Flute Meme Friday: Animals and Flutes

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday.

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I don’t know about all of you, but with the beginning of the new school year well underway, and both Mars and Mercury going forward, my World has become a bit bonkers. I thought we would take things a little easy this week and simply enjoy a few pictures of animals playing the flute! Have fun and relax this weekend. Leave the cram practicing until Monday.

Enjoy! 🙂

Animals and Flutes

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Abstract Thinking (and Writing)

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday!

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As I was going through my email this week, I discovered a number of calls for paper/presentation abstracts for upcoming 2019 conferences. Writing an abstract may sometimes be intimidating for performers – How do we put into words what we intend to communicate without words? “You will love this piece,” will sadly not earn you a spot on the conference agenda. In today’s blog, I will be discussing some of the basic guidelines for constructing a convincing abstract. I hope this topic will be useful to those currently trying to boil down completely brilliant ideas about the flute into 300 words or less.

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First thing’s first – Brainstorm Ideas. The most challenging part about constructing an abstract is coming up with a great idea that you would either like to speak about or music that you would like to perform for an audience. A good place to start is by simply asking yourself what interests you about the flute. Are you curious about flute history? Are you attracted to new, exciting pieces of music utilizing extended techniques? From there, you can narrow down your topic by focusing on certain composers, compositional eras, techniques, and so forth. You may even start looking at particular pieces in your collection and, through the magic of compositional analysis, begin to make connections between the notes on the page and the affect those notes produce when performed on the flute.

Too many ideas? Narrow down by selecting ideas that fit into the theme of the conference. Many conferences have a title or theme that changes from year to year. Check out the conference website – what type of music are they showcasing at the upcoming convention? What composers or performers are they highlighting? Can you tailor one of your ideas to include these themes or musicians? For example, if the conference is emphasizing world music, you could discuss pieces that include non-traditional techniques taken from around the globe (hello, Takemitsu). Perhaps an easier way to connect your topic to the conference is by researching the location of the conference and discussing or performing works by composers or styles connected to that particular area. A good example of this would be to propose a recital of Jazz inspired works for a conference taking place in New Orleans or performing variations on a movie theme song for a conference taking place in Los Angeles. Tying your project to the conference is not necessarily a requirement, but if you are having trouble coming up with a good idea, this is another great place to start.

Too few ideas? Crack open a flute magazine and research current trends in the flute world. Performance anxiety is always a hot topic, but the way we discuss coping techniques has changed over the years. You might find a topic that interests you – How can you take it to the next level? What other topics can you connect to those published in these periodicals?

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Organize your ideas into a clear format. What do you intend to perform or discuss? What pieces and/or composers are involved? Why is it important to you? What would you like your audience to take away from your presentation? Before putting paper to pen (or fingertips to keyboard), create a bullet-point list of these items, identifying clearly the who, what, where, and why of your topic. From here, writing your abstract will be a piece of cake!

Writing the abstract. The key to writing an abstract is to be clear and concise, yet powerful. Begin with a wonderfully inspiring sentence or question that addresses why your topic is interesting and important. Why should your reader care? How does your idea relate to the flute community at large? This should be limited roughly to one or two sentences. You may throw in a quote from a composer or performer if it seems relevant and/or powerful to your message. The middle of your abstract should outline exactly what you plan to present to support your idea and in what order. Which pieces will you discuss or perform? What concepts will you address? Which composers will you highlight? What group activities do you have planned? What handouts do you plan to circulate and discuss? This should also be limited to 1-2 sentences tops. Finally, the closing sentence should state exactly what you expect your audience to walk away with after listening to your presentation. Is this a new understanding of the works of a particular composer or an appreciation for compositions written for a specific type of flute? What is the overall point of your topic?

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Need an example? Below is an abstract that I submitted for the 2015 Canadian Flute Association Conference, which was accepted and converted into an hour-long workshop. Feel free to use this as an example to format your own abstract:

PAPER PRESENTATION

The brilliance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s compositional construction transcends numerous musical mediums, most notably that of opera. Intricate relationships, particularly those between men and women, serve as preeminent themes in operas such as The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro. “Character” development can also be found in Mozart’s instrumental works where dynamics, rhythmic figures, changing styles, patterns of articulation and ornamentation serve to illustrate masculine and feminine qualities of the musical line. Mozart’s Concerti for Flute and Piano in both D Major and G Major outline such character distinctions within the solo flute line using sharp staccato rhythms and forte dynamics to initiate strong, antecedent phrases (masculine) which are often followed by legato, melodic consequent replies ranging from mezzo piano to mezzo forte dynamics (feminine). This paper addresses the various compositional techniques used in both Mozart flute concerti that depict masculine and feminine “characters” in the flute solo line and how these “characters” interact with one another to create an instrumental opera without words. In this regard, Mozart shows us that music does not necessarily need a libretto to convey intricate relationships between multiple characters.

Remember: You will likely have a word count limit. Be as concise as possible. Going over the word count is a no-no. Avoid run-on sentences or over-explaining concepts that could be easily be abbreviated into a short, sweet sentence. When it comes to abstracts, following the rules is key to getting your idea through the velvet ropes of the review committee. Be sure to dot your “I”s and cross your “t”s.

