Month: January 2016

Flutetude – Top 5 Flute Etude Collections

Welcome to the January 29, 2016 edition of Flute Friday.

Let’s talk etude books.

“Let’s not,” says the Ghost of Flute Lessons Past. Etude books often get a bad rap because they force us to confront our technical and musical weaknesses head on without the niceties of standard repertoire. For myself and countless others, etudes bring back painful memories of struggling to play clunky technical passages perfectly with the metronome and failing over and over and over again. First of all, we need to accept that failure is an integral part of learning. Simply stated, failure teaches us what not to do. Etudes provide us with a proverbial mine field of potential failures that expose the cracks in our musical foundation yet encourage us to develop creative solutions to tackle similar problems now and in the future. Etudes are your teachers. Etudes make you think beyond what you already know. Etudes provide the struggle and the struggle is what makes music great.


There are numerous etude books on the market, all addressing different elements of musicianship at different stages in the learning process. I even addressed one of these books, the Methode pour Flute by Henri Altes, in my culminating DMA paper. Listed below are five of my favorite, tried and true, etude books; The ones that I have remained faithful to throughout my career. You may not love them and you may have your own favorites but for those of you searching for new ways to improve your overall technique, these are excellent resources to consult as a starting point. Work on these in small doses in your daily practice or set up a block of time on a Sunday afternoon to take the plunge into deeper musical waters.

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Trevor Wye’s Practice Book 1: Tone

Available on Trevor Wye Practice Book for the Flute: Volume 1 – Tone Book Only

I have raved about Trevor Wye’s Tone book many times on this blog. Although this is a book strictly addressing tone development, I feel that it has a seminal place on the list of favorite etude books. I use this book in my daily warm ups, beginning with the short, simple harmonic exercises on page 6 and alternating between the middle register exercises on pages 12 and high register exercises on pages 13-14. Memorize these pages. Require that your students memorize these pages. Create your own dynamics and practice sustaining your tone as you track intonation through volume changes. On days when you wish to spend a bit more time working on tone development, or wish to try out a new embouchure placement, review longer exercises in the chapters addressing the low, middle and high register. Finally, experiment with tone colors. The passage in this book addressing tone colors was the inspiration behind my Color Your Music blogs and conference presentations. Developing sound colors will revolutionize your sound palate and help you better develop a sound plan for larger repertoire.

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Reichert 7 Daily Exercises

Available on  Seven Daily Exercises, Op. 5: Carol Wincenc 21st Century Series for Flute

Taffanel and Gaubert’s Exercise #4 is a wonderfully versatile exercise to practice scales and articulation, but the Reichert 7 Daily Exercises provide a greater challenge, offering more rhythmic variety and flexibility for triple-tounged passages. This is my go-to etude book for practicing different articulations and experimenting with syllables such as “coo,” “uka-tuka,” “duc-ky,” “tut,” and guttural chirps. Create your own rhythmic pattern of the day and practice each exercise using only that pattern. Look up charts such as this one and practice any strange or new articulations. Practice flutter tonguing each exercise. Place trills over each note to improve finger dexterity. The possibilities are endless. These short, melodious phrases in each key keep the exercises interesting and, dare I say, fun.

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Karg-Elert 30 Studies, Op. 107

Available on  Thirty Studies Op.107 (Kalmus Edition)

These are the Holy Grail of flute etudes. Required by most college flute professors (and upper level high school flute teachers), the Karg-Elert etudes begin as straightforward studies much like the Garaboldi or mid-level Anderson etudes, but quickly shift into difficult exercises introducing the concept of the split voice. How do we make 1 flute sound like 2? This is the question posed by the Karg-Elert etudes and the answer is embouchure flexibility. How strong is your embouchure? Can you quickly transition from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high while maintaining a strong sound and impeccable technique? Do not be fooled by these etudes – you will revisit them several times in your career and, like watching a Mission Impossible film, you will find something new each time your work on them. My best strategy is to practice these etudes by alternating the simple with the difficult. Begin with the first study and the final study, and work your way into the center of the book. This will break up the monotony of the final group of difficult exercises and prevent you from throwing in the towel when the going gets tough.

