Benefits of Studying the Score

Last month we had our flute festivals. In preparing students for those and judging for two days, it is clear which students have an understanding of the score. Especially for more advanced students with more advanced repertoire, but even with beginners, it is extremely important to be familiar with the score and not just the flute part.

Frequently when learning a song, we skip over the long measure of rest. However, if preparing for a performance, those rests are VERY important. I tell my students when practicing, if it is less than two measures of rest, they should always count it out and get used to feeling the rests. If it is a longer set of 4 or more measures of rest, skip it when practicing, but when preparing for a performance, you absolutely need to know what those 4 (or more) measures sound like. Sometimes you can get mixed up in your counting, but if you know how it sounds and when you are supposed to come in based on what you are hearing, that will, no doubt, prove to be a more confident and successful performance.

As a music major, while in college, I was required to take a form and analysis class. In this class we studied the whole score, frequently of large orchestral works. As an example, one thing we were required to do was to identify sections and chord progressions and musical patterns and had to label them. Looking at a whole orchestral score verses a flute and piano score, was obviously much more difficult. But over time, I learned how to recognize things quicker and analyze the music.

When starting a new song, and especially when working on memorization, I teach my flute students to learn to recognize musical patterns and sequences, label small and large sections of their flute music and identify scales and arpeggios. We even color them sometimes. I talked about that in more detail in a previous blog post entitled Memorization Tips, posted on May 17, 2021. That is the beginnings of musical analysis.

One great example of the need for this is the Duo for Flute and Piano by Aaron Copland. This piece, as well as many others, require a knowledge of both parts. I love that it is named Duo for Flute and Piano because it really is a conversation together between the flute and piano. Super fun piece to play and to listen to!

So as a flute player, take the time to do the extra work and look at the piano score while listening to a recording so you can hear how your part fits in. I promise that if you know what’s happening in the score, you will be more confident with what you are supposed to be playing.

Remember, as with life, keep the big picture in mind and don’t be focused on just yourself.