The week this post will be live is also the same week I will be performing Frank Martin’s Ballade for my final Masters’ recital. Given the priority of recording – over live rehearsals – I have been able to be much more detail focused on this piece than I could have ever been in ‘normal’ times. This is not an easy piece by an means; if you are not familiar with the work allow me to break down the sections and shed some insight on what I’ve learned over the past few months.


Let’s start with the composer: Frank Martin. He is a Swiss composer who lived from 1890-1974 and he studied piano and composition with J. Lauber. Early on he was influenced by French composers – in the early 20th century, the distinct impressionist style of French music such as by Faure. Around the 1930s he also studied with Arnold Schoenberg; the culminating of these contrasting composing styles finally came together in the late 1930s. Gerhard Braun’s notes in the Universal score put it best, “these compositions blend twelve-tone technique and functional harmony, frequent use of ostinato and pedal point, the incorporation of perfect major and minor triads and exploitation of the melodic and harmonic tensions generated by the leading note and the tonic.”

Frank Martin’s Ballade was originally written for flute and piano when composed in 1939; it was composed to be premiered at the Geneva International Music Competition of that same year. Several years later, in 1941, the Ballade was adapted for flute and orchestra.

Before getting into the piece, and honorable mention is Paula Robison’s Masterclass: Frank Martin Ballade pour flute et piano. This book – as the title would suggest – workshops the Ballade and is a great resource for anyone who either loves to listen to the piece or intends on performing it. I won’t recap much of what she says within my own analysis because I think Robison writes so concisely; however, the use of medieval poetry (speech patterns) is something worth looking into when studying the Ballade.


The first question is: how do we section the Ballade? Generally the tempo markings indicate a change in texture, timbre, or color; the ones that I regard as significant are as follows:

  • Allegro ben moderato (the opening-m.43)
  • Vivace (m. 44-94) / Half = Dotted Half (m. 95-153)
  • Cadenza (m. 154-193)
  • Lento (m. 194-199) / Con moto (m. 200-272)
  • Presto (m. 273-282) / Molto vivace (m. 283-323)
  • Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

What interesting is that when broken up into 6 sections of similar lengths the form resembles in a warped mirror.

Like an: A B C-C B’ A’

The material from the Allegro ben moderato returns at the very end in the Meno mosso – slightly distorted; the material in the Molto Vivace comes BEFORE the Meno mosso with a varied version of the original Vivace motives. The Cadenza and the Lento / Con moto sections act as the mirror or the axis for the larger A and B themes to reflect.

A: Allegro ben moderato (m. 1-43)

The work opens with the conversational eighth note motive. There is no real tonal center – a la Schoenberg – however, this is NOT a tone row either… so what is it? There are three 2 bar sets within the opening: (1) G A Bb F#; (2) F# E# G# A (3) B# B A# Gx. The only discernible pattern is that each time there is a move upward by a half step such as from G to G# to Gx.

The cyclic eighth notes are broken by a register change – which is another trademark of the piece. And you will notice that following that break that the beaming changes from 6 to two groups of 3. Where Martin is setting up the 2 v 3 (and 3 v 2) between the flute and piano early on. In measure 11, there is a ‘new’ beginning on new pitches, however, this does not proceed the same way we heard it the first time because another set of two groups of 3 interrupt the motive and propel the flute line into a syncopated, extreme interval idea.

One more time we get a ‘new’ beginning, this time a half step higher than the last (m. 11) and now the roles are reverse where the flute is playing the 2 while the piano has 3.

We get more intervals mixed in with short 2 bar snippets of the transposed opening motive before our first set of sixteenth notes ascends to the climax of the opening which falls down with syncopations into the Piu Tranquillo. The piano is back to playing 2s (more of a 6/8) while the flute is playing in 3/4 on a single note that is syncopated, maintaining that conversational element from the very opening of the section.

B: Vivace / Half = Dotted Half (m. 44-153)

This next section is interesting, mostly because of the Half = Dotted Half section which is simultaneously stable and unstable. At first glance it may seem odd to roll that section into B however it juxtaposes the section to create this contrast to the high energy; the calmness/song-like line of the Half = Dotted Half is like a delayed echo to the abundance of material the Vivace throws at us. This echo is reinforced too, by m. 147-148, which is a transposed version of the Vivace‘s m. 62-63.

Both the tempo and rhythm contrast the opening A section. The tempo increase is initiated by the piano and then the flute spring boards with new (small unit) rhythms. Compared to the A section which heavily used eighth notes, the B section as sixteenths and an abundance of triplet figures.