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Groupings of Keys by Furstenau (ed. Marcel Moyse)

The Furstenau is a collection of etudes written in the manner of the French Flute School. If you are preparing the Chaminade, Faure, Taffanel, or any of the other works written for the late Romantic French Flute School and want to practice the idioms found in these pieces, the Furstenau etudes are essential for your preparation. These exercises feature sweeping cadential passages, broken chords in thirds, elaborate grace notes, and broken octaves found in many of the works from this period. They are the most passionate of the etudes on today’s list and my very favorite collection. Most of the exercises in this book are 2 pages long; Longer than many of the Karg-Elert etudes but shorter than the Anderson etudes. Not as challenging as some of the Karg-Elert etudes but tuneful, interesting, and virtuosic. You will want to revisit these etudes for years to come.

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JeanJean Etudes Modernes

Available on  16 Etudes Modernes

By far the most challenging etudes on this list. These exercises still give me painful memories of trying, failing, picking myself back up, and trying again. JeanJean forces us to struggle with many of the technical challenges found in contemporary works. These are longer than your average etude and should be practiced slowly, one at a time. They are technically difficult and not for the faint of heart. If you are currently working on a contemporary piece, these are a perfect complement to your daily practice. I recommend blocking out a Sunday afternoon to simply practice 1 etude. Begin by isolating and chunking the most difficult technical passages and working the tempo up gradually. Patience and planning is the most effective way to learn these rather difficult exercises.

I have left a few other important collections off of this list because I do not find myself replaying them as much as the books listed here. Some of these include the Anderson Etudes, the Hughes Scale Studies, the 24 Melodious Studies by Theobald Boehm (which is an easier alternative to the Furstenau), and many others.

What are the top 5 etude books in your own collection? How has practicing etudes improved your technical and musical ability? How do you most effectively address tricky passages in these works?

Happy Fluting!


If I Could Turn Back Time – Advice for College Musicians

Welcome to this week’s edition of Flute Friday!

I often wonder what I would say to a younger version of myself if I could go back in time. What advice would I give? What would I want to change? What would I want to stay the same? Looking back at my development as a musician, I realize that there are a few things I would modify about the time I spent in college and some things that I am glad I tackled during this crossroads. College is supposed to be fun, yes, but it is also a rare moment in your life when you are given the gift of time to develop what you love without the pressure of an 8-5 lifestyle (and other responsibilities that come with adulthood – children, bills, family commitments, etc.). Many of my readers are college students or professionals that instruct college level students so I am hoping my advice today helps others better organize student priorities, time management and stress on their paths to becoming professional musicians.

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Understand that College Has an Expiration Date.  When we are in the thick of our studies it seems that college will last forever and all of the concerts, juries, classes, finals, lessons and rehearsals will be the same for years to come. We may also simply assume at the end of our studies we will be granted the job of our dreams upon graduation. This is a myth. The real world exists and it is cut-throat, unforgiving and based on survival. College is the time when we must think critically about the outside world and strategize realistic ways to find (and keep) a job in the field we wish to work. Musicians often are at the mercy of The Market which does not support artists the way it supports doctors, lawyers or other business professionals. Start applying to jobs while you are in college even if it is simply to get some professional feedback that will help you improve your audition or interview process. Take advantage of any professional development opportunities you have while you are in college. I have discussed the need for courses in business skills, marketing and entrepreneurship with many of my colleagues at various conferences and we all agree that music schools put too much emphasis on learning the trade and not enough on skills to help students enter the trade. Learn how to develop a CV, how to audition for professional orchestras, how to recruit private students and what other jobs you may qualify for inside the field (admin, librarian, instrument repair technician, sectional coach, etc). Think about the future and invest your time in learning how to market yourself for the industry we live in today. Use your gift of time in college to prepare for the future.

