Talkin’ About Flutes – Flute Talk Tips, Part I

Happy Flute Friday! I really hope everyone out in Internet Land is enjoying these weekly posts. If you have any topic that you are dying for me to cover, or really anything that you think needs to be said about the flute, please message me. I realize most of my recent posts have covered various aspects of flute teaching so I will try to mix it up a bit in the next few weeks with some history, theory and miscellaneous “favorites” posts.


I have been a subscriber to Flute Talk Magazine for nearly 20 years. If you are not yet familiar with Flute Talk, I highly recommend this monthly journal as the articles are typically quite short and accessible to a wide audience with varying skill levels. I brought a large stack of these journals with me to Houston as I am extremely behind in my monthly readings. What I have loved about Flute Talk over the years is that you can always find a new phrase or idea buried within its pages to try out in your own practice or teaching to revolutionize your approach to flute playing. The following snippets are just a few 1-2 liners from my backlogged stack of Flute Talks. There will be a series of these posts as here I only touch on 3 volumes (and my stack is quite a bit larger) but the tips below are a really good starting point for exploring new ideas. I am most intrigued by using YouTube in my studio and uploading more instructional video blogs for my students to use in their practice. I hope these quotes breathe new life into your flute playing as they often do mine.


“We must follow the ink, and look for clues. Composers have written them in everywhere. Musicians have only to interpret those clues…. That’s our job; we follow the ink and translate it for the audience.” – Victoria Jicha, “Musical Communication or Follow the Ink,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Tips for playing principal flute: Be flexible with your dynamics, colors and vibrato and have a good range of attacks. Always know your function harmonically, and whether you’re leading, following, shadowing, blending or the soloist. Be a musical chameleon.” – Emily Beynon, “Playing with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“In my opinion, it is better to play scales slowly and exactly than too fast with splashiness and slips. This is the training of the automatic finger combinations needed for playing pieces.” Emily Beynon, “Playing with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“If your private flute studio is too small to host its own recital, ask another teacher to share an event.” -Julianne Ensley, “Teaching Middle School Flutists,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Devising strategically placed flagging spots in the score to land on in case of a memory lapse was an indispensable part of that strategy. Basically, I practiced the last four bars of the movement by memory, then from the last eight bars, then from the last sixteen bars, and so on. Next I practiced “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” style, starting anywhere in the movement randomly.” -Walfrid Kujala “On Memorizing,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Another great habit that I learned from a sports psychologist is to touch a spot in the room and symbolically leave all your worries and distracting thoughts there at that place. Then you are free to touch the same spot on your way out the door, symbolically picking up your worries once again after you have finished your practice session.” -Cynthia Ellis. “Pick a Letter,” Flute Talk, February 2015

“Baroque flutists had a different set of varied articulations that they mastered and learned to use as their palette. These included ti, di, tiri, did’ll, du, ru and more.” Leela Breithaupt, “Beat Hierarchy, Microdynamics, and Articulation.” Flute Talk, January 2015.

“Make a repertoire sheet with the following headlines: Etudes Studied, Unaccompanied repertoire Flute and Piano Repertoire, Concertos (place an asterisk before the ones you have performed with orchestra), Chamber Music, Excerpts (place an asterisk before the ones you have performed with orchestra). Send this repertoire sheet to the teacher before the first lesson with a note asking what you should prepare for the first lesson.” -Patricia George, “Becoming a Better Student.” Flute Talk, January 2015

“Photocopy the music and cut it into 4 to 16 measure sections. Place strips in a paper bag and shake the bag. Pull a section randomly from the bag, start there, and play to the end. The ability to start anywhere will be extremely helpful should you get asked to jump to a different place in an audition or if you have a memory lapse.” -Conner Nelson, “Practical Tips for Effective Memorization.” Flute Talk, January 2015.

“Cracking notes is a result of not appropriately estimating the support needed to play a note, with or without the tongue. Similarly, an articulation that is excessively heavy, harsh, rough, or explosive will overpower the tone, regardless of support, and quickly lead to fatigue.” -Jennifer Bouton Schaub, “Piccolo Articulation.” Flute Talk, January 2015.

“Auditions and competitions are a part of musical life that inspire a greater work ethic and can provide specific goals and opportunities for continued growth. The process of learning and getting better is a life-long journey with ups and downs, wins and losses, and many opportunities to try again.” -Katherine Borst Jones, “Going Beyond Winning and Losing.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

“Studying the original notation without editorial marks gives a better sense of a composer’s intentions and offers insights into performance practice.” Leela Breithaupt, “Back to the Baroque.” Flute Talk, October 2015.

“Occasionally, I create short videos for my students to reference while practicing. These videos are either the only available recordings of material students are working on, or video demonstrations of subjects that are difficult to teach and assimilate in one lesson such as vibrato, ornamentation and rubato” -Karen McLaughlin Large, “Using YouTube in the Studio and Classroom.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

“Most teachers agree that there never seems to be enough time to get to everything done in a lesson. I remedy this by requiring students to upload their weekly etudes on YouTube by the night before their lessons. The following morning I listen to the videos and write down comments. When the lesson starts, I am able to address problem areas in each etude.”  -Karen McLaughlin Large, “Using YouTube in the Studio and Classroom.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

“After 10-15 minutes of piccolo practice, switch back to practicing on the flute. Playing with the larger flute aperture keeps the embouchure flexible and relaxed as well as providing some recovery time. Even piccolo players in good shape should not practice more than 45 minutes to an hour without taking a break.” -Nan Raphael, “Pacing Your Practice.” Flute Talk, October 2014.

Are you a Flute Talk subscriber? How has Flute Talk influenced you over the years? Have you experimented with any of the above techniques? Please comment below!


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