The Half = Dotted Half section may seem calm (notated ‘dolce cantabile’) compared to the first half of the B section; however the 2 over 3 (flute in 2/4 and piano in 3/4) is just a small sample of Martin playing with polyrhythms.

And the B section ends with a return to the primary material – the eighths [rest] sixteenth figure – that leaps to the high E6.

Cadenza (m. 154-193)

The cadenza restates the resonant E octave leap that ended the B section. A similar style reminiscent of the A section is recycled in the initial ‘moderato’ – this time playing with the interval of a half step reinforced as a sort of palindrome (reinforcing the mirror analogy).

This introduction intensifies and then suddenly steps back at the second ‘moderato’ with a contrasting piano dynamic a tritone lower than the opening E6. This new section is a sort of ‘haze’ or smoke and mirrors – at least in a tonal sense – as Martin reinforces the pedal Ab as well as (one half step down) G while altering the subsequent pitches. The pitches held on fermatas may indicate some type of stabilizing the tonal center, however, it is an illusion – as Martin does not feature one area for too long. One of these illusions is the recurring A – C – F:

As you can see from the score, this instances are fleeting.

C: Lento / Con moto (m. 194-272)

If you thought Martin may finally resolve to F… you’d be close, he choses to start the Lento on F#… but then of course if you refer to the piano score he writes a G# (a M2) to shatter any tonal security.

This is all new material both the Lento and Con moto contrast everything from the A and B sections by providing a moment of stasis in the music; and this works – or at least is able to hold interest – because of the diverse array of pitches he is using in the flute and piano lines. And corresponding, once the tonal center is more stable, Martin returns (briefly) to the A material where he expands the eighth note patterns in several ways (1) articulation patterns (2) intervals and (3) rests/syncopations.

This section ends with lively triplets (used in a different way than they have been in the B section) as they are constant, in a chromatic pattern rolling upwards to a high C7 on the downbeat of the Presto.

B’: Presto / Molto Vivace (m. 273-323)

The piano responds to the high energy, before scaling back and bringing us around to the reflection of the mirror B’ or the Molto vivace.

The first difference is the flute entrance in m. 287-290 on the tied notes and with the graces. Then, Martin alters the articulation pattern for the triplets and abridges the pattern so that the climax arrives at the peak of the energy of the triplet section.

And this climax is amazingly simple – just B Bb and A – in different rhythms.

A’: Meno mosso / Presto (m. 324-358)

Finally, the B Bb A resolves to a G# continuing the downward half step trajectory; and after a brief sequence, the introductory theme comes back in a new ‘key’ with the transformative elements from the C section of articulation and intervals. In the ‘animando’ Martin blends the triplets from the B section into the texture continuing to play with intervals. Again, we see the tritone – Ab to D this time.


What do you think of the Ballade? My recital will have a live premiere on Sunday April 18th at 5PM – feel free to stop in to hear the Ballade which is on the first half of the program!

Let’s talk about doubling!

As an undergraduate student there was a time that I was playing bassoon and brass (trumpet and trombone) all in one semester… how do you maintain a solid flute embouchure going back and forth?


General Observations and Thoughts

You may have heard this before, but the flute is very similar to singing. When you break it down – the mouth shape (or vowel), tongue position, resonator or power source (diaphragm; chest; throat; head), etc.

Having knowledge of what you are doing to achieve an ideal sound on not just the flute, but all your other instruments will enable you to switch between them with more ease.

I always found that I learned so much more about my flute playing by playing other instruments. The idea of doing the extreme opposite really reinforced specific flute concepts for me – for example, the low, tall embouchure required to play bassoon compared to the higher jaw and tongue position needed for flute.


Strings, Percussion and Keyboard

Given the non-windness™️ of these instruments there is not really any challenge transition between these two instrument families to the flute.

The benefit of these instruments – in my own experience – has been the visual conception of range and intervals. If we are being honest FLUTE FINGERINGS MAKE VERY LITTLE SENSE… when playing a stringed or fretted instrument or a keyboard the distance between larger intervals is a tangible thing.

Brass

Doubling on another wind instrument can be extremely fatiguing – this is true for woodwinds as well. The brass instruments produce sound in a more direct way than the flute, however, the mouthpieces do provide some resistance that you would not otherwise have when playing flute (especially HORN). The larger brass instruments (trombone, euphonium and tuba) – in my experience – would allow me to be much more flexible with my air.