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Perform in Masterclasses.  Story time: When I was an undergraduate music student I was terrified to perform in summer masterclasses. I was intimidated by the price and more importantly I did not think my playing was good enough to perform for the greatest flutists of our time. I did not even apply to some of the most valuable opportunities that years later would no longer be available (a Julius Baker masterclass, for example). College, however, is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and apply, apply, apply, APPLY. Let a committee decide if your playing is “good enough.” A masterclass is a valuable opportunity to get some feedback on your playing from an expert and to practice new approaches to old problems you may have never thought possible. Learning to buzz from Keith Underwood at the Hidden Valley Music Seminar transformed my tone drastically in graduate school. Learning to group note patterns together from Gary Schocker also helped strengthen my technique as I prepared for my Master’s flute recital. These experiences are invaluable and college is the perfect time to perform in as many masterclasses as possible. If money is a concern, look into funding opportunities offered by your college for summer research travel. Perhaps you would like to attend a Baroque masterclass to learn how to play on a period instrument. Or maybe your DMA paper is on the topic of French Flute Players and you would like to attend a masterclass in France. Apply, apply, apply!

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Memorize the standards. There are a number of pieces and excerpts that you will play for the rest of your professional life and college is the best time to memorize these works. Memorization takes time and strategic planning and summer break is the best time to memorize a few lines of music per day. A good place to start is by memorizing Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Exercises, Exercise #4. I was fortunate to take lessons from an exceptional flute teacher in high school who required most of us to memorize this exercise so when I entered college flute lessons I was slightly ahead of the curve. I have played this exercise in countless lessons, masterclasses and I now teach these scales to all of my flute students.


You will also be required to perform many of the same orchestral excerpts in auditions, lessons and masterclasses and (hopefully) in orchestra roles at both the collegiate and professional levels. Memorizing these standards in college will help make future performances a bit easier and less stressful. Examples of the most asked for excerpts include Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun, Mendelssohn’s Scherzo from Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, Beethoven’s Lenore Overture, Brahms 4th Symphony, Stravinsky’s 1919 Firebird Suite (Firebird Movement) and Peter and the Wolf (don’t just memorize the opening bird call – memorize all 3 of the standard excerpts). Also memorize your piccolo excerpts – Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, Rossini’s Semiramide Overture, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and of course the famous Stars and Stripes solo (in both Eb and G Major).

Finally, memorize at least the opening movements of both Mozart Flute Concerti (G and D). These solos show up on numerous orchestral audition lists and you will also be teaching these staples to your students for decades to come. Reimagine them. Reinterpret them. Find something new in the music each time you perform these concerti. Memorizing all of these works will better prepare you for your musical future playing and replaying the same pieces in different performance and pedagogical scenarios.

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Become a Morning Practicer. I avoided early morning commitments in college at all costs. The freedom of college gave me newfound freedom to select my own schedule on my own terms. I ended up practicing sporadically during the day and typically in the 10:00 pm-12:00 am time slot at night. The problem with this schedule was that it was very easy to get distracted by social events on Thursday and Friday nights and any time after 6:00 pm on the weekends. For the same reasons that fitness experts suggest morning exercise is far more beneficial than after-hours workouts, setting up a practice time before daily commitments (classes, rehearsals, lessons, etc.) will ensure that you are meeting your practice goals on a daily basis before the drama of a typically college day unfolds. Bonus: It is typically quiet in the practice rooms during the early hours therefore you will have an easy time finding a comfortable practice room of your choice.

Explore Subjects Outside of Music. This is much easier said than done as many music programs structure the undergraduate experience in a way that leaves very few opportunities to take outside courses. Therefore cherish elective opportunities. Take courses in Accounting, Business Practices, Technology, Political Science, Foreign Languages or anything else that you may want to pursue as a Plan B in case your music career does not blossom. There is nothing wrong with having a Plan B. If it is in a subject that interests you than you can always later pursue your Plan B subject as your Plan A lifestyle and keep your music as a side business. There are several professional musicians on the market that make a living doing standard office jobs during the day and create beautiful music on the nights and weekends. College is the moment in your life when you can create plans for your future. That includes formulating backup plans for your career pursuits.


