Month: August 2017

What’s Your Sign, Jean Pierre?

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Sunday.

zodiac 1

This past Monday, the United States witnessed a magnificent total solar eclipse (in the sign of Leo, coincidentally). A solar eclipse is said to have powerful astrological effects lasting up to 6 months after an eclipse has taken place. This will mean different things for different signs of the Zodiac. The overall idea of an eclipse is that something significant is coming to an end to create space for something new (for example, my sun sign, Scorpio, will have major changes happening in the work sector in the near future). In the spirit of the astrological changes that we all may be dealing with at the moment (or that we will encounter after Mercury goes direct around the 5th-6th of September), today’s blog is a continuation of my previous “What’s Your Sign, Wolfgang” posting, addressing how the astrological sun signs traits of some of our most famous flute virtuosos may have influenced their approach to the flute. It’s okay if you do not believe in astrology. I only offer these as fun, possible explanations on how different personalities manifest through flute playing. Perhaps you will see some of these same traits in your own flute playing!


zodiac Rampal

Jean Pierre Rampal – The king himself! Jean Pierre Rampal is probably the most famous French flutist of our time and the undisputed master of articulation. Born in Marseille, Jean Peirre studied flute with his father, Joseph Rampal, flute professor at the Marseille Conservatorie and Principal Flute of the Marseille Symphony Orchestra, from the age of 12. At the beginning of the Second World War, Rampal entered medical school in Marseille (at the persuasion of his practical-minded parents), but fled to Paris 3 years later to escape the Nazi Occupation of France. Studying at the Paris Conservatorie with Gaston Crunelle from January 1944, Rampal won the coveted first prize in the conservatory’s annual flute composition a mere 4 months later. He later had quite a successful solo career, touring France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands with harpsichordist Robert Veyron-Lacroix, continuing on to their American debut in 1958. The duo performed and toured together for 35 years until Veyron-Lacroix’s retirement. In the 1980’s, Rampal formed a new, long running partnership with pianist John Ritter. From 1955-1962, Rampal served as Principal Flute at the Paris Opera. He is perhaps most notable for his revival of Baroque flute works, performing with the Ensemble Baroque de Paris for nearly 3 decades. FUN FACT: Rampal was the owner of the only solid gold flute made by the notorious French flute maker, Louis Lot (No. 1375), earning him the nickname, “The Man with the Golden Flute”. Rampal had an extremely successful solo career, collaborating with musicians from Isaac Stern to Miss Piggy on Jim Henson’s, The Muppet Show. Jean Pierre Rampal died in Paris in May 2000 of heart failure at the age of 78 but he is remembered to this day as the greatest flutist of the 20th century.

Jean Pierre was born on January 7, 1922 making him a CAPRICORN. Capricorns love the details. Many of my Capricorn friends are accountants or lawyers and have an incredible talent to recall the tiniest, most obscure, facts off the top of their head. Capricorns are the ones you want to have on your pub quiz team! Known as the strategists of the zodiac, Capricorns like to plan and rehearse everything in advance. They are very practical and organized, value tradition and structure, but steer clear from chaos and unpredictability. Capricorns are known to be workaholics. Although they may be a bit stubborn sometimes, they have a heart of gold under their hard, outer shell. As an Earth sign, Capricorns are the most responsible sign of the zodiac (aka they like to get things done!). Rampal just may have been the traditional Capricorn workaholic and his legacy absolutely shows that he was a hard-working soloist and recording artist. His performances are sheer perfection down to the smallest of details (which we all know must have taken significant rehearsal and preparation in advance). As Capricorns value tradition, Rampal valued the beginning of flute composition with his interest and revival of Baroque music. Finally, what I find most interesting, is that Capricorns like to avoid chaos and unpredictability. The only piece dedicated to Rampal that he had never publicly performed was the Sonatine by Pierre Boulez. When asked about this, Rampal explained that the music looked, “like the blueprints for a plumber…pieces that go tweak, twonk, thump, snort – this doesn’t inspire me.” A Capricorn quote if ever there was one! We often think of Rampal as the King of Flute Playing. Guess which other King was a Capricorn? That’s right! Elivs Presley. Rampal is definitely the Elvis Presley of the flute.


zodiac Baker

Julius Baker – If Rampal was the master of articulation, then Julius Baker was the master of sound (in reality, they are both the masters of everything having to do with the flute, but Julius Baker’s sound is nothing short of magical). Julius Baker began studying the flute at age 9 with his father in Cleveland, Ohio. He later studied flute at the Eastman School of music with Leonardo De Lorenzo, and at the Curtis Institute where he studied with William Kincaid. In 1937, Baker returned to Cleveland to perform second flute in the Cleveland Orchestra where he remained until 1941. He then went on to serve as principal flute of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1941-1943), the Chicago Symphony (1951-1953), and the New York Philharmonic (1965-1983). Baker was also one of the founding members of the Bach Aria Group, whom he played with from 1946-1964. FUN FACT: Julius Baker played on many notable film scores including The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. He was also quite interested in electronics and developed his own record label, Oxford Recording Company, a mail-order business he ran out of his home where he recorded 5 of his first recordings between 1946-1951. Julius Baker was well known as a flute instructor at the Julliard School, but also served as faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music and Carnegie Mellon University. He was known as the most prominent American flutist of his generation and his students include the greatest of the greats of today (Paula Robison, Jeffrey Khaner, Eugenia Zukerman, Gary Schocker, and Jeanne Baxtresser). Julius Baker passed away on August 6, 2003 but remains as a beloved figure in our contemporary flute playing world.

Julius Baker was born on September 23, 1915 which technically makes him a Libra, BUT because this is the very first day of the Libra cycle, he is more accurately classified as an LIBRA ON THE CUSP OF VIRGO. This astrological distinction is very special because it is also known as “The Cusp of Beauty.” The last few days of Virgo and the first few days of Libra are ruled by both Mercury (the planet of communication) and Venus (the planet of love and beauty). Cuspers are drawn to people, places, and objects that are aesthetically beautiful (especially nature and works of art), and like to keep up with the latest trends. They also embody traditional Virgo traits including having sharp analytical skills, a strong work ethic, and can sometimes be perfectionists. They are, however, very balanced and can see all sides of a situation. As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, Julius Baker was the master of sound which fits in nicely with his Libra on the Cusp personality. The beauty of his playing is in his sound which is even, balanced, and simply breathtaking. He also brilliantly combined a successful career as a performing artist (influence of Venus) with an equally successful career as a teacher (influence of Mercury). Again, this perfect balance speaks to his Libra on the Cusp personality. Finally, what I find most interesting, is that Cuspers like to keep up on the latest trends. Hello! Julius Baker started a record label out of his own home. Not only was this practical for making his own recordings, but it kept him, and other artists recorded on his label, on the mainstream record market. Balanced and beautiful, Julius Baker’s flute playing has been passed through generations of flutists and will continue to hold a significant influence on modern flute playing (literally keeping up with trends for years to come).


zodiac Moyse

Marcel Moyse. The authority on French Flute Playing. Whenever I think about Marcel Moyse, obviously the first two things that come to my mind are De la Sonorite and Tone Development Through Interpretation (both published by McGinnis & Marx), two seminal flute studies that nearly all flutist have in their collections and have practiced throughout their careers. Moyse studied flute at the Paris Conservatorie and was a student of the greatest masters of French Flute Playing, Philippe Gaubert, Adolphe Hennebains, and Paul Taffanel. Marcel Moyse moved to Paris at the age of 14 to live with his uncle, Joseph Moyse, a cellist in the Lamourreux Orchestra. Joseph purchased a flute for Marcel in these early days and assigned the youngster daily practice sessions of 45 minutes each (hello, structure!). In May 1904, Joseph presented Marcel to Adolphe Hennebains, who accepted Moyse as a pupil. Moyse made quick progress studying with Hennebains, and was accepted to study with Paul Taffanel at the Paris Conservatorie in the fall of 1905. At the age of 17, with only one year of study at the Conservatorie, Moyse earned first prize at the school’s annual contest with his performance of Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando by Philippe Gaubert and embarked on his professional career. Moyse immediately began studying with Philippe Gaubert (allegedly taking lessons every Friday, at 5:00 pm – more structure!). Moyse became solo flute in L’Opera Comique and subsequently became principal flute with the orchestra of the Societe des Concerts. In 1931, Moyse founded the famous Trio Moyse, and in 1932 succeeded Philippe Gaubert as Professor of Flute at the Paris Conservatorie. Moyse also served as Flute Professor at the Geneva Conservatorie from 1933-1949 and became a Chevalier of the Légion D’Honneur in 1936. In his final years, Moyse was in and out of hospitals due to various medical problems and passed away on November 1, 1984 at the age of 94. His legacy lives on through his numerous pupils including James Galway, Paula Robison, Trevor Wye, William Bennett, and Carol Wincenc.