Another note on fatigue is your lips after buzzing – especially if you don’t have the endurance to sustain it for long periods – will impact the balance between your top and bottom lip when playing flute. It can create tightness or the upwards lift of the corners of your embouchure when playing flute which you will need to actively keep an eye on.

One major pro that I experienced when doubling on brass was the resonance. My air flow was so much more open and connected between low-middle and high as a result of the buzzing. However, you can create the same effect by doing lip trills from singing.

Woodwinds: Single Reed

Out of all of the doubling pairs I found clarinet and saxophone to be the most difficult when trying to go back to flute. I believe this is for several reasons (1) the resistance on the single reed instruments is SIGNIFICANTLY more than the flute and (2) thus requires a different embouchure, tongue position, etc.

I can’t speak for the lower instruments – bass clarinet or bari saxophone – but definitely the Bb Clarinet and Alto/Tenor Saxophones are not so similar to flute… but also not contrasting.

Woodwinds: Double Reed

What is contrasting is bassoon, and even oboe to an extent.

The double reeds are more similar to flute than the single reeds; I find this mainly because both the top and bottom part of the lip are touching the reed are the air is being sent directly into the instrument. Yes, there is more resistance than playing the flute, but less resistance than the single reeds.

For bassoon – as mentioned – the embouchure is almost the exact opposite to the flute which (for some people) can make it easy to transition between the two because it’s such a stark contrast. The register difference also helps with your mind compartmentalizing the instruments.

For oboe, I’ve found pretty much the same in regards to set up. However, I find the roadblock with oboe is more so the technical end. Both the flute and the oboe are high maintenance instruments – the the oboe is EXTRA maintenance, which for me has always been a duality of either flute OR oboe, but trying to care and maintain both requires someone with a lot of money and patience.


Do you have experience doubling? How do you manage transitioning between instruments – let me know in the comments below!

Have you ever thought of why the flute is included in the woodwind family? Of course, there is a history of flutes made partially with wood. The real answer though is much more interesting: the woodwind family is actually classed by the way sound is produced an excerpt from WWBW “the way they produce their sound which is by splitting the player’s air stream on a sharp edge, such as a reed”. When looking at flute specs – especially for younger students – often you are dealing with a cheaper silver – usually nickel. Here is a comprehensive list of both flute specs and flutes for students:

SPECS

There are so many variables with it comes to manufacturing a flute, this is no way a fully complete list (since there are a vast amount of custom variables), I have divided these specs into 6 common
categories:

Choices

New v.

C foot v.

Open holed v.

Inline G key v.

Preowned

B foot

Close holed

Offset G key

Extra Keys/Attachments
  • Gizmo key (foot)
  • Bb side key (body)
  • C# trill (body)
  • Split E (body)
  • C# roller (foot)
  • D# roller (foot)
  • Brossa F# (body)
Materials/Metals
  • Nickel silver – sometimes with silver plating on the exterior
  • Coin silver OR Sterling silver
  • Gold – How many karats?
  • Wood (uncommon)
  • Combination of metals
    • ie. a sterling silver body with gold keys; OR a coin silver body with gold interior wall.
Risers

The riser is part of the embouchure hole and can be any metal (ie. silver, gold).

Wall

Standard v.

Heavy

The wall thickness can impact the color of the tone (and the weight of the instrument).

Also as mentioned, the inner wall of the flute can be made of a different metal than the outer
wall.

Tubing

The thickness of the tube is important because flute players will often upgrade their headjoint
(since it is less expensive than buying a whole flute) and the diameter of the tubing MUST
match the body of the flute.


FLUTES – General Names to be aware of

Beginning Brands (can also be used for outdoor playing/marching band)
  • Yamaha
  • Gemeinhardt
  • Selmer
  • Jupiter
Intermediate Brands
  • Trevor James
  • Yamaha
  • Pearl
  • Jupiter
Conservatory Brands (get through Undergrad)
  • Muramatsu
  • Yamaha
  • Azumi (by Altus)
  • Powell Sonare
  • Amadeus (by Haynes)
  • Di Zhao
  • Miyazawa

More specific – general specs and pricing

Beginner (Grades 4-6)

Close holed

~$300-500

  • Selmer – FL711 Prelude
  • Gemeinhardt – 2SP
Intermediate (Grades 6-12)

Close holed

~$600-1200

  • Pearl – PF 500
  • Yamaha – YFL 222

Open holed

~$800-1700

  • Pearl – PF 505 RBE
  • Yamaha – YFL 262
Conservatory (Grade 10 upwards)

Open holed

~$1800-4500

  • Yamaha – YFL 577(H)
  • Powell Sonare – PS 601
  • Muramatsu – EX
  • Azumi – AZ series (1, 2, or 3)
  • Trevor James – Cantabile OR Virtuoso Voce

What are your favorite student flutes and specs? Let me know in the comments below!