Develop a School/Life Balance. As you reach adulthood you will hear more about developing a “work-life” balance to relieve stress and boost productivity. Why not start in college when both stress management and productivity are seminal priorities. Create a weekly schedule using a calendar app or a simple Excel spreadsheet blocking out time for classes, rehearsals, lessons, practice, exercise, studying/reading for class and other social commitments. It sounds crazy but give yourself a reasonable bed time on the weeknights after all of your daily goals are met. Create simple daily to-do lists at the end of each day prioritizing the goals for the next day. Categorize your email inbox according to class subject and try to check your email only at designated time each day. It is very easy to get caught up in your email and lose valuable time staring at your computer screen waiting for something magical to show up in your email or refreshing your Facebook feed every 90 seconds to see the latest gossip on your friends list. Save weekends for productivity blocks during the day and social events at night.


What would you do if you could change your college experience? Which courses would you take? How would you restructure your time? What advice can you give to music students in programs today that would have been beneficial to your own development as a musician? Please comment below!


There’s an App for That! Top 5 Best FREE Music Apps

Greetings and welcome to another edition of Flute Friday!

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I am fascinated by the world of iPhone apps. How amazing is it that we have so many programs quite literally at the tip of our fingers? I spent my week this week reviewing various free apps targeted primarily at classical musicians and must say that I am a little disappointed that we do not have more tools at our disposal. There are, however, 1 or 2 or, let’s say, 5 apps that I found to be must haves for the music makers of the world. I must note that I am not affiliated with any of these companies (aka nobody is paying me to like these things). I am just a savvy flutist looking for free, easy ways to use technology to enhance performance skills and streamline time spent in the practice room. I hope you find these apps as useful as I do and please let me know if you have a favorite free app that is not on this list.