Finally, keep in mind that a rejection does not mean that your idea is no good. I have had abstracts rejected from smaller, regional conference that ultimately went on to become published articles. Take any rejected abstract and turn it into something new and wonderful. A “no” is not a “no” forever. A “no” can become a “yes” with a little bit of elbow grease.

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Are you preparing an abstract for an upcoming conference? How did you come up with your idea and translate it into 300 words or less? What other tips do you have when it comes to constructing a good paper abstract? Please comment below!

 

Happy fluting (and writing).

 

Flute Attitude Dos and Don’ts

Greetings and welcome to another Flute Friday. Just a reminder to check your September flute horoscopes on The Flute View (written by yours truly) to discover what this month holds for your flute playing. http://thefluteview.com/2018/09/dr-gs-september-flute-horoscopes/

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While I was at the NFA convention this year, I was very much inspired by the incredible sense of community present during many of the panels, recitals, lectures, and even in the exhibit hall. I am so grateful to be part of an industry that encourages and promotes art, no matter what form it takes! Unfortunately, I also noticed a few instances where pettiness and unnecessary competition sadly reared its ugly head. In today’s blog I will be discussing a few Dos and Don’ts when it comes to having good “Flute Attitude,” based on some of my observations. Bottom line: we should encourage each other no matter what level, celebrate our differences, and continue to embrace all of our shared knowledge and flute playing experiences.

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FLUTE ATTITUDE DOS and DON’Ts

DO appreciate others and what they bring to the table. We are all unique players and approach playing the flute from vastly different backgrounds. When listening to another flutist, it is important to resist the temptation to immediately compare your flute playing to theirs. Take yourself out of your observations and appreciate the wonderful sounds and techniques of other players. What can you learn from them. What inspires you?

DON’T be a know-it-all. Try not to finish the conductor’s sentences when they are addressing a group (or individual players – including yourself). I have done this myself and it just isn’t a great idea. You may totally understand what they are trying to say and are excited to be part of the conversation/teaching moment, but in these instances it is best to just listen and really dissect what they are asking from the group. There may be others that do not quite understand the concept and need further clarification directly from the horse’s mouth.

DO fit into each other’s sound without judgement when performing with a group. It is about blending, not outplaying.

DON’T try to one up other flutists by lecturing about what an expert or panelist meant. This also goes back to not being a know-it-all. It is okay to help others out if they don’t understand something or sharing your experiences if they relate to the topic, but try not to take over as the expert and pontificate in front of a group in an attempt to upstage others. Let the experts do their thing and build upon their ideas in constructive ways with others.

DO support each other and celebrate everyone’s accomplishments, no matter what level. Sometimes we get so focused on being “the best” that we forget about how difficult the journey is along the way. I love attending high school and college competitions because I remember how difficult it was to learn and excel at that level when so many flutists are trying to do the very same thing. Celebrate the moments when the younger generation breaks through the barriers of skill. Embrace the instances when a flutist playing 3rd part is promoted to 2nd. Good work!

DON’T go crazy with the name dropping. “I studied with X teacher at Y school, and then performed with Z famous flutist in W group on V super fancy stage in U Hall, etc.” It is great to be proud of your experiences, but if you are using names of famous flutists or places to intimidate your competition (or students – yikes!), you may be annoying rather than inspiring other flutists.

DO let go of past rivalries. Put the past in the past and cultivate newfound collaborations (or at least respect) for old colleagues. I was fortunate to run into an old college friendly rival at the NFA and was super happy to discover that we had become two very different types of flutists with mad respect for each other’s respective successes. It was like that rivalry never existed (seriously – back in the day it was like a Britney vs. Christina scenario) and, really, in the end it did not matter. Let it go!

DON’T leap into other’s music to correct notes. There is a very professional way to check notes that does not involve pointing at your neighbor’s score. Simply ask politely to double check a measure to make sure you do not have a misprint. Boom! They will almost always figure out the problem themselves and if there IS a misprint, you aren’t the person falsely accusing others of making mistakes.

DO listen to learn, not to judge. We can learn something new in everything we hear and everything we see. What new ideas or techniques can you bring into your own practices by listening to others?

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What are your Dos and Don’ts when it comes to having good “Flute Attitude”? What helps you keep a positive attitude and encourage others? How do you promote and celebrate the work of others. Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!

Solo vs. Flute & Piano Performances

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday. September 2018 flute horoscopes have been posted in The Flute View. Check them out here to discover what September holds for your flute playing: http://thefluteview.com/2018/09/dr-gs-september-flute-horoscopes/ . These horoscopes are available without a subscription this month!! (But of course, you should also subscribe because The Flute View is totally awesome!).

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While I was at the NFA Convention this year, I attended a wonderful recital of solo flute works that really made me appreciate the differences between performing solo pieces versus repertoire written for flute and piano. The two approaches are so very different, but we often take some the nuances for granted, particularly when we are teaching others. In today’s blog, we will look at some of these differences and how to better approach performing works from each of these scenarios. Remember to adapt to the role you play and embrace the spotlight when it is your time to shine.

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Solo vs. Flute & Piano Performances

Performing flute & piano works is a partnership. There is a natural give and take in this performance scenario. Sometimes you are the star and sometimes you are the accompaniment. This is a great opportunity to display your ability to adapt your playing technique based on your role. In contrast, performing solo works requires you to be in the spotlight at all times.

