Prescreening and audition season is just around the corner.

My last November as an undergraduate student preparing for my graduate prescreenings was a complete blackout of stress and crying. As a high school student preparing for undergraduate auditions I was utterly baffled as to how anything worked and whether or not I was sufficiently prepared. Here is some advice to help keep you on track this audition season:

The organizational requirements…

  • What are the audition fees?
  • Is there a prescreening required (are there rounds)?
  • Can it be in person or can it be a tape?
  • What are the audition dates (is it during the week or weekend)?

Planning how many schools you apply to – planning your budget for school fees AND audition fees. Keep in mind that usually the school of music has a separate fee from the university you are applying to – don’t stretch yourself too thin.

Know if there is just one round of auditions or if you are required to send in a prescreening. If there is… do you need to have an accompanist? Is there specific repertoire for prescreening? Do you have or need to get equipment for a high quality prescreening (nowadays phones are pretty good, but you might want to invest in a good microphone to present your playing in the best light. Here is one mic recommendation (Zoom iQ6) that is compatible with iOS.

Do you need to plan to travel? If the school is out of state/international are you eligible to send in a tape? With COVID schools are more likely to accept tapes than live auditions so you may be able to forgo unnecessary travel. Also with planning look ahead at your schedule – what are the specific dates for your instrument? Clear your schedule 3-4 months in advance to avoid issues during audition season.


The music requirements…

  • Is your instrument in good shape?
  • What scales do you need prepared?
  • What repertoire do you need prepared?*
  • *Two contrasting pieces or movements is a very commonly asked requirement. Clarify with the faculty at the school you are applying or your teacher what would be appropriate.

The first thing you should consider before preparing for auditions is the condition of your instrument. You do not want to have your instrument break down or put off a much needed service during audition season. Get it taken care of BEFORE you start preparing (at least 3 months) before your auditions so that you have one less thing to worry about!

Ask the faculty (if not abundantly clear on the audition list) what scales you will be required to play. What kind of articulation? Is there a preference for tempo and rhythm (band style v. straight eighths)?

Again ask the faculty if you have any confusion about the repertoire listed. Is there a specific edition asked for?


Mental preparation

  • Remember: The faculty are not looking for someone who is perfect, they are looking for someone they can TEACH. If you make a few mistakes that is fine, it’s how you handle them and respond to feedback that is so much more important!!
  • Practice tip: Work on starting pieces/excerpts once you feel like you’ve got a piece down. If you are able to get yourself centered, comfortable with the opening of pieces it will help maintain stability throughout. If you are nervous starting a piece, you may start to snowball.
  • Practice tip: Closer to the audition date (1 month or so) practice with the increased heart rate, high energy. Go run up/down the stairs; do jumping jacks; etc. before you run a piece to help acclimate to the way your body responds under stress.
  • Plan out your day of the audition so that you know what to expect. Will there be exams (theory/ear training)? Will you have an interview? Knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of the audition day anxiety.

What tips do you have for college auditions? Share them in the comments below!


This semester I have been taking a Music History seminar are music of the 20th century with an emphasis on war and peace. I thought for this month’s analysis we would take a look at the historical analysis, instead of a theoretical lens.

Pierre Boulez described Debussy’s orchestral work “Prélude à L’Après-midi d’un Faune” as “the beginning of modern music”. What is 20th century modernism and does Debussy’s “Prélude” earn the title as the beginning of modern music? We will also be looking briefly at the text that inspired Debussy, Stéphane Mallarmé’s “L’Après-midi d’un Faune”.


Here is a NY Time’s article arguing how Debussy is the first “Modern” composer: x

Sources:

Hearing Debussy Reading Mallarmé: Music après Wagner in the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

Tonality as Topic: Opening A World of Analysis for Early Twentieth-Century Modernist Music

Belle Époque or the “Beautiful Age” in France

The rest is noise – Alex Ross


What do you think? Do you agree with Boulez that Debussy’s Prelude the awakening of Modernism during this period?

Presently, there are MANY barriers that prevent people of socioeconomic and racial status from pursuing higher education, especially in music. Take a look at what type of programs and audition repertoire are asked for at music programs across the country. We expect everyone to be on some standardized playing field… we expect everyone to have access to teachers… access to instruments. It is frustrating on both ends. Those who are marginalized by this are not given a platform to advocate; and those who are in a position to make change are shut down. People are afraid of change, “if I had to learn this then you have to suffer through it too”. There is this idealistic, utopian perception that reading Western sheet music is this “almighty, higher than thou” pedestal. When really there is this repressed fear of altering the way instruction is implemented, how curriculum is structured, and how to allocate resources so that (in the best case) education is accessible for everyone.