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  1.  Pro Metronome.  Pro Metronome is a customizable metronome app that allows users to change the tempo of a beat using a standard dial function (similar to the old school style metronome of yester year) but also features 13 different metronome tones (including a voice option). This metronome app can be programmed for a variety of time signatures (4/4, 3/8/ 12/16, etc.) and includes a beat visualization at the top of the screen. Finally, Pro Metronome comes with a timer enabling users to set practice time limits using a set beat domination. For a few extra bucks ($2.99) subdivisions are available for purchase.  MY TAKE: As a penniless graduate student, I saved up my TA checks to purchase a beautiful BOSS metronome with customizable subdivisions, beat sounds, visualizations and numerous time signature capabilities. A few months after my big purchase, my metronome was stolen from a practice room never to been seen again. Little did I know that years later I could have these same features and many more on an iPhone app  purchased for FREE. I love this app. One of my biggest gripes about traditional metronomes is the one-size-fits-all beat sounds. I need to be able to still hear the metronome when I am practicing in the highest register but find the harsh sounds of a louder metronome too abrasive in the lower register. This metronome app lets me program different sounds for different pieces. As a visual learner, I also appreciate the visualizations at the top of the screen to help me see as well as hear the beat. Overall a great app!
  2. n-Track Tuner.  The n-Track Tuner app is a program that recognizes a note using your iPhone’s microphone and, using visualizations, shows you if the note is sharp (green bar) or flat (red bar) and by how many cents. The spectrum analyzer at the bottom of the screen displays a small arrow to highlight the harmonic whose pitch the tuner is tracking. The tuner calibration may also be changed in the settings menu if you wish to alter the Hz on the pitch. Basically this functions like every tuner you have ever owned and paid waaaay too much money to purchase. MY TAKE: I would not be telling the truth if I said this is the best tuner app on the market because the ones that cost a few more dollars contain features that will show you fantastical color changes corresponding to how “in tune” the pitch is which is quite helpful when you are performing or recording and really only have time to catch a glimpse of the tuner in the corner of your eye. I will say, however, that this is the best free tuner app out there due to its simplicity and user friendly features. I use this tuner app to practice sustaining a steady pitch throughout all dynamic levels and find that the app is far more accurate and easier to use than my old school Korg tuner.                                                                                               imagesK0QHY0QK
  3. Flute Fingering Chart. This app is a handy look up tool for all standard, alternate and trill fingerings on the flute ranging from B4 to G7 and, according to the product description, “Makes finding and learning fingerings quick and easy.” Simply select the note from a drop down menu and the app will show you what the note looks like on the staff and all fingering or trill fingering associated with the note using a straight forward system of visual key instructions.  MY TAKE: This is a flute blog after all and it is only fitting that I discuss an app specifically designed for flute players. In the good old days many of us would lug our copies of the James Pellerite fingering charts to and from rehearsals, lessons and practice sessions to consult whenever there was a note or trill fingering that we could not remember off the top of our heads (or needed an alternate fingering that worked a bit better with our music than the standard fingering). This app puts that look up process in the palm of your hand. Again what attracts me to the app is the straightforward design. When you are in rehearsal and need to look up a fingering for your section ASAP, shuffling through the Pellerite book is far more time consuming than simply entering a few clicks in your iPhone to obtain the same information (and the conductor will be less likely to scream at you for not paying attention). I also think this is a great app for younger students who are eager to learn new fingerings or simply want a handy way to look up fingerings while they are still in the learning process.                                                                                       untitled (50)
  4. piaScore. PiaScore is an app that allows users to browse and download free digital music scores. Essentially this is a sheet music viewer with a very extensive library of scores. Turn pages with a simple tap of your finger. PiaScore supports IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project)/Petrucci Music Library therefore users may search and download scores from 70,000 works and 7,800 composers for FREE. You can even place your own scores on the app using a camera capture feature making it possible to leave all of your music in your phone or iPad for emergencies. MY TAKE: I have seen other musicians use this app and I must admit that I have been a bit apprehensive about storing music on an iPhone or iPad (what if my device runs out of battery in the middle of a rehearsal?!??!?! PANIC PANIC PANIC) but I think keeping “back up” copies of music on your phone is a brilliant idea just in case you leave your score on your music stand accidentally before heading out to a lesson, rehearsal or, God forbid, a concert. What I love most about this app, however, is the sheer volume of free flute music, namely the volumes upon volumes of etudes and solo sonatas, available on the device. I use this app when I want to sight read something new or peruse new duets or studies to use in lessons with students. The possibilities for new music are endless with this app. How handy is it that it fits, again, within the palm of your hand?                                                                              images (27)
  5. Classical Masterpieces Free. This app allows users to listen to recordings of famous classical pieces and read the biographies of each composer. The app functions without the use of the internet and users can create customizable playlists from the works on the list. You may also share what you are listen to with your Facebook and Twitter community. An additional $2.99 gives you access to 180 more pieces by 55 additional composers. MY TAKE: Full disclosure: I am actually listening to this app as I type today’s blog. My students should all be terrified because this app makes it quite easy for me to assign listening assignments requiring students to listen to the work and read the composer’s biography with a touch of a button. The app is very easy to use and the free version features 20 works by various composers and biographical information for every composer under the sun. Of course this makes it quite a bit easier to put program notes together for recitals or simply for performance preparation and practice. I am a big fan of this app not only for the educational opportunities but also for its access to practical biographical information and simple listening access to some of the most integral works of classical music in our modern canon.

I understand this a relatively short list and that there are literally hundreds of exceptional apps available on the market today. I will have a Part II to this blog in coming weeks where I will explore the best for purchase apps for musicians where I will look at apps such as Garage Band and Cleartune. For now I am hoping you love these free apps as much as I do and I hope they help you streamline your music making, learning and understanding process in the new year.

Do you have a favorite free iPhone app you use in your daily music practice? Do you enjoy features on the apps listed above that I did not metion? Please comment below.

Happy fluting!

Say Yes to the Flute – Purchasing a New Flute

Welcome to another edition of Flute Friday!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 is to begin saving for a new instrument, a long overdue goal considering the body of my flute is now over 10 years old (a new headjoint in 2014 put some sparkle back into my sound but the older mechanism still limits my technique). There are several things that must be considered when selecting a new flute – material, added keys and other non-standard features, risers, overall sound, comfort of the keys, sturdiness of the mechanism, intonation and cork flexibility, and simply whether the instrument fits your playing style. There are numerous companies from which to purchase a new flute and flute shows around the country where you may test drive several instruments from different manufactures.  If “purchase a new flute” is on your New Year’s Resolution list, I hope you find the guidelines in today’s blog useful in selecting the flute of your dreams.

