Top 10 Collaborative Music Making Tips

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday/Saturday! Apologies for being MIA for the past couple of weeks. A family emergency put all of my projects temporarily on hold and getting back into the groove has been a bit of a struggle, but today I am back! Hope you have missed Flute Friday as much as I did.

The Flute View

Before I get into today’s post, I have a few wonderful announcements. I have started writing a new monthly column with The Flute View Online Magazine entitled, Dr. G’s Flute Horoscopes. This is exactly what it sounds like! Each month I will explain the general astrological trends for each of the 12 signs of the zodiac and how these changes will influence your flute playing and/or music career. These were very fun to write and, at least for my sign, have been proving quite accurate. Check it out here!


My flute blog has also recently been named by as one of the 30 Best Flute Blogs on the web! Thanks, Feedspot! Check it out here!

Another big thanks to Bret Pimentel for including my Flute Quiz on his September 2017 Favorite Blog Posts! I am always grateful to see my blog posts appear on these monthly lists. Thanks for reading! Check it out here!

Finally, the answer key to The Flute Quiz is listed below. Like all good pub quizzes, I am sure there will be those who disagree with some of the answers but please keep in mind that this quiz is merely a model to use as a studio assignment or to test your own knowledge. Please feel free to tweak as you see fit for use in your own studio environments.

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Today’s blog is devoted to those of you in both small and large ensembles who, from time to time, may need some help communicating musically with your fellow musicians. Playing in a group is not as easy as the pros make it look and there is a world of difference between how you approach your part as a soloist and how you fit in as a member of an ensemble. Playing together, or “collaborative music making” (if you want to get fancy) is truly an art that takes years of practice and experience to develop. Today, I am including my Top 10 Collaborative Music Making Tips for everyone out there making music in groups. Practice these tips in your ensembles to strengthen your non-verbal communication skills and successfully fit your flute voice into larger collections of sound.

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  1. Make eye contact. This is the golden rule of playing in any ensemble. Any time you wish to begin or end a phrase or have an entrance that you perform with another instrument, make eye contact with the player or players that you will be performing with. In a small ensemble that is relatively easy as you will likely be facing each other, but in a larger band or orchestral ensemble this may be a bit tricky if your part mimics that of an instrument group sitting behind you (as many of the best parts do). In those cases, make eye contact with the conductor. They may or may not always give you a good cue but at least you will be on the same page as the rest of the orchestra. Another great tip to achieve this is to memorize your most important phrases or solos. Whenever I have an important orchestral solo, I always memorize my part so I can keep constant eye contact with the conductor and the players around me. You may also want to memorize important phrases when playing in smaller chamber ensembles to keep the same level of eye contact with key players. This will help everyone identify when, where, and with whom all critical passages stop and end.


  1. Communicate with Others Verbally (and respectfully). You cannot simply expect other musicians to read your mind no matter how good your eye contact may be. When you are performing solos or key phrases, it is important to discuss with your fellow musicians how you intend to play a phrase, what tempos you wish to take, and how loud or soft to approach certain dynamic markings. You must also agree on these and other musical issues as a group during tutti sections of the music. These may include how to approach ornamentations, transitions between movements, how to properly execute accelerandi and how to handle any fermati or railroad track markings. Above all, you must be respectful in all of these discussions. You don’t want to break up the band because you are convinced that the grace notes fall on the beat whereas the rest of the group wants them before the beat and you certainly do not want to alienate the members of your group by being a know-it-all bossy pants. Be kind.

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  1. Use the End of your Flute like a Baton to Cue Other Players. The responsibility of playing the flute often comes with a leadership role in many ensembles. In a band, you are seated in the front of the ensemble. In an orchestra, you are the gateway to the woodwind section (and if you are principal, you are literally the co-quarterback for the wind section alongside the oboe). In a woodwind quintet, you are seated on the far outside of the group and are one of the leaders. You may find yourself cueing your fellow musician in many of these roles. A good way to go about this is to use the end of your flute to show the group where the downbeat lies, and, in some instances, show them the beat pattern if it is unclear. As I have discussed before on this blog, you may do this by literally using the end of your flute to conduct as you play. Try to remain discreet when using this technique and conduct in small circles that can be noticed by your ensemble but do not distract the audience. This will help everybody stay on beat and clarify where the larger beats fall.


  1. Always Listen! Listen carefully at all times to what is happening around you. Are you the melody or the harmony? If you are not the star of the phrase, identify who is and lower your dynamic level so that they may be heard properly. If you are the star, do not be afraid to belt it out but remain conscious of intonation. Having a solo does not give you license to play out of tune. Always listen to the voices around you and fit into their sound as much as possible. Adjust dynamics and intonation to fit the collective voices. You are, after all, one part of a larger unit.