 
You have more creative freedom as a soloist. When performing solo works, you are like a musical painter in which every color change or slight variance between notes contains a brand-new meaning. You may have opportunities to do this periodically in flute and piano works during cadenzas, but it is not the focus of the entire performance.

 

Flute and piano works test your ensemble skills. This performance scenario highlights how well you communicate with other musically, challenging how you indicate changes in tempo, rubato, dynamic changes, mood changes, fermatas, ending and beginnings, and much, much more.

 
Solo playing tests your pacing and projection ability. There is literally no room to hide or blend into the texture when it is just you and the stage. You must be brave and play out no matter what!

 
Physical stage movements and stand/equipment changes are much stricter in a flute and piano scenario. You must be able to see each other to effectively communicate both musically and non-musically. In contrast, as a solo performer, where you stand and how much light you require is far more flexible. For example, at the closing performance during this year’s NFA Convention, Jim Walker performed Debussy’s Syrinx in a darkened room, while slowly walking from the back of the hall, up the isles, and to the front of the stage (accompanied by the sounds of the thunderstorm occurring outside). Very effective!

 
Stamina is a concern in solo playing. You must be prepared to go from Point A (the beginning of the work) to Point B (the end) without collapsing on stage from exhaustion. There are no rests, leaving little time for you to catch your breath.

 
Introverts may prefer solo playing. Extroverts may gravitate towards collaborative opportunities. Know your personality before programming a solo-heaving recital versus an all flute and piano recital. A healthy balance of both types of pieces will help give you a well-rounded performance.

 

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What other differences can you identify between performing flute and piano works versus solo repertoire? What types of works do you prefer to play? What are the challenges between each performance scenario? Please comment below!

Happy Fluting!

Flute Meme Friday Part IV

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday! To celebrate the Labor Day weekend (aka unofficial last weekend of the summer season), I thought today would be a good time for another installment of Flute Meme Friday. 10 more flute memes posted below!

Enjoy, have fun, laugh a little, and leave the marathon practice sessions for next week.

Happy fluting!

Flute Polls

Greetings and welcome to a much belated Flute Friday/Monday. Sorry everybody – It is still very much summer in my neck of the woods and my weekends are typically full of wonderful, yet distracting, vacay adventures. My head is often in the clouds on my days off…

Today I thought we would have a little fun! I have created a series of super easy-breezy flute polls below for all of us to compare notes on our flute playing experiences. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions as most of the answers are simply based on preferences. Have fun with this one and if you would like to elaborate on any of your answers, please comment below! All flute discussions and friendly debates are welcome. 🙂

Have fun and happy fluting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does this thing Really Work?! Flute Products Review

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Sunday.

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Thank you to all of you who attended the Professional Flute Choir performance at the National Flute Association Convention last Sunday in Orlando, Florida. It was a true honor to perform with this group and I hope to rejoin them next year in Salt Lake City! Major thanks to conductor John Bailey for his incredible leadership and to Shauna Thompson for coordinating the PFC from A to Z. You guys rock!

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Between PFC rehearsals (when I wasn’t touring literally all of the Orlando-based theme parks with my hubs), I spent some quality time in the Exhibit Hall both drooling over the Burkhart model flute that will one day be mine (to quote Wayne from Wayne’s World, “Oh yes, it will be mine”) and exploring several new, beautiful, crazy, and interesting flute products. In today’s flute blog, I will be reviewing some of my favorite new things in a “does this thing really work?” style post (inspired by the YouTube series popularized by Grav3yardGirl).  There are some great flute accessories out there! If you are in need of some major retail therapy (thanks Mercury retrograde..), I hope one of the products below speaks to your needs. Happy shopping!

Products - Thumbport

Solexa’s Thumbport II Right Thumb – I love this little gadget! I have had issues in the past with my right thumb (specifically balancing my flute more on the tip than the pad, sometimes leading to numbness after a long practice session (uhm, not good)). The Thumbport II gives my thumb a really sturdy and comfortable place to rest and feels like a wonderful tennis shoe for my thumb (they should call it ThumbShoe!). I must confess that I initially looked at this product because I saw someone using a pink Thumbport I and thought it was a super cute accessory for my flute (aka superficial motivation). When I tried out both the Thumbport I and Thumbport II, I found the Thumbport II much more comfortable than the beautiful pink Thumbport I. For me, comfort/function trumps beauty. This is a wonderful product if you have issues with the placement or balance of your right thumb. It simply clips onto your flute and can be removed easily any time you want. Nothing permanent and no glue or sticky backing whatsoever. Much more comfortable than the harder plastic models from other brands. I highly recommend.

Find it here: https://www.flute4u.com/store/Solexa-Thumbport-II-Flute.html

Products - Cloth

Beaumont Polishing Cloth – This was another purchase motivated by superficial intentions. These clothes are absolutely beautiful and come in a variety of colors and styles. The one I purchased matches my Spring Lilac Fluterscooter bag quite well, so I decided to splurge, not 100% confident that the microfiber material would compare to the Williams polishing cloth that I have been using for the past several years. I was pleasantly surprised that the Beaumont cloth performed much better than my old cloth with less effort. This is a sturdy yet soft piece of fabric that nixes fingerprints in a hot minute. There is a style for literally everyone (no more boring, light blue polishing cloths that smell like chemicals – ick). They are a bit bigger than your standard polishing cloth but easily fit into the outer case of an insulated flute bag. I am a huge fan and love that flute accessories such as cloths and bags are finally getting a chic upgrade.