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Establish a Price Range.  Anyone who has seen the show Say Yes to the Dress knows that it is extremely important to stay within an established, yet reasonable, price range whenever you are planning to make a major purchase. The risk of trying out a flute that is outside of your price point is that you may fall in love with an instrument that you simply cannot afford (or one that sends you into bankruptcy). There is nothing wrong with perusing a few mega-expensive models at a flute show to get an idea of what $20,000+ will buy you, but when requesting models to take out on trial, it is best to stick within your budget. Companies such as J.L. Smith make this easy by categorizing instruments in pre-determined price categories .

Research Basic Flute Buying Guides. Not just this blog :). There are several “how to buy a flute” guides on the internet that explain all of the bells and whistles you should consider when purchasing a new instrument. For example , or , or . There is a lot of good, sensible advice on the internet from flutists that have been there, done that, and know precisely what to look for in a new instrument. Do some light internet research before jumping into the market to familiarize yourself with some of the terminology and standard features available on flutes in your price range.

Beginner, Intermediate, Professional. Flutes fall into 3 major categories – beginner, intermediate and professional. Beginner flutes are typically made of nickel or silver, feature closed holes, offset G keys, and standard C foot joints. I always suggest to my beginning students that they rent their first flute for at least 6 months before purchasing an instrument. Students generally determine if they wish to continue their flute study within this time frame, making the monetary commitment toward a new instrument a reasonable investment. If they are simply not enjoying the flute (it happens….), then the investment is minimal. Intermediate flutes are a bit more intricate, often featuring open-holed keys, inline G keys, and a B foot joint. The open holes of the intermediate flute are difficult to master, so it is best to wait until roughly 2 years into a student’s study before recommending the purchase of an intermediate flute. Open-holed flutes will always come with plugs. It is best to remove 1 plug at a time as your fingers adjust to the open hole design. Finally, professional flutes are generally handmade flutes that come in a variety of metals (silver, gold, platinum), often featuring French arms on the keys, open holes and extras such as C# keys and lip plate risers.

Flute “Extras.” Most professional series flutes come with options such as a split E mechanism, C# key, B foot, inline and offset G keys, and D# rollers. “What is this stuff???” you may ask. According to , a split E mechanism is a “donut-shaped ring that is inserted into the lower G tone hole. When playing high E, this ring decreases venting and improves response.” A C# key is an added key placed on the back of the flute to the left of the thumb keys. This key is activated by pressing a lever placed above the Bb lever key and is used to easily move between a B natural and a C# (for more about this key please see ). A D# roller is a small roller placed to the far right side of the D# key on the foot joint and enables the pinky to roll easily between the lower keys of the instrument. An offset G key places the G key on the left hand slightly ahead of the other keys of the instrument (ideal for those of us with small hands or players suffering from joint or tendon pain) while an inline design keeps this key in line with the rest of the keys. Finally, a B foot joint includes an additional key on the foot joint that extends the lowest note on the flute to a B natural below the staff. These features are wonderful additions to your flute but often come at an additional price. You will need to decide how necessary you value these components before adding them to your new instrument. I suggest trying out models with these bells and whistles already installed at a flute trade show or through a trial program. Try before you buy.

Flute Shows and Trial Programs. The best place to search for a new instrument is at a flute trade show. One of the most famous flute shows in the country is held at the National Flute Association Convention each year in August. Exhibit halls are packed with booths from every manufacturer and distributor under the sun, each with tables full of flutes of every shape and design available. If you are unable to attend this flute show, local music stores often host smaller flute shows showcasing individual distributors. Try out several models within your price range and develop a list of your top 3-5 flutes. Arrange trials either directly from the flute maker or from distributors such as JL Smith or Flute World. I prefer to order trials through larger distributors because I can try out several different models at the same time. Trials allow you to keep a flute for roughly 1 week before shipping the instrument(s) back to the distributor. The cost involved is usually limited to shipping costs but all packages must be insured for the full cost of the flute(s).

