The eager high school musician, accepted into music school, may want to come into university with a new instrument that is up to the standard they feel is necessary for this transition in their life/career. Here are some considerations for these students and their family to ponder before diving in blind.

New Teacher

Most students will not have the same primary instrument teacher from high school to college. There are A LOT of changes that takes place within the first year of being a music major: embouchure changes, posture changes, sound production, reviewing basics and establishing a strong foundation for the next 4+ years…

All that being said BEWARE buying a flute before consulting this new teacher. Equipment is important, but it is not everything, if you have an instrument that is reliable and consistent then hold off on the expense until university. If you need to upgrade, consult with this new teacher and maintain good communication. Trial instruments, get feedback, and ask questions (it’s okay to not know everything there is to know about flute manufacturing and your teacher will have had an array experience in this area).

Changes and control

Similar to the last point, change is inevitable – especially if you plan to improve. Most student flutes require less work to manipulate factors like tone, focus, and color; many flutes with higher specs require work to really master control of these elements (albeit the sound is often better balanced and blended) which is another factor to consider. As a music major the technical demand will increase, and the decision to get a new instrument at the same time there is more of a demand to be musical may be a road block.

The Importance Of Trials

If you have the opportunity to trial flutes rather than just do a quick test in a store take it. You can get more opinions on instruments and better weigh your options when you have more time to spend with the instruments and learn how they work over a several days.

Just Another Flutist, Joanna, is a partner with the Flute Center of NY and has a concise video on setting up trials and how to structure them to get the most out of the experience:

There are a lot of options and things to consider when making a flute upgrade:

  • Budget
  • New or Preowned
  • Inline or offset G
  • Open or close holed
  • Brand
  • Material
    • Silver… what kind: coin, sterling?
    • Gold, karats?
    • Mixed – interior walls, plated, riser, etc.
    • Platinum
    • Combo?
  • Specs/Additional features
    • C or B foot
    • Split E
    • Foot joint roller keys
    • C# trill
    • Gizmo key
    • Thickness of wall
  • Having a repair tech in house or having a trusted one to go to after purchase

Do you have any advice for soon to be music majors? When did you upgrade and what do you think is important to know about the process?

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:

IV. Allegro con brio (♩=112)

This is the final movement of the sonata, and comparatively has much more diverse and virtuosic material. The general form is a rondo (which can be more specifically narrowed down to Sonata Rondo form) which I’ll break down more in depth later. The main characteristic of a rondo is the repetition and recycling of the ‘A’ material. Generally speaking, a rondo in its most simple layout can be reduced to ABACA. The development of the ‘A’ section is up to the composer and in this case Prokofiev demands more virtuosity from the performer with each recap of the ‘A’ section.

Let’s compare what sonata rondo form looks like (generally) as well as how Prokofiev adapts this form in the fourth movement:

The top is the model for sonata rondo form; and the bottom is how Prokofiev adapts it – purple = key, dark grey = section, green – cadence, light grey – connection to sonata form

The key difference between these two models if Prokofiev’s repetition of the A and B before the C section is stated. However, remember that in Sonata form the Exposition can be repeated; sometimes you may see this when the length of the exposition is shorter than the combined development and recapitulation. I regard Prokofiev’s decision to include the A’ and B’ sections before the ‘development’ or C was used to this effect especially considering the slowness/major character shift that makes the C section feel much longer than the lively allegro ‘A’ section we hear interspersed throughout the fourth movement.

To make sense of what we are seeing in the diagrams let’s break down what defines each section – in particular look at the model for Prokofiev’s adaptation in dark grey we see one of the links to sonata form is the use of sections with the A and B parts: primary (1) theme, transitional theme, secondary (2) theme, and closing theme.

‘Exposition’ – A: primary and transitional themes

The first theme spans m. 1-16 and is in DM (both the first movement and fourth movement are centered around the same tonic, D). It is characterized by a pickup of four 32nd notes that has an upbeat, lively rhythm such as the arpeggiated 16th note triplets – as well as the other 16th triplet figures – eighths and embellishments (such as the one 16th two 32nds and the dotted eighth sixteenth).

