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

New Teacher

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

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

Changes and control

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

The Importance Of Trials

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

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

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

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

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

As mentioned in previous analysis posts, part of analysis is understanding the context of the composer and their piece. I’ll be starting with a brief overview on Prokofiev and then reviewing the entirety of the Op. 94 before finally isolating the Andantino movement.

Sergei Prokofiev: Restrictions in Russia

Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian composer who was alive (1891-1953) during the time of the Soviet Union. This is significant because of the control the government had over artists, especially during Stalin’s life. Prokofiev and Shostakovich, his contemporary, had targets on their backs because they were giants – having international success (Prokofiev spent a lot of time touring outside of Russia). Shostakovich was made to be an example: in 1934 his opera, Lady Macbeth, premiered and the general reaction had been positive… that is until Stalin had gone to the opera in 1936, in which he openly ridiculed Lady Macbeth. Shortly after this an anonymous article “Muddle Instead of Music” was published giving the opera a scathing review (it’s also worth noting Lady Macbeth was banned in the Soviet Union until just several years after Stalin’s death). After this the limitations placed on composers were unclear, to say the least; there were many shades of gray, all subject to the opinion of Stalin, and the price to pay for pushing the envelope was step (if not death, exile, or a whole other range of fear tactics and harassment). Generally speaking music that underwent “Russification” followed the principles of this new term for enforcement ‘Socialist Realism’: presented Russia as an prosperous and idealistic nation, including folk songs that reinforced this Russian nationalism, and finally music following classical traditions (the atonality and serialism in other parts of the world at the time was definitely NOT in line with “Russification”).

Prokofiev a composer, pianist and conductor did his best to adhere to these murky principles. A notable work he was asked to compose – in an act of redemption – was Zdravitsa for Stalin’s 60th birthday – here the principles of Socialist Realism are clearly followed: the text was already chosen for him, he chose to set it starting and ending in a Major key, and having a nostalgic quality that gave this sense of Russian pride. Other notable works include Lieutenant Kije (op. 60) a suite for orchestra; Romeo and Juliet Overture (op. 64), and (very familiar for orchestral flutists) Peter and the Wolf (op. 67) a children’s tale for narrator and orchestra.

Sonata in D Major (op. 94)

In 1943 Prokofiev finished his Sonata for flute (op. 94); this piece was written in the Classical style which is already setting it to be inline with “Russification”. This piece was written while Prokofiev was also working with Ivan the Terrible; and it was first performed by flutist, Nikolai Khaikorsky in 1943.

In 1944 Prokofiev revisited the work for violin – this would later be published as Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (op. 94bis).

There are 4 movements:

  • Andantino (QN=80) starts and ends in D Major.
  • Scherzo (dotted QN=69) opens with ambiguous tonality (am-CM-dm-FM); ends on an am chord.
  • Andante (QN=50) starts briefly in FM before exploring other keys; ends with FM.
  • Allegro con brion (QN=112) starts and ends in DM.

Given the understanding over the overall work, and the restrictions Prokofiev had we can begin to look through the first movement:

I. Andantino (QN=80)

For those familiar with musical forms, true to the piece’s name, this first movement is in sonata form. Here’s the breakdown:

The black represents the pillars – sometimes Sonata form has an Introduction (not the case here); there will ALWAYS be an exposition, development and recapitulation (pay very close attention to the repeats they are important to the form); and sometimes there is a coda (which there is in op. 94).

The green represents cadences. HC = half cadence; PAC = perfect authentic cadence; IAC = inauthentic cadence. The exact cadences in this diagram are not as important as the cadence’s function… basically is it stable or unstable?

Finally, the purple represents tonality or tonal areas. The exposition begins in the tonic or home key, by the secondary theme there is a new key (usually related to the home key) that will be explored. The development continues off the end of the exposition somewhat stable, but then can do an array of things to ‘develop’ melody and harmony such as use sequences, variations, toncizing other tonal areas, or fragment previous material. Finally, the recapitulation works very similarly to the exposition (since it is recapping that material) however everything is now in the tonic/home key. The coda ends up a tag at the end, extending the material, in this case it still ends in D Major to get that nostalgic and classical tradition feel that would be expected of Prokofiev by Social Realists/the government.

The exposition in this first movement ends before rehearsal 4 (in the Schirmer 1965 revised edition) or measure 40. One easy visual cue to tell that the exposition ends and the development has started is the repeat – knowing this saves so much time.

Exposition – Opening motive

The primary theme starts in D Major ending with a PAC in measure 8. The transition is still tonicizing the home key, but with added chromaticism; there isn’t a formal HC as seen in the template above, but the instability of the D in the flute against an F-natural (the lowered 3rd) and in an inversion – with the F being underneath the D – has the same effect that a HC would in measure 20.