Marcel Moyse was born on May 17, 1889 which technically makes him a Taurus, but because this date is at the tail end of the sign, Moyse is actually a TAURUS ON THE CUSP OF GEMINI. This is known as The Cusp of Energy. Some astrologers like to think of this cusp as a dust storm as it combines characteristics of an earth sign (Taurus) with those of an air sign (Gemini), resulting in a personality that is both stable and driven, as well as clever and communicative. All of these traits clearly embody his famous De la Sonorite! The studies in this book require a ton of patience but the progression of exercises is quite clear and the results are worth the blood, sweat, patience, and tears. These cuspers are the go-getters of the zodiac. I don’t know about you, but whenever I ask even my most talented younger students for daily practice sessions of at least 45 minutes, I am often met with excuses why this isn’t achievable (I probably also had my own excuses as a teen). Not only did Moyse stick to this plan, but also continued to seek out ways to develop his flute playing by making connections to the best, most important teachers of his age. Geminis are exceptionally good at creating meaningful relationships. Taurus’s are methodical. Moyse was the perfect union of both these traits.


zodiac Taffanel

Paul Taffanel. The founder of the French Flute School, we know Paul Taffanel as the flutist who paved the path for something new. Taffanel received his first flute lesson from his father at the age of 9. He studied with Vincent Dorus at the Paris Conservatorie at the age of 10, graduating in 1860. Taffanel built himself a career as both a successful soloist and renowned orchestral flutist. In 1893, Taffanel became Professor Flute at the Paris Conservatoire, where he famously restructured the masterclass format, required his students to perform on the newly constructed Boehm Flute, introduced a new style of playing that included light articulation and modulating vibrato, and revived works by Bach and other 18th century composers. Taffanel was also quite a gifted conductor, serving as conductor at both the Paris Opera and Société des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1890 to 1906, as well as an extraordinary chamber musician, founding the Society of Chamber Music for Wind Instruments in 1879, a group that revived chamber music by Beethoven and Mozart in their “historic” concerts. As a composer, Taffanel wrote a number of pieces for flute including Andante Pastoral et Scherzettino, Grande Fantasie sur Mignon, but is probably best known for his method book, 17 Grands Exercices Journaliers De Mecanisme, which was completed after his death by students Louis Fleury and Philippe Gaubert. Taffanel suffered from a physical breakdown in 1901 and died in Paris on November 22, 1908.

Paul Taffanel was born on September 16, 1844 making him a Virgo. Virgos are perfectionists and may, at times, be overly critical of others. This is because they are very careful about details. I think the most gifted conductors are Virgos because that is literally their job – to iron out the details and provide their musicians with clear feedback. Like a Capricorn, Virgos are methodical and prefer a well-organized life that leaves nothing to chance. Their goals and dreams nearly always have well defined parameters. The ruling planet of Virgo is Mercury, which rules speech, writing, and other forms of communication. Like the other flutists we have examined in this post, these character traits seem to fit Taffanel’s career to a T. Taffanel was not just a soloist, but built his reputation as a conductor (leading and directing soloists), teacher (again leading and directing students), and composer (influence of Mercury, planet of communication). What we understand best about Paul Taffanel is that he revolutionized the French Flute School by setting new, but well-defined, parameters for his students, who all went on to become the most notable flutists in modern history. He achieved this by being methodical and structured like a typical Virgo. Finally, his 17 daily studies is a well-organized method book that has become a must-have for flutists around the world. Perfectionists everywhere (including myself) adore this book due to it’s straight-forward, yet reliable, approach to scales and arpeggios. Taffanel’s Virgo characteristics are found in all of his most notable achievements and we owe quite a debt to his notorious writings and teachings.


zodiac 2

How do astrological traits manifest in your own flute playing? Do you believe in astrology? Did you study with one of the above flutists or students of these flutists and could you see these astrological influences present in their teachings? Please comment below.


Happy Fluting!


100th Blog!!!

Greetings and welcome to a very special Flute Friday. This is my 100th Blog!!! I have written about fluting and general music making 99 times (whoa!). In honor of this milestone, I have compiled the below index of all of my blogs, which includes 2-3 standout sentences from each posting. If you are new to my blog, this index will give you a great introduction to the topics I cover here on my platform. If you are a faithful follower (yay!), I hope you use today’s post as a quick way to reference your favorite blog topics. As always, if you would like to suggest a topic that I have not yet discussed here on my blog, please comment below!


Without further adieu, I give you my blogging oeuvre. Please enjoy!


  1. WELCOME – I think one of the most important things that a flutist can do is to think outside the box.  Do what is not popular but what is interesting and unconventional.


  1. COLOR YOUR MUSIC – Much of music is decision making.  What do you want to sound like?  When do you want your sound to change?  Where is your sound going and where is it coming from?  What does a particular phrase mean to you and how do you convey that meaning with sound?  I color my music to express all of these things and encourage others to do the same using their own spectrums and their own meanings


  1. COLOR YOUR MUSIC II – Color may be also used as a practice tool to differentiate the changing nature of aspects such as dynamics, tempo changes, articulation and so on.  For the visual learners out there, connecting colors to changes in the music trains your brain to anticipate without necessary looking ahead.


  1. SCALE GAMES – ARE THEY REALLY “FUN”? – It seems a bit cruel to associate a list (one that could be easily transferred into an excel-type spreadsheet) with a “game,” but there is a benefit to changing things up a bit to break up the monotony of scale exercises. Variety does, in fact, add a bit of spice to life.


  1. ONE LINERS FROM THE 2013 NFA CONVENTION – “Good technique is organized laziness.” – Bart Kuijken from Baroque Flute Masterclass.


  1. THROWING OUT THE RULES – LESSONS IN IMPROVISATION – When we think of the word “improvisation,” the first images that often come to mind are cool cat Jazz performers perched lazily on stools, wearing shades and weaving tapestries of fast moving lines with the greatest of ease. This is not always the case (and here is where the right vs. wrong thinking of the classical tradition throws us for a loop).  Making music for music’s sake is, in itself, “improvisation.”  When you open your case at the beginning of a practice session, put your flute together and play a few random notes, you are, in essence, improvising.


  1. A BIT OF FUN ON A TIRED FRIDAY – This video is just to remind all of you that playing the flute does not always have to be serious. Music is supposed to be fun.


  1. PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT SERIES – JASMINE CHOI – What I find so wonderful about this performance (and Ms. Choi’s playing in general) is her ability to change tone colors quickly and imperceptibly.  This breathes new life into a piece such as the Concerto in G Major which has become the “meat and potatoes” of flute repertoire.