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.

Essays…

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.

Whether you’re a parent searching for a student flute, upgrading to a new flute, pursuing high education, looking for a backup flute or just want to make a nice lamp, how do you really find a quality instrument? Look at the bottom of the post for curved flutes for young flutists!


GoogleSlides link


Curved Flutes

Start at 1:18 for Curved Flutes

In the video, Gina shows off both the wave flute and the curved flute as well as provides specific models from the Flute Center of NY for young flute families to look into.

Small flutists will want to play an instrument that allows them to:

  • Keep their arms closer to their body – prevent injury, tension and promote good posture
  • Support the weight of the flute (again easier to balance when closer to the body)

Like a regular flute it is ILL-ADVISED to shop on Amazon for any flute. Even if you are purchasing one for a young child, you risk loosing money if the instrument is damaged and needs repair. Whereas rented or purchased (new or preowned) flutes from a reputable seller will have warranties and Amazon’s variety of flutes is a much lower quality – and repair technicians can not work with the vast majority of them because of this fault (meaning you would have to buy another flute from Amazon OR buy from a reputable vendor).

Here are some vendors that carry curved flutes:


How did you find your current flute?

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:

III. Andante (♩=50)

This movement is significantly shorter than the other movements in this work, it is just under 4 minutes in long while the other movements average 6 minutes. The organization of this movement is less clear than the preceding movements. Similar to movements I and II this movement has a general ternary (ABA’) form. For context, movement 1 is in Sonata form and movement 2 is in ternary form – both can be fit under the umbrella of “ternary” form where an idea is presented, contrasted, and then reappears with some variations. In this post I’ll be arguing that the 3rd movement more closely resembles Sonata form; senza any repeats.


Patterns: There are two large motives within the 3rd movement – the lyrical eighth notes (A) and the restless triplet sixteenths (B).

Ambiguity: A running theme throughout this analysis will be the speculation of the new tonal areas. It is given that the “home key” is F Major this is reinforced by the pedal Fs in the piano during the first theme, however, the introduction of the first F# in m. 8. is where the tonal structure becomes less stable. I will be providing both the context of the flute and piano scores to assert my speculated tonal areas outside of the home key.

To review Sonata form there must be an exposition (including first theme in the home key and a secondary theme which begins to explore a new tonal area); a development is in that new key and starts out relatively stable followed by different techniques such as sequences or fragmenting to ‘develop’ the a new idea; the recapitulation begins and ends in the home key for both the first and secondary themes.


Exposition

The exposition of the third movement lasts from m. 1-33. The first theme is stated with the flute entering before the piano on three eighths in an inverted triad (in this case G-C-E) which moves to a down beat F. The beat hierarchy (in this case the meter is 2/4 making 1 the emphasized beat and the rest less weighted) is of note because Prokofiev places the already unstable inversion of the dominant triad (CM) and resolves to the tonic (F) on the downbeat to begin the process of tonicizing F Major. Throughout the first 7 measures the note F is sustained between the flute and piano parts – the flute holding it through m. 2-3 while the piano oscillates between the 3rd and 5th (A-C); and then the piano dovetails that F in m.3-7 while the flute moves around the diatonic scale… until measure 8 when F# is introduced.

Context is important, remember Prokofiev was still living in and composing in the Soviet Union which was largely scrutinizing his output; and the relationship when it comes to modulations has ‘Classical’ rules that Prokofiev would have been expected to follow.

For example, it is common to see parallel M to m – for instance if we saw F Major modulate to 4 flats, f minor that could be a valid option. Or the Dominant, if F Major modulated to C Major.

What is unusual is to modulate a semitone (aka a half step) above the tonic. This may have been more acceptable within Romantic music, but remember context, the Socialist Realism within the Soviet Union was decades behind and the preference was for ‘Classical’ traditions NOT Romantic traditions from the latter half of the 19th century.

I find this modulation of particular interest for two reasons (1) it is that m2 interval from the home key (2) it is a tritone away from the dominant, which Prokofiev so strongly reinforced. Both are dissonant intervals, both suggesting a rebellious effort on Prokofiev’s part to explore tonalization whilst concealing it from government. When listening to the piece the transition from F Major to F# is skillfully blended, Prokofiev keeps the familiar intervallic patterns to instill nostalgia to the listener to deter them from looking closer at the slight adjustment in pitch.

