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?
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.
If you are not one of the ‘lucky’ ones to have grown up taking piano lessons or just have a knack for the keyboard you are not alone.
Even if you feel like you should be practicing your own instrument, why do you have to learn piano anyway??? Just remember that, again, this is a transferable skill. When you’re practicing you can play your own part or a reduction of the piano’s part to make this skill useful to your own musicianship.
You’re a music major why do you have to write?
You will find that mainly in your first year – and somewhat beyond that – you will be writing A LOT. Learning how to navigate the library, do different citation formats (MLA, Chicago, APA), persuade/argue a point, support your ideas, and peer review. These skills – although not directly related to music – come with the job. Whether you are an educator or performer – writing grants, program notes, etc. you want to be able to write intelligently.
Time to actually play music?!
If your first year you will be expected to transform your playing to set the foundation for the rest of your degree. However, you may find that you just don’t have as much time as you thought you would to practice.
Practice plans. Scheduling. Journaling.
Those are several things that are essential for first year music students if they want to manage gen eds, music classes, secondary instruments, hw, and everything else on top of their primary instrument.
Know what you need to practice that week and prioritize – what are you doing for your lesson week by week, is there a masterclass or performance you need to be prepared for.
Block out your practice time, don’t just wing it and hope that there will be time. Sometimes you have free time, but no practice rooms are open. Sometimes your schedule is so packed you’d be lucky to get in half an hour of practice time. Don’t feel pressured to practice every day, but do try to practice more days than you don’t in a week.
Journaling is something that takes time to develop. What are you practicing? Why? What are you working to improve? What do you like? What strategies are you using to fix the things you don’t like?
This year is presenting new challenges for first year students such as struggling to fit into the music school community and form those relationships they would otherwise have. What insight do you have for new music majors?
An earlier post I wrote discussed storing flutes year round – like all woodwinds flutes are quiet sensitive to temperature changes. Once the flutes are out of your hands and into the students you have little control of whether or not these instruments get stored in sweltering/freezing vehicles or garages. The best you can do is inform the students that is part of the reason I like loaner instrument contracts because at the very least the student’s can’t feign ignorance for fairly common issues that can do some serious damage.
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)
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.
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!
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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:
Typically associated with perfect pitch, tonal memory of specific pitches.
C is always Do, D always Re, E always Mi, etc.
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)
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’.
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.
In this post we’ll be looking at exercises that can be used for the individual flute student – particularly useful during remote/hybrid instruction. The levels of student have been split into 3 sub sections; since this is directed towards students enrolled in traditional band programs there is a standard of Western musical literacy that is expected:
Beginning: Minimal musical literacy and/or minimal or developing flute sound production and technique.
Advanced: Established musical literacy (full range, all basic music reading, articulations, dynamics, etc.) and/or developing flute tone, vibrato, musicianship, technique, etc.
These are just generalized levels – not necessary for students in a specific grade level; supplementing materials for material to be more age appropriate such as having a beginning high school student may be necessary…
Drone – Matching just ONE pitch. Whether that be a B (Bb) A or G.
Provide directed questions to optimize student achievement: Is that note higher or lower than the drone? [Reset] Play your note in 3 different spots in your room/house, which would sounded the best?
Listening/Rhythm – Depending on the level of musical literacy of the student there may be more set up on your end for them to be successful.
Either create or find rhythm cells [isolated patterns] for whichever level the student is at; one example is this Talking Rhythm: Counting 101. If the student is developing musical literacy you could provide them with a sample of the rhythm to read alongside the recording.
If the student is young or struggling to grasp certain patterns; varying instruction such as providing words for rhythms/telling stories with a set of familiar rhythms; or making a game out of rhythm call and response could successful.
Air/Breathing – Air direction is just as important as breathing well, especially for beginners.
A very “Suzuki Flute” concept is spitting rice this is invaluable because it achieves many skills: routine, tongue position, air direction, and air volume/force. Likewise it requires less explaining and more letting the student figure out how to do, definitely worth looking into for long term success.
A simple game you could have beginning flute student’s do is have them figure out “how old they are in flute years”. This can be done on the head joint or on any one pitch; basically, the student will time (either count or have someone count for them) how long they can hold a pitch and see if they can match/exceed their current age.