The secondary theme starts in measure 21 introduces a new rhythmic motive (dotted eighth sixteenth); the new key is not clear, but Prokofiev brings out the E – G# – B repeatedly throughout this new theme despite never fully tonicizing it. Then, in measure 30 (or rehearsal 3) the unstable tonality remains the same, but Prokofiev expands on the secondary theme with rhythmic variance with the groups of 6 as well as the contrasting longer durations (quarter and half notes).

Exposition – Closing Theme – Rhythmic Variance

The development spans from rehearsal 4 to 8 (or measure 41-87 and features the infamous climax of the piece that utilizes the extreme high register of the flute (D7).

This section starts without any piano, and allows the flute to show off their full low register with a short, articulate sounds. The new variance in the rhythm are the driving sixteenth triplets placed on the second half of the beat – Prokofiev continues to use this motive throughout this section to drive forward. At rehearsal 5 (measure 51) there is a transposed return of the opening theme – down a half step, starting on G#. With quotes from the closing and secondary themes before, yet again, returning to the opening theme now an augmented fourth (or a tritone) above the original pitch. And then seemingly out of nowhere, Prokofiev abruptly changes the key signature, measures 64-69. He leans into the instability with a quick time signature change from 4/4 to 2/4 and back to 4/4. In measure 74, Prokofiev gives the flute 2 groups of 5 to launch into the climax combining the transition theme from the exposition with the driving triplets; emphasizing the virtuosic arpeggios up to the D7 by repeating them 5 times.

Development – Transposed TT Opening Motive; key change

The recapitulation spans from rehearsal 8 to 4 after reh. 10 (or measure 88 to 107). The stability of D Major is alluded to one measure before with the piano lead in and the repeated A5s in the flute. There is a PAC in 85, which quickly jumps into the transition where he (like before) plays with chromaticism but stays in the home key of D Major; with a pedal D in measure 91 that acts as a PAC – even though it is technically not when looking at the piano score, the restfulness before the next entrance functions in a similar manner. The secondary theme – which maintains the rhythm of the dotted eighth sixteenth – is now set in the home key, starting on the 5th (A5); this theme ends with an IAC (because the flute is on the 5th and note the root, D) with is still relatively restful, but alluding to something more which is fitting because it is followed by a fermata where the flute has a moment to rest while the piano maintains a pedal A2. The closing theme in the recap looks very similar to the secondary theme of the exposition with the biggest difference being the ending – which is on D to create a relatively conclusive ending – PAC.

Recap – Closing theme similar to Secondary theme of Expo

Sometimes, but not always, the development and recapitulation are repeated (they are ALWAYS repeated together, however sometimes for brevity or with the addition of a coda, this second repeat is nixed.

Coda – Inversions

Finally, the coda spans measure 108 to the end. For the first time in the work, Prokofiev starts the flute on the 3rd (F#) this is significant because the 3rd determines the quality, and in this case he is playing around with the quality of a D7 against a b-flat minor arpeggio; as well as varying inversions (measures 110-111). At the end, measure 115, Prokofiev does a brief return to that seemingly out of place B-flat major from the development with the perfect fourth of the F to the B-flat, a transposed version of the opening motive; before ending securely in D Major as would be expected of him within the Classical tradition.

Coda – Transposed opening motive

Given the context of when Prokofiev wrote this piece and life/restrictions in the Soviet Union, it is clear that some boundaries where being pushed. At pivotal points, Prokofiev follows Classical traditions; but tonally and rhythmically (end with register to a point – the contrasting low to high in the development) he is exploring new terrain that somehow fits into the shades of grey within Socialist Realism.

Academia aside, this is beautiful flute piece to play and study – I look forward to working on this for my final Masters recital. Let me know your thoughts about this first movement in the comments.

This fall I completed the first book in the Suzuki flute method, as a classically trained flutist I had some tools in my belt prior to taking this course. After taking the course, I recognized some of the limitations in engaging young students, such as the younger siblings (anywhere from 3+) of students in beginning band (generally ages 9-10) . In this post I will be sharing a combination of methods that can be used to support new flute students of any age.

Spitting Rice

Starting with a Suzuki method technique…

This is a relatively inexpensive tool since one bag of rice can go a long way. The largest benefit of this method is that the student is directing the instruction: you don’t need to lecture them or walk them through the hows and whys. Simply modeling and having them copy you is enough to get them started.

Furthermore, this tool can be build on for the students as the advance: making a game out of spitting rice at a target/picture will inadvertently teach the students how to direct their air without a long explanation. Plus, the students get to navigate what works for them with minimal exposition from the teacher,

Mimicking Sounds (“mm” “pah” “poo”)

Sounds that engage the lips particularly using fricatives which are a hard constant sound (for example, a common choir warmup is singing with a “ffffff” or “zzzz” or “vvvvvv” sound).