Find it here: https://www.fluteworld.com/Beaumont-Microfibre-Pink-Lg–CC-BMPinkLg-.html?t=0

Products - Flute Stamp

Large Fingering Stamp by Lyricraft.com – I screamed when I saw this product (okay, not literally – just in my head). I cannot tell you how many times I have drawn clumsy hieroglyphics in my student’s notebooks to illustrate fingerings (standard, trick, trill, etc.), wishing that there was an easier, and clearer, way to record flute fingerings. This is the answer to my prayers. A simple stamp and a few colors in the dots and boom! Done. You can also put a few stamps on post-it notes for yourself if you want record alternative options for fingerings in the high register to control pitch (no stamping on original scores – post-its are not permanent). The staff next to the flute fingering makes it easy to notate the pitch (students who are visual learners will resonate with this feature). I love this device and know that I will get a lot of use out of it. Maybe even on this very blog!

Find similar stamps here: https://www.fluteworld.com/Trodat-Musical-Staff-Fingering-Combination-Stamp—Large–TA-MSFS-.html?t=0&s=fingering+stamp&searchtype=0&pdfonly=0

Products - Pad Dryer

BG 1 Piece Pad Dryer – Save the planet! Okay, okay, okay – I know how satisfying it is to clean your pads with cigarette or pad cleaning paper. The sound the paper makes when you pull it away from the pad is a wonderful, John Cagey moment that only other woodwind players truly understand. But constantly repurchasing these papers is costly and damaging to the planet. This reusable and washable device is a much more environmentally friendly way to remove condensation. I am not going to lie – It feels a little flimsy and you may be quite skeptical, but it works quiet well and is a bit gentler on pads than paper. Storage is an issue as this little piece of fabric can easily fall out of a flute case or get lost amongst other accessories. I suggest keeping the small plastic bag that it comes in for storage, so you can easily find it amongst your other flute swag. This is a great economical and environmentally sound product.

Find it here: https://www.flute4u.com/store/BG-Pad-Dryer-1-Piece.html

 

Win-D-Fendor – This is by far the most interesting and innovative product I found in the exhibit hall! The Win-D-Fendor is a device that attaches to your headjoint, cupping the flute around the tone hole, and blocks outside air from reaching your air stream. This improves sound projection tenfold and is particularly useful for outdoor concerts (or practice session), marching band, or extremely airconditioned performance spaces. Caitlin from Carolyn Nussbaum was kind enough to perform a demonstration of this product and the results were astounding. I would have loved to have one of these when I was practicing outdoors on my parents’ tree farm as a child! I will be recommending this product to all of my students who participate in school ensembles and marching bands. This a genius device! (Thanks Caitlin!)

Find it here: https://www.flute4u.com/store/Win-D-Fender.html

Products - No Sweat

No Sweat! – I was initially very skeptical of this product. Will it be like putting spray deodorant all over my hands? Eww. Sounds nasty! I was pleasantly surprised when I spritzed a few pumps on my palms. It does, in fact, neutralize clamy hands! The product leaves a slight film but nothing extreme and removes easily with a bit of soap and water. For those of us suffering from performance anxiety, or those living in extremely humid areas of the country, No Sweat! is your best friend! Of course, it was sold out before I could grab a bottle for my own collection, but I will absolutely be purchasing this to help me out in the greenroom before my next recital.

Find it here: http://www.flute4u.com/store/search.php?mode=search&page=1

 

What interesting and inventive products did you pick up at this year’s convention? Did you try any of the products listed above? How have they worked for you? Do you have your own recommendations? Please comment below!

 

Happy Fluting!

Tips for the Pit

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

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I used to love opera season as an undergraduate student. This was always a wonderful opportunity to be part of something bigger than a typical orchestra concert without the pressures of performing on the stage. The pit is a very different place and perhaps somewhat intimidating for newcomers. Communication is of the utmost importance, not just between the musicians and the conductor, but between the conductor and the vocalists, and between the vocalists and the entire tech crew. In today’s blog, I will discuss some of my best tips for performing in the pit. Remember to remain flexible and do your best to enjoy the show.