  1. CONTROLLING YOURSELF – WHAT THE HECK IS “ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE”? – The five principles are intended to work harmoniously together to correct misuse.  When one receives a stressful stimulus, such as giving a recital, Alexander Technique teaches us to delay our habitual reaction (inhibition) because what we feel is the “right” response is unreliable (unreliable sensory appreciation).  We then must adjust our primary control using positive direction (lifting head up and forward) while considering the series of acts that allows us to retain a new and improved use rather than simply “standing up straight” (means whereby focus).


  1. I’VE GOT RHYTHM. I’VE GOT MUSIC. WHO COULD ASK FOR ANYTHING MORE? – What happens when the metronome is gone? Your best friend abandons you at the most necessary musical moments – the dress rehearsal, the performance, the audition.  What then?  In these instances you must rely on your own, internal sense of rhythm.  It is up to you to find the beat, and keep that beat moving consistently throughout the musical chaos.


  1. PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT SERIES #2 – EMMANUEL PAHUD – Finally, at the finale of each theme (namely at the very end of the work itself), Pahud removes the flute from his lips with the greatest of ease as if to say, “Ah, that was nothing!”  This is what Keith Underwood has described as “playing from weakness.”  Never let the audience know that being a virtuoso is difficult.


  1. PROFESSIONALISM IN THE FLUTE SECTION – 15 DOS AND DON’TS – 9. DON’T be afraid to agree to disagree but do it in a respectful way that does not offend or disrespect your colleagues.  Being passive aggressive will not improve your career.  10.  DO silence your cell phone/smart phone prior to rehearsal.  Nobody wants to hear a One Direction/Brahms mashup during rehearsal.


Pu Soft, legato playing
Daw Legato playing
Ta or Tah Standard
Da or Dah Standard (softer attack than ta)


  1. HEARING VOICES – Fortunately with the help of some over the counter medication, my hearing returned to normal prior to the evening concert, but I will never forget what it was like to accept the fact that what I heard in my head was not what the rest of the world was hearing.  This was a reminder that sometimes our sense of what is “right” and what is “wrong” can be totally unreliable and based on things not in our control.


  1. PRACTICING IMPROVISATION – In the below video my student, Sunyu, and I demonstrate a short improvisation exercise that can be practiced at the end of a lesson or with other flutists.


  1. BREAKING POINT – Cary Cherniss suggests 4 essential methods to eliminating burnout. These include 1) Reduce or eliminate external job demands, 2) Change personal goals, preferences and expectations, 3) Increase resources for meeting job demands and 4) Provide coping substitutes for the withdrawal characteristic of burnout. The first step is to change the job. Increase skill and ability to work by seeking outside opportunities to learn new skills from qualified experts in your field and set realistic and attainable daily goals.


  1. STRUCTURED AND UNSTRUCTURED PRACTICE – The key is to always have a plan.  By relating smaller parts of our daily practice routine to the bigger picture, we create intrinsic meaning for the music we play by focusing on how we learn, how we improve and how we measure success.


  1. PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT SERIES – MIMI STILLMAN – Finally, the way that Ms. Stillman lifts her embouchure and the end of accents (particularly at 3:55) removes much of the harshness of heavy lines written in unforgiving tessituras. Rather than employing the traditional down and inward postural movements to essentially “push” accents out of the texture, this up and outward motion gives clarity and grace to a sometimes cliché compositional device.


  1. SURVEY – PERFORMER PERCEPTIONS OF EFFECTIVE CONDUCTOR TRAITS – I am conducting a research survey regarding Performer Perceptions of Effective Conductor Traits.  This is a follow up survey to a study conducted by Ward Woodbury in 1955 when the dynamic, age range and gender profile of the typical American orchestra was vastly different from the make-up of today’s organizations. Survey Link:


  1. POP GOES THE WEASEL – How can we use bodily movements in conjunction with the above exercise to achieve tonal flexibility and balance between the registers?  By allowing our body stature to follow the line of the music by simply bending and straightening our knees, we find that lower notes will illicit a darker, richer vibrancy and notes in the higher register will be lighter, devoid of the clichéd brightness typical of this range.  This exercise, however, will make the performer look a bit like a jack in the box, springing up and down in accordance to the direction of the musical line.


  1. THE CLOCK EXERCISE – Each day I would select one low note and one high note and, beginning with the low note, stare at the analog clock counting the number of seconds I could sustain the sound using a single breath.  This became somewhat of a game.  Each day I would try to beat the number of seconds I was able to hold each note from the day before.  What I did not realize at the time was that I was, as the experts says, building breath capacity and increasing performance stamina.  I was teaching myself tricks to control the sound of the instrument, save air by playing softer dynamics and take long, effective breaths without nervous tension.


  1. SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE – Finally, egg shakers make it possible to practice note groupings away from the instrument.  By placing a small accent at the beginning of each note grouping, one  can develop a chunking plan first on the shakers before implementing into the music itself.


  1. JUST BREATHE – The breathing bag is a tool used by performers to strengthen physical performance capabilities, such as breath control and articulation, away from the instrument. This device presents a visual representation of the maximum amount of air available to each performer and reminds us that the act of moving air back and forth away from a given performance stimulus (whether that be a performance scenario or the confrontation of the instrument itself) is a relatively simple process.


  1. ON POSTURE – Sometimes I use stick figures to explain posture to beginning flute students.  Simple yet highly effective.  Improves sound, breathing and confidence. Sometimes I use stick figures to explain posture to beginning flute students.  Simple yet highly effective.  Improves sound, breathing and confidence.


Stick Figure Posture

  1. NEW YEAR’S FLUTE PLAYING RESOLUTIONS – Why not create a New Year’s Resolution List specifically tailored to playing the flute???  This is an excellent way to think critically about performance elements you would like to change, new techniques or styles you would like to learn, repertoire you would like to master, improvements you would like to make to your instrument and much more.  Separating these elements into multiple categories on a New Year’s Resolution list will help you to focus on next actions to take or exercises to practice that will bring you closer to achieving your flute playing goals.


  1. FLEX BREATHING – As the camera pans to Julius Baker (particularly around 1:45), we can see that Mr. Baker does not breathe vertically but instead flexes the sides of his mouth using a swift, yet silent “eeee” motion.  This not only enables the tongue to remain unchanged in relation to the proximity of the back of the teeth but also allows the performer to take in twice as much air from two horizontal spaces rather than one vertical space.


  1. LISTEN UP – I have put together the following “listening assignment” for my flute students and have discovered that it has been highly effective in opening the dialog regarding what they hear, how it relates to what they are learning, what they would like to learn in the future, what styles they prefer and why and, most importantly, how they build an interpretation based what they hear.  This is active listening.


  1. OPERA WITHOUT WORDS – “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 (or dominant) and feminine (or non-dominant) qualities of the musical line. Mozart’s Concerti for Flute and Piano in D Major, G Major and the Concerto for Flute and Harp in C 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).


  1. FLUTE FAVORITES – BOOKS –  1.  Indirect Procedures; A Musician’s Guide to the Alexander Technique by Pedro De Alcantara.  This is by far the best book I have come across dealing with the Alexander Technique, complete with sample exercises, graphics depicting proper use in musical and non-musical circumstances and a straight forward explanation regarding the history and theory behind the practice. If you suffer from performance anxiety and wish to change your approach to the stage, and let’s face it, life in general, this is a must read.


  1. FLUTE BLISTERS – The flute blister develops over time as we rest the flute against the side of our left index finger to create a pressure point for balance and control of the instrument. The more pressure we put on this area the larger and more painful the blister (ouch). The worse the blister, the worse the nightmares… How do we deal with this phenomenon when it is a natural consequence of playing the flute? Answer: adapt.