While the opening is in DM, 6 measures in the theme is transposed down a whole step into C – however, Prokofiev quickly takes a detour in m. 8 (the 3rd bar of the transposition) which takes us to this G#-G-G# 16th triplet figure. He does so route us back to D Major; in m. 9 we are still in C, but by oscillating between G-G# he is able to fill in the Major 2nd (a whole step) back to D as he finally does in m. 12 on beat 3. He gives as an exact copy of the opening theme to springboard us into the transitional theme.

The transitional theme spans m. 17-29, still in DM and ends with a HC – AM (V). This theme presents a new rhythm with the driving 16th notes especially in the ta di-mi rhythm on a low D4 which appears first in m. 17 and then again in m. 21.

We also see a return of the 16th triplets.

And we see ambiguity to the tonal center. In m. 25 Prokofiev begins his DbM arpeggios on sixteenth notes, by m. 27 we have some dm arpeggios, and then a sequence of descending Major and minor 3rds which end with the half cadence on A.

‘Exposition’ – B: secondary and closing themes

The secondary theme spans m. 35-39 and is in AM (with some tonicizing of the new dominant E). This theme is completely new material the syncopated rhythm (SLS) with large intervals and arpeggiated grace notes.

The closing theme is a bit of a misnomer since similar to the primary theme it does a recap that is reminiscent of ternary form. This theme spans m. 40-53 and starts in f#m (the relative minor to A) and ends in AM. There are steady eighth notes with four 16th notes that pickup into the next phrase group.

We can establish the f# more solidly when we consult the piano score:

Repetition of the Exposition – A’ and B’

Prokofiev made the choice to extend the ‘exposition’ of this sonata rondo form with truncated versions of the primary theme, transitional theme, and secondary/closing theme.

What is absent from A’? The D Major 16th triplet arpeggio in m. 60 into 61 is in a bar of 2/4 (NOT 4/4) and does not take us into C as the opening did. We are taken directly to the transitional material sans the grace not flourishing, this version goes straight into the 16th triplets, DbM arpeggios, and descending 3rds.

And what about B’? There is just one subtle difference in the flute material which is the final sixteenth of m. 71 being changed to a G-natural (originally a G3) as the flute transitions down to F rather than up to A.

The transition into the development is set up by the piano’s eighths that establish the new key – originally the piano is giving us downbeat Fs in the left hand before leaning into the instability with first inversions (A-C-F) with A being the lowest note in both hands.

‘Development’ – C

The material being ‘developed’ is very clearly the material from the B theme – characterized by the steady eighths and the group of 4 pickups – Prokofiev uses various techniques to make the theme more robust/complex such as varying rhythms, new tonal areas, and adding piano interjections.

There can be many arguments made for what Prokofiev is tonicizing/modulating in this development however there are pillars that I think are solid (and would generally be recognized) these are as follows:

  • F – m. 87
  • Ab – m.107
  • F# – m. 116

In the diagram at the top of the post, I gave some further tonal areas that I believe Prokofiev plays around with:

  • F – m. 72-86
  • (C) as the dominant of F there are short motives interspersed throughout the C section
    • m. 87-89
  • g which is the dominant of c, with a lowered 3rd… however this could be argued to be an extension of the C/dominant
    • m. 90-91
  • A – a whole step up from g, as well as, the 3rd of F
    • m. 92-94 – plus the pedal C is used to modulate into other tonal areas with that common note
  • (C) again m. 95-97
  • And a combo of both C and G (the dominant and secondary dominant)
    • m. 104-106
  • Ab – m. 107-110
  • Db – the predominant which is leading us up to when Prokofiev changes the key to reflect D (however he is using it in it’s parallel minor b)
    • m. 111-112
  • F# (mostly likely being used a dominant within bm to end in a HC before the recapitulation)
    • From key change to bm, F# is already being established as the dominant m. 113-121

‘Recapitulation’ – A” B” A”’

When A” is restated there is a demand for more virtuosity – the sections of the primary theme are transposed up an octave. Likewise parts of the transitional theme are transposed down an octave. Rather than ending solidly there is a slow quarter note ascension to the secondary theme in the tonic (D Major). A” spans m. 120-143.