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TIPS FOR THE PIT

  1. Have all of your equipment with you in an easily accessible place. This includes instrument stands, pad blotting paper or cigarette paper (very important – I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used my music to wipe off condensation from my pads in a pit-related emergency), a set of tiny screwdrivers (you can pick these up from the dollar store), ear plugs, pencils, and small bottles of water. You likely will not have a lot of space to store these things so try to bring a small bag that can be draped over the back of your chair for essentials. I really like to use a simple drawstring backpack for this purpose.
  2. Be prepared for some less-than-ideal lighting. It is called “the pit” for a reason. The pit is literally a cave below the stage where the stage lights do not roam. Most music stands in the pit will be equipped with a standard metal stand light, but this does not guarantee proper lighting for all of your music, particularly if you are reading from an oversized score. I always try to pack my own portable, clip-on stand light for extra lighting that will not distract the other musicians around me. Purchase one ahead of time from Flute World or Amazon: (LEPOWER Music Stand Light/Book Reading Light/USB and Battery Operated/Clip on and Portable Lights for Piano, Travel, E-reader & Bed Headboard (Dual Arms)).
  3. Stick to your conductor like glue. The conductor has quite a difficult job in the pit because they must lead both the orchestra and the vocalists on stage, neither of whom can see one another. The conductor is the single point of communication for all tempos, cues, dynamics, and so much more. Keep your eyes glued on them. Remember that tempos established in rehearsal may or may not be the same at the performance (vocalist sometimes get nervous and rush). Be as flexible with tempo as you can and play whatever your conductor indicates.
  4. Count your measures of rest – even if you have a lot of them. I know it is much easier to doze off and wait for an important cue to wake you up from your mid-performance nap, but I very much advise against this. I experienced this once during my junior year when most of our orchestra missed the beginning of an important number because we naively placed our faith in a single trumpet cue that was missed at the performance, creating a snowball of other missed cues. We had nobody to blame but ourselves for not counting our measures.
  5. Always have a pencil on your stand – even at performances. Operas and musicals often run for multiple performances. Make sure you are ready to write down all of the weird things that happen during the first performance to prepare for the second. Record everything (cues, words, time signatures, key signatures, tempo changes, lighting changes, etc.).
  6. Write in lyric cues. If you play right after a recitative or if there are acting breaks between numbers, write in the last word or sentence spoke or sung before your entrance. Sometimes the conductor must react quickly to what is happening on stage and you will have a much easier time if you have multiple cues at your disposal.
  7. Know and anticipate the beat patterns the conductor will be using when the time signature changes. If a 6/8 will be conducted in 6 for the duration of an aria, make sure to indicate this in your music as a reminder. These indications are particularly important for numbers written in cut time and waltz tempi. It is difficult to remember all of the style changes that occur throughout an opera or a musical. A visual cue is very helpful for quick changes.
  8. Wear comfortable concert dress. Dress professionally (concert black, aka no tennis shoes), but avoid tight or voluminous clothing in the pit. You will be sitting for quite a while so it is important to be comfortable. There is also not a lot of extra space in the pit, so leave the ball gowns, top hats, and poofy skirts at home.
  9. Plan your page turns carefully. The show is not going to stop for you to turn a page. Make sure to map out any complicated page turns ahead of time. Copy your music as needed and tape page turns to one another to avoid any hiccups.
  10. Be prepared for anything. I was once asked to dress up and play the opening piccolo solo in Sour Angelica on stage in a kabuki mask (see picture below). On another occasion, I had a ringside seat when a broken plate prop was accidentally hurled at the conductor from the stage during a performance. Literally anything can happen. Be as flexible as possible and remember, in the immortal words of Freddie Mercury, that the show must go on.

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Have you participated in a pit orchestra? What were some of your challenges? What techniques did you use to make your musical environment work best for you? What stories do you have from your time in the pit? Please comment below.

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Happy fluting!

Blood Moon / Mercury Retrograde and your Flute Playing

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Sunday!

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I had a different topic originally selected for today’s post, but the energy of Friday’s Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse/Mercury Retrograde reminded me that everybody’s lives might be a hot mess this weekend. Perhaps an explanation from your favorite flute astrologer about how the eclipse will make its way into your flute playing for the next 6 months might be a bit more appropriate today. (Remember: The energy of a full moon can last up to 6 weeks, but the energy of an eclipse can last up to 6 months!) If you are interested in learning more about your flute horoscope, please check out my monthly column, “Dr. G’s Flute Horoscopes,” published in The Flute View http://thefluteview.com/ . August Flute Horoscopes will be coming out next week. Check them out to discover what August 2018 has in store for your flute playing!

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BLOOD MOON LUNAR ECLIPSE/MERCURY RETROGRADE

Cancer (June 21-July 22) – July 27th is a big day as Mercury goes retrograde in your 2nd house of income in conjunction with an eclipse in your 8th house of finances, banking, and loans. Be extra careful with your money at the end of the month. Mercury retrograde can stir up some trouble if you are not careful, requiring you to spend a lot of time ironing out financial difficulties. If you have applied for a loan or are currently paying off a loan (educational or otherwise), take a few minutes to make sure your documents have been filled out correctly and payments are coming or going properly from your accounts. Look out for unexpected changes in your income or savings and try to remain calm if things go a bit haywire.

Leo (July 23-August 22) – On July 27th Mercury will be going retrograde in your 1st house and, on the same day, an eclipse occurs in your 7th house of relationships. Take a step back and reflect on how you treat yourself and others and what you value both personally and interpersonally. Do you enjoy playing the flute? Do you believe that the music you make is a reflection of who you are? If not, how can you bring more of yourself into your flute playing? Do you enjoy the groups that you play with? Do you have a good relationship with the musicians in your ensemble? Do you communicate well with your colleagues? How can you improve these relationships? Think about these question at the end of the month and envision new approaches to old problems.

