (PAC or HC?)
This section is more or less ending with a Half Cadence. Although not a formal HC, the same function is present here…
A traditional HC is something ending with a V (Dominant). However, V is not the only Dominant function, VII can (on occasion) take the place of a V in a cadence. Nothing about this cadence is screaming authentic cadence (IAC or PAC), there is no tonic function in sight (this could be a i/I and occasionally a VI/vi).
If the piano bridge is considered to be in dm/DM there are two dominants AM (V) and C7 (VII7)… also if we really (and I mean reallllly) wanted to push for FM we could call the C7 the V7/III. Either way you spin it not tonic functions to be seen, especially with the seventh chord, therefore, definitely HC!
A/A’ – m. 228-370
Finally, a return to familiar material! This final section has a few key features: it can be varied (hence A’), it will start and end in the tonic, and ends with a PAC.
Variations: A versus A’
For the most part, this return is an exact copy of the initial A section. The flute line follows the A section to a T mm. 228-333 (the counterpart being mm. 7-112).
The first time this section deviates starts m. 335 with the descending eighth note figure. There is a new rhythmic figure (the sixteenth triplets) which allude to the ones featured in the first movement of the Op. 94 Sonata. Then, Prokofiev quotes the 3rd phrase from the A section before starting the 1st phrase… offset by one beat; and he interjects this with a hemiola-ified (adding ties to) another quote from the 3rd phrase before finishing with the 1st phrase, and a frenzied eighth pattern that ascends to the climatic C7.
Final Cadence – PAC?
If only… again it’s more of an IAC. But a very interesting feature in the Schirmer 1965 edition is that it includes the alternate violin part which ends differently!
Of course both endings are considered IAC if we are to consider the tonal center to be a minor: the flute’s C is the 3rd scale degree and the violin’s E is the 5th scale degree.
I had a lot of fun with this movement – the ambiguity lends itself to a lot of theorizing (within set Music Theory ha!) so I got a chance to explore questions I had about the score. Anything you noticed in this movement that I missed?
In August I did a post which covered the flutes I had played before getting to university; now I will covering ALL the piccolos I have owned and played from high school (which was when I started playing flute) through graduate school.
One important note before I get into the reflection is that it is very common in my area that university students upgrade to a professional piccolo – a piccolo made of higher quality materials (resin/wood/metal); even in my undergrad (as a Music Education major) I felt this pressure to upgrade. And then as a Master of Flute Performance student there is DEFINITELY a push to upgrade, however, I am here to share why this isn’t a must have. Don’t feel pressured to do something that isn’t financially viable or you (yourself) feel is necessary.
It is important to know that I started playing flute as a sophomore in high school for marching band. The flute section comprised of 2 seniors, 2 sophomores, and 2 freshman. Because the seniors were graduating I started my piccolo training only 3 months after learning flute (this is as a 15 year old).
Emerson – Nickel Silver Plated
Durable for outdoor playing, I used mine exclusively for marching band every year.
Metal LH 1st finger rest to help with the size difference from flute (like a hand crutch).
Reliable – I kept this instrument through my undergrad for any outdoor playing – the mechanism held up well.
The shrillness that comes with metal piccolos – less suited for indoor/concert playing.
Jupiter Nickel Silver Plated Head; Plastic Body*
*Before the PROS/CONS I just need to disclose I went through FOUR (yes, 4!!!) of these in a month so here’s what happened: The September of the following school year – my first school year exclusively on marching piccolo – I took a trip to a SamAsh because it was “the” musical instrument distributor in my area. The night I took home my first one I was practicing and then went to remove the head joint… and off came the barrel (aka the part that attaches the body to the head). We went back the next day and got a replacement… and I tried it in store (cautious) and it happened again. I’m not here to say anything bad about SamAsh or Jupiter, but this was VERY frustrating 8 years ago (now it’s actually comedic). I don’t know why we kept on going back to this one model of piccolo, and for context this all took place in the month of September by October I had found the piccolo I still have today. On the 3rd and 4th piccolos, there were issues with the mechanism going out of alignment. Anyway so:
Decent price (just speaking on my own experience I can’t say much more than that)
FRAGILE – better suited for indoor/concert rather than outdoor/marching
Quality assurance – in my own experience from 2013
Gemeinhardt 4SP; Plastic Head and Body
WINNER, WINNER. This is the piccolo I still own today, of course I have played professional piccolos, but in my own experience this piccolo plays well enough that I can not justify the price gap from this to a higher quality one.
And also considering that when you upgrade to a professional instrument you also have to pay for professional REPAIRS!!!! That is the biggest reason I keep this piccolo, it saves literally hundreds of dollars to play on this piccolo (especially considering piccolos go out of alignment much easier than flutes).
Durable; can manage both indoor and outdoor playing
The plastic helps reduce the shrillness in the tone, more suitable for playing indoors than metal student piccolos
Stable tuning/intonation – 8 years on the piccolo – and even after playing professional piccolos I find that I can navigate tuning on this instrument with no issues.
Not available anymore – the current comparable model would be the 4P
Bonus: Piccolos I Played In College
Haynes – Grenadilla Wood
This was a school instrument that I shared and borrowed within my studio, mainly because there was a stigma on student piccolos versus professional.
The wood made the tone significantly less shrill.
Durability – for all wooden instruments, being mindful of the temperature and not cracking the wood.
