Flute FAQs – Flute Forum Edition

Greetings and welcome to a new Flute Friday!


I am a big fan of the Flute Forum group on Facebook and really like the way that the entire flute community, from beginners to professionals, can come together on this platform to ask all of their flute and performing related questions. I have scrolled through some of the most recently posted questions and have come up with my own answers. Today’s post is a spin on FAQs, featuring some of the questions posted on the Flute Forum group page. I hope they give all of my readers some insight into questions that might have also crossed their minds at one time or another. If you have any of your own questions about the flute that you would like me to answer, please comment below!


Does your flute have a name? If so what do U call him/her?

Unfortunately, no, but it seems like a Kelly.


I have been very interested in performing violin transcriptions recently and am looking for some suggestions that you might program for a recital. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

The two pieces that immediately jump into my mind are the Prokofiev Sonata and the Franck Sonata. I also encourage you to write your own transcription of your favorite violin sonata (such as the Saint-Saens Sonata). The violin and the flute are both C-pitched instruments and are generally scored in similar octave ranges. This makes it super easy to create your own version.


I know “How much should I practice?” Has been asked a million times in this forum. However, I would like to ask from some wisdom from all you great musicians I admire on this forum….

Practice time varies depending on your age, skill level, and lifestyle. For example, for my younger beginners, I often set the bar at 30 minutes a day to sustain focus and energy while they learn the ropes. As they advance to an intermediate level, I typically increase suggested practice times by 15-minute increments. For adult beginning students with full time jobs and families, I suggest 45 minutes per day but know full well that this is quite difficult. Instead, I focus more on setting very specific weekly goals so they can prioritize their practice time effectively. I must state here that the ultimate goal is not clocking the correct amount of minutes but rather making each one of those minutes valuable and building towards very specific objectives. 60 minutes of mindlessly playing Mozart concerti is not nearly as valuable as 60 minutes spent with Taffanel and Gaubert working out every articulation under the sun. Make the most out of all your practice sessions. If you are bored or uninspired, put your flute away and come back with fresh energy later. There are no gold stars for the person who logs in the most minutes. Success is obtained by consistently pushing yourself towards tangible and obtainable goals.


Do you find pre-performance nerves or performance-related anxiety in the lead up to a concert can aggravate other sources of stress, leading to non-performance-related anxiety? Specific, I know…

Yes, yes, and yes. I tend to believe that performance anxiety is not as simple as being afraid to perform in front of a crowd. There is nearly always a self-doubt dialog running in the mind of one suffering from performance anxiety and, as one who has suffered for several years myself, I know that those insecurities actually originate somewhere other than the stage. You may want acceptance from somebody in the audience. You may feel that you owe someone a flawless performance and anything less is a failure. You may have grown up perceiving everything around you as good or bad and just cannot accept a bad performance. The next time you begin to feel anxious about taking the stage, ask yourself why. What are you afraid of and why? Chance are good that you may be connecting your performing ability on stage to something else off stage. If you feel the same stress in non-performance scenarios around the same time, the underlying reasons for your anxiety might be indirectly related to those you feel on stage. Perfectionism is often the culprit as is self-acceptance. Let these fears go. Can you accept your worst-case scenario? What does that look like? Let yourself play to the best of your ability on that specific time and place. No matter what happens, tomorrow is always another day.


COA vs Overhaul

I know a lot about playing the flute but know very little about repair. Is there ever a point where a flute (or piccolo) that receives regular COAs should go in for an overhaul?

I’ve only taken one flute in for a true overhaul but it was a 1950s Haynes in rough shape that I knew needed it. I’m curious about my personal flute that I take in regularly.


COAs should really be scheduled once a year and I encourage students to take their instruments in for an overhaul every 5-7 years at least (depending on how heavily they play their flutes). An overhaul is a bit pricey but a great alternative to purchasing a new instrument if a student is not in the financial position to take the leap.


What’s your routine on your performance day? What about the day before?

If you had asked me this question when I was in graduate school (and I had answered honestly), I might have painted a bleak picture of stressed out cram practicing fed by a whole lot of self-doubt. As an adult, I find much more value in taking it easy in the last moments before a performance. Take out your nerves at the dress rehearsal, but after that, if you do practice, practice in slower chunks with long rests between passages. Focus less on drilling complicated runs and more on foundational aspects of your playing such as sound studies, harmonics, and articulation. Drink water. Eat bananas for extra beta blockers. Meditate. Polish your flute. Above all, trust in the work that you have put into your performance and accept the outcome no matter what happens.


Does anyone know of a short handout on care of your flute, aimed at 8-12 year olds? Ideally with illustrations/graphics to emphasize the point. Last year I made a word doc but it was too wordy! A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.