Virgo (August 23-September 22) – On July 27th, our friend Mercury goes retrograde in your 12th house while, on the very same day, an eclipse occurs in your 6th house of the daily health and work routines. These two energies will stir things up both in your daily schedule as well as in the practice room. Virgos are natural perfectionists and like to plan everything out. Unfortunately, Mercury and the Moon do not care about your plans. There are greater concerns that will come up during this time. You might find that your auditions mid-month have landed you a spot in a new group where the repertoire is a bit challenging. This will require you to reprioritize your practice time to devote more of your attention to cleaning up your runs and sharpening your intonation for group rehearsals. If you plan ahead and narrow down the repertoire you would like to perform before Mercury goes retrograde, you will have enough time to practice everything. You might have to reschedule your life to make sure you have enough time for everything. Make sure you have a good idea of your most important goals and create as much flexibility in your daily life as possible for surprise snafus.

Libra (September 23-October 22) – Mercury goes retrograde on July 27th in your 11th house of groups and communities while, on the very same day, an eclipse occurs in your 5th house of children, joy, games, and fun. As you audition for a new group, you may start reconsidering your commitments to the other performing groups you currently perform with. Do they challenge you? Do they interest you? Are they valuable to you? If you are accepted into a new group, you may need to leave a current group. Be prepared. At the same time, you will be presented with new opportunities to teach beginning flute students and host flute sectionals at local schools. This will not only bring you a sense of joy, but you will be a wonderful leader for these younger flutists.

Scorpio (October 23-November 21) – Mercury goes retrograde in your 10th house of careers on July 27th while, at the same time, an eclipse occurs in your 4th house of home and family. This is quite interesting. While you are reviewing your career direction and considering new shifts to your current track (possibly as an outcome of that audition you accepted earlier in the month), you may be offered a job that requires you to relocate to another part of the city, state, or country. You will have some soul searching to do if that is the case. Consider carefully how important this new opportunity is for you and the impact that it will have on your family if you decide to move. Book a trip with your family to this new place to get a sense of the surroundings. The Universe is encouraging you to take this opportunity but remember not to sign anything on the dotted line until Mercury is direct next month.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21) – The dreaded Mercury retrograde begins on July 27th in your 9th house of travel, accompanied by a lunar eclipse in your 3rd house of communications. This suggests that there will be major travel delays and miscommunications surrounding travel plans. You may become frustrated by these hiccups and say something to your travel companions that you do not mean. Remember to take it easy and expect the unexpected. Leave extra early for the airport and always bring a portable cell phone charger.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19) – Mercury will be going retrograde on July 27th in your 8th house of banking and finance while a lunar eclipse occurs on the same day in your 2nd house of income. Meet with your accountant during this time. These two energies are very dangerous for your financial situation. Make sure all of your expenses are hitting your accounts correctly. Monitor your bank statements. Put your money safely in the bank with automatic transfers. Check your credit score. Make sure your loans are being paid back properly. Be extra careful when it comes to the money coming in from your job and the money going out for expenses. You may be enjoying a number of wonderful new financial opportunities, but make sure that your credits and debits are reflected accurately.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18) – That pesky Mercury retrograde will begin on July 27th in your 7th house of relationships and will be followed by a Full Moon lunar eclipse in your sign on the same day. There comes a number of times in your life when you must revaluate your relationships with others and ask yourself if the friends and colleagues you surround yourself with are truly in line with who you are, what you value, and where you want to be in the world. It is during times like this that you uncover who your true friends are and where the toxic influences in your life exists. You may need to cut ties with toxic people in order to lift yourself up to a higher vibration. This Universe will help give you the courage to do just that.

Pisces (February 19-March 20) – Mercury goes retrograde on July 27th in your 6th house of the daily health and work routine while, on the very same day, a Full Moon lunar eclipse occurs in your 12th house of behind the scenes projects. You will need to shift a few things around in your daily work schedule to squeeze in more quality time in the practice room. Reprioritize your schedule. Is there anything you currently do that does not really serve you? Can you limit your Netflix and Chill nights to the weekends? Revise your schedule so that you are most productive on projects that need your attention at the moment.

Aries (March 21-April 19) – Mercury goes retrograde in your 5th house of creativity on July 27th, and you may find yourself making a number of revisions to a creative project. Review your work with some of your flute students and ask for honest feedback. What is easy? What is difficult? What is fun and what is boring? Sometimes simple reactions can yield significant changes. The Full Moon lunar eclipse on July 27th in your 11th house of groups and communities may have you reconsidering some of the ensembles that you currently perform with. This is a great time to start your own flute choir or chamber ensemble. If the groups you are connected with do not inspire you, create some inspiration of your own.

Taurus (April 20-May 20) – Mercury goes retrograde in your 4th house of home and family on July 27th, accompanied by a lunar eclipse in your 10th house of careers. Your space and environment are directly tied to your career. During this retrograde, you will be experimenting with updates to your workspace, teaching space, and rehearsal space that will bring you better focus. These changes will refresh work projects that may have been a bit stagnant recently (You might be surprised how a simple change of furniture can spark a newfound sense of productivity). Perhaps you need a separate space for your teaching and your rehearsing. Maybe you are interested in moving your studio practice to an offsite location or at a local music store. Mercury retrograde will help you make these changes which will also help you attract new opportunities in your career.