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  1. Tune to the Principal Player or Concertmaster. Tuning is sometimes a difficult process for the ego. We’d all like to think we are in tune at all times but often what we think of as “in tune” is incorrect or does not matter because we are at the mercy of someone else’s idea of “in tune.” When in doubt, always tune to the principal player in your section or, if you are the principal player, the concertmaster or, perhaps more appropriately, the oboe. It does not matter if you think the oboe is right or wrong. To keep everybody on the same page, it is important to identify one voice to use as a guide and adjust as necessary.


  1. Adjust to Group Dynamics. Your idea of “forte” may not exactly match that of your neighbors, therefore it is critical that you listen to the dynamics of the group and adjust your own notion of loud vs. soft based on the directions of the group. For example, in many groups, I find myself performing softer dynamics significantly softer than I would as a soloist and underplaying the high register as much as possible, even in louder dynamic ranges, to create balance with the rest of the group.

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  1. Practice Blending. This goes back to listening and adjusting. Use your dynamics and vibrato speed to literally practice blending your sound into that of other instruments around you. Match their sound and style and fit your own sound into the center of theirs. This is tricky and takes practice but a good way to achieve this is to isolate your parts with your colleagues in a practice room. Listen to each other and understand how each of you creates sound. Find one collective sound between your idiosyncrasies.


  1. Intonation – Know Your Tendencies and the Tendencies of Others. This also goes back to listening, adjusting, and blending. We all know that our high registers are naturally sharp and our low registers notoriously flat, but did you know that as an oboe or clarinet plays into the higher ranges, their tendencies are to go flat? Whoa! Flutes get sharp and Clarinets go flat? How are we supposed to find a middle ground? Simple. Adjust. Play a few slow scales with the other instrumentalists around you. You will quickly discover which notes you must adjust to on both sides. Mark these notes and remember that when you hit a high f#, for example, you will need to bring it down. This will help you correct intonation before it becomes a recurring issue.

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  1. Refine your Cut-Off Cues. Everyone practices the graceful flute circular cut off, right? But, how awkward is it to actually do this in a performance? Weird, huh? I always feel a bit like an interpretive dancer or an overzealous conductor. It’s strange. Unnatural. BUT a necessity. The group needs to know how to end the music together and the flute is often the leader in making that happen. Although it may feel silly, practice the circle cut off in the privacy of your own practice room until it doesn’t feel so awkward and make sure to test it out in the mirror to make sure it is clear where the music must end. There is nothing worse than an insecure cut off. The music must end together.


  1. HAVE FUN! Remember that in any group you play in, you must enjoy what you do. You are making music together (how cool is that!?). If you are not having fun, then why are you doing it? Creating music is a unique and wonderful experience that should be shared with everybody.

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Do you play in a larger or small ensemble? What techniques do you like to use to communicate both verbally and non-verbally with your colleagues? How do you handle intonation issues in a larger group? Please comment below!


Happy Fluting!



The Flute Quiz (Answer Key)

  1. How many flute sonatas did J.S. Bach Compose?

a.  5

b.  6

c.  7

d.  8

*There are 7 sonatas attributed to J.S. Bach, however the Partita may also be considered as another sonata so D is also an acceptable answer.


  1. Who was the “father of the French Flute School.”

a.  Jean Pierre Rampal

b.  Phillip Gaubert

c.  Theobald Boehm

d.  Paul Taffanel


  1. What is a Shakuhachi?

a.  An Irish, keyless flute

b.  A traditional Native American flute

c.  A Japanese end-blown flute

d.  A large pan flute


  1. Prokofiev’s famous Sonata was originally written for which instrument?

a.  Piano

b. Violin

c.  Cello

d.  Flute


  1. According to the Alexander Technique, what does the term “Primary Control” mean?

a. How we balance our feet properly to support our posture.

b. How we allocate our air properly within a phrase.

c.  The relationship between our arms/shoulders/head and general coordination.

d.  The relationship between our Head/Neck/Back and the body mechanism.