As per sonata form, the recapitulation is solidly in the tonic/home key (both A and B sections, whereas in the exposition the B section is a new tonal area). That being said, B” presents the secondary/closing theme in D major – transposed up a m6. Prokofiev also switches up the order that he presents this material: rather than starting with the syncopations and grace note arpeggios, he starts with the steady eighths and pickup four 16ths and THEN goes to the syncopation and arpeggiated graces in DM. B” spans m. 145-160.

The final statement of A”’ begins in m. 161; has a fake out opening that like A” is partially transposed up the octave before repeating and moving into completely new material that is mainly flashy flourishes to demonstarte ultimate virtuosity.

What do you think of this final movement? And what do you think of the Sonata as a whole? Let me know in the comments!

Last year and this year are very different from previous ones, however, the world is still spinning and many people who want to Major in Music are receiving their acceptance letters into universities. What does being a music major look like? What is that first year going to entail?

Gen Eds

As per usual this will be US-centric and a huge part of American universities is fulfilling general education requirements for your university. AP classes help – somewhat – in getting you out of these classes. You can roughly expect a few literature/writing courses, math, psychology (especially if you are doing an education degree), and general science.

You want to get these out of the way if you want to immerse yourself in the school music fully and not have to travel to unfamiliar parts of campus during the semester.

You can make use of summer and winter courses to knock a few of these out if you find your schedule too full.

Too Many Classes, Barely Any Credits

Welcome to the school of music where the majority of your classes will be worth 1 credit or less. That 3 hour ensemble rehearsal you are expected to attend each week? Yup, that is only worth 0.5 credits.

While your friends in other disciplines will be complaining about how busy they are with 4-5 classes per semester you will be juggling anywhere from 10-12 (maybe more) for only 18-20 odd credits.

Your schedule will be PACKED with block classes.

Plan out times during the day to make sure you are hitting 3 meals a day. NO SNACKS DO NOT COUNT. You want to make sure you aren’t going a full 10 hours of class without a single full meal. Eat breakfast, it’s good for you! Especially before a dictation exam.

Aural Skills – Ear Training

This is where rubber meets the road. If you don’t have perfect pitch don’t sweat it, and don’t let other people get in your head about it. Last month I did a post on my tips to improve in ear training.

The several semester you take aural skills may be stressful, but you will come out the other side a much better musician. Transferring the active listening to your own instrument helps tremendously.

Often times your university will have sympathetic professors that can help you if you are struggling to maintain a passing grade – don’t be to hard on yourself if this is the subject area where you are averaging a C.

Piano Skills

If you are not one of the ‘lucky’ ones to have grown up taking piano lessons or just have a knack for the keyboard you are not alone.

Even if you feel like you should be practicing your own instrument, why do you have to learn piano anyway??? Just remember that, again, this is a transferable skill. When you’re practicing you can play your own part or a reduction of the piano’s part to make this skill useful to your own musicianship.


You’re a music major why do you have to write?

You will find that mainly in your first year – and somewhat beyond that – you will be writing A LOT. Learning how to navigate the library, do different citation formats (MLA, Chicago, APA), persuade/argue a point, support your ideas, and peer review. These skills – although not directly related to music – come with the job. Whether you are an educator or performer – writing grants, program notes, etc. you want to be able to write intelligently.

Time to actually play music?!

If your first year you will be expected to transform your playing to set the foundation for the rest of your degree. However, you may find that you just don’t have as much time as you thought you would to practice.

Practice plans. Scheduling. Journaling.

Those are several things that are essential for first year music students if they want to manage gen eds, music classes, secondary instruments, hw, and everything else on top of their primary instrument.