Gemini (May 21-June 20) – The Mercury retrograde begins on July 27th in your 3rd house of communications, accompanied by a lunar eclipse in your 9th house of travel. The planet of communication is literally moving backwards in the realm of communication. This means that you will likely have a number of miscommunications with, well, everyone. Be very careful with your word choices in any emails or blog posts. Try to avoid commenting on YouTube videos or online forums as your words may be twisted in the wrong direction. Avoid arguments with other members of your flute section. Mercury is messing with the way that others are hearing you. While this is going on, you will also be exploring new adventures in travel (or you may be so frustrated with Mercury retrograde that you are searching for a vacation escape). Put your focus on travel during this time. Do you have any exciting destinations that you have always wanted to visit? Are there summer music festivals that you would really like to attend? Go ahead and book these tickets now and enjoy the show!

blood moon 2

Have Friday’s eclipse and mercury retrograde already made their way into your flute playing? How have you addressed some of the issues that may have popped up over the weekend? Please comment below.

 

Happy Fluting!

Flute FAQs – Flute Forum Edition

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!

 FAQ1

I am a big fan of the Flute Forum group on Facebook and really like the way that the entire flute community, from beginners to professionals, can come together on this platform to ask all of their flute and performing related questions. I have scrolled through some of the most recently posted questions and have come up with my own answers. Today’s post is a spin on FAQs, featuring some of the questions posted on the Flute Forum group page. I hope they give all of my readers some insight into questions that might have also crossed their minds at one time or another. If you have any of your own questions about the flute that you would like me to answer, please comment below!

 FAQ2

Does your flute have a name? If so what do U call him/her?

Unfortunately, no, but it seems like a Kelly.

 

I have been very interested in performing violin transcriptions recently and am looking for some suggestions that you might program for a recital. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

The two pieces that immediately jump into my mind are the Prokofiev Sonata and the Franck Sonata. I also encourage you to write your own transcription of your favorite violin sonata (such as the Saint-Saens Sonata). The violin and the flute are both C-pitched instruments and are generally scored in similar octave ranges. This makes it super easy to create your own version.

 

I know “How much should I practice?” Has been asked a million times in this forum. However, I would like to ask from some wisdom from all you great musicians I admire on this forum….

Practice time varies depending on your age, skill level, and lifestyle. For example, for my younger beginners, I often set the bar at 30 minutes a day to sustain focus and energy while they learn the ropes. As they advance to an intermediate level, I typically increase suggested practice times by 15-minute increments. For adult beginning students with full time jobs and families, I suggest 45 minutes per day but know full well that this is quite difficult. Instead, I focus more on setting very specific weekly goals so they can prioritize their practice time effectively. I must state here that the ultimate goal is not clocking the correct amount of minutes but rather making each one of those minutes valuable and building towards very specific objectives. 60 minutes of mindlessly playing Mozart concerti is not nearly as valuable as 60 minutes spent with Taffanel and Gaubert working out every articulation under the sun. Make the most out of all your practice sessions. If you are bored or uninspired, put your flute away and come back with fresh energy later. There are no gold stars for the person who logs in the most minutes. Success is obtained by consistently pushing yourself towards tangible and obtainable goals.

 

Do you find pre-performance nerves or performance-related anxiety in the lead up to a concert can aggravate other sources of stress, leading to non-performance-related anxiety? Specific, I know…

Yes, yes, and yes. I tend to believe that performance anxiety is not as simple as being afraid to perform in front of a crowd. There is nearly always a self-doubt dialog running in the mind of one suffering from performance anxiety and, as one who has suffered for several years myself, I know that those insecurities actually originate somewhere other than the stage. You may want acceptance from somebody in the audience. You may feel that you owe someone a flawless performance and anything less is a failure. You may have grown up perceiving everything around you as good or bad and just cannot accept a bad performance. The next time you begin to feel anxious about taking the stage, ask yourself why. What are you afraid of and why? Chance are good that you may be connecting your performing ability on stage to something else off stage. If you feel the same stress in non-performance scenarios around the same time, the underlying reasons for your anxiety might be indirectly related to those you feel on stage. Perfectionism is often the culprit as is self-acceptance. Let these fears go. Can you accept your worst-case scenario? What does that look like? Let yourself play to the best of your ability on that specific time and place. No matter what happens, tomorrow is always another day.

 FAQ3

COA vs Overhaul

I know a lot about playing the flute but know very little about repair. Is there ever a point where a flute (or piccolo) that receives regular COAs should go in for an overhaul?

I’ve only taken one flute in for a true overhaul but it was a 1950s Haynes in rough shape that I knew needed it. I’m curious about my personal flute that I take in regularly.

Thanks!

COAs should really be scheduled once a year and I encourage students to take their instruments in for an overhaul every 5-7 years at least (depending on how heavily they play their flutes). An overhaul is a bit pricey but a great alternative to purchasing a new instrument if a student is not in the financial position to take the leap.

 

What’s your routine on your performance day? What about the day before?