Before going forward with this article, I must disclose the identity advantages that I have as a passing-straight, abled, cis-gendered, white woman living in the United States. I deal with significantly less LGBTQ+ issues head on because I can pass. I deal with less misogyny because I am white woman rather than a woman of color. I deal with barely any physical limitations because I am abled. Generally, I deal with less barriers because I am a passing-straight, cis-gendered white woman.

However, I was born into poverty; and still live in the very low socioeconomic pool. There was a lot of moving in my early childhood that made learning especially challenging because the curriculum from school to school varied… I am the first in my family to go to college – both undergraduate and graduate. I had to learn how to do all of college alone. How to request federal financial aid, loans, grants. So my perspective for this article will be centered around the socioeconomic barriers; however, I will make the effort to be aware of other barriers that may make these resources less accessible to people of other identities.


Financial Resources

I qualified for EOF (the Educational Opportunity Fund) when I started my undergraduate degree, but it was completely on accident…. I had not idea what the program was when I applied, I just saw it being pushed by the school and decided to see if I qualified for the aid. Let me tell you about my experience:

Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF)

Offered to both undergraduate and graduate students who are low income first generation college students can be awarded financial aid for tuition each semester as long as they are in good academic standing and meet all of their universities specific requirements.

  • The requirements I had as an undergraduate student were to attend a summer institute prior to my first semester, attend a freshman seminar during my first semester, attend 2 counseling sessions each semester I was enrolled in school, and maintain my academic perform to my university’s standard.
  • For my graduate school experience the regulations were much less active, it functions more like a grant rather than an active program. Each school year I need to reach out to the EOF department coordinators to get access to the application form, if I qualify for the financial need then those funds help cover my tuition.

You can do a quick google search to see if your university offers an EOF program or fund. Or email your academic advisor or the financial aid office to see if you can find out if the school offers any assistance that you may qualify for.

FASFA

This one is no secret. The secret is DO IT EARLY. The sooner you do it, the better off you will be with your aid (pending you are in good academic standing and depending which financial bracket you fall into).

Since I started college in 2015, the dates have been moved around. It is now OCTOBER 1st…. DO It NOW!!!! It used to be in December/January, you may miss out on aid if you wait a month or several months to complete the form.

Know Your Financial Aid (Grants, Loans…)

In case you aren’t familiar with the different types of financial aid available, there are 2 main types: the one you have to repay and the one you don’t. Awards, scholarships, assistantships, work-study, and grants are all the latter – you DO NOT repay these. You can get awarded these by completing your FASFA early, applying for grants/funds (like EOF), and reaching out to your school’s cashiering or financial aid office for resources.

  • Schools will usually have a grants/scholarships page where you can see the more common awards you can apply for!

Loans (of which there are two types subsidized and unsubsidized) are more or less a last resort. When you don’t have enough aid or savings to cover your tuition, you must take out student loans.

TIP: Max out your subsidized loan BEFORE you increase your unsubsidized loan. Why? Because the subsidized loan does not earn interest while you are at least a 1/2 time student while the unsubsidized loan starts earning interest once the money is distributed to you. This may not seem like a big deal when you are getting your award money, but by the end of you degree (4 or more years for a Bachelors) you WILL notice the difference of 4 years worth of interest.


Online Music Resources

Free Apps

  • ProMetronome : iOS / Android
  • GuitarTuna: iOS / Android
  • **Spotify: iOS / Android
    • **Students get 3 free months of Spotify – it is worth it if you want access to more recordings while in school!
  • GarageBand: iOS

Websites


Music Resources at School

1. LIBRARY: You can use the library to borrow sheet music, scores, textbooks, and other materials you may need for classes.

2. ONLINE LIBRARY: As a student you have free access to journals and databases for academic resources. Take in as much as you can. Websites like JSTOR, Ebsco, and ProQuest are a few examples of the many, many databases I had access to in both my undergraduate and graduate schools.

3. COLLEAGUES and TEACHERS: If you really can’t afford to buy you own music or books for courses, sometimes you can borrow or buy materials at a heavily discounted price from upperclassman. Or you professors many be willing to loan you their materials for you to use.


Feel free to share any resources I missed in the comments below!

7 months into this ever evolving pandemic teachers continue to search for stability and familiarity in their classrooms. Both veteran and new teachers alike are on a new – unfamiliar – playing field where there are far more questions than answers. Outside of the public school teaching scene, being an instrumental studio teacher is just as uncertain. There is a lot that gets lost without being able to be in the same room with students. Many families and even teachers have tried to make accommodations to replicate in-person lessons, but these past months have been completely new terrain as everyone has different levels of comfort and concerns when it comes to their healthy and safety.

The purpose of this article will be ideas regarding instruction methods, ways to keep students present, and foster positive classroom relationships with students and studios.