  1. I SOUND HORRIBLE!!!! – TOP 10 FLUTE TONE IMPROVEMENT TIPS – The space where your lips meet to form the opening for your air stream is referred to as the aperture. A larger aperture creates an airy tone that is quite difficult to control. Practice creating a smaller aperture by practicing long tones in mirror. Faster, more concentrated air will produce a stronger, clearer sound.


  1. CREATING AN EMPIRE – BUILDING (OR EXPANDING) A FLUTE STUDIO – Teaching Skype lessons is not only easy but also allows you to stay connected to former students all over the globe. These are also great for students that may find a post on your blog that they like and want some further instruction or development on the techniques mentioned on your page.


  1. FIRST LESSONS – NICE TO MEET YOU! LET’S LEARN HOW TO PLAY THE FLUTE – Often a beginner will have questions or will want to discuss goals or songs they would like to learn at this first lesson. Make sure to jot everything down in their notebooks so you can begin to research and assign music in subsequent lessons.


  1. WHO IN THE WORLD IS HENRI BUSSER? – LESSER KNOWN FRENCH FLUTE SCHOOL COMPOSERS – The works in this book are staples of flute repertoire and contain pieces by famous French Flute School composers such as Paul Taffanel, Gabriel Faure and Philippe Gaubert. There are also a few pieces by composers that are quite obscure. It is often very important to understand who the composer is in order to properly understand the underlying style of a piece and any hidden characteristic compositional traits buried within the texture.


  1. TALKIN’ ABOUT FLUTE – FLUTE TALK TIPS, PART I – “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


  1. BARNYARD DREAMING – DANSE DE LA CHEVRE BY ARTHUR HONEGGER – Arthur Honnegger’s, Danse de la Chevre, for example, is more than just a simple “goat dance,” as the title suggests. Analysis of formal and harmonic content indicate that this piece represents a circular event. Perhaps it is a dream. Perhaps it is a commentary regarding the circular nature of life and our search for perfection within chaos. Like the movie Happy Feet, I believe that this piece wants to show us that it is okay march to the beat of our own drum because regardless of our identities, we are all searching for something to love.


  1. PLAYING FROM MEMORY (IT’S NOT THAT SCARY!) – If a brief melody cuts through an otherwise virtuosic passage of summersaulting arpeggios (as it does in the Ibert Concerto), create a mental benchmark for this passage and memorize the music surrounding the phrase in addition to the phrase itself. The opening movement of the Nielsen concerto is a great example of a piece that contains a rather complicated form but several smaller musical benchmarks to help you memorize structural sections as well the many melodic and virtuosic interruptions throughout the piece.


  1. MIND OVER MACHINE – MASTERING INTONATION – Tune a middle A to your tuner and adjust the pitch with your embouchure as you play the sustained tone softer and louder creating a <> effect. You will immediately notice pitch tendencies as you change dynamics. Make a note of these and work on correcting these tendencies when performing with larger groups.


  1. WALKING THE PLANK – COPING WITH STAGE FRIGHT – Music is a process. Do not think about how much you just want to get through the performance but rather listen to every note, brush off any mistakes and smile at the audience no matter what happens. You have worked hard. No one moment in time defines who we are as musicians or as people.


  1. FLUTE SECTION COMMUNITIES – WHAT IS YOUR ROLE? Piccolo – If the flute section represented the characters in the Wizard of Oz. you would be the Lion as he sings “If I were King of the Forrrrrrest.” You are the King of the Forrest and you must have courage at all times. You will be heard above all of the instruments in the orchestra and while that seems terrifying it is also quite wonderful. Become comfortable projecting above the group.


  1. WHAT’S YOUR SIGN, WOLFGANG? – Aquarians gravitate towards unconventional ideas and prefer to work independently. I do not know about you but when I think of a “rebel” composer, the first name that pops into my mind is Mozart. Mozart did what he wanted and wrote what he wanted in the language he wanted. Classical music owes its most witty, large scale works to the Mozart opera buffa collection (Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, etc.) while his opera seria works embody Mozart’s rebellious nature (Don Giovanni is often considered as a rebellious reaction to his own father’s passing).


  1. CHUNKY MONKEY – There are no “rules” to how a passage should be chunked. You must use a bit of creativity and interpretation to decide where you hear the natural breaks in the music. A good starting point is to select certain notes that act as pick up notes to the downbeat.


  1. ABRACADABRA! 3RD OCTAVE TRICK FINGERINGS – There are many other trick fingerings that can be used to achieve different types of sounds in various musical scenarios, however the Rule of the 5th is a great starting place for those of you needing a few shortcuts in faster moving passages. Using these harmonic fingerings has helped me iron out exposed, fast moving passages in orchestral settings, allowing me to focus my sound on the more significant tones in the phrase.



images (20)


  1. FLUTER’S ARM – TENDONITIS 101 – Take a break. This should be the golden rule of flute playing. Do not practice more than 1 hour without taking a 15-minute break to stretch and relax. I know how easy it is to become fixated on a passage (one more time! I can nail it this time!) but it is not worth the pain or physical harm that will develop later.


  1. HAVING A PLAN – 2016 PLAYING RESOLUTIONS – 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.


  1. SAY YES TO THE FLUTE – PURCHASING A NEW FLUTE – 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.


  1. THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT! TOP 5 BEST FREE MUSIC APPS – (re the Pro Metronome app) 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.


  1. IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME – ADVICE FOR COLLEGE MUSICIANS – 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.


  1. FLUTETUDE – TOP 5 FLUTE ETUDE COLLECTIONS – 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.


  1. FINDING MOYSE – IBERT VS. BOZZA – Was this swirling figure somehow evocative of Moyse? Perhaps this was an exercise used at the Paris Conservatoire. Or maybe a commentary on the nature of a brooding performer who perhaps lets his thoughts bubble not once, not twice, but three times before he takes action (sounds like a Taurus…). It could also simply be a musical duplicate created by composers either trying to pay homage to each other’s work or trying to shoplift trademark compositional figures.


  1. AND THE WINNER IS… – AUDITION TIPS – I have experienced a number of what some musicians refer to as “11th hour auditions” where practicing was left until the very last minute. You do yourself an injustice whenever you perform an audition that is not truly representative of your best playing. Careful yet patient planning is the best way to create performances that will win over the harshest of critics and help you to become a better musician.


  1. HIGH REGISTER RX VLOG – (Video Blog)


  1. FLUTE FAVORITES: FLUTE SWAG – The Peak Music Stand is much lighter than a typical Massenet stand and folds up into a sleek carrying bag. Unlike metal music stands, this stand includes two smaller plastic pieces on the front of the stand to keep your music in place and can be adjusted in two different places to fit to the proper height (without the slowly falling motion that occurs when metal stands are past their expiration date). This stand looks professional, is easily transportable and extremely functional.


  1. GOOD VIBRATIONS – I like to tell my students that there is a major difference between Scared Chipmunk vibrato and Yo Yo Ma. Many students begin with a fast, tense vibrato because they are trying very hard to both create and hear their vibrato. Search for any recording on YouTube featuring Yo Yo Ma or, my personal favorite, Luciano Pavarotti, and listen to the ease with which they create their vibrato. There are no scared chipmunks on stage.


  1. SMART PRACTICE – All or nothing thinking creates blockages within progress. Guess what? You do not have to practice all the music you have on your plate every day. I know what you are thinking – Blasphemy! Feeling or thinking you need to work on everything every time you open your flute case to practice will lead to burnout and you may start finding creative ways to procrastinate your overwhelming practice sessions.




  1. SPRING FLUTING – YOUTUBE MASTERCLASS – Masterclasses are very popular during the summer months but in Spring they are generally hosted by regional flute clubs or universities. If you are not in a position to attend a masterclass due to location or cost, you can still audit a masterclass of your own creation through the magic of the internet. There are a number of videos on YouTube from masterclasses hosted by extraordinary professional flutists near and far covering a wide range of pieces and techniques.