  1. Who premiered the 1919 performance of Griffes’ Poem for Flute and Orchestra?

a.  Georges Barrere

b.  Phillip Gaubert

c.  William Kincaid

d.  Marcel Moyse


  1. Who is pictured below.

Carl Nielsen


  1. Which of the below listed pieces are NOT considered part of the French Flute School repertoire?

a.  Doppler’s Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise

b.  Chaminade’s Concertino

c.  Faure’s Fanatasie for Flute and Piano

d.  Hue Fantasie


  1. Who was Charles Nicholson?

a.  A conductor at the Paris Opera

b.  A famous English flutist and composer

c.  A famous German flutist and professor

d.  An American Jazz flutist and recording artist


  1. Schubert’s Introduction and Variations (D. 802, Opus 160) is based on a poem titled, “Trockne Blumen.” Who was the author of this poem?

a.  Friedrich Schiller

b.  Hermann Hesse

c.  Heinrich von Kleist

d.  Wilhelm Muller


  1. Who was Pan?

a.  The god of shepherds, flocks, and rustic music.

b.  The god of reeds, streams, and rivers.

c.  The god of fields, groves, and wooded glens.

d.  A and B

e.  B and C

f.  A and C


  1. Reinecke’s Sonata Undine is based on the story of what type of mythical creatures?

a.  Seahorses

b.  Mermaids

c.  Angels

d.  Dragons


  1. During the Pantomime section of the ballet, which love story do Daphnis and Chloe mime?

a.  Romeo and Juliette

b.  Tristan and Isolde

c.  Pan and Syrinx

d.  Orpheus and Eurydice


  1. Chant de Linos is based on the story of the mythological musician, Linus. To which Greek heroes did Linus allegedly teach music?

a.  Hercules

b.  Hector

c.  Jason

d.  Orpheus

e.  A and C

f.  A and D

g.  B and D


  1. Which notes are included in the harmonic series of a low C natural?

a.  C, C, C, E, G, C

b.  C, G, C, G, C, G, C

c.  C, C, G, C, E, G, Bb

d.  C, C, G, C, G, Bb


  1. How many Divertissements did Kuhlau include in his Opus 68?

a.  5

b.  6

c.  9

d.  12


  1. According to legend, what was Cecil Chaminade’s inspiration behind the Concertino in D Major, Op. 107.

a.  To compose a piece so difficult that her flute playing ex-lover could not play it.

b.  To celebrate her marriage to a renowned music publisher.

c.  To honor her friend, flutist Marguerite de Forest Anderson, who premiered the work in London in 1910.

d.  To illustrate the love story of Pelleas and Melisande.


  1. For which other instrument has Kent Kennan’s Night Soliloquy been famously scored.

a.  Clarinet

b.  Violin

c.  Bassoon

d.  Saxophone


  1. In which keys are Mozart’s two flute concerti written?

a.  C and G

b.  F and G

c.  G and D

d.  D and F


  1. Who is the composer shown in the below photo?

Robert Muczynski


  1. What does the “21.5” represent in Edgard Varese’s Density 21.5?

a.  The measurement of the conical bore of the flute at it’s largest point.

b.  The density of platinum.

c.  The density of gold.

d.  The weight of a typical solid silver flute.


  1. Each movement in Albert Roussel’s Joueurs de Flute pour Flute et Piano represents a different famous French flutist. Which flutist is represented in the Krishna movement?

a.  Phillipe Gaubert

b.  Louis Fleury

c.  Paul Taffanel

d.  Marcel Moyse


  1. Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata was originally composed for the Arpeggione. Which instrument is closely related to an Arpeggione?

a.  Cello

b.  Violin

c.  Viola

d.  Piano


  1. Elliot Carter’s Scrivo in Vento for Flute Alone is based on a poem by which poet?

a.  Dante Alighieri

b.  Giovanni Boccaccio

c.  Petrarch

d.  Christine de Pizan


  1. How many fantasies are included in Telemann’s Solo Flute Fantasie’s, Volume VIII?

a.  10

b.  12

c.  15

d.  20


  1. Which barnyard animal is the inspiration behind Arthur Honegger’s Danse de la Chevre?

a.  Goat

b.  Sheep

c.  Pig

d.  Cow


  1. Who published the holy grail of all fingering charts, “A Modern Guide to Fingerings for the Flute”?

a.  Jean Pierre Rampal

b.  James Galway

c.  James Pellerite

d.  George Barrere


  1. Who is the flutist pictured in the below photo?

Marcel Moyse


  1. What is body mapping?

a.  A form of yoga used to correct improper breathing habits.

b.  A system of tapping sequences on pressure points used to reduce tensions within the body.

c.  A seated postural retraining of the back to improve flexibility.

d.  A correcting and refining of the body to produce efficient, graceful, and coordinated movement.


  1. Who is currently serving as the Principal Flute of the New York Philharmonic (as of September 2017)

a.  Mark Sparks

b.  Robert Langevin

c.  Jeanne Baxtresser

d.  Kathleen Boyd






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