1. Encourage time away from screens.

  • Students are spending the majority of their days in front of computers – whether or not they are physically attending schools. In their free time they may be adding to their screen time; therefore, it is important to reinforce activities that either don’t involve technology or are low tech.
  • If there is a way to have the student listen to you (rather than be sat in front of a computer) and be physically doing something or exploring the space around them.
    • For example, you could send your student colored construction paper to represent musical notes and have them practice improvising songs by assigning notes to colors. Rearrange the order of the color papers and see what types of combinations you both come up with.
  • If you are comfortable meeting somewhat in person, drive up/outside duets or chamber music, are nice change of pace in these isolating times.

2. Spend more time on establishing that safe classroom environment than forcing them to work.

  • Let the students lead the discussions. Prompt them with questions that will get them talking; if you have to start with a game to ease them into the lesson.
    • Some games I have seen are “This or That” similar to “Would You Rather” or you can ask them to pick an object/toy in the room that represents them or they find interesting.

3. Encourage activities or listening that can occur away from the instrument.

  • Recently, I have been taking Suzuki courses where daily activities are used to relate to instrument playing. Mental practice for older students – having them do simple analysis (noticing what the accompaniment is doing or outlining the dynamic arch) or for younger students, doing a coloring exercise while listening to music can be another way to get students away from screens and engaging with the lesson materials.

4. Be a cheerleader for the student.

  • Reinforce what the student does well, even if it is a small step.
  • You may never know exactly what is going on that can impact a student’s work or motivation; maintaining a safe and positive classroom environment can help with this. However, sometimes students still won’t feel comfortable sharing and that’s okay, you don’t need to have your student be an open book. Observe when the student starts to close off, and note their limits to start working within their comfort zone.

5. Be mindful of how you phrase criticism

  • While constructive criticism is completely necessary for improvement – ask yourself if there is a better way to communicate what you want the student to do:
    • For example, instead of saying “Don’t rush”… Have the student play it slow (half tempo), and ask them what they notice compared to how they played it before.
      • This can be effective because you are walking them through good practice techniques: slowing down muddy passages (and you can direct the student to gradually bump up the tempo). Then, prompting the student to lead the discussion with their own observations.

6. Don’t be upset if you get off track or you don’t accomplish as much as you planned.

  • The saying “it’s not the destination, but the journey” applies here – during these times you will most likely not see the progress you were expecting for a number of reasons. That’s okay.

How are you engaging your online students? Let me know in the comments below.

  • Bach – Sonata in E Major (BWV 1035)

The authorship of this sonata is still being debated by music historians – many of the sonatas initially attributed to JS Bach are now thought to be written (at least in majority) by CPE Bach. This is the Barenreiter edition follows the original articulation of the manuscript – leaving out “obvious” patterns that the Bachs (whichever composed this Sonata in E) expected the perform to intuitively know. As a result, careful listening and score analysis is essential for creating articulation patterns that closely follow the style of this piece.

  • Peter Bacchus – Quartet for Diverse Flutes

As the title indicates, this is a Quartet for “diverse flutes” C flute, alto flute, and bass flute. An unusual feature of this score is that it places Flute IV (the bass flute) on line 3 rather than at the bottom. This is because Flute I and II are C flutes so keeping all the concert pitch instruments (the C flutes and bass flute) together and placing the only transposing flute, the alto flute, Flute III at the bottom to avoid confusion… even though it tends to create confusion when referring to the III and IV parts.

  • Sergei Prokofiev – Sonata in D op. 94

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

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

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


What’s on your stand this month?

Developing a good relationship with your instrument repair technician is so important to getting the most mileage out of your instrument. As a result, you can become aware of the tendencies of your particular instrument (what is the first thing to go out of alignment? What little things should you be taking note of that could lead to bigger issues?), how to preserve your instrument (ie. brushing your teeth/rinsing out your mouth before playing), and what cleaning tools are helpful or harmful to your instruments.


The Beginning

Like most beginning flutist, I started with the cleaning rod that came in my flute case and an interior cloth to swab through the flute. . . That was it.

At the basic level, that is all you really need to keep the flute from rapidly becoming worn out. HOWEVER, you must not leave the cloth and rod INSIDE the flute.

Why? Because leaving the rod and cloth inside the flute – the moisture that your just swabbed out (with the rod and cloth) will be sitting in the flute as if you didn’t even both to swab which is problematic for the flute’s pads which will – as a result – collect moisture and start to stick and deteriorate. Likewise, you do not want to take the interior cloth and place it OVER the flute for the same reasons. So what do you do with it?

SOLUTION! If you are working with a standard student flute case – that would be one that does not have a separate case cover or exterior pocket – this is one smart way to store your rod and interior cloth. The rod already has a spot in the flute case (typically this is at the bottom edge adjacent to the case latches).
If you take the interior cloth and tie it around the case handle – the cloth will be able to dry much faster than it would in the case and it will not be damaging the flute.