  1. THE MARK OF THE FLUTIST – Fluter’s Chin happens to thousands of us. Prevention and preparation are key to tackling the reaction between your chin and the metal of your lip plate. Do not be embarrassed. The dark mark left after a rehearsal is a type of badge indicating that you have been creating music. That is something to proud of!


  1. WHAT IS SMARTMUSIC? – Finally, my favorite part of this program is that it will make a recording of each take for you to review and transfer into an mp3 recording. With the right microphone and speaker levels, this will program will produce a recording comparable to a zoom recorder and can be used for various prerecorded auditions and competitions.


  1. SURVIVING UNSUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCES – Okay, so you had a bad performance. What’s next? After a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or much needed retail therapy, take a moment to regroup. Remember that bad performances happen to every musician from the novice to the experienced professional and even legendary performers. You are not alone.


  1. RELOCATING YOUR STUDIO – (My Flute Talk article!)


  1. TRILL, BABY, TRILL – THE C# TRILL KEY – Pianissimo high Ab: Play middle Ab with ALL the left hand keys depressed, add the C# trill and the high Ab will appear softly, and in tune. Finally the answer to our prayers! How many trick fingerings have we used to contain that terrifyingly beautiful opening high G# in Daphnis et Chloe? I can count at least 3 but none have worked quite as well as the C# trill key. I have been eliminated from auditions in the past over the color and clarity of that single note without realizing that the solution to my problems was under my fingers the whole time.


  1. A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR – ENCOURAGING YOUNG STUDENTS TO PRACTICE – Part of the reason that practice time may vary each day of the week is that students do not know exactly what to invest their energy learning besides “learn all of the notes.” Set weekly priorities and help your students devise performance wish lists. What is it that they want to learn about the flute? What do they want to learn to play? What techniques are they most interested in learning about this instrument? Create single weekly goals based on these objectives.


  1. A PICTURE PAINTS A THOUSAND WORDS – Frederick the Great, known as a flutist and composer, is depicted here performing a flute concert on the occasion of a visit from his sister, the Margavine of Bayreuth. What is most notable in this scene is the very high placement of the music stand, preventing the King from making eye contact with the ensemble (I know a few band directors that would have a huge problem with this stand placement but I guess when you are the King you can basically do whatever you want. Please nobody give Donald Trump a flute…..).


  1. TRICKS FOR PICCS – I often think that the most difficult thing about playing the piccolo is mustering the courage to belt out your parts no matter what your inner critic tells you. Blending into the background is simply not an option on this little instrument therefore good, bad or ugly – you will be heard. The first step is acceptance. The second hardest part about playing the piccolo is understanding that some of our good old flute fingerings translate very differently on the piccolo and we must develop new ways to adapt to different problems.


  1. WOODSHEDDING – BACK TO BASICS – If your music is written in never ending 16th notes, practice the passage instead in triplets. If the music is written in sextuplets (like the ones in the Chaminade), practice the passage instead in 16th notes. Change complicated triplets into 8th notes. Your ear will be uncomfortable but your fingers will be easier to control when you remove the terrifying rhythmic stimulus. When you change the rhythm you are simply isolating the note patterns away from the written rhythm, learning the phrase one step at a time.


  1. THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’ – 1670 – Jean Hotteterre makes adjustments to the flute by sectioning the instrument into three pieces (the headjoint, middle joint and foot joint). Hotteterre also gave the flute a conical bore (the foot joint was smallest in diameter), reduced the size of the standard six finger holes, and added an Eb key (the first key developed for the instrument).


  1. GET WITH THE PROGRAM – A Single Composer recital program is a nice compliment to an article, dissertation, book or other large scale writing project that you have completed or are in the process of completing as you are quite literally bringing your studies to the stage. Bonus points if you have a tech savvy friend who can conjure up a hologram of your composer for your recital! For us low tech musicians, a projection or slide show of portraits of the composer may also be a good addition to your program and visual treat for your audience.


  1. FLUTE FAQ’s – Is it “flutist” or “flautist”? If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I could retire in Hawaii. I used to answer this question by saying, “Whichever you prefer. I will still play the flute either way!” until I found the below video in which Jean Pierre Rampal explains that the correct term is flutist because we play the flute, not the flaut. I absolutely agree and often refer people to this video whenever the question arises. Leave it to the French to give us all a dose of brilliant honesty.


  1. NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE – I think we can use the nostril theory to monitor what our body is trying to tell us about our mind and focus our energies on the musical activities that will engage the corresponding hemisphere of the brain. For example, if you are struggling to keep a steady beat or consistent rhythm, try concentrating your breathing through your right nostril for 10-12 inhales to engage the logical left side of the brain. If you are working on a cadenza or an expressive solo work and struggling to find the correct inspiration, inhale through the left nostril for a few breaths and continue.


  1. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT – If you are anything like me, the first thing to go out the window under the stress of performance is breathing. Forgetting to breathe is detrimental to sight reading.  Taking a breath in an inappropriate place costs precious time and interrupts the flow of the beat. Quickly identify obvious places to breathe in your passage and take large enough breaths to last you longer than you anticipate. Be prepared for your breathing to weaken under pressure and use the moments before your performance to come up with a basic game plan.


  1. FRIENDLY COMPETITION – Learn from every part that crosses your music stand. Identify why you were given the part you were given. Is there a particular strength that your part showcases? Emphasize this during rehearsals and performances. Listen to the stronger players and identify their strengths. Again, identify what you find inspiring about their playing and incorporate that into your own. Help out the weaker players as well. Everybody can learn from everybody.


  1. I’LL PENCIL YOU IN! – Begin structuring your schedule with your sanity and health in mind to maintain that proper “work/life” balance that the motivational speakers at faculty and staff workshops are always yammering about. Having this balance in your life helps you to strengthen the areas that matter the most while avoiding stress and eventual burnout. You will also end up being less of a zombie around your family after hours!


  1. CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE FLUTE PLAYER’S SOUL – If you play a musical instrument you are by definition a musician. You do not need to wait until you earn an opportunity to perform with the New York Philharmonic to take ownership of your craft. Own your musical identity every time you pick up your instrument.


  1. SECOND FIDDLE – Despite what you may think, playing 2nd part does not mean you get to sit back with your feet up, sipping Starbucks, occasionally playing a few unimportant notes, and watching innocently as the players around you sweat out the score. You will occasionally be the soloist. That low G natural at the end of the movement may just be you and a few lower strings. Be ready! Smetana, Dvorak, and Ravel are notorious for including soloistic writing for the 2nd flute part and they are not alone. Be prepared to transform momentarily into a soloist without much warning. Play out! Enjoy your rock star moments. Shine.


  1. 101 TIPS AND TIDBITS FOR THE ASPIRING CLASSICAL MUSICIAN – I am very pleased to unveil my mini-book, 101 Tips and Tidbits for the Aspiring Classical Musician! Available now on Amazon for the very low/reasonable price of $0.99 USD. Based on my Twitter series, Dr. G’s Daily Flute Tips, this mini-book offers 101 inspirational ideas and short, easy suggestions to spark new creativity into your musical practices. Enjoy! Check it out here:


  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – HUE FANTASIE – Sing through the melodies. No, I mean it. Literally. Sing. Through. The. Melodies. I was horrified the first time my flute teacher asked me to do this during a lesson and even more so when he asked me to sing in front of my peers, but the payoff was well worth the fleeting embarrassment. There is so much extra “stuff” in this piece (from the cascading scales to crisply articulated passages) that it is quite refreshing when the music features a beautiful melody. I often joke that this piece has multiple personalities!