Try it out! During the 7-day trial period, play each model in numerous performance scenarios (band, orchestra, chamber music groups, solo works). Check intonation – Are adjustments relatively easy? How does the flute play in the higher register? Is the sound predominantly on the bright side? The dark side? How does the flute feel after prolonged practice sessions? How clear is the sound? Ease of response? This will help narrow your choices down. Although it is rare to find a flute on your first trial period, you will likely limit your favorites to 2-3 models. Request additional time with the finalists before selecting the model you wish to buy. If you would like additional features or would like to try out different headjoint options, be sure to contact the distributer to make arrangements for additional trial opportunities.

Buy it. This is the hardest part but obviously the most rewarding. If you are not ready to pay the full bill ASAP, explore financing options with the manufacturer. Flute World, for example, is currently offering a 12-month financing option for their pricier flutes and JL Smith offers an easy, 90-day same as cash payment plan. This may help you put a new flute in your hands sooner than you think.


Are you ready to buy a new instrument? Do you have any tips on selecting a new flute? Please comment below and happy flute shopping!



Having a Plan – 2016 Playing Resolutions

Welcome to the New Year’s Day edition of Flute Friday. Happy 2016 Everyone!

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Last year at this time I wrote a blog about setting New Year’s Playing Resolutions that was very helpful not only for myself and my own flute playing goals but also for many of my readers. See . Over the course of 2015 I read (and thanks to my Audible subscription, listened to) several books, journals and websites, attended conferences and reviewed a number of productivity apps addressing the goal setting process and how we can achieve more in our lives using organized planning and strategic motivational techniques designed to help us initiate, review and attain our goals. I found some of these tricks to be very effective in my quest for a better work/life balance between many of my music and non-music pursuits and am happy to say that as I review goals set at the beginning of 2015, I have successfully achieved many of the items on my list (including publishing an article and updating my blog once a week) and have made major strides on other longer term goals. I hope some of my findings will aid in your own goal setting process and help you achieve more in 2016 than you ever dreamed possible in 2015.

12-Week “Year”

One of the best books I reviewed this year was The 12-Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. The basic premise behind this book is that if we think of the calendar year as 4, 3-month chunks (or mini-years) rather than 1 long 12 month period, we can set several shorter term, easier to digest goals that bring us closer to our longer term objectives. This method helps us to review our goals more often and encourages us to design alternative action plans to those that are not being met by the conclusion of each 3-month period. It is very easy to create a list of 20 New Year’s Resolutions in January only to dig them up on December 31st and realize that no progress has been made. The 12-week year keeps us on track through regular review and restructuring. You could plan a recital in 3 months. You could design a conference talk. You could finally tackle that Anderson etude book that everyone told you was “impossible.” You could select 3 works to have memorized by March 31st. Mini-years make all of these objectives realistic and easy to build upon at the conclusion of the “year.”

Mini years are broken up as follows:

January 1st-March 31st

April 1st-June 30th

July 1st-September 30th

October 1st-December 31st

Monthly groupings are a bit more realistic than the typical 12-month yearly journey. Shorter periods of time + smaller objectives = better rate of success. This plan has worked wonders for me in all areas of my musical and non-musical development and I know it will for you too.

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Categorize Your Objectives

I found it very helpful this year to create categories for each group of objectives and focus my attention primarily on one category for each mini-year based on which deadlines were looming during that period. For example, during the January-March mini-year I focused on polishing orchestral music (as the conclusion of the Spring concert season inched closer), developing creative ideas for conference abstracts and working with my students to set long term playing goals. From April-June I turned my attention to developing my Mozart workshop presentation for the Canadian Flute Convention, rememorized the Carmen Fantasie, Nielsen Concerto and both Mozart Concerti in G and D and worked with my students to creatively listen to flute works and outline playing elements used by professional that they would like to explore in their own playing (ex. vibrato styles, improvisational techniques, tone colors). During the July-September period my objectives were to recruit new students (I had moved to Houston during this time) and focus on overall health, wellness and new approaches to combating performing anxiety. I also used this time to really focus on sound improvement and prepare competition audition material. Finally, between October and December I turned my attention to writing and developed an article on relocating your studio for an upcoming publication (will post more info when the ink is on the paper – please stay tuned). I also turned my once-in-a-while blog into a weekly Flute Friday series. Finally, I made huge strides in the development of a flute etude book that I hope to publish early this year.