It is also IMPORTANT to note that for the interior swab there are two options that DO NOT work well with the flute. Avoid these swabs types with your flute:

  1. A weighted swab – these work well with instruments like the clarinet or saxophone – however, given the thin diameter of the flute and delicate keys: the string and weight can cause damage to the flute.
  2. The caterpillar or fuzzy swabs (you’ll know them when you see them) – these are problematic for two reasons.
    1. The fuzzy fibers can pill off and get stuck on the pads or within the mechanism (causing it to become worn down).
    2. The tendency with these swabs is to just leave them inside the instrument. As mentioned earlier, this will allow moisture to collect and can cause damage to the pads.

A good interior cloth will not have any frayed or loose edges that can get caught on the small parts of the flute. Likewise, the material should be able to absorb any moisture inside the cloth with 1-2 pass throughs; and should be thin enough that it is not getting stuck in the instrument. Interior swab suggestions:


Moving On Up

These are cleaning supplies I found useful as I started to play more.

Pad Paper

Pad paper was the first addition to my cleaning accessories – if you do not have a case with storage or a case cover, I would recommend keeping these in a separate bag. Pad paper does not need to be used after every playing – if you hear a sticky key or feel like key is leaking you can place the paper under the key, press down for several sections (DO NOT PULL THE PAPER OUT WHILE THE KEY IS DOWN) and then lift the key and remove the paper. Repeat on a different area of the paper becomes soaked.

Things to be aware of:

  • NO DOLLAR BILLS!!!! You may of heard of band directors using dollar bills as a quick fix… it would be better off if you did nothing at all than use a dollar bill. Ask your repair tech, a dollar bill may absorb some of the liquid, but can very easily add gunk (dust, bacteria) to your pads.
  • You CAN use cigarette paper though.
  • I will say it again, DO NO pull the paper out while the key is pressed down – this can tear your pads (to replace your pads can get expensive real fast, ask your tech what their rate is for pad replacement and the number will amaze you how much those tiny things cost).
  • Be wary of powdered pad paper, sometimes okay – I prefer to er on the side of caution and avoid it.
Anti-Tarnish Strips

Look at the body of your flute – particularly where you place your right hand (behind those three keys). What do you notice? Overtime, you may see what appears to be dust and gunk build up. Whatever you do DO NOT attempt to clean it with Q-tips or even think of sticking anything near the rods. Ask your repair technician and they will warn you to proceed at your own detriment. So if you can’t go in and clean it – what are you meant to do?

In this case, there are 2 solutions you can use in tandem:
(1) You can blow a quick stream of air to loosen or remove the visible dust. You don’t want to spit on your flute, but using your air to dislodge the dust is the first step.
(2) This is a preventative step. What you are most likely noticing is tarnish, hence, placing anti-tarnish strips somewhere in your case – usually underneath the flute. Please know, there is not anything you can do to fix it on your own (please DO NOT try to DIY this at home), you would need to bring your flute in to get a full COA to remove the tarnish – do not worry so much about tarnish because it is a cosmetic issue that in most cases does not effect the mechanism.

Anti-tarnish strips can be placed in the case with your flute. Read and follow the directions for the specific strips you buy – typically, they will need to be changed out every 6 months (and one pack of anti-tarnish strips will be more than enough; especially if you end up cutting the strips to fit into the flute case).

Exterior Cloth

Exterior cloths are like pad paper – they do not have to be done after every use. Although with the exterior cleaning cloth, many of us may prefer to wipe down the flute to get rid of finger prints.

Microfiber is the standard material for cleaning cloths. The wonderful thing about these exterior microfiber cloths is that you only need ONE because you can just wash it once it starts to get dirty and it can last you years!

Like interior cleaning cloths you want a cloth that does not have any frayed or loose edges that can get stuck on the flute. Be aware that a cut up shirt or piece of old fabric WILL NOT BE EFFECTIVE because this material tends to unravel (making it very easy to get snag on the flute) and usually can’t fully remove grime.

Here are some exterior polishing cloths:

When using the exterior cloth be sure to avoid going near the pads and rods. When cleaning the body and foot joint with the cloth: just stick to the top of the keys, and parts of metal that are easily accessible. You DO NOT to stick the edge of a cloth into the mechanism and risk moving something out of alignment or tearing a pad!

Isopropyl / Cotton Ball

The days before COVID-19 when conventions and fairs were safe and instrument vendors brought dozens of flutes to try – isopropyl and cotton ball/pad where used on the lip plate to disinfect between players. Of course, currently, instrument sharing is not happening, but it is good to have these on hand. For example, when I get sick, I’ll clean around the lip plate just out of precaution.