You can find a variety of online content that reference about their preferred sounds; some work better depending on the individual – generally the “mmm” like M&M, “pah” with an emphasis on the pop ‘h’ at the end of the sound, and “poo” with an emphasis on the ‘ew’ ending sound are successful for forming the flute embouchure shape.

Breathing; Organizing Air

For early wind students learning how to organize and control their air is most likely a completely new concept. Isolating this skill before introducing the instrument can help avoid headaches and bad habits later on when the students have to worry about assembling and holding their instrument, forming the embouchure, and having enough air to play.

The system used for teaching breathing really depend on the student’s level – regardless of age. Some students are ready for an exposition on understanding inhaling and exhaling, while other students would just rather observe and copy, another group work better in a natural, less pressured environment, etc.

The most important take away is that you isolate the skill of breathing before adding the flute; and then you can play games to build on that foundation.

For young students using bubble wands or balloons, to see how long they can exhale, what they notice about needed to in take more air, and how that results in forming a bigger a bubble or balloon.

Visual Tools

Not all students have the same learning style, some students benefit from seeing what they need to do and building on that some of these students prefer to teach themselves.

Two tools you can provide these students to enable their learning style are coffee straws and a mirror. The coffee straw can be placed between the top/bottom lip, no more than 1 centimeter in the mouth, at a diagonal where the higher point is pointed towards the roof of the mouth. This tool allows the students to see how large the aperture (or the shape between the top and bottom lip) should be. The mirror allows for self-assessment, with or without a coffee straw, the student can see their own lips and observe what they are doing with guided questions to help them notice what to look for.

Eliminating Variables/Distractions

Rarely would you teach a young student to do several things at once. As a general rule, you would want to establish small foundational steps that you continue to build on as they develop. While it is important to hold students to a high standard, allowing them the space to succeed with realistic goals and expectations is paramount.

When introducing the producing first sounds on head joint (after successfully forming the embouchure and exploring air organization), bringing the head joint to the student and asking them to just focus on breathing and forming the sound/articulation will provide the least distractions and eliminate any potential bad habits. By bringing the head joint to the student, they don’t need to adjust their body, move their head, etc – remind the student to let the flute come to them. Early on this could be a game in group lessons where the students “deliver” the flute to another student.

What do you do for getting the first sound on the flute? Have you seen any Suzuki flute teaching incorporated into the classroom before?

Hi Everyone, I am happy to report that I survived my graduate comp essays. I passed the history portion, and just waiting to get my theory results back.

Other updates:

I finished teacher training for Suzuki Flute Book 1 so I can now teach that!!

I got my own ukulele – since my Teacher Popular Music course is coming to an end, I’ll have to return the school’s instrument so I wanted to have my own to continue learning – right now I can really only play the opening to “The Moon and Me” from the Addams family music and the melody to the Animal Crossing New Horizons intro song.

I thought I also might be useful to share some holiday gift recommendations for flute players since this is being posted on Black Friday, and most online retailers will continue sales through the weekend.

Originally, I posted this list on my OG tumblr (x):

Warm up/Technique books:

1. Paula Robinson Warmup Book

2. Taffanel and Gaubert – This is on IMSLP

3. Reichert – Also on IMSLP

4. Trevor Wye Omnibus Edition

5. The Flute Scale Book

6. Moyse … he has so much I like his 24 little pieces in particular

Solo (ie etudes,flute and piano or orchestral/band excerpt)/Technique

1. Flute 101 and 102

2. Baxstresser Orchestral Excerpts for Flute

3. The Orchestral Flute Practice Book – Trevor Wye and Patricia Morris

4. Andersen op. 33 (etudes)

5. Berbigiuer (etudes) – This may also be on IMSLP

6. Karg-Elert Caprices (etudes)

Solo (ie solo flute or flute and accompaniment) music*

*as a general rule, Barenreiter or UrText collections (such as Bach or Handel collections) are great if you’re looking for a specific piece and also want some other material to read through

Also, many parts published by the “International Music Company” are littered with errors (I have had several pianists go on and on about this so just a heads up to be cautious).

Flute-centric books/reading

1. The Flute Book (Nancy Toff)

2. Flute Secrets (Trevor Wye)

3. Quantz’s How To Play the Flute

Some good flute specific online shops:

The Flute Center of NY has an online sheet music shop: Rose Music and the prices have been very fair in my experiences with them – and they usually have sales going on soo definitely worth checking out.

Flute World also has a ton of music on their website, but it can sometimes be more expensive or take awhile to get to you because they do not have the item in their facilities and have to order it for you.

Or the Flutistry of Boston also tends to have a wide array of flute goodies!

How was your November? Do you have any holiday gift recommendations – flute-centric or otherwise?