Drone – Depending on the student you could have them match anywhere from a Perfect 5th or a full octave (you could also break this up into several weeks on the first tetrachord and second tetrachord).
You can use the same directed questions from the Beginner drone warmup. You could also ask which notes against the drone sounded better/worse; if any of the intervals reminded them of songs they know. Try to engage them in active listening, extending to connecting music they know to the music they play.
Listening – Building student’s ear training you can provide them short excerpts (2-4 measures) to learn by ear.
There are books (ie. Funky Flute series) that include CDs that has a limited range that would be suitable for chunking, combined with range and simple rhythms for beginning-intermediate students. [Optionally, you could record a short excerpt on a keyboard for all instrument groups to work on by ear].
Rhythm/Musical Literacy – Both without and with the flute – it’s important for the students to be able to reproduce the rhythms/read away from the instrument so they can have an easier time transferring knowledge that is most likely very foreign to them.
Building upon common rhythm patterns; adding in rests would be the next step. Again recording rhythm cells/using words to represent rhythms/movements to go along with rhythms students can engage with music in a multiple ways.
Air/Breathing – Reviewing and maintaining solid breathing is the foundation to air support and developing a good tone.
You can continue to build on the beginning flute warmups such as the “How Old Are You In Flute Years?”. While also encouraging a more refined, focused tone. Listening should be incorporated in tone production – by presenting the students with a clear model to emulate they are less likely to get that airy/wide sound.
For fast passages – or passages that require a lot of articulation – your first spot to check may be the fingers. HOWEVER having the students turn their head joint upside down (still in playing position) so that the student’s air gets caught in the lip plate and creates a snake/hissing sound; when students are having issues with their air they can actually HEAR the difference between achieving or not achieving the hissing sound.
Drone – Expanding the intermediate warmup, you can have the students practice scales or pieces with a drone of the tonic.
The important thing is active engagement/listening. Having the students close their eyes – taking away one of their senses to focus on listening – can be useful early on as a way to get student feedback. The students can play a scale against the drone and have them only move to the next note after getting the one before it in tune with the drone.
Advanced students can also work on vibrato width against a drone. John Wion‘s website is fantastic because it has examples of famous flute player’s vibrato in notable works at tempo as well as slowed down.
Listening – Some advanced students will continue to struggle with ear training so keeping them on the chunked excerpts from intermediate warmups is not doing a disservice to them.
However, for students with a more keen ear you can provide extensions for them with either longer excerpts – even better if it’s a piece they have interest in learning on their own. You can have them compile a list of performers/recordings to reference and work on learning the piece by ear.
Rhythm/Musical Literacy – Again, it is still important to build this skill with and without the flute.
More advanced students can develop their literacy in music theory. Reviewing the Circle of Fifths and looking at chords and their functions.
The rhythm cells can still be useful for advanced students for reviewing learned rhythms as well as learning more complex ones as well as polyrhythms.
Air/Breathing – Reviewing and maintaining solid breathing is the foundation to air support and developing a good tone.
You can continue that fast and/or articulated passage practice strategy with the flipped head joint.
Also, at this point the students will be developing their independence in self assessment/student direction so standard flute tone exercises such as the famous Marcel Moyse long tone exercise from De La Sonorite can be used routinely.
What type of warmups have you been utilizing with your flute students? Do you use any of these? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!
I’ve started to incorporate my teacher training into my warmups by doing ear training/ memorization/ listening to the repertoire. With the isolation of the ongoing pandemic this has been a great way to spark active listening when warming up.
Moyse Gammes et Arpeges
I’ve been working through this book gradually since late-2020. I’m somewhere in the mid 250s currently, in the harmonic minor section of the book. I like to practice this in combination with other scales.
Taffanel and Gaubert
A staple. Currently, I’ve been using exercises #1 (5 notes, Major), #2 (5 notes, minor), and #4 (all Major and minor scales) intermittently during my warmups.
Karg Elert Caprices
Working through these with a new mindset after my Suzuki teacher training. Currently reviewing #4 with small steps/goals per practice session. This slower approach to these caprices has helped solidify technique that otherwise would have been (tbh) subpar if I was multitasking and running through for the sake of running through.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of common services for flutes – keep in mind that the price of these services varies greatly based on instrument level (ie student flutes and handmade flutes), region, time between services, service requested, etc. Let’s start with some general terms*…
*You should consult your local repair tech if you are unclear of what their services cover – these things vary greatly by region!
COA: Clean Oil Adjust
This is a very common phrase because it is a regular flute service. Just like you would get an oil change or keep up the fluids for your car, the flute requires oiling, cork replacement, and minor adjustments. Many service shops recommend getting this service once a year, however, the cost of service as well as how often the instrument is used can impact the specific interval between recommended services.
Pads are the money sucker when it comes to flute repair. One of the reason why student flute repair costs are so much lower (among a plethora of other reasons) is that the pads are made of a cheaper material, commonly felt pads.
Many handmade/professional flutes have Straubinger pads. However, there are flute makers and repair technicians that are use other high quality pads; two that come to mind are the Muramatsu pads and JS Gold pads.
The reason repadding is expensive is because of the time of service for the pads to settle in the cup as well as the number of pads that may need replacing. Two trill keys, Bb key, G# lever, all the body keys, D level, and all foot joint keys… depending on if you have a C# trill key, a B foot joint, etc. the total cost to replace the pads on a flute can add up if not maintained.
Depending on the interval of when you bring your flute in for a service, whether that be a COA or otherwise, the pads require some level of care: Whether that’s removing dusty/grime build up, minor repairs like leaky pads (another common issue), and torn/warped pads.
You can help offset the expensive of replacing pads by being mindful of rinsing out your mouth before playing. Just like vocalists have to avoid certain beverages/food before singing such as sodas, dairy, sugar… a good rule of thumb is to brush your teeth (if possible) or rinse your mouth out before playing to prevent the pads from deteriorating more easily, getting sticky, etc.
Overhauls are less frequent that the first two services since it’s meant to bring your flute back to “new”. Depending on the usage of your flute these could be done between 5-10 years of use. Likewise, flutes that have been sitting (those back of the closet flutes) would require this service; when it comes to student flutes, the cost of the overhaul exceeds the value of the instrument so it is worth getting the instrument appraised before going through with this type of service.
Sometimes you might notice something is just slightly off about your flute. That could be a key being sluggish, tuning/cork issues, noisy keys, etc.
Anytime you notice something not quite right, check in with your trusted repair tech and see if it is a DIY type of fix or if it’s worth bringing in urgently – depending on the pricing, the tech, and the severity of the service needed it may be worth getting adjustments done inbetween regular services like COAs.
Finding a Repair Tech
Trust is important when it comes to finding a person who you are handing over your flute to. Word of mouth is one of the most reliable ways to find a local repair tech that you can trust. If you’re a university student ask your flute faculty or colleagues; if you’re outside university you can ask your flute instructor for recommendations or [with a dash of caution] use ‘reliable’ community forums to sleuth out the most promising tech.
In the US – especially metropolitan areas – there tends to be clusters of repair technicians rather than having an even distribution across an entire state. That’s another factor to consider is location. Are you willing to travel x-amount of miles, even through state borders, to get a service? Or is shipping your instrument to a trusted technician a better option?
Another consideration when narrowing down a repair tech is specialization. In the NJ/NY area there are plenty of flute-specific technicians (going one step further even Straubinger-certified technicians), however, there are also woodwind techs or people who are still certified in flute, but also handle with other woodwinds instruments.
For information on the composer, Sergei Prokofiev, and the general overview of the entire flute sonata (Op. 94) you should check out my analysis of the first movement before reading through the analysis of this movement. Understanding the background – including the conditions – Prokofiev was writing under will help inform the analysis of this movement:
II. Allegretto scherzando (Dotted Half = 69)
The suggested tempo is included in the G. Schirmer 1965 edition. The text “allegretto scherzando” roughly translates to fairly brisk and playful (or joking). The form of the second movement is ternary (ABA or ABA’) form which has some connection to a scherzo (a major scherzo of note for flutists is Mendelssohn’s Scherzo in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) which is in rounded binary form (AABA) with a ‘trio’ section that follows the recap of the A form.
A – mm. 1-161
The key feature in this movement is Prokofiev’s use of hemiolas. As far as the Grove Music dictionary is concerned a hemiola, “in the modern metrical system denotes the articulation of two units of triple metre as if they were notated as three units of duple metre.” More info on this term can be accessed here.
The motive that the flute first plays in the A section is an example of a hemiola:
Note the duple notation (duple = 2), but slurred as if they were triplets (3). As mentioned, this opening motive in the flute is prominent throughout the second movement: we see it transposed up a Perfect 5th in measure 15, down a Perfect 5th in measure 34; and we see echoes of it throughout later parts of the movement as the initial A section closes, as well as when the A’ section recaps.
In the primary A section we expect to see multiple phrases, an established tonic key, and an end with a PAC (typically in the tonic):
There is no shortage of phrase variance in this section.
The first section that we see (amid several transpositions) is the hemiola phrase, which is characterized by the constant eighth notes. Each time this phrase appears the dynamic is marked piano and peaks at a mezzo forte. This section lasts from mm. 1-58.
The next phrase section is the sixteenth notes. The repeated figure “C-D-Eb-F Gb-Ab-Bb-C D-Eb-E-F” is accompanied by the piano playing Gb-Eb-Bb (which would be some borrowed chord, not quiet a Neapolitan because it is minor rather than Major) – perhaps it is simply put to be the tritone juxtaposing a minor (a to eb as a diminished 5th)?
Either way, this section is fleeting and promptly resolves to F Major – mm. 59-76.
The third section is interesting because unlike the first two which had very clear features, this one has a several elements. The first being the leaps/skips (the 1st and 2nd phrases were both stepwise) and particularly the use of the Perfect 4th followed by a Perfect 5th. Then following this with a dotted quarter to driving eighths. This section lasts mm. 77-102.
The fourth section could be lumped in with the third, however, I see the key change and addition of a new rhythmic figure (the triplet) as one of two possibilities: (1) a brief extension that is stretching the phrase to the return of the first phrase OR (2) a variation of phrase 3. Either way there are recognizable similarities between the 3rd and 4th phrases – take for example, mm. 107-112 and compare it to mm. 87-92.
Key/Establishing a Tonal Center
Considering how Prokofiev plays with intervals in this movement, the tonal center is relatively ambiguous – especially if one was to just regard the opening 6 bars of just the piano alone.
However, given the opening motive the tentative tonic is a minor, however as soon as Prokofiev has moved out of the hemiolas he begins to explore F Major and its relative minor (d minor). What’s interesting here (for all you advanced theory nerds) is that these are the notes of a d minor arpeggio: a (5), F (3), and d (1) which would be the parallel minor of the first movement set in D Major. How neat!
For simplicity’s sake I will refer to the section by key rather than scale degree, but the d minor arpeggio relation is an interesting avenue, perhaps to explore the next time you work through this movement.
We see the movement towards F Major punctuated by the octaves F’s in measures 75-76. The references to d minor are more apparent in the piano score, for example before the flute has the sixteenth note runs, the piano (mm. 58-61) plays an inverted d minor arpeggio d(1) a(5) f(3).
Ending with a cadence (PAC?)
There is the brief key change to c minor, however, as discussed in the section on phrases, it is more or less an extension or variation used to cycle back to the first phrase. By m. 123 the d minor version of the first phrase is back. The punctuation of the A’s in mm. 153-155 is a versatile choice on Prokofiev’s part as this can either be regarded as the 5th of d minor or the 3rd of F Major. The ambiguity is all part of the game – given the context of writing during Socialist Realism in Soviet Russia – Prokofiev could easily claim either to be the case, whichever put him a favorable light. As far as a PAC is concerned, I see the As as an IAC in d minor, however, I have seen other scholars regard it as the same but in F Major. To support my argument for d minor I point towards the use of C# and F#s which allude to the parallel Major – perhaps forecasting the key change that will begin the B section. Futhermore, I see the transition from F Major to D Major – not impossible, but the chord functions during the transition “o, m, o, m2, m3” given the context of the piano score which allude much more to minor tonalities than Major.
B – mm. 162-227
Contrast is a fairly simple concept to understand in music theory. Opposites are a general concept that can be transferred from daily life (ie. Day and Night) which in music theory can translate to A and B sections. The B section is noticeably different than the A section, here’s what to look for: key the new key is usually related either the parallel Major/minor; this section ends with a PAC or HC; and there may be a short bridge that leads into the recap of A.
The most noticeable contrast between the B and A sections in this movement is the way Prokofiev alters the meter! Notice how the B section is in 2/2 while the A section is always in 3/4.
Tracing back to the end of the A section, my argument for the cadence being an IAC in d minor fits neatly since the B section is starting in the parallel Major – D Major. The key signature makes this key transition abundantly clear, as well as the opening statement start with an inverted D Major arpeggio.
Okay, hold on for this wild journey of keys/interval-play that I am about to suggest – with the knowledge that most of these transitions would be intervallically motivated (whether that is pushing the boundaries with something as ‘offensive’ as a tritone or maintain a Major quality to mask the deviation from traditional chord progressions).
There is a notated key change in measure 174 (removing the C# and F#s). Looking at the notated figure of a quarter triplet and two quarters – one could guess we have returned to a minor… there is after all an A being sustained in the piano mm. 174-176. However, isolating the arpeggio in m. 174 it appears to be two arpeggios combined a d minor with an inverted G Major (A-F-D-B-G-D). Prokofiev continues to play with that Perfect 4th (D to G) with the running sixteenths m. 177 and m. 181. However, keep in mind we are still technically in ‘a minor’ therefore at m. 182 we see an immediate shift to E Major (G#-B-E) because it is a the Dominant (V) in a minor. This is followed by a bm – g#m. Which is similar to the A section and how it brings out the d – f – a of d minor, this brief tonicization of the Dominant is bringing out E – B – G#.
By m. 190 the key of D Major returns… only for a short while. With a nod to the E Major, mm. 194-195, as well a a minor, the C# and F#s are quickly removed from the key yet again in m. 202. And this is where we begin to see the bridge back to A/A’.
The bridge out of the B section and back to the return of A is punctuated by the time signature change to 3/4, a return to the triple feel, while still closing out the motifs and tonal exploration featured in this contrasting section. This bridge spans mm. 208-227.
The piano part while the flute is playing the espressivo phrase and resting (mm. 212-227) is particularly of note tonally speaking. The inverted arpeggio running under the espressivo section is a bo (b diminished) arpeggio. Once the piano is alone this shifts into an alternating AM – C7. Again, an interesting (and safe) choice because these are common chords (although the quality varies) from D Major/minor and F Major.
Cadence (PAC or HC?)
This section is more or less ending with a Half Cadence. Although not a formal HC, the same function is present here…
A traditional HC is something ending with a V (Dominant). However, V is not the only Dominant function, VII can (on occasion) take the place of a V in a cadence. Nothing about this cadence is screaming authentic cadence (IAC or PAC), there is no tonic function in sight (this could be a i/I and occasionally a VI/vi).
If the piano bridge is considered to be in dm/DM there are two dominants AM (V) and C7 (VII7)… also if we really (and I mean reallllly) wanted to push for FM we could call the C7 the V7/III. Either way you spin it not tonic functions to be seen, especially with the seventh chord, therefore, definitely HC!
A/A’ – m. 228-370
Finally, a return to familiar material! This final section has a few key features: it can be varied (hence A’), it will start and end in the tonic, and ends with a PAC.
Variations: A versus A’
For the most part, this return is an exact copy of the initial A section. The flute line follows the A section to a T mm. 228-333 (the counterpart being mm. 7-112).
The first time this section deviates starts m. 335 with the descending eighth note figure. There is a new rhythmic figure (the sixteenth triplets) which allude to the ones featured in the first movement of the Op. 94 Sonata. Then, Prokofiev quotes the 3rd phrase from the A section before starting the 1st phrase… offset by one beat; and he interjects this with a hemiola-ified (adding ties to) another quote from the 3rd phrase before finishing with the 1st phrase, and a frenzied eighth pattern that ascends to the climatic C7.
Final Cadence – PAC?
If only… again it’s more of an IAC. But a very interesting feature in the Schirmer 1965 edition is that it includes the alternate violin part which ends differently!
Of course both endings are considered IAC if we are to consider the tonal center to be a minor: the flute’s C is the 3rd scale degree and the violin’s E is the 5th scale degree.
I had a lot of fun with this movement – the ambiguity lends itself to a lot of theorizing (within set Music Theory ha!) so I got a chance to explore questions I had about the score. Anything you noticed in this movement that I missed?
In August I did a post which covered the flutes I had played before getting to university; now I will covering ALL the piccolos I have owned and played from high school (which was when I started playing flute) through graduate school.
One important note before I get into the reflection is that it is very common in my area that university students upgrade to a professional piccolo – a piccolo made of higher quality materials (resin/wood/metal); even in my undergrad (as a Music Education major) I felt this pressure to upgrade. And then as a Master of Flute Performance student there is DEFINITELY a push to upgrade, however, I am here to share why this isn’t a must have. Don’t feel pressured to do something that isn’t financially viable or you (yourself) feel is necessary.
It is important to know that I started playing flute as a sophomore in high school for marching band. The flute section comprised of 2 seniors, 2 sophomores, and 2 freshman. Because the seniors were graduating I started my piccolo training only 3 months after learning flute (this is as a 15 year old).
Emerson – Nickel Silver Plated
Durable for outdoor playing, I used mine exclusively for marching band every year.
Metal LH 1st finger rest to help with the size difference from flute (like a hand crutch).
Reliable – I kept this instrument through my undergrad for any outdoor playing – the mechanism held up well.
The shrillness that comes with metal piccolos – less suited for indoor/concert playing.
Jupiter Nickel Silver Plated Head; Plastic Body*
*Before the PROS/CONS I just need to disclose I went through FOUR (yes, 4!!!) of these in a month so here’s what happened: The September of the following school year – my first school year exclusively on marching piccolo – I took a trip to a SamAsh because it was “the” musical instrument distributor in my area. The night I took home my first one I was practicing and then went to remove the head joint… and off came the barrel (aka the part that attaches the body to the head). We went back the next day and got a replacement… and I tried it in store (cautious) and it happened again. I’m not here to say anything bad about SamAsh or Jupiter, but this was VERY frustrating 8 years ago (now it’s actually comedic). I don’t know why we kept on going back to this one model of piccolo, and for context this all took place in the month of September by October I had found the piccolo I still have today. On the 3rd and 4th piccolos, there were issues with the mechanism going out of alignment. Anyway so:
Decent price (just speaking on my own experience I can’t say much more than that)
FRAGILE – better suited for indoor/concert rather than outdoor/marching
Quality assurance – in my own experience from 2013
Gemeinhardt 4SP; Plastic Head and Body
WINNER, WINNER. This is the piccolo I still own today, of course I have played professional piccolos, but in my own experience this piccolo plays well enough that I can not justify the price gap from this to a higher quality one.
And also considering that when you upgrade to a professional instrument you also have to pay for professional REPAIRS!!!! That is the biggest reason I keep this piccolo, it saves literally hundreds of dollars to play on this piccolo (especially considering piccolos go out of alignment much easier than flutes).
Durable; can manage both indoor and outdoor playing
The plastic helps reduce the shrillness in the tone, more suitable for playing indoors than metal student piccolos
Stable tuning/intonation – 8 years on the piccolo – and even after playing professional piccolos I find that I can navigate tuning on this instrument with no issues.
Not available anymore – the current comparable model would be the 4P
Bonus: Piccolos I Played In College
Haynes – Grenadilla Wood
This was a school instrument that I shared and borrowed within my studio, mainly because there was a stigma on student piccolos versus professional.
The wood made the tone significantly less shrill.
Durability – for all wooden instruments, being mindful of the temperature and not cracking the wood.
Scale, tuning – this particular piccolo just didn’t feel right under my fingers for the few years I played it; and intonation was always a struggle between registers.
Basically designed to be a “small flute” – has RH pinky keys, extending the lower register of the piccolo.
I don’t have any PROS/CONS for this still I tried it at a convention, but it was mind-blowing and I am still mildly interested in owning one for the novelty of a piccolo actually being designed to be a “small flute”.
What piccolos have you played? Thoughts on student versus professional models? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!