  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – POULENC SONATA – Duck Lips – No, I am not talking about taking a flute selfie while you pay the 2nd movement (although if you must, I invite all duck face selfies to my blog). Playing in the high register requires a very strong embouchure that directs a smaller, more pressurized air stream out and downward to prevent sharpness (okay, I mean, MORE sharpness to an already sharp register). When you bring your lips slightly out, forward, and down, you produce exactly this type of embouchure and create the dreaded duck face.  Don’t be hatin’ the duck face!


  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – BACH SONATA NO. 4 – Using rubato as our musical taffy puller, begin each slurred grouping at tempo, slowing the tempo slightly in the center of the slur, and gradually returning to the starting tempo by the end of the slur. Not every slur needs to follow this pattern so you may pick and choose which taffies you will stretch and which will simply serve as pick up figures to the next taffy grouping.


  1. PERCEPTUAL FILTERS: THE 7 LEARNING STYLES – Guess where you may find musicians falling under the solitary learner umbrella? That’s right! Logging countless hours in the practice room. The practice room is a sanctuary for these musicians. They must learn to learn from themselves and apply lessons to their own understanding of the world. It is important that solitary learners have very specific homework assignments that push them to challenge themselves. As long as the task is something that speaks to their souls (music, for example) they will always surpass expectations.


  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – SERENADE BY HOWARD HANSON – I find in my old age that I need a few cups of coffee and a Red Bull to perform this piece with the same vigor and energy that I had at 18. Hanson demands intensity and persistence. Anything less and this piece plays like a Taffanel and Gaubert style concerto of scale exercises (*yawn*). To quote Kid President, “Anyone can be boring, but you’re gooder than that.” The sparkle in this work can be found in moments of melodic simplicity (they do exist!). Contrast these sections with the volcanic scale explosions found in climactic phrases using variations in vibrato speed and tone color to give this piece the extra bit of drama it deserves.





  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – GRIFFES POEM – The connection to poetry and storytelling in this work is what makes the Griffes Poem unique and not just another pretty-sounding piece. It is as if Griffes gave us the emotional interpretation of his poem without the words. Find the words! Find the story buried within the music and the piece will sing on its own. Keep this in mind as you chisel away at the various technical and musical challenges.


  1. FLUTE ON A BUDGET – The World Wide Web is truly an amazing resource! For a fun exercise, simply google the word “flute.” You will be inundated with resources, videos, blogs, newsletters, tips, tricks, instruments, etc. Everything you ever wanted to know about the flute can be found on the web. Start researching! Make a list of your most important and useful links and find something new to try in your flute study on each site.


  1. ADVOCACY – KEEPING MUSIC ALIVE – Support your local symphony. Attend a concert. Donate to the organization. Meet the musicians and attend the conductor’s pre-concert talk. Take your kids to a children’s concert or a summer concert in the park. The key to keeping classical music alive is making it part of your lives, and sustaining the future of classical music is reliant on making music meaningful to future generations.


  1. DO-IT-YOURSELF SAMPLE RECORDING TIPS – Record solo works in a complimentary acoustic environment. Okay, this is going to sound very odd, but some of my best recordings of solo works have been made with a Zoom recorder in a bathroom. I find that this environment gives my sound enough reverb without distorting the center and quality of the sound. Other spaces to experiment with include obvious culprits such as recital halls and churches, but also backstage greenrooms, dining room spaces, and any other indoor space with high ceilings and hardwood floors. Avoid outdoor spaces that minimize projection of sound and carpeted practice rooms.


  1. DOS AND DON’TS OF DEEP PRACTICE – To create a stronger performance, or learn new skills, we must give ourselves permission to make mistakes and learn from our errors. Do not be afraid to confront your practice demons! Deep practice forces us to slow down and, as Coyle states, “operate at the edge of your ability.” (pg. 26) This is essentially the biggest difference between effective and ineffective practice.


  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – DOPPLER’S FRANTAISIE PASTORALE HONGROISE – Whenever I hear this piece, I immediately envision a circus. The melancholy yet mysterious opening sets the stage upon a quiet village awaiting the arrival and set up of the tents (spinning scales even suggest wind lightly blowing against polyester fabric). The following Andantino Moderato cuts to the tightrope walker who nearly falls to an untimely death in the proceeding cadenza. The Allegro at measure 120 ushers in the lions who perform spectacular tricks including jumping through increasingly magnificent hoops of fire. The jugglers interrupt at the Moderato where the line is quite literally broken into two separate voice followed by short scales moving up, then down, then back up again, mimicking objects being tossed through the air. The concluding Allegro is the grand curtain call signaling the end of the performance (perhaps fireworks? But…we don’t want to scare those lions). This work demands creative interpretation.


  1. FLUTE SWAG – FLUTE BAGS – (re: Fluterscooter Case Covers) What makes these bags so unique is that they are the most stylish bags on the market. There is a color and style to fit just about any performer. Every musician backstage has a boring, industry approved, black nylon carrying case. Sturdy, does the job, but nothing to write home about. Fluterscooter bags add a splash a color to a bleak backstage while remaining supportive and functional. We are creative artists, aren’t we? Shouldn’t our cases express our individuality? Uhm, yes.


  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – MUCZYNSKI’S SONATA FOR FLUTE AND PIANO – Count, then count, then count some more and count differently from what you know to be “correct.” But don’t let me scare you! Once the counting is under control, there are moments of grace and vitality that make the piece introspective at times and exciting at others. I often joke with students and colleagues that the Muczynski Sonata for Flute and Piano must have been written for or about a person falling under the Scorpio astrological sign due to the juxtaposition of extremes and “stinging” surprises (and syncopation that, at times, recalls the creepy scurrying of an insect such as a scorpion or spider).


  1. 75 INSPIRATIONAL COMPOSER QUOTES – 42. Alban Berg: “Music is at once the product of feeling and knowledge, for it requires from its disciples, composers and performers alike, not only talent and enthusiasm, but also that knowledge and perception which are the result of protracted study and reflection.”


  1. PERFECTIONISM – Highlight the good (or “Good Enough”). Make a list of your best performance qualities, best music making exercises, and the best groups, performers, and conductors you have worked with in the past. Refer to this list frequently. You are a much better musician than you may realize and your experiences will give you insights into who you truly are as a musician.


  1. MARIO VS. FLUTE – ON HAND-EYE COORDINATION – Remember the good, old, days when you played catch with your dad in the back yard? Did you know that by doing so, you were actually improving your hand-eye coordination and developing important skills that you would use later in life? Like the ball vs. wall exercise, simply playing catch trains your eyes to anticipate the ball and quickly react (much like when you read a score and react to the notes on the page). Recruit your family and go play a game of catch!


  1. DEAR DIARY – Keep a record of performances you attend and record what worked and what did not work. Use what worked in your daily practice and try to reinvent what didn’t work into something new. The whole point is to reflect on your observations and experiences to both troubleshoot and dream of new ideas that nobody has ever tried before. Write it down. Test it out. And dream big.


  1. DIGS FOR GIGS –  I have stalked this website for well over a decade (I know….#sad). This is one of the best places on the internet to search for audition notices from professional orchestras. I used this website in my college years to research exactly which excerpts I would need to prepare to have a shot at any future orchestral positions. I printed out the audition lists, obtained copies of all listed excerpts, saved these copies in a 3-ring binder, and performed mock auditions for my cat (again, #sad). This was actually very good preparation for real auditions down the road.


  1. PRACTICE BLUEPRINTS – CARMEN FANTASIE – After watching a performance of the opera, sing the arias in your head as you play the melodies in the score. If the words are difficult for you to understand due to language barriers, make up your own! If there are no words present in the original score (for example, the opening melody is an instrumental theme from the opera), make up words to fit the mood of the excerpt. Be creative! You are the prima donna now.