Some of the categories you may use specifically for your musical development may include:

Performance Goals (Solo)

Orchestra Goals

Teaching Goals

Job Hunt Goals

Competition Goals

Sound Goals

Technique Goals

Repertoire Goals

Memorization Goals

Networking Goals

And for the rest of your life, you may want to create even broader categories:

Career Goals

Educational Goals

Family Goals

Health Goals

Household Goals

Public Service Goals

Finance and Savings Goals

The sky is the limit when it comes to compartmentalizing your long and short term objectives. The point, however, is to clarify exactly what you would like to achieve in each of these areas and construct bench-marks that can be measured in each 12 week segment to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Organizing your thoughts and thinking creatively about your action plans is not easy but it is vital in your development as a musician and a human being.

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Long Term vs. Short Term

It is very important to come up with a list of longer term goals (where do you see yourself in 10 years) and shorter term goals that relate to your long term objectives. What many of us fail to do, however, is to simply write these down. Goals that remain as pictures in your head are difficult to measure and their steps clouded by idealism. Set up an excel spreadsheet or, if you prefer to keep it old school, take out a notebook with dividers. On the first tab or page, write down long term goals that you would like to achieve over the course of the next 10 years (ex. purchase a gold flute, set up a wildly successful flute studio, purchase a house, write a book, travel to France, write a dissertation, obtain a DMA). On the next tab or page, create a list of yearly goals (or your typical New Year’s Resolutions) – what do you need to accomplish during this calendar year to bring you closer to your long term goals (recruit 10 more students, draft the first chapter of your book, audition for that symphony job). On the next tab or page list your mini-year/3 month goals (save $xxxxx for your trip to France, research dissertation ideas) and on the subsequent tab list your monthly goals (practice XXX hours each week, prepare first piece on recital program with piano accompaniment, perfect that difficult Firebird solo for your orchestra concert). Finally, each Sunday night, come up with your list of weekly goals. I love setting these up on Sunday nights before the chaos of the week ensues and I have the opportunity to reflect and select the most appropriate actions for the week when I am relaxed and thinking clearly. You may also wish to create a tab for daily tasks but I find that a simple pen and paper list (or one recorded on a to-do list iPhone app) created at the end of each day works best. Schedule once monthly, once mini-yearly and once calendar yearly dates to review and revise your list and compare to your longer term goal list. Give yourself a pat on the back when you achieve your goals and tweek your approach when you fail to meet your objectives (there is no such thing as failure – setbacks are problem solving opportunities to make important and relevant changes that bring you closer to success). Achieving your goals takes persistence, organization and forethought. Remember: none of us became successful musicians overnight.

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The Creative Process

Those of you who have seen the movie or read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne may recall the discussion on the Creative Process. Simply put, the Creative Process involves asking the Universe for what you want (or, as it relates to goal setting, coming up with your list of goals), believe that you will obtain your goals (faith, persistence, planning, action) and receive what it is you are wanting (or meeting our goals). Many of us may create a plan for our development as musicians but when we put our noses to the grindstone we realize it is more complicated and exhausting than we imagined in our heads. We may also wrongly believe that we are not talented enough musicians to perform a successful recital, win the audition or publish that article. The Creative Process tells us not give up! That is the whole point of the goal setting process – don’t give up. Change your direction? Yes. Reevaluate where you wish to place your focus? Sure. Abandon ship? No. Stick to your goals like glue otherwise they will remain as cloudy pictures floating in your imagination without a place to land in reality.


How do you achieve your goals? What do your long and short term goals look like? What methods have you used to obtain your musical and non-musical objectives? Have any of the above techniques helped you in your development as a musician. Please comment below!