What to Expect from Flute Lessons

Your mom (just because that’s who almost always contacts me – thanks moms) signed you up for flute lessons from a stranger. Was it her idea or your idea? In any case, now what? Are you excited? Are you nervous? What will it be like? Will he or she be nice? What if you make a mistake?

These are all natural questions and natural feelings you might have before attending your first lesson. Maybe you are a beginner. Maybe you’ve played for a few years. Maybe you played when you were younger and now, as an adult, you finally decide you want some private instruction that you never had in your youth. Coming to your first lesson can be apprehensive. Of course, all teachers are different, so I’ll share what you can expect from me at your first flute lesson.

Once we have decided on a day and time and length for your lesson, I’ll give you some detailed instructions.

For NEW beginners: Make sure you have a good flute in proper working condition. I’m happy to help with this process and have flutes for sale and also have connections to resources for good beginner flutes. No matter where you got your flute, and especially if it’s your aunt’s old flute, or a friend’s old flute, I’ll want to play it and make sure it works well. Having a flute in good condition is critical to getting off to a good start.

All you need to bring is a flute and I’ll provide the rest. At your first lesson, we’ll do some fun breathing and blowing games and get you started with skills to help produce a great flute sound. I require beginners to purchase a Pneumo Pro device, which I have available. You will also need a method book, a solo book, and flashcards if you haven’t previously had piano lessons. I purchase these for you and ask for reimbursement. This way, I know that you have the correct materials for your lessons.

For those who have some experience: Whether you’ve played for a few years or 20 years ago in your youth, when you come to your first lesson, I want to hear you play something. Prepare to play something slow and something fast. Even if it’s just a folk song, a band song, a hymn, a song you taught yourself, anything. Review what scales you know and be prepared to play them for me. If you don’t know any or very many, don’t worry; scales will soon become your best friends. Bring any flute music that you have.

After I’ve heard you play, I’ll point out the things I feel you are doing well and address at least one issue for you to improve your tone and/or technique. I’ll give you a practice journal to keep track of your lesson assignments and it has a place for you to record your practice time each week. If you have music that we can utilize for lessons, we’ll start by using that first. If you only have band method books, it will be necessary to purchase a different method book. I’ll also assign a solo book and a duet book. As stated above, I purchase these for you and ask for reimbursement. Like the beginners, I will also check your flute by playing it and make sure it is in good working condition. I am able to fix some small issues, but sometimes it will be necessary for you to take your flute to a service technician for repairs. I’ll give you recommendations for that.

FOR EVERYONE: Be yourself. Don’t worry about the things you don’t know. That’s why you are taking lessons, so you can learn and improve, right?

Everything I do during your flute lesson is to strive to help you become a better flute player, a better musician, and a better person.

Silver Bullet Advice for the Developing Flute Player

The Power of a Straw

Last week I was a clinician for a flute sectional for a local Junior High Honor Band. The teacher that invited me to be the clinician asked me to take some time to address what is crucial for young musicians their age and experience level to know or to “share a silver bullet for correcting typical issues in young players.” Hence, the title and subject of this post.

What is a Silver Bullet? Merriam-Webster.com defines a silver bullet as “one that instantly solves a long-standing problem.” Dictionary.com defines it as “a quick solution to a difficult problem.”

Learning to master any instrument takes years of careful and thoughtful practice and instruction and experience. But, if I had only had 30 minutes to spend with you, this would be my advice.

Tone is the most important thing. Take the time necessary to develop a clear flute sound. Yes, this means you have to practice slow, long tones.

Use more (faster and effective) air. Practice blowing through a straw. When blowing through a straw, see how fast you can push all of your air through the straw.

A coffee straw, a regular drinking straw, and a larger specialty straw.

Try blowing through each one to gain the understanding of what kind of support you need to push your air through as fast as you can. Generally speaking, the regular sized straw is the most accurate type of straw to achieve the feeling of creating resistance as you exhale on the flute. Blowing through the coffee straw brings back college memories of taking oboe lessons one semester. Blowing through the specialty straw feels like blowing through a contrabass flute.

Straw practice is a good place to start, but I strongly suggest investing in a Pneumo Pro or Breath Builder. You can read my blog post from October 3rd, 2020 for more pictures and more information about the Pneumo Pro. Do an internet search for a Breath Builder and you’ll easily find one. Most younger players, and even older players that come to me for lessons, don’t use a fast enough airstream.

Pucker and Pout. Create a cushion for your flute with your lower lip.

This was just too cute to not share. She’s going to make a great flute player when she grows up.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Pout, then pucker and blow while maintaining your pout. Blow into the flute more and aim down.

Keep your airstream steady and consistent. Practice long tones daily to develop this skill. Set your metronome to quarter note=60. Play a scale slowly in whole notes.  Challenge yourself to see how many whole notes you can play in one breath. Then advance to other tone exercises.

Continue reading “Silver Bullet Advice for the Developing Flute Player”

Summer Practicing

Hooray for Summer! Who doesn’t love a change of pace, the warm summer sun, lemonade, swimming pools, ice cream and vacations?

With all the fun and extra events that summer brings, how do you stay motivated to practice during the summer? Commit to keep playing, especially if you are not taking lessons during the summer.

Sight read anything. Pull out old books you’ve previously gone through, flip randomly to a page and see what you can still play.

Go to flutetunes.com and try the Tune of the Day. They have an audio recording along with it.

Summer can be a great time to strengthen your scales and put them to memory.

Play popular music or folk tunes. All local music stores always have popular music or Broadway or Disney music favorites or Irish tunes or folk songs for flute. Try a new one each day as you continue to work on proper breaths, accurate tonguing, solid tone and vibrato.

If you find it hard to motivate yourself to practice, at the very least, listen to exceptional flute players. Maybe that will motivate you to practice.

In any case, enjoy summer and keep music a part of it in some way.