  1. MUSIC AND THE MIND – Music on the Brain – Like some of the videos we have examined thus far, this video discusses the effects of music on memories, particularly those of Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Music is considered a “side door” to the brain, connecting people to buried memories. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, music helps to alive agitation and encourages relaxation and calmness using personalize playlists.


  1. MAKING THE RULES – STUDIO POLICIES – In a nutshell, a 24-hour canceled lesson policy states that if a student does not inform the instructor of their absence 24-hours prior to their lesson time, they will be charged for the cancelled lesson. Having a strict 24-hour notice policy for canceled lessons prevents unexpected gaps in your teaching schedule, ensuring that your practice runs smoothly and students do not take advantage of your time.


  1. 100TH BLOG!!! (Index of all 99 previous blogs!)


Happy fluting!




Making the Rules – Studio Policies

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday.

Policies 1

The summer season is beginning to wind down and back to school sales are popping up everywhere. It is almost that time of year when studio teachers begin recruiting new students by offering trial lessons, instrument consultations, free masterclasses, introductory recitals, and meeting with students and parents to discuss the benefits of private lessons. An important part of this recruitment process is formulating (or reformulating) studio policies. Establishing the rules is not always fun, but having them in place is necessary for any successful studio. It is important for new flutists to know what is expected of them in order to be successful in their lessons. Studio policies literally spell out for students and parents how to get the most bang for their buck. In today’s blog, I will be discussing how to set up effective studio policies and how to appropriately share them with new and continuing students. By establishing clear expectations from the beginning, students will remain on track with their musical progress throughout their study. Are you ready to be the boss?

Policies 2


Studio policies should be shared with students and parents either prior to or during the first lesson. I like to do this at the conclusion of a trial lesson or first thing during the first paid lesson. Because most of my scheduling is done online and through email, my practice is to send a pdf document outlining all of my studio policies via email before meeting with a student. This gives parents and students an opportunity to review policies prior to their lesson so that we may discuss any questions they have ahead of time. Lesson time is precious and I like to do what I can to make sure that time is spent with the music. Sending studio policies ahead of the first lesson and reviewing them with students and parents at the beginning of the first lesson is a great way to make sure everyone is on board with your expectations and rules from the start.

Policies 3


First Thing’s First – Establish an Attendance Policy. Setting clear, easy to follow, attendance expectations is probably the most important policy to discuss with your students from day one as it protects you from wasted time and your students from wasted money. Lessons are typically charged on an hourly rate. A late student will be charged the same lesson fee whether the lesson begins on time or 10 minutes late. Their lateness is not only costing them money but costing you time (and stress – I have had nightmares about students arriving hours late for lessons, demanding my attention as soon as they show up on my doorstep. Uhm, no.). A lesson that is canceled at the last minute is the ultimate time waster. How many of us have had endured that unexpected empty half hour between lessons twiddling our thumbs, wondering where our student is, or mindlessly practicing scales until the next student arrives? That slot could have been filled by another student if we had had a 24-hour warning. In a nutshell, a 24-hour canceled lesson policy states that if a student does not inform the instructor of their absence 24-hours prior to their lesson time, they will be charged for the cancelled lesson. Having a strict 24-hour notice policy for canceled lessons prevents unexpected gaps in your teaching schedule, ensuring that your practice runs smoothly and students do not take advantage of your time. Of course, there may be exceptions to this policy due to emergency conditions. It is important that you explain to your student what types of situations are considered “emergencies.” Forgetting your flute at home is not considered an “emergency,” for example (Quick tip – always keep a back-up student flute in your studio! If students forget their instrument at home or their instrument is malfunctioning, they will still be able to proceed with their lesson using the back-up flute.). Make sure students understand this policy up front and be sure to reference the policy whenever these circumstances pop up. Although it is very tempting to be lenient with more dedicated students, you must remain consistent on policies for all of your students. Your time is just as valuable as theirs. Finally, set a good example! Be on time to all of your lessons and do not let lessons extend into each other. Set timers on your smartphone to buzz at the 5 minute mark to keep you on track. I like to devote the final 5 minutes of a lesson to improvisation, which is much easier to end at the appropriate time than reviewing repertoire. It is also a great “cool down” moment that students really look forward to at the conclusion of their lesson.

Policies 4


Practice Expectations.  You must ask yourself the timeless question all music teachers ask themselves at one point or another – Should I require practice cards or not? I am a big fan of practice cards, especially ones that state practice requirements directly on each card and require a parent signature for any student below the age of 18. I know that these are easy to forge and recall many of my friends creating fake minutes and forging their parent’s signatures on high school band practice cards during my youth, but the proof is really in the pudding. If a student submits practice cards that claim they are practicing 1 hour per day for 5-6 days of the week, but show up clearly unprepared for their lesson, or struggling through the same material each week, then either we must address how they are practicing or if they are practicing at all. Practice cards open the dialog about how to practice effectively and how to gradually build weekly practice time. Students can even review monthly charts of their practice time and set practice time goals for the following month. In my studio, I require that beginners practice anywhere from 15-30 minutes per day, intermediate students at least 45 minutes per day, and advanced students at least 1 hour per day (depending on skill level, I may increase this to 90-120 minutes per day). These numbers are achievable for more inexperienced players. The ultimate goal, however, is to achieve consistency. Practicing for 15 minutes per day for 5 days is much more effective than cram practicing on a Sunday afternoon for 75 minutes.

Policies 5


Lesson Rates and Payment Policies.  This is the most controversial topic on today’s list. Although it is generally agreed that you must put your lesson fees rates in writing so students know exactly how much each lesson will cost, there are different opinions regarding timelines for collecting monthly or weekly fees. Many teachers require students to prepay each month, and refund any cancelled lesson fees on the next month’s bill. Other teachers, like myself, prefer to invoice students at the end of the month. There are pros and cons to both of these approaches. The primary benefit of prepayment is that you are paid for your time before any of it is given away, preventing students from taking advantage of late or unexpectedly cancelled lessons. Tracking of any refunds, however, is a bit more complicated. Invoicing is great for documenting all charges incurred within a month, including any canceled lesson fees, materials purchased by the teacher to be reimbursed by the student (this may include pieces purchased through Fluteworld, equipment, or tickets to orchestral concerts), masterclass fees, or any other lesson fees incurred over the course of a month. The downside to monthly invoices is that you will be collecting fees and therefore must establish payment deadlines. If a student skips town, recovering these fees may be quite difficult. I am lucky to have had very diligent students and parents over the years that pay monthly invoices upon receipt, but this may not always be the case. If you select this route, make sure you include in your studio policies deadlines for invoices (a 30-day deadline is fairly standard), and a fee schedule for any payments extending past payment deadlines. To help make the payment process easier, include a list in your policies detailing all of the ways that students may pay their invoices (cash, check (made out to yourself or the institution with which you teach), PayPal, or direct bank transfers). I highly suggest investing in a Square card reader for your iPhone as it may encourage students and parents to pay monthly bills on the spot.

Policies 6


Required Supplies.    This section reminds me of the school supply lists that our teachers sent home with us in grade school.  It is important to outline any materials that students will be required to purchase for their lessons in your studio policies and where they may be purchased. Examples of supplies to list in this section include pencils, notebooks, etude or warm-up books, metronome, tuner, recording devices, software subscriptions (such as SmartMusic), and any staple repertoire that all students will be expected to learn. To simplify things, you may offer to purchase these items for the student and add the charge to their monthly invoice. I do this for standard etude book purchases such as Trevor Wye’s Practice Book on Tone, and copies of Taffanel and Gaubert’s Exercise #4.