I really like this simple how-to from Wiki How-To: https://www.wikihow.com/Clean-and-Maintain-Your-Flute Wonderful graphics and very straightforward info. Just do not get too hung up in the comments section.


Hello fellow flutists! I have been working on tuning up my flute & piccolo. I have been using the free App. insTuner. Is this a reliable tuning source? I am noticing that the upper register on my flute is much sharper than the lower 2 registers. I have to pull out my head joint considerably to get the notes in range. My piccolo has been even more difficult to tune as the pitch wavers back & forth. Do I need a better tuner or should I have my instruments checked or both? Any recommendations? Thanks!!

The high range is notoriously sharp on the flute no matter if you are tuning with a free tuning app or a mega expenses Boss Tuner. Try controlling the pitch more from your embouchure rather than constantly adjusting the head joint. This will train your lips and your ears to recognize the tendencies of all pitches. A great exercise to practice intonation is by placing a crescendo-decrescendo on each pitch while watching the needle on the tuner. Can you sustain the pitch through the dynamic changes? If not, what changes can you make in your embouchure to keep the needle from dipping?  I find most tuner apps to be quite accurate and prefer them to the bulky tuners of yesteryear. I do not bother with the not-so-free tuner apps because all they really offer is fun graphics when you are in tune.


Just wondering……. when at home…… Do you all put your flute away in the case or put it on a flute stand after practicing? Of course I do mean AFTER cleaning it.

I always put my flute away in the case. I do not trust my cat, my husband, or mostly my klutzy self to not accidentally knock it over while doing something else. I also live in California and have seen way too many disaster movies. A small earthquake would cost me a pretty penny in repairs if I leave my instrument out unnecessarily.


Do you use oil, vaseline, something else or nothing when you put your flute together?

Nope, nope, and nope. Some of those oils in various lip products can cause a reaction with the metal on a lip plate and result in that notorious black mark on the chin. I’ve had too many people gesturing me to rub my chin after rehearsals over the years to know that no lipstick or chapstick is worth it. You also do not want to transfer products from your hands to the keys. I’m guessing Vaseline and expensive Straubinger pads do not mix well…


Looking for opinions on what the best alto flute is…? I have an Armstrong Heritage alto flute (only one I have ever played) but am looking to upgrade.

I really like Trevor James model altos. Very smooth sound and good quality mechanism. Armstrong is okay and Gemienhardt is standard, but Trevor James really sets the bar. I have really enjoyed all of the Trevor James altos I have ever played.


I’d really like the Gemeinhardt 3SHB (I test played it and I loved it) for my birthday. But it is rather expensive and my mom doesn’t have that kind of money. Does anyone have any suggestions to a flute that has the same features but maybe a bit cheaper? TIA!!!

Do not be afraid to shop for slightly used flutes. Maybe avoid going through Craigslist or Ebay (bad return policies if something goes terribly wrong), but instead try setting up trials through companies such as J.L. Smith and Flute World. I really like the try before you buy method, particularly with used instruments. There is a good chance that you can find a slightly used Gemeinhardt with the same features for far less than a new instrument. This is a really good intermediate model and has been quite standard throughout the decades.


Flutists… I need some recital repertoire recommendations. One of my students who is a senior is giving a recital in May and we want to round out her program with a fun, light closer. Nothing too hard.. She is performing the Overture from the Telemann Suite, Poulenc mvt. 1, and an arrangement of the hymn in the Garden. I was thinking some sort of show tune/polka/jazzy thing
…. What are your recommendations?

The Kuhlau Divertessement No. 5 would be a fun closer as the faster second section of the work sounds a bit carnival-esque, keeping the vibe quite light and fun. You may also consider Flight of the Bumblebee, which is always a crowd pleaser. I also recommend Gossec’s Tambourin and, my personal favorite, the Habanera from Carmen.


What is the recommended tempo for the Mendelssohn Scherzo excerpt?

I have always practiced this excerpt at quarter note = 84 but all conductors will take different tempos. Practice the excerpt both slower and faster and play along with recordings on YouTube. There are several videos of famous orchestras playing this popular piece. This will help you get an idea of how widely the tempo will vary from group to group.


Hiya! Does anyone know of any pieces where the classical flute imitates pan pipes at all? 😀 Thanks!

I just wrote about this very thing in my Practice Blueprints 101 series on Debussy’s Syrinx, which imitates the pitches of a pan flute using whole tone scales.



Do you have a burning question about the flute that you would like me to answer on an upcoming Flute FAQ’s post? Do you have your own answers to the above questions? What type of FAQ’s would you like me to cover in the future? Please comment below!



Happy fluting!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.