Of course this is unusual for Sonata form – the key relation, changing within the first theme, is not expected especially when compared to the 1st movement of the Sonata. However the same can be said for the 2nd movement and ternary form, Prokofiev’s navigation of the keys is unusual on paper. I would identify this section m. 8-17 as the transitional theme between the first and second movements.

By m. 18-26 we are in the secondary theme; this is differentiated from the opening theme by the piano having the entrance before the flute, and take careful notice of which notes Prokofiev puts on the downbeats in m. 20-22 “C-E-G”… not F, which is the supposed home key. And by the closing theme m. 27-33, one could argue that Prokofiev is not ending with a half cadence in F, but a PAC in C Major. I argue the latter given the closer resemblance to Sonata form (which would need this transition away from the home key) as well as the underhanded ways Prokofiev reinforces a new key while burying it on paper with NCTs and accidentals galore.

The GREEN boxes represent the tonicizing of the dominant (CM); the BLUE boxes represent FM.

Development

The development takes up a significant portion of this movement lasting m. 34-73. The most obvious separation between A and B when looking at the movement on paper is Prokofiev’s use of rhythm. Nearly the entire development is triplet sixteenth notes.

Strengthening my assertion that the closing theme of the exposition ended in C Major, the development starts in C the pedal C’s in the piano m. 35-36 as well as 39-40; and using the 5th (G) to establish that tonic-dominant relationship.

By m. 43, Prokofiev begins to transition out of this new key into the 7th, another unusual choice, but given his previous modulation from F to F#, this new transition creates an odd tonal symmetry. Instead of going up another semitone, this time his goes DOWN from CM to b minor. As mentioned, this is not ‘Classical’ tradition and is a sneaky way to exploring tonality that Prokofiev blends in so the listener is none the wiser.

By measure 47 the new key of b minor is fully embraced – seen by the pedal B natural in the piano m. 47-50 as well as the inverted arpeggio echoing in the pick up to m. 48. Prokofiev employs the use of semitones again in m. 51 as he transitions away from b minor – notice how the LH of the piano moves from B-A# and F to F#; this is masked by the flute in m. 52 when Prokofiev gives the flute a B natural on the downbeat before the stark contrast in m. 53 when the flute’s A is played against a G and C in the piano, as Prokofiev returns to the CM idea explored at the beginning of the development.

For the most part the next bit (m. 53-63) is still in CM, with that semitone embellishment that Prokofiev has been entertaining throughout the movement. By m. 64-65 Prokofiev is playing with semitones in a sequential manner – he is highlighting them with the triplet sixteenth figure, the prolonged descending chromatic pattern, and the rest in the piano. These two measures are a sequence of first inversion arpeggios starting Db6 – C6 – Cb6 – Bb6- A6 – Ab6 – A6 – Bb6.

And then… key change, from one flat to six. Again this choice is somehow symmetrical. Recall the initial key of the development C Major, and how Prokofiev took his time alternating CM – G to emphasize the tonic-dominant relationship. And after a brief deviation, Prokofiev returned to the tonal area of C only to abruptly interject with the chromatic sequence. And now Gb is introduced, again a semitone lower than the dominant (G) of C Major. It is another calculated decision of Prokofiev’s part to mask his tonal exploration by delaying it by two measures.

And one could even argue that this section ends with a PAC in Gb, m. 73 where the G is presented in both flute and piano on the downbeat followed by the 5th (Db) in the piano LH.


Recapitulation

Somehow, despite all detours, Prokofiev has come full circle and beautifully manages to connect Gb to it’s enharmonic equivalent F#.

A brief transition m. 74-81, where the flute resembles the A section while the piano is wrapping up the B section, sets up for a PAC in F Major in measure 81.

The PURPLE box represents the A theme (transposed); the ORANGE box represents the B theme (also transposed)

What is interesting is that ever since the transition in m. 74 the piano LH never plays another ‘F#’ for the duration of the piece, pedaling an F m. 82-88 while the flute will occasional play F#s to recount the brief exploration of F# during the transitional theme in the exposition.

The piece ends with a PAC in F Major. From a subjective view, I must admit that it always feels odd transition from measures 82-91 to the last three measures. Something about the juxtaposition between the flute (bringing out the NCTs and F# in particular) while the piano’s LH is fairly stable during m. 82-91 and then m. 92-94 suddenly that hand switches to descending chromaticism.

