Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday.
Sometimes all we need is a few words of advice to get us thinking in a different direction. Today’s blog features a few snippets of encouragement and inspiration for various aspects of playing the flute. These are simply the first thoughts that come to my mind when I think about each category. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to add your own snippets in the comments below.
Flute Playing Snippets
Don’t be afraid to belt it out. The flute does not need to be a dainty and polite instrument. Play out loud and proud.
There is a significant difference between playing mechanically and playing fluidly. While it is important for your fingers to know where they are going, it is equally important that they get there with grace.
Create your own story for each piece you perform. Who do you think the piece was written for? Is the piece about love? War? Loss? What is the storyline? Tie your musical interpretation to the story in your head. This will make the music more meaningful for yourself and for your audience.
Take a few minutes out of your day to improvise. A fun way to do this is by sustaining a piano chord using the pedal and playing in the key of that chord. For extra fun, improvise over a chord progression, changing the key with every new note. I-IV-V-I.
Play your scales backwards (descending rather than ascending) or roller coaster-style (descend, turn around at the bottom, ascend back to starting position). This keeps things interesting.
Etudes are not all about elbow grease and technical gymnastics. Find the beauty in moments of surprise lyricism or inferred melodies buried under the sea of notes.
Take your flute into the shop for a tune up at least once a year. A good cleaning and adjustment will prevent larger, more expensive issues down the road. You’ll sound a lot better with an instrument that is in good shape.
Sight reading is like swimming; the best way to learn is to simply jump in! Find a piece, etude, or orchestral flute part that intimidates you, put on a recording device and go. Listen to yourself sight reading. What were your challenges? What did you hear on the recording that you didn’t notice while performing. Change it up next time.
Practicing is not about clocking a certain amount of hours each day. Practicing is about goal setting and strategic problem-solving. What are your challenges? How can you make things easier? What is the next step? How are you going to get there?
Close your eyes whenever you play a beautiful melody. What color do you see? What can you do, using vibrato speed, dynamics, sound density, or any other element of tone production to emulate the color that you see in your sound?
It is tempting to abandon ship and start over after a not-so-good first take during a recording session (especially if you are a perfectionist). Resist and persist. Otherwise, you will spend the bulk of your time mastering the first half of your piece at the expense of the last half.
Memorize a piece in chunks and look for helpful sections where the music repeats. Learn these sections first and half the battle will already be won.
Find the scales. A run with a number of notes may just be a couple of scales, one right after another. Simplify by writing the scale name above the staff. Some runs may also just be a set of broken chords. Write the chord name above the staff. Don’t forget to practice your scales and arpeggios!
Treat your fellow flutists with respect when playing in an ensemble. You are part of a team within a team. Work together.
Wear flat shoes when performing on stage. I once fell down a flight of stairs on my way to the stage, crushing the outer most rod on my flute and subsequently bombing my solo. All because I wanted to wear heels. Learn from my mistakes!
Eat a banana if you are nervous. The natural beta blockers will calm your nerves and the sugar boost will give you some added pip.
Practice you coos. Isolate the coo syllable in your daily scale routine to give your too-coo double tonguing better balance.
General Music Making
Does performing make you happy? If not, change your approach or join a new group. You never have to be stuck in a rut. The world is full of creative alternatives. Find something new!