Know what you need to practice that week and prioritize – what are you doing for your lesson week by week, is there a masterclass or performance you need to be prepared for.

Block out your practice time, don’t just wing it and hope that there will be time. Sometimes you have free time, but no practice rooms are open. Sometimes your schedule is so packed you’d be lucky to get in half an hour of practice time. Don’t feel pressured to practice every day, but do try to practice more days than you don’t in a week.

Journaling is something that takes time to develop. What are you practicing? Why? What are you working to improve? What do you like? What strategies are you using to fix the things you don’t like?

This year is presenting new challenges for first year students such as struggling to fit into the music school community and form those relationships they would otherwise have. What insight do you have for new music majors?

An earlier post I wrote discussed storing flutes year round – like all woodwinds flutes are quiet sensitive to temperature changes. Once the flutes are out of your hands and into the students you have little control of whether or not these instruments get stored in sweltering/freezing vehicles or garages. The best you can do is inform the students that is part of the reason I like loaner instrument contracts because at the very least the student’s can’t feign ignorance for fairly common issues that can do some serious damage.

The Basics

In my template cleaning contract I cover some of the more common ways flutes can get damaged. There are two common fatalities that can make a flute unplayable (1) denting or tubing damage and (2) dilapidated pads.

  • Running with the instrument
  • Leaving it unattended (no matter how long)
  • Unstable surfaces
  • Treating the instrument like a toy, baton, play equipment
  • Sharing it (especially now with a pandemic)
  • Playing after eating without brushing teeth/washing out their mouth
  • Not cleaning after playing – allowing moisture to sit inside the flute

Most of these are common sense, let’s approach each situation hypothetically…

Pre-pandemic times, you may have a group lesson of fifth grade flute players. Someone forgot to come to lessons, and is running to get there fashionably late. As they are running down the hall their flute case unlatches and the contents spill out into the hall. What happens next?

Stop and assess the damage. Sometimes students have dumb luck resulting in no major damage, and other times it is a blood bath. This is a great opportunity to review why no one should be running with their instrument (even when the flute is in it’s case – especially the student latch cases) and that absolute fear that they may have damaged school property may be enough to cement that lesson and prevent it from happening again in subsequent weeks.

Music stands, they hold music so well who’s not to say they can’t hold flutes just as well? Until… someone needs to squeeze by in a hurry and the stand flips over causing the flute to fall down. What happens next?

Music stands do not equal flute stands. Band directors are just as guilty as flute students for this DO NOT MODEL THIS BEHAVIOR. Again, you’ll need to access the damage, and if possible avoid those double tray music stands which only encourage budding flute players to rest not only their flutes, but their piccolos on the spare tray.

You have a fantastic freshman flutist, they are always in the band room – practicing after lunch, in all sorts of ensembles during school, and in after school rehearsals. One day a bunch of notes on their flute stop working or it takes a lot of effort to get the sound out, why?

There are two things that need to be address here. Is the student cleaning out their flute after every use? Is the student playing with a clean mouth? One or the combination of both of these will cause leaks and subsequent tears in the pads that make the sound muffled, delayed or inaudible. Students who play a lot need to stay on top of this since the flute is a lot like a car the closer you get to those 3000 miles it’ll need service.

Preventative Measures

Discussions are the best way to help prevent expensive repairs. Here is a studio basics on flute care PDF.

In this document I address common questions:

  • What should be cleaned and how often?
  • What do we need [to clean the flute]?
  • Good websites or references [for cleaning tips and supplies]?
  • In-person vendors? *LOCATION SPECIFIC, ask your local flutists*
  • Repairs when (how much time between services)? How to know what type of repair to ask for?

This is much better suited for more serious flute players, middle school and high school students who are taking on more personal responsibilities than beginning flute players at the elementary level. Patience is they key with the younger students; and keeping an open line of communication with the parents to make sure they know what the expectations are rather than relying on the student to relay that knowledge to their parents.

Do you have any flute damage horror stories? What did you do? And how do you prevent damages going forward? Let me know in the comments.