The RED represents notes indicating F#/Gb; as Prokofiev explores more romantic chromaticism; The BLUE represents notes within the FM diatonic scale

What are your thoughts on the 3rd movement of Prokofiev’s op. 94?

As we enter the Spring 2021 semester many students are resuming their aural and theory courses. These classes can be taxing under neutral circumstances, but given the continued changing instruction modalities (remote, hybrid, etc) there are extra barriers and challenges that can make these courses even more anxiety-inducing.


Apps and Programs designed for Ear Training/Theory

  • MacGAMUT
    • An ear training (with a theory edition as well) software.
    • Randomized exercises – in short and long sections.
    • Customize simple, compound meters; certain elements such as rhythm and range.
    • Sections for particular ear training skills – step-by-step.
  • MusicTheory.net
    • A great entry level tool. As a visual (theory) and ear training tool for notes, intervals, scales, and chords.
    • Customizable – omit specific clefs, range, chords, scales.
  • Teoria
    • Includes both ear training an music theory tools.
    • Customizable ear training exercises for intervals, notes, chords, scales, melodies, and rhythms.
    • Comprehensive basic theory – intervals, reading the staves, keys, scales, chords/harmonic functions. Also includes introductory jazz music theory.
  • GoodEar – apps
    • Great for smartphone or tablet.
    • 4 main apps: Intervals, Scales, Chords, Melodies.
    • Customizable.
  • AP Music Theory Barron’s Book
    • Aside from prep for the AP Music Theory exam, this book provides a condensed overview of basic-advanced Western music theory during the Common Core period.
    • CD with listening exercises; as well as self-assessment sections.

Practicing tools/tips for Ear Training

  • Start simple: when listening ask yourself is the pitch higher or lower? The move on to steps or skips?
  • When playing your own music think about these same concepts (make the context more directly applicable to you!). Listen to something simple without any visual music and try to play it back on your instrument.
  • Constant and consistent ear training; and be aware of out of tune pianos the intonation issues be confuse your brain, tricking it by a half/whole step depending on how severely out of tune it is.
  • Consistent labeling of pitches, find a system that works the best for you.
    • Examples: Solfege Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do
    • Numbers 1-12 (12 chromatic notes in a scale)
      • Ie. a C Major scale would be 1-3-5-6-8-10-12-1
    • Neutral; ie. la, du, ta
    • Note names: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
  • [More advanced] Identify which type of solfege is more comfortable:
    • Fixed Do
      • Typically associated with perfect pitch, tonal memory of specific pitches.
      • C is always Do, D always Re, E always Mi, etc.
    • Moveable Do
      • Do doesn’t have to always be C like Fixed Do. For example in F Major, F is the new Do and by going up the scale C becomes Sol. Or in G Major, G is the new Do and C becomes La.
  • Practice exercises with a drone
    • It’s a good habit to practice with a reference pitch to help develop an ear for the “home” or tonic note in a key.
    • A building block for harmonic function/context.

Music Theory Tips

  • Find a good tutor/mentor
    • A bad theory teacher or unclear instruction can destroy motivation, especially since theory on its own is so dense; a big part of comprehension is how it is presented
    • Everyone can understand music theory, you just need to find a way to think/process it that makes sense.
  • Break down scary concepts into steps
    • Roman Numeral analysis, most people. dread hearing that type of assignment…
    • Break it down, keep it simple:
      • What is the chord function? Just think Tonic/ Subdominant/Dominant?
      • Then figure out how to label each chord.
        • Tonics can only be I and sometimes vi.
        • Subdominant is ii, IV, and vi
        • Dominant is V and viio
        • And forget about iii (I’m kidding… only a little bit)
  • Patterns
    • Do you like puzzles? Make it a game of finding the same or finding opposite.
    • If you don’t you’ll need to figure out another way to process/recognize similarities and differences in rhythm/pitch.
  • “Common facts” sheet
    • There are solid rules in Western theory (these rules have exceptions, of course) by writing down the fundamentals it will help keep track and act as a physical checklist of what is ‘allowed’ and what is ‘rule breaking’.
  • REVIEW
    • It can be mentally taxing. Take breaks while also keeping on top of the material.

I spent the first two years of my undergraduate program not realizing I had been hearing all my melodic dictation exercises in fixed-do (relative to C). It was only by the time I got to atonal music that one of my professors noticed the stark contrast in my performance on dictation exams and I FINALLY was able to get a grasp on melodic dictation. I hope some of these resources are helpful! Share your favorites in the comments.