REMEMBER you do not want to submerge the head joint because there is a cork that will need to be replaced if submerged (the cork should be replaced annually anyway), but you DO NOT need to apply the isopropyl INSIDE the flute, only apply it (if you feel so inclined) to the lip plate/exterior of the head joint.


Finally…

Flute Flag (Interior Swab)

If you own a case cover or have a case with a separate pocket, I have found the Valentino Cleaning Flag to be an efficient way to swab my flute during and after practice sessions. First, it’s only one piece so I don’t have to worry about threading a cloth through a cleaning rod. It’s easy to just grab and go. And like the exterior microfiber cloths you only need ONE – these are very easy to clean (I usually just do soap and hot water, and let it dry for 1-2 days).


What do you use to clean your flute? Has it changed since you started playing? Do you use any of these tools? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

This semester my university’s flute choir is splitting into separate quartets: one of which is the Quartet for Diverse Flutes. Which, as the name suggests, calls for alto (flute III) and bass flute (flute IV) in addition to the C flute.

On tricky/deceiving thing about this score is that flute IV is actually the 3rd staff and flute III is the 4th staff. Throughout the piece this is something to be conscious of especially because the alto flute (flute III) is the only transposing flute. Whereas bass flute the pitch drops an octave, but remains the same letter – alto flute sounds a Perfect 4th lower than written. Therefore, the initial G4 sounds as a D4.

One last thing: because of the strange times of remote learning, our quartet is working asynchronously which can be tricky with the fermatas – to work around this (to have a steady opening) I’ve notated some modifications our group has been given by our coach to better suit the remote classroom. The initial 4/4 becomes a 6/4 and stays through the 1st measure of 5/4; finally, on the second stave the 2/4 is prolonged to a 3/4.


Composer and Piece Background

Peter Bacchus (1985-2016) was an American flutist and composer born in New Jersey. His journey on flute started with inspiration from listening to Herbie Mann, a jazz flutist, play in a live concert. He worked in New York – studying and earning his BFA from SUNY Purchase and Masters from City University of New York. The Barcelona Metropolitan did an interview with him in 2009 that goes more in-depth on his life as a composer and his development.

Quartet for Diverse Flutes was composed in 1990 and is divided into 3 movements (1. Andante molto rubato con espressione, 2. Allegro Molto, and 3. Cadenza). I couldn’t find a list of composed works or much in general about Peter Bacchus while he was alive – most of the search results yielded in memoriam and tributes to his work.


1. Andate molto rubato con espressione

One of the most helping and responsible parts of participating in chamber music is being aware of the other parts. What role does your line play? Who are you playing with/Are you playing alone? Are there sections that dove-tail/connect parts?

Especially in this opening (very slow and tolling) it is paramount to be aware of who enters when. First, the alto flute has a measure alone on a low D4 (written G4). Then, flute II comes in to start the next measure – it is important that flute II takes the low D set by the alto flute (slightly louder since the dynamic is set mp), but intonation is foremost. The bass flute follows with an A4 – tuning this Perfect 5th so that it doesn’t not tend too low (towards a tritone) or high is very important especially because this is the first note that is not a D. Finally, flute I enters on beat 3 an octave above flute II on D5 (again, listening down to flute II is very important). And so the process continues – flute I starts to take the leading role in the opening section and flute II, III, and IV are varied in their entrances so being aware of who enters on which beat (and on what pitch) can help alleviate any potential ensemble issues.

In this movement, there are many parts where the flutes are in their own mini choirs. In the example above, flute I and II are their own choir and flute IV and III are a separate choir.

In m. 35-38 flute I and II are in rhythmic unison. They start of a Perfect 5th apart, and then split in m. 36 to contrasting movement (ascending and descending) 4ths that shift to 5th halfway through m. 37 (returning to 4ths in m. 38).

In m. 34-36 flute IV and III are setting up that contrasting movement that the flute I and II are about to do. Flute IV and III are playing contrasting 5ths (rather than 4ths) that always end by a 1/2 step movement (still in contrasting direction). In m. 37-38, the flutes expand the contrasting 5ths excerpt by making a shift to 4ths (when flute I and II change to 5ths).

Both choirs end with the contrasting 4ths in m. 38.

Here is another example to reinforce the separation of the choir into smaller choirs (still flute I and II; and flute IV and III).


What’s your favorite flute quartet? Have you played this quartet before? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

The flute is not the most ergonomic instrument. It’s played horizontally; where the instrument is mainly on the right side of the body. There is a lot of fine motor skill required for advanced flute playing which can lead to significant injury if done without they key element of balance. Not just of the flute – but taking regular breaks, stretching, etc. to maintain stamina and wellness.

Here I’ll be sharing some tips and resources I’ve worked with on the everlasting journey of maintaining health while playing the flute.


Breaks!