Scale, tuning – this particular piccolo just didn’t feel right under my fingers for the few years I played it; and intonation was always a struggle between registers.
Basically designed to be a “small flute” – has RH pinky keys, extending the lower register of the piccolo.
I don’t have any PROS/CONS for this still I tried it at a convention, but it was mind-blowing and I am still mildly interested in owning one for the novelty of a piccolo actually being designed to be a “small flute”.
What piccolos have you played? Thoughts on student versus professional models? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
HAPPY NEW YEAR! I thought I would start off with the first post of 2021 being an instrument comparison since this [in a non-pandemic world] is the time region band meets again, at least in NJ. I have found that non-flutists rarely think of the flute and piccolo as different instruments. Of course, the other woodwind instruments have doubles (ie bassoon v. contra, all the saxophones, Bb clarinet v. bass v. alto…why are there so many clarinets). However, I have found in my own experiences that the doubling from flute to piccolo is expected to be this easily transferable skill when for many it is not.
Have some sympathy for your brand new piccolo players, and let’s get into what you need to know to help them transition easier from flute to piccolo:
What’s the same? What’s different?
At a glance, the piccolo may just be a “small flute” in fact some scores DO list the piccolo as such; one example being Grainger’s Shepard’s Hey (not exactly sure on the edition, but when I was handed the part I had a good laugh). This “small flute” label is misleading because the way you get a sound on the piccolo is VERY different than flute, and rather than giving piccolo to your first or second chair you should assess who may be best suited to play piccolo.
YES the fingerings are generally the same. However it is important to note that some flute fingerings DO NOT work (intonation wise, coordination wise) on the piccolo.
Good flute players are NOT always good piccolo players, this applies to both in high school and college. Just because a student is responsible and organized does not mean this is always a good fit for them!
The embouchure is a vital difference between the flute and piccolo. Of course, this needs to be generalized because embouchures vary greatly (even on flute alone) because of the differences of people’s mouth cavities, lips, and physical capabilities/limitations. For this generalization I will be referring to Nancy Toff’s “The Flute Book”:
YES the body needs to be relaxed, with minimal obstructions that will impact the air stream.
YES both the flute and piccolo should rest on the chin (that space right underneath the bottom lip) rather than ON the bottom lip itself. (Offset embouchures are okay on both instruments, if your primary instrument isn’t flute DON’T meddle too much with this let their flute instructor handle it).
Here’s where the similarities end. The lip formation/apperture as Toff discusses varies just on flute ALONE, add piccolo into the mix and things get confusing (especially for non flutists):
The flute has 3 general registers, each where the lip formation adjusts slightly to accommodate. One GREAT exercise that is rarely used for flute players in public schools is harmonics. While your brass players are doing their fundamentals let the flute players join in. Why? Because discovering the ratio of the top/bottom lips, apperture size, hole coverage is all highlighted when the students can only change the pitch that way (not changing their fingers at all).
The low register (B3/C4-B4): This is the most relaxed, the jaw is slightly lower (more space in the mouth cavity), the bottom lip needs to be wide (touching the lip plate) rather than turned up, to maximize tone quality.
The middle register (C5-B5): A more neutral set up, typically the upper lip is just slightly in front of the lower lip (think of the air hitting the lower lip and going down into the flute), the corners of the lips are still turned down; the space in the mouth is slightly less than before this can be achieved by a neutral jaw or widening the tongue.
The high register (C6-beyond): Rarely would you tell a student to pinch, or squeeze the sound; however things are getting smaller for this top register. The space between the top and bottom lips is the smallest – the lips are still able to let the air pass through, the cheeks are still relaxed, and the corners of the lips are still turned down; the space in the mouth is less which can be done by lifting/widening the tongue which also requires speeding up the air (like blowing out a candle rather than filling up a balloon).
The piccolo is a transposing instrument, it reads the same as flute, but sounds an octave higher. One MAJOR MISCONCEPTION that beginning piccolo players make is taking the embouchure from the middle and high registers on flute and applying it to piccolo. NO NO NO!
Beware, just because the sounding pitch is in that range as flute does not mean the embouchure stays the same. This is precisely why flute to piccolo is this ‘hidden challenge’ in comparison to the other woodwinds because with something actually inside the mouth – reed, mouth piece – the main challenge is size. However switching from flute to piccolo requires a completely NEW embouchure!
Generally, the most common mistakes new piccolo players make is squeezing or forming a too tight embouchure because they are trying to match the mid/higher embouchure from the flute. It is actually the OPPOSITE, maintaining a loose embouchure where the lips can still vibrate, and the cheeks are relaxed is ideal.
Obviously the piccolo is smaller and requires different air than the wider, longer bore of the flute. Also the materials are completely different (especially at the more advanced level).
While flutes are made of metals, piccolos are made of plastic/resin, wood, a combination of these. Piccolo players have to adjust to all of these factors. To summarize:
Piccolo size is much shorter and thinner than the flute.
Piccolo material varies much more than flute.
Piccolo range – transposes up an octave.
Piccolo embouchure – despite it’s range the lips and apperture are NOT the same as flute. Stay relaxed, loose on piccolo.
Intonation on certain fingerings from flute do NOT work on piccolo.
I have compiled some resources that can be useful for these students transitioning on flute to piccolo: