• Francis Poulenc – Sonata for Flute and Piano

The challenge with this piece has been playing what’s on the page versus playing in a stylized manner (as many recordings of this piece often exemplify). The technical elements such as the sept-tuplets, 32nd note pickups, or double tonguing in the 1st movement require a practice approach that will make the end result sound seamless or effortless.

  • 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.

  • Katherine Hoover – Kokopeli for solo flute

With no indicated meter and no accompaniment the challenge with this piece is maintaining rhythmic values. As well as keeping an active ear for intonation, especially on repeated pitches. And finally keeping a sharp eye on the accidentals since they do not carry through the octave. Despite these initial challenges, the phrasing and overall mood of the piece drive the player to overcome these visual hurdles.

  • 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 is on your stand this month?

Unpopular opinion: I love flute warmups… if that was not abundantly clear by my extensive collection of flute warmup resources.

I think quarantine is a great time for people who normally don’t prioritize warmups to step away from repertoire, and find something that resonates with them. My philosophy regarding warmups are that they are not a one-size fits all plan – everyone lives different lives. Some people have more time to practice than others, some people having certain restrictions regarding space and time they can play, etc. I am here to share what my current resources and warmup plan are – DO NOT feel less than or pressured to have a warmup that is exactly like mine. I will also take the time here (as this is my first post about warmups) to discuss HOW I got to this plan.

What you need to keep in mind regarding practice planning:

  • Time – both how much time you have AND the amount of time it takes for you to learn and process material.
  • Introspection – you need to reflect and BE HONEST with yourself that is the only way to improve. You must be active, not passive, during practicing. And you are only competing with yourself and no one else, don’t feel like you are racing against anyone else.
  • Practicality – know your limits and what you are capable of. Like any goal or plan, don’t set yourself up for failure; and this also goes with time, you will learn what works for you. Experiment, trial and error, and don’t give up when you fail.

What Is My Current Warmup?

Breaking down what resources I am currently using*:

  • George and Avidan Louke – The Flute Scale Book
    • Harmonics
    • Variations on scale patterns
  • Paul Robison – Flute Warmups
    • Singers Warmup – tone and resonance in scales
    • Radiating Arpeggios – arpeggios with extended range and varied rhythm
    • Bells Warmup – long tones
    • Nightingale Trills – coordination and balance
  • Kujala – The Flutist’s Vade Mecum
    • Extending technique
  • Moyse – 24 Little Melodic Etudes
    • Simple melodies focusing on honing techniques (dynamics, articulation…)
  • Moyse – Scales and Arpeggios
    • Variations on scale and arpeggio patterns
  • Taffanel and Gaubert – 17 Daily Exercises
    • Versatile simple scalar patterns

*I DO NOT practice all of these every day, I vary my warmup (following a general plan) to avoid injury and to tailor to what I need to work on depending on the day.

My warmup plan – what do I practice and why do I practice?

  • Harmonics – Tone/Focus
    • Control – being able to get a clear pitch (on whichever partial I play) and move with ease
    • Resonance – being aware of what I’m using to get a particular sound (regarding my nose, chest, tongue, vowel, etc.)
    • Lips/Apperture – finding and experimenting what works and what doesn’t.
  • Contrast
    • Dynamics, articulations, etc.
    • Being active in my warmup and having to assess whether something sounds different or the same.
  • Scales
    • To move air, get it spinning.
    • Get fingers and mind coordinated.
  • Range
    • Experimenting with what I need to do to make all registers sound even – tone quality; as well as balance and blend.
    • Finger coordination for extreme registers.
  • Coordination/Balance
    • Stability and consistency – make playing seem as effortless as possible.
    • Challenge myself with tricky finger changes while maintaining balance.

How I got to this point of structuring my warmup?

When I was in high school I was a violinist that started flute on a whim to be in the marching band with my friends. I didn’t start taking lessons until a year after I started playing when I knew I was going to take college auditions for music. During this early period, I mainly focused on scales (Major and minor) and maybe arpeggios. The book I picked up from my local music shop was actually the “Foundations For Superior Performance” book for wind band.

In my undergrad I was exposed to A LOT of warmups… I was given warmup after warmup (because I really had and still have this love for doing them – so much so that, during my undergrad, I would actually spend more time on warmups than on actual repertoire), but for the warmups I did in my studio I was rarely every told WHAT I was actually working on when given a PDF. I have filled in the gaps now as a Masters student, so here is the wide range of things I worked on in my studio as an undergraduate Music Education flute student:

  • Taffanel and Gaubert*
  • Moyse Exercise Journaliers*
  • Moyse De La Sonorite
  • Paula Robison Warmup Book
  • The Flute Scale Book
  • Andersen Op. 33
  • Berbiguier 18 Etudes
  • Karg-Elert Caprices

*These first two were the STAPLE books for our studio – our technique class really hinged on the patterns from these books.

Now in graduate school, I have a lot more (if you can believe it) books that I have used. I tend to cycle through books to keep things interesting. This is what I have studied on my own and with my teacher as a Master of Music Performance student:

  • All of the above
  • Moyse 24 Little Melodic Studies
  • Maquarre
  • Andersen Op. 15
  • Paul-Edmund Davies 28 Days Warmup Book
  • Kujala Vade Mecum
  • Trevor Wye Omnibus Edition

An example of a typical warmup (July 2020):

Every time I take my flute out I do the same thing: I get my KORG tuner/metronome and set it to A440 drone. I take a moment to listen to the A, and try to match my first notes to that drone. I’ll play that same A4, the As above it, and then a bit of noodling until I feel like my ears are discerning where I am for that day. By that I am referring to intonation (am I sharp or flat today?), resonance (am I playing too forward and shallow or am I supporting the sound?), and focus (do the notes speak and what am I doing to get them to speak).

This takes no more than 2 minutes, there are good days and bad days – I do this drone every day I practice as a gauge to figure what I will need to focus on for that day. So for this example of a typical warmup let’s say I am having a bad day – my pitch was very flat, I am playing too forward and tense, and the notes are not speaking right away. I move onto 2 exercises (the order can be reversed, as I use these exercises for the same reason):

(1) Harmonics – this can be stacking harmonics (C4, C#4, D4) or following the patterns in the “Flute Scale Book”. Here I am focusing on getting that deeper resonance and support. I reflect on what I am doing internally and externally with my body to get sound – usually my shoulders need to come down and I need to unarch my back when my resonance is too forward and shallow. By making these adjustments, the harmonics begin to sound more focused, in tune and come from a better place.

(2) A 5 note stepwise patterns – examples of this would be Taffanel and Gaubert “17 Daily Exercises” #1 and 2; or the Singers Warmup in the “Paula Robison Flute Warmups Book”. Again, I am focusing on achieving that deeper resonance and support. Here I may hum while playing the 5 note pattern to bring my resonance backwards in my mouth and nose. The 5 note patterns are great because they are taking out the complications of registers (particularly evenness) so I can focus on getting small groups of notes to all have one sound.

This part can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Say that after all of that work I have only slightly improved my tone quality, still playing forward and tense, I will move onto to a full register or full scale exercise and will do chromatic, Major and minor (depending on how much time I have – I will either play all forms or if I do not have much time I will just do harmonic) scale patterns:

Examples include the Moyse “Exercise Journaliers” extended Major and minor scales; a B3-D7 chromatic scale; Taffanel and Gaubert #3 or 5; “The Flute Scale Book” Major and minor scale patterns; the Maquarre chromatic exercise; or the “Paula Robison Flute Warmups Book” Orange Juice warmup. This is usually where the most improvement happens (in my own experience – my learning style is understanding a concept but it taking awhile for my body to catch up) because I am now mostly in the right mindset; and focusing finger coordination distracts my mind enough that the issues with tone quality will resolve themselves.

The scales can take 5-10 minutes. By this point, I will switch to a short easy piece or etude. Examples include “Andersen Op. 15”; Moyse “24 Little Melodic Pieces”; or duets from the Voxman books. I take this time to enjoy the sound and be less critical than I had been in my earlier warmup. Here I focus on dynamics, articulation patterns and musicality – looking more at contrast rather than trying to be ‘perfect‘.

The piece or etude will take another 5-10 minutes depending if there are variations or if I want to isolate any part of the exercise. The final part of my warmup is technique – I will focus on more precise or tricky articulation patterns, extreme dynamics especially with register, or tricky fingering patterns. Examples include Kujala’s “Vade Mecum”; Moyse “Scales and Arpeggios”; and or Taffanel and Gaubert #4, 10, 12. This final part of the warmup taking anywhere from 15-25 minutes.

This quarantine warmup can take about an hour, whereas, before quarantine I might not have had a full hour to spent just warming up I can take advantage of this time to focus on my weaker areas.

Let me know in the comments how you warmup, has it changed significantly since quarantine started? And what resources are you using in your warmup?

Summer practicing blues and unexpectedly bad auditions are the usual culprits of draining motivation. But this year is different, with a pandemic looming for an indefinite amount of time, how are we meant to establish tangible goals when we aren’t even sure what horrors tomorrow will bring?

What do I work on? What am I working towards? When will I get to play with others again? When will I get to play live again? When will I get to see live performances again? What’s the point of all this?

These are all questions a good handful of musicians have been mulling over since March 2020. Things are uncertain and look like they will be for some time.

Gone are the days of routine and structure that we knew just one short year ago. As a college student in New Jersey that would mean 3 months of summer break (just 3 months of uncertainty) and the other 9 months of the year are familiar, stable and secure in a fixed, predictable school and work environment.

You skip a day of practice, that day turns into 3 days… to a week. And then you realize you haven’t practice this entire month. Why would you? What are you practicing for? You feel torn – an unspeakable loss at the fact that the last time you performed may be the last time you will ever perform with that group of people again… or just perform live again. A bit dramatic, but for graduating students that is a reality that this past semester may have been the last chance they had to perform live. So how do you keep going?

Here are my tips for being motivated when life feels unstructured and insecure:

  • Create a routine – this doesn’t have to just be in music. Make a morning, afternoon, night routine that leaves the time you need to practice. If you make small changes all around rather than trying to wedge practice in you will be more likely to stick with it.
  • Listen/watch performances that bring you joy – I will link a couple of my own at the bottom of this blog post.
  • Determine what you want to achieve before you practice – do you just want to play? Do you want to work on technique?
    • This can be hard when you feel like you don’t have anything to work towards. If you are stumped on this one, record yourself playing and WAIT. Listen back to it a day or so later, and be honest with yourself with what you did well and where you can improve.
  • Be kind to yourself. This is not the time to beat yourself up because you think you sound terrible or whatever hurdle you are trying to surmount. Take the time to become aware of how you talk to yourself and make it a priority to be your own cheerleader.

Performances that bring me joy:

Elgar – Enigma Variations – Nimrod

Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1997, dedicated to Sir Georg Solti.

Holst – The Planets – Venus, Bringer of Peace

Hickox conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in 1991.

Dvorak – Symphony No. 9 – Mvmt. 4

Dudamel conducting the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra

Rimsky Korsakov – Scheherazade – Mvmt. 3

Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1978.

Tchaikovsky – Romeo and Juliet

Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms 2007

How are you staying motivated during this pandemic? Share you strategies and thoughts below – as well as any performances that bring you joy!

Hello! I’m Emma Piedilato, thank you for taking an interest in my blog. In this introductory post I will be giving an overview of what my current flute set-up as a graduate Master of Flute Performance student. This is my current set-up as of July 2020 which I’ve maintained since the 3rd year of my undergraduate degree several years ago.

I currently play on a Haynes, Weissman model flute. It is a handmade, custom flute that I bought pre-owned from the Flute Center of New York during my 1st year of undergrad in 2015. I’ve kept the original head joint which has a large squoval-cut hole, is made of silver, and has a 14K gold riser. The body is also silver, with Straubinger pads, a C# trill key, D# roller and B foot.

Getting a new flute (and making the jump from student to professional) meant that I had gone from a latch-style case to a french-style case. The different being that I now needed a case cover to properly carry my flute around. During my undergrad, the university would hold a Woodwind Day where vendors would come with limited stock for the students (usually at a discounted price). It was at one of these events that I bought my Jean Cavallaro case cover.

In 2017, I made the decision to add a LeFreque to my flute set-up. I made this choice after trialing several colleagues’ LeFreques of different materials and seeing (1) which metal I preferred and (2) if I really thought it would improve my sound quality. I eventually decided on the rose-gold plated, solid silver sound bridge. My recommendation is to try any flute product before buying it (especially if the price tag is expensive), and despite the varying opinions on LeFreques: I have used mine since 2017 to present day. Originally, I was struggling to adapt from a student Yamaha flute with a small oval lip hole to the Haynes Weissman flute with the large squoval lip hole. Getting low notes, overall control, and stability had been a challenge for about a year and a half since purchasing the flute. I do believe, in my case, the LeFreque was a tool in helping me bridge the physical gap between the two flutes – it is not a necessary tool for everyone, but is certainly is cheaper than buying an entirely new head joint.

The original Haynes case my flute came in was not sturdy enough to support my flute. I found this out one long day during my undergrad when my flute (in the case) was knocked off a chair, no more than 2 feet of the ground, and resulted in a bent key. Over the following summer, I saved up my money to invest in a sturdy case recommended by my repair tech to decrease the amount of movement of the flute while in the case (it can’t be seen well in the attached photo, but my repair tech glued additional black felt inside the case to make the fit custom to my flute). The case I ended up getting was the Valentino B-foot Wood Case.

Over time, I began to accumulate all of the gadgets inside of my case… I made the transition from a flute rod and cloth to a Valentino flute flag the same time I bought the case. Quickly, the flute flag has become my favorite method for cleaning my flute – it is washable, and doesn’t fray like the interior cloths tend to do.

The pad paper has been part of my set up from day 1 – especially in New Jersey with our ridiculously high humidity, pad paper is essential!!!

The mini screw diver was studio gift from my undergraduate flute professor, although I never use it on the body, I do use it for the screw holding the D# roller on the foot joint does which I occasionally need to adjust; I always keep it with me for that emergency.

The coffee straw may seem like an odd thing to keep in my case, but I always keep one on me for when I am teaching. The validity of teaching students the approximate apperture size with a coffee straw is vital… also sometimes if I’m having a subpar playing day I use it to retrain myself.

Finally, I have an abundance of Beaumount cloths. I use one to rest my flute when I’m taking a short break from playing or taking a quick note to prevent dirt or dust from getting on the flute body or pads. And the other one I use for exterior cleaning.

What is your flute (or other instrument) set up? Let me know what you’re using.