If you had asked me this question when I was in graduate school (and I had answered honestly), I might have painted a bleak picture of stressed out cram practicing fed by a whole lot of self-doubt. As an adult, I find much more value in taking it easy in the last moments before a performance. Take out your nerves at the dress rehearsal, but after that, if you do practice, practice in slower chunks with long rests between passages. Focus less on drilling complicated runs and more on foundational aspects of your playing such as sound studies, harmonics, and articulation. Drink water. Eat bananas for extra beta blockers. Meditate. Polish your flute. Above all, trust in the work that you have put into your performance and accept the outcome no matter what happens.

 

Does anyone know of a short handout on care of your flute, aimed at 8-12 year olds? Ideally with illustrations/graphics to emphasize the point. Last year I made a word doc but it was too wordy! A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.

I really like this simple how-to from Wiki How-To: https://www.wikihow.com/Clean-and-Maintain-Your-Flute Wonderful graphics and very straightforward info. Just do not get too hung up in the comments section.

 FAQ4

Hello fellow flutists! I have been working on tuning up my flute & piccolo. I have been using the free App. insTuner. Is this a reliable tuning source? I am noticing that the upper register on my flute is much sharper than the lower 2 registers. I have to pull out my head joint considerably to get the notes in range. My piccolo has been even more difficult to tune as the pitch wavers back & forth. Do I need a better tuner or should I have my instruments checked or both? Any recommendations? Thanks!!

The high range is notoriously sharp on the flute no matter if you are tuning with a free tuning app or a mega expenses Boss Tuner. Try controlling the pitch more from your embouchure rather than constantly adjusting the head joint. This will train your lips and your ears to recognize the tendencies of all pitches. A great exercise to practice intonation is by placing a crescendo-decrescendo on each pitch while watching the needle on the tuner. Can you sustain the pitch through the dynamic changes? If not, what changes can you make in your embouchure to keep the needle from dipping?  I find most tuner apps to be quite accurate and prefer them to the bulky tuners of yesteryear. I do not bother with the not-so-free tuner apps because all they really offer is fun graphics when you are in tune.

 

Just wondering……. when at home…… Do you all put your flute away in the case or put it on a flute stand after practicing? Of course I do mean AFTER cleaning it.

I always put my flute away in the case. I do not trust my cat, my husband, or mostly my klutzy self to not accidentally knock it over while doing something else. I also live in California and have seen way too many disaster movies. A small earthquake would cost me a pretty penny in repairs if I leave my instrument out unnecessarily.

 

Do you use oil, vaseline, something else or nothing when you put your flute together?

Nope, nope, and nope. Some of those oils in various lip products can cause a reaction with the metal on a lip plate and result in that notorious black mark on the chin. I’ve had too many people gesturing me to rub my chin after rehearsals over the years to know that no lipstick or chapstick is worth it. You also do not want to transfer products from your hands to the keys. I’m guessing Vaseline and expensive Straubinger pads do not mix well…

 

Looking for opinions on what the best alto flute is…? I have an Armstrong Heritage alto flute (only one I have ever played) but am looking to upgrade.

I really like Trevor James model altos. Very smooth sound and good quality mechanism. Armstrong is okay and Gemienhardt is standard, but Trevor James really sets the bar. I have really enjoyed all of the Trevor James altos I have ever played.

 

I’d really like the Gemeinhardt 3SHB (I test played it and I loved it) for my birthday. But it is rather expensive and my mom doesn’t have that kind of money. Does anyone have any suggestions to a flute that has the same features but maybe a bit cheaper? TIA!!!

Do not be afraid to shop for slightly used flutes. Maybe avoid going through Craigslist or Ebay (bad return policies if something goes terribly wrong), but instead try setting up trials through companies such as J.L. Smith and Flute World. I really like the try before you buy method, particularly with used instruments. There is a good chance that you can find a slightly used Gemeinhardt with the same features for far less than a new instrument. This is a really good intermediate model and has been quite standard throughout the decades.

 

Flutists… I need some recital repertoire recommendations. One of my students who is a senior is giving a recital in May and we want to round out her program with a fun, light closer. Nothing too hard.. She is performing the Overture from the Telemann Suite, Poulenc mvt. 1, and an arrangement of the hymn in the Garden. I was thinking some sort of show tune/polka/jazzy thing
…. What are your recommendations?

The Kuhlau Divertessement No. 5 would be a fun closer as the faster second section of the work sounds a bit carnival-esque, keeping the vibe quite light and fun. You may also consider Flight of the Bumblebee, which is always a crowd pleaser. I also recommend Gossec’s Tambourin and, my personal favorite, the Habanera from Carmen.

 

What is the recommended tempo for the Mendelssohn Scherzo excerpt?

I have always practiced this excerpt at quarter note = 84 but all conductors will take different tempos. Practice the excerpt both slower and faster and play along with recordings on YouTube. There are several videos of famous orchestras playing this popular piece. This will help you get an idea of how widely the tempo will vary from group to group.

 

Hiya! Does anyone know of any pieces where the classical flute imitates pan pipes at all? 😀 Thanks!

I just wrote about this very thing in my Practice Blueprints 101 series on Debussy’s Syrinx, which imitates the pitches of a pan flute using whole tone scales.

 

 FAQ5

Do you have a burning question about the flute that you would like me to answer on an upcoming Flute FAQ’s post? Do you have your own answers to the above questions? What type of FAQ’s would you like me to cover in the future? Please comment below!

 

 

Happy fluting!