Policies 7


Basic Lesson Structure.  Include an example of how a normal lesson progresses in your policies so that students and parents know what to expect during lesson time. For example, I use this paragraph to explain that I begin each lesson with long tone warm ups, moving on to articulation studies and scales, followed by etudes, duets, repertoire, and concluding with an improvisation. We may shift focus primarily to one of these categories over the others during certain lessons, but in general this is my standard playbook. I like to think about section as the categorized receipt for each lesson.

Policies 8


Include a Short Snippet of your Teaching Philosophy. This does not need to be the 2-3 page document that you may submit for a job application; 2-3 lines will be sufficient. Including a short paragraph explaining your approach to teaching helps students and parents understand what to expect from your teaching style. Do you rely on the Socratic method? Are you more prescriptive? Do you like to explore music and movement? What makes you different as a teacher? And most importantly, what types of knowledge do you hope to impart to all of your students? This paragraph is essentially a statement about who you are as a teacher.

Policies 9


Events.  Make sure to include a listing of any upcoming studio events such as student recitals or masterclasses and the required level of student participation at each event. For example, in my studio, students are required to participate in a quarterly studio masterclass and must perform at least 1 solo either unaccompanied or with SmartMusic accompaniment. The length of the solo will correspond to the skill level of the student. If certain students are preparing for a recital performance or school competitions, performing in a masterclass gives them a great opportunity to confront any performance anxiety prior to the performance while inspiring younger flutists to think about what they can achieve through their continued hard work. By including a list of event expectations with your studio policies, you are helping students and parents know exactly what opportunities and challenges to expect in the coming months. This is transparency at its finest and a very important component to a student’s success in your studio.

Policies 10


Contact Info.  Okay, this one is pretty straightforward. Be sure that students and parents know exactly how to contact you if they have questions, wish to reschedule lesson times, or to report any emergencies. Simply list your phone number, email address, and a link to your website. Encourage parents and students to send text messages if they are running late to a lesson or need a simple answer to a flute related question. More introverted students prefer to send text messages rather making phone calls when they need to contact you.

Policies 11


Finally, Include a Signature Block.  Any good, binding, contract must be signed and dated to be valid.  By signing your studio policy agreement, students and parents are acknowledging that they understand what will be expected of them and what policies are in place as patrons of your studio. This indicates that any deviations of studio policies may result in the termination of flute lessons. You are solidifying the rules but also making it clear what you expect from your students and what services you will provide in return.

Policies 12


What do you include in your studio policies? Which policies do you find most important to communicate to new students from the beginning of their study? How often do you update your policies? How do you share your policies with students and parents? Please comment below.



Happy Fluting!

Music and the Mind

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.

Music Brain

I was forwarded a YouTube clip by a coworker recently with a message that simply stated, “This video made me think of you 😊.” The video, Music and the Mind, discusses the unique and powerful benefits that playing a musical instrument has on brain functioning. We have programed ourselves to be very different from our non-musician counterparts by simply engaging in musical learning (those hours spent in the practice room were more important than we originally thought!). This made me think about some of the other myths, legends, and verifiable facts about music and the mind and just how many may be true and worth understanding a bit better. I think our students would value their lessons more if they knew exactly what benefits learning about music has in many other aspects of their daily lives. Today’s blog is a review of some of the best YouTube videos covering the topic of music and the mind. How can we use our passion to impact the way we process everything around us? How exactly does litening to and performing music influence our minds? How can music unlock the potential and creatively buried deep within our brains?

Music Brain 2

  1. Music and the Mind – In this video, Anita Collins explains that performing music incites numerous processes in the brain that all fire at the same time. For example, visual skills are required to read the score, auditory skills to hear and evaluate our sound, and motor cortexes help us form the physical demands necessary to create pitches on different instruments. Playing music combines neurological responses from the left (logical) and right (creative) hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. Like an internet search engine, musicians are also programed to give memories multiple tags (pitch, tone, interpretation, physical demands of performing, etc.). Finally, what I found most interesting in this video is that musicians are known to have highly defined executive functions associated with planning, strategizing, and paying painstakingly close attention to detail. This explains so much! Bottom line – we are different. Our brains are hardwired differently due to the type of art we create.

  1. Music and the Brain – Jessica Grahn discusses the effects that listening to music has on brain functioning, particularly in patients suffering from Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. I find this very interesting and am fascinated by the connection between music and physical or mental conditions. There is a powerful healing power that music provides on a very personal and individual basis. Even when our minds may be mostly gone, the tags that we place on certain pieces help us recall memorizes buried deep within our pasts. Music is a natural antidepressant. For patients suffering from Dementia, music helps recall memories that may otherwise be lost, often providing closer connections with family members. Parkinson’s patients respond not only to the mood enhancing effects of music but typically use rhythm and beat patterns to improve physical motor functioning.

  1. Unlocking Music with Neuroscience – In this presentation, Ardon Shorr explains how our brains understand music using processes such as mental chunking. The problem that many non-musicians have with classical music, for example, is that there is too much information happening at once that is often very difficult to understand. Too many symbols! However, when we begin to understand how much of music is organized based on structure and the simple intro-tension-release pattern, it becomes less of a puzzle and more of an expression of emotion.

  1. This is your Brain on Music – This video further addresses the correlation between music, the mind, and physical functioning. Many of us have been told that music effects both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, however in reality it effects all parts of the brain. This is why runners can run faster and body builders pump harder while listening to upbeat music – The constant pulse keeps them going. Because of it’s incredible influence on the brain, music has significant health benefits and is often considered as a type of medicine. Listening to a familiar piece that you love releases dopamine, a natural anti-depressant. Sad music also has healing effects on depressed individuals, making them feel not so alone, particularly if the lyrics help them relate to their present circumstances. This releases the chemical prolactin which is a soothing hormone. Listening to pleasurable music also reduces cortisol levels in the body regulating mood and energy levels. Finally, it is suggested that creating a playlist based on what you are doing helps you improve performance. I actually used to do this in high school to study for final exams (Creedence Clearwater for American History, Yanni for Math, Mozart for English, and Pearl Jam for Science). Try it out!

  1. Music on the Brain – Like some of the videos we have examined thus far, this video discusses the effects of music on memories, particularly those of Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Music is considered a “side door” to the brain, connecting people to buried memories. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, music helps to alive agitation and encourages relaxation and calmness using personalize playlists. Experiments have been conducted showing exactly which parts of the brain are activated when listening to personalized music and, as they explain on this video, “when most of the brain is gone, music can wake it up.” Emotion and memory are often intertwined and, as you can see, music activates both.

  1. How to Learn Anything 10X Faster – The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle Animated Book Review – Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here. This video is actually based on a fabulous book by Daniel Coyle called The Talent Code. The narrator of the video summarizes some of the key aspects of the book with very straight-forward and easy to understand animations. The Talent Code explains that whenever we learn a new skill, the neurons in our brain fire in a particular sequence while a substance called myelin wraps around our nerves to lock in that pattern (I like to think of it like electrical tape). The best way to produce myelin is through deep practice. To achieve deep practice, you must break tasks into smaller units (similar to the way that Ardon Shorr explained in Unlocking Music with Neuroscience), slow complicated tasks down so that you can focus on all of the details, repetition, and practicing at the edge of your ability. Don’t just go for pieces you know you can play. Challenge yourself to produce more myelin by playing the hard stuff! This book is fantastic and I highly recommend you read the entire book after watching this video summary. If you are pressed for time, the book is also available as an audiobook on The Talent Code encourages us to practice by using our mind as the most important tool to lock in lessons learned in the practice room.


Do you have a favorite video discussing music and the mind not listed here? What do you think about the connection between music, memory, and brain functioning? How do you think musician’s brains are different? How do you process memories differently than your non-musician colleagues. Please comment below!


Happy fluting!