Taking 5-10 minute breaking during practice sessions is so important. No matter how long you plan to practice for: IF YOU FEEL STRAIN/FATIGUED… STOP, TAKE A BREAK!

One of the hardest things for me to accept as an undergraduate student was taking multiple breaks during practice sessions because I felt like I could better spend that time practicing – pushing through the strain – because my schedule was so hectic that I knew I wouldn’t be able to make up for lost time.

Now, I know that’s completely pointless. Pushing yourself is one thing, but when your hands are numb, tingling, or extremely sore you shouldn’t “push” yourself. And if the problem is consistent start tracking when (if a particular exercise/pattern triggers pain) and what (level of pain and where is it located).

TLDR; 5-10 minute breaks during practice sessions, especially when you become fatigued is #1!

Change your warm ups

Variety is good – coming up with creative exercises and ways to practice the same material is not only beneficial to your physical health, but it will also keep you engaged and active in the warm up process.

For example, if you were to warmup with Taffanel and Gaubert #1 (Major scale, spanning scale degrees 1-5) every single day at the same time: You do your TG #1, long tones, articulation, and etude in that order all day every day (or most days…). That can lead to issues down the line.

While, yes, you are building muscle memory. You are also only using the same muscles and can cause strain from the repetitive motion. How can you prevent this?

  1. Change the order of your warm up – or intersperse your warmup with short/easy pieces on occasion (like the Moyse 24 Petite Exercises)
  2. Section/chunk larger exercises and spread throughout the week – with TG #1, for example, practice the lower register one day, middle register the next, and high register the day after that. Then loop back to the lower register.
  3. Find different exercises that focus on the same area. Again, looking at TG #1, you could do Paula Robison’s the Singer’s Warmup.

Breathing/Relaxation

Being aware of any tension while playing is worth noting.

Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I developed (or became aware of) my cubital tunnel and carpal tendonitis. It started with soreness any time I played for more than 10 minutes. During that time I was under a lot of stress – student teaching, recording for graduate pre-screenings, making travel arrangements, etc. I had to take a break from playing (more so than if I had done preventative care) to go to a rheumatologist (aka a hand specialist) who referred me for occupational therapy after the 2 diagnoses. I’ll come back to that in the next section.

Preventative care is #1, it is ongoing, so being aware of your body’s needs is so vital. Taking time during those 5-10 minute breaks to breathe or just decompress.

Many of the wellness/tracking watches have a breathing reminder. Or there are apps to follow along with breathing exercises. You can even just watch a short video on your phone and breath/decompress while watching that.

The Paula Robison Flute Warmups Book even starts with several breathing/stretching exercises to do.

Stretches

Stretching is necessary for any physical activity so playing an instrument shouldn’t be exempt from that.

Everyone will have a different area of fatigue that they will want to focus on maintaining. For me – back to the experience I had in occupational therapy with cubital tunnel and tendonitis – the strain was coming from the larger muscles in my shoulders (the serratus anterior) and causing issues in the small muscles up my forearm and in my hands (particularly numbing the pinky).

I did a full blog post on my OT experience right after I finished my therapy – it’s still an ongoing process and I still use many of those exercises to this day – check the link out if you’d like to see that full process (getting referrals, what occupational therapy entailed, and what modifications I needed).

If you are unsure if you need occupational therapy, you should consult your primary care doctor/family medicine doctor – even if they aren’t specialized in music medicine – the repetitive movements of flute playing can cause physical injury that shouldn’t be minimized.

Some of the stretches I do my own areas of fatigue include: tendon glides (obviously for the tendons – focusing on my forearms), cup stretches (for the upper traps in my shoulders), hip and back floor stretches for hyperextension, and wall exercises (in which I face a wall with my elbows flat against the wall – to focus on the serratus anterior or ‘wings’ area in my shoulder/back area).

Definitely seek out a referral for physical or occupational therapy if you believe you are suffering from injury (repetitive fatigue or strain while playing) to learn your own personalized stretches and modifications.

Other Ideas

Breathing Gym

Video

Alexander Technique


Do you have any wellness recommendations that I didn’t include here? How do you balance your physical and mental health especially during COVID? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Young flutists that are surrounded non-flutists or are self-taught can develop a wide range of bad habits that take years to unlearn. There are common myths that are just taken as fact by band directors when recruiting or coaching young flute players. In this article, I’ll be clarifying what/if there is any true to these myths as well as sharing resources for more information!


Myth 1: Lip Shape/Size Matters

… NO! The way I have most commonly heard this myth is referred to as the “textbook embouchure” where the lips are fairly even is size (the bottom might be slightly wider) and the embouchure when playing is centered or inline with the nose.

James Galway, example of the centered/textbook embouchure

This isn’t the best or the only (obviously) way to produce a good tone on the flute. In fact, people with that “textbook embouchure” may struggle to get a sound out.

In comparison, the lip shape deemed challenging for flute playing is one that is tear drop shaped because of the jut in the top lip, this is also untrue. Accommodations such as forming an “offset embouchure” are common for not just this lip shape, but many others. For more detailed information check out Dr. Cate Hummel’s article.

Anyone who wants to play flute should not be deterred by the shape or ratio of their lips. More factors than just the exterior lips play a role in how easily someone produces a sound on the flute.

Emmanuel Pahud, example of an offset embouchure

Myth 2: Alignment Doesn’t Matter In The Beginning… It Will All Sound The Same

First, Jennifer Cluff has written many articles/FAQ on flute alignment – check these out to answer specific questions.

Alignment is VITAL to setting young flute players up for success,

Balancing the flute properly with the chin, left hand pointer finger, right hand thumb and pinky – helps with the stability of the instrument which creates consistency for students which will improve tone quality and register.

Also, alignment of the flute itself is vital – lining up the center of the embouchure hole with the center of the keys of the body AND the rod of the foot joint with the center of the keys of the body). When the flute is out of alignment, the experienced flutist has to work much harder by contorting to get a focused sound on the flute.


Myth 3: Roll In/Out To Improve Tuning and Tone

NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Below is a representation of how I feel every time I’ve heard that advice during a coaching session before I step in to talk about how meddlesome this is.

For tuning, you should NOT default to adjusting by rolling the flute – this fosters posture and alignment issues. You SHOULD pull/push out the head joint to tune. You can use this saying to remember the direction… “if you have something SHARP in your eye you should PULL it OUT”.

To be clear, this CAN be done, but it SHOULD NOT be the primary or first defense for tuning. Therefore, teaching your band students to do this is unnecessary and causes more trouble than it’s worth.

Jennifer Cluff did an article on this where she states, “Rolling the flute inward only covers the embouchure hole too much with the lower lip and strangles the tone quality, and is not a “cure all” in any way.”


Myth 4: The Flute Embouchure Doesn’t Change For Each Register

FALSE – There are very specific adjustments made to help produce a focused and vibrant tone in each register (typically divided into the low, middle, and high registers). There is an adjustment between the top and bottom lips as well as slight changes inside the mouth (much like singing) that occur with register shifts.

Jolene Harju Madewell articles one on the low register and one on good tone.

And Jennifer Cluff has an article on playing in the high register.


Vital teaching tool:

I highly recommend giving this a watch and sharing this with your students: James Galway embouchure video.


Any flute myths I left out? Did anything here surprise you? Have more embouchure resources to share? Let me know in the comments below!

With back-to-school season in full swing a lot of companies offer these savings and deals to entice families to buy new instruments. The factors that go into making that large purchase are vast – budget, stock, knowledge, trialing, repairs, etc. For each flute I mention, (whether or not it’s still in production) I’ll provide the pros and cons of that experience. With hindsight informing things I wish I knew as a young student.

When I was first starting out as a high school sophomore I was given an unused and unserviced 20 year flute; promptly switching to borrowing a Yamaha from a friend in high school who had stopped playing. Now I’m playing a Weissman Haynes that I trialed from the Flute Center of New York. Here’s how I got from that 20 year flute to today…


Starting Out

When I was 15 years old, I decided to join marching band; to do so required learning flute over the summer. This is went I was exploring temporary flute options. My sophomore and junior years of high school were spent playing silver-plated, factory produced flutes. I played the same flutes in both marching band and concert band so durability was very important. I started with a KING flute, over the summer, and ended up with a Yamaha 221 by the time my sophomore year started.


My first “flute”: King Flute 610

Pros

  • It was a free instrument – An older band family had it sitting around for ~20 years.
  • I was able to use it to practice fingerings.
  • Later on (in my late undergrad), I was able to use it to learn about flute repair and got to see how the mechanism works up close.

Cons

  • The head joint cork desperately needed to be replaced. (Over the 20 years of sitting, the cork began to rot and the head joint had a very strong smell and would not tune).
  • The metal was extremely malleable – easy to bend and dent.
  • Servicing the instrument was a nightmare because KING no longer manufactures flutes.

My first REAL flute: Yamaha 221

Pros

  • Another free instrument: I borrowed this one from a friend who had quit back the previous year.
  • Very durable – the instrument was very low maintenance as far as COAs go (minimal mechanism issues).
  • Easy to get a sound out of and great sound quality for a student instrument (since it was well maintained and cleaned).
  • Open hole.

Cons

  • I was going to need a more permanent solution for continuing in band (which you’ll see I ended up purchasing my own Yamaha 221 after this section).
  • Repairs – since I was borrowing this instrument getting repairs was challenging because I didn’t know who I could trust to service it and the family I was borrowing the flute from had absolutely no clue either.

School loaner instruments: Bundy 300 / Gemeinhardt 2SP

If you’re budget is tight… DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON AMAZON. School loaner instruments are one option. Most schools will give out the higher quality or even brand new instruments out on a first come first serve basis so you should be in touch with the band director early to discuss what works for your situation.

If loaning an instrument is not an option there are flute societies that offer grants for students to purchase instruments or even donate instruments to young students.

Pros

  • In many cases, the repairs for the instrument are covered by the school district so you don’t have to worry about finding a reliable technician.
  • It’s a great option for students who are unsure whether or not they want to commit to the flute – less financial commitment.

Cons

  • The district may hold on to worn out instruments due to lack of funding – these instruments are usually given out as a last resort if all the loaner stock is in rotation. This can make learning the flute frustrating for a beginner.
  • The students need to be responsible for properly cleaning and maintaining the instrument; in districts where the band director is not primarily a flutist this can easily get overlooked.

Preparing for college

The following year I became the section leader for marching band, was promoted to piccolo, and had made the decision to own my own flute. Shortly after the school year had started, I had bought my own Yamaha 211. However, that year I always went through what I’ll call the “tale of many piccolos”…


The piccolo saga: Emerson (silver-plated), Jupiter (half plating half resin), Pearl (half plating half resin), Gemeinhardt 4SP (resin)

To be specific: in the span of 1 month I went through 5 piccolos (since I tried 2 Pearls). It was during the month of September, my Junior year, when these horrific trials began…

The silver-plated Emerson was my outdoor piccolo for marching band – there were no issues to complain about. However, when I needed a piccolo for concert band, I decided the shrillness of the all metal piccolo wouldn’t do so I decided to find a plastic composite or combination piccolo.

For whatever reason, I kept on going back to my local SamAsh to get replacement instruments. I won’t recall all the gory details, but the worst experience I had was one of the Pearls ended up having the head joint come off with the barrel.

Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel, I discovered the Gemeinhardt 4sP which I still own to this day – and has miraculously not given me any technical issues (granted it is taken in for annual COAs). For piccolos, I’ll break them down by make – all metal, half, or all resin.

Emerson (All metal)

  • Great for outdoor ensembles – durable in high and low temperatures.
  • Reliable mechanism.
  • Very shrill for inside rehearsals/closed spaces.

Jupiter & Pearl (half)

  • Good option for outdoor/indoor – if you want just one piccolo.
  • In my experience, the half metal-half resin were not reliable – key issues and that one traumatic barrel accident.

Gemeinhardt (resin)

  • Good for indoor/outdoor playing. Since it’s plastic it is less susceptible to cracking than wooden piccolos.
  • Easier (compared to all metal) to tame – intonation and shrillness.
  • Reliable mechanism.

Yamaha 221

Pros

  • Affordable and high-quality student instrument.
  • Open hole.
  • Very durable when well maintained.
  • This was a good enough instrument for beginning undergraduate/college auditions. (It can last a young student a LONG time).

Cons

  • Another flute upgrade looming for college (for a music education major).

Undergraduate/Graduate

I started out on my Yamaha 221 in the first year of my undergraduate degree, but knew I would inevitably need to upgrade. Since I am a stone’s throw to the Flute Center of New York so I scheduled a visit to trial flutes. All the flutes at this level (as an undergraduate student considering the possibility of graduate school in the future) where handmade and either silver (or silver and some other metal combo).

Flute trials: Powell with a Brannen head, Muramatsu EX, Haynes

There is a lot that goes into flute trialing and flute specs, if you want to see a post on that let me know! After my in person visit to the Flute Center, I ended up with these 3 instruments which I took out on a 7 day trial.

Powell

  • Preowned
  • B-foot
  • The body was an in-line G Powell all silver on the outside and keys, but gold playing on the interior walls; paired with a Brannen head joint.

Muramatsu

  • New
  • B-foot
  • The Muramatsu EX is an economical, sterling silver flute that is a great option for unversity students.

Haynes

  • Preowned
  • B-foot
  • A custom Weissman model Haynes flute with a silver body and head with a 14K gold riser.

After trialing all the flutes for a week, I knew the Haynes flute was the one for me so that brings us to today…

Weissman-Haynes

Pros

  • Handmade, silver flute – instantly a much higher sound quality than my student Yamaha flute.
  • B-foot
  • The extra keys: gizmo, C# trill and D# roller.
  • Straubinger pads.

Cons

  • Adapting to the head joint – compared to the Yamaha (which had a narrow, oval embouchure hole) the Haynes has a much wider squoval shaped hole.
  • Having to find my own local repair technician that was (preferably) Straubinger certified.
  • The heavy wall makes this flute much heavier than my previous flute as well as most other professional flutes.


Have you played any of these flutes? What are your about these instruments? Have any questions about a specific flute – let me know in the comments below.