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A Simple Strategy to Boost Your Practice Productivity


Stepping onto a stage in front of hundreds of people is a terrifying thought for most of us. But we’re musicians, right? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? So why is it always so scary?

Over the years, I’ve spent thousands of hours in practice rooms, but when I’d step in front of the crowd, the nerve-demons always got me. My performance never went as I had hoped. Despite an endless practice road, I still felt unprepared, never knowing what would come out on stage.

My best efforts didn’t yield the results I’d heard in other great performers.

Think About Your Practice Time in a Different Way:
Recently, I stumbled onto Dr. Noa Kageyama’s blog, The Bulletproof Musician. Juilliard faculty member and performance psychologist are just a couple of his accolades. He blogs about overcoming performance anxiety. He shared a new practice strategy by Dr. Christine Carter of the Manhattan School of Music.

I tried the strategy myself and with my students, and I’ve been blown away with the results. Right away, some difficult passages became easier to play, and my retention level increased. The same happened with my students.

We’re encouraged to practice with set goals in mind and a certain number of repetitions on a given passage. But there’s a point when our brain says no more, and it goes into auto-pilot, making too many repetitions fruitless.

Hence, hours of practice does not necessarily mean hours of positive results.

A Simple Change
This simple change to the way you practice can dramatically boost your practice productivity and better prepare you for whatever performance you may have.

I call it the Change-Up Practice Strategy. I’m rephrasing the basics here in my own words and how I applied it in my student’s lessons. Feel free to adapt to your own needs, or read the original post with all the scientific research here.

Change-Up Practice:
Pick three sections of your music or scales to work on. They can be a measure, a portion of a measure, or a small group of measures – whatever your practice needs require.

We’ll call the three sections as A, B and C. Now, start practicing, Change-Up style:

Step 1:

  • Practice Section A, 3-5 repetitions
  • Even if it’s not perfect, go on to Section B, 3-5 repetitions.
  • Even if it’s not perfect, go on to Section C, 3-5 repetitions.

Step 2:

  • Repeat step 1.

Step 3:

  • Repeat step 1 again for a max of 3 rotations.

That’s it. You’re done for the moment. Depending on the amount of practice time you have left, try the same style on a different three sections. Repeat the process on future practice sessions as needed to review and continue building accuracy and speed prior to performance time. Then, start putting those sections into context with the entire piece.

Change-Up practice keeps your brain engaged and focused longer, thus boosting your retention of music and can help you learn the music more efficiently. I’ve seen it in my own practice time. How about you? Did it help?

* Dr. Noa Kageyama, musician and performance psychologist, Juilliard faculty member, blogs at


The Secret to Fast Flute Playing

imageSure, everyone wants to play fast on the flute. Sir James Galway does it. Emmanuel Pahud does it. Even the first chair flutist in your band does it. So why can’t you?

If you’re like I was when I was younger, I thought you had to practice fast in order to play fast. I’d play a run in my music dozens…no hundreds of times, but it still didn’t sound right. Missed notes. Uneven rhythms. Out of tune notes.

And I could never play it consistently until I learned the secret professional flute players have used for years.

Slow Motion practice.

I know, that’s completely opposite of what most of us think. In order to build good habits and accuracy, slower is better. With thoughtful, deliberate practice, your technique will improve so that your ability to play fast will develop. And you’ll sound amazing at the same time.

5 Tips to Successful Slow Motion Practice

  1. Practice Slower Than You Think, Longer Than You Think: This allows your muscles and brain to coordinate all the details of the music, which is a very complicated process. You wouldn’t expect to drive a car for the first time at full speed. That would be crazy. When you’re learning a new piece, it’s the same idea. You’re familiarizing all the muscles and senses you use to perform with the new piece. As you’re ready, you’ll gradually speed things up. Depending on the level of complexity and your abilities, how long will vary greatly. If you’re not used to practicing Slow Motion, it’s good to allow yourself at least double the time you normally use.
  2. Use a Metronome: Always practice with deliberate tempo in mind. Keep track of your metronome markings in a practice journal so you know what tempo you have been practicing at. Start by cutting the marked tempo in half. Then, after you can play the piece all the way through with no mistakes consistently, move the metronome marking up one click. Repeat the process.
  3. Practice Slowly Until Your Fingers Know It: This is what is commonly known as muscle memory. If you’re thinking too hard about the music, you’re still in learning mode and not ready to go faster. In a performance, you need to trust your fingers. It’s not time to be reading the music and figuring things out. Slow motion practice will build the necessary muscle memory to let your performance sparkle.
  4. Practice Early: Procrastination doesn’t work. More practice sessions spread evenly through your week will produce more accurate, more consistent results. Five 30 minute sessions throughout the week does not equal a 2 1/2 hour marathon the night before the performance.
  5. Record Yourself: As you practice in Slow Motion, you must ask questions. Am I playing the note too long or short? Is my tone clear? Am I playing accurate rhythms? The only way to know for sure is to record your session and evaluate your work. Recording yourself is a great troubleshooting method.

Always practice deliberately, with your brain and senses engaged. Unfortunately, there’s no Instagram for practicing, but with the right practice tools, like Slow Motion technique, you’ll be more successful.

Photo Credit: Ian Britton,

Overwhelmed? 5 Ways to Simplify Your Practice Schedule


Homework. Marching band practice. Social life. Did I mention homework?

All of those things zap our valuable time to practice. When you feel like throwing your flute across the room…relax. Breath. These five tips will help you get the most of your practice time. Even if you have as little as 15 minutes a day, you’ll still see improvement.

1. Break It Down: Rotate what you practice. For example, play three scales Monday, a different three on Tuesday, etc. until you play them all by the end of the week.

You don’t have to start at the beginning of a piece and play straight through. Break it down into manageable chunks (say a few measures or a couple of lines). Most of us wouldn’t read an entire novel in one sitting, right? We’d read a chapter or two, depending on our free time. Practice the same way. Work one chunk on Monday, the next on Tuesday, review on Wednesday.

Keep track of what you worked on in a practice journal, iPad app organizer or whatever works for you.

2. No Speeding Tickets: Practicing slowly will build muscle memory, finger and embouchure control, as well as endurance and pitch accuracy. If you’re stumbling over a tough run, cut the tempo in half until you can play it accurately at that tempo. Then click the metronome up 3-4 beats. Repeat.

It’s much more difficult to play with control than to let your fingers guess.

3. Practice What You Think You Already Know: You can play your scales. But do you know them? Do you play them so well you don’t have to think about the notes? Do they float out effortlessly? Then practice them some more.

The key to technical virtuosity is mastery of fundamentals such as scales, arpeggios, chromatics, etc. Don’t skip them in your daily drill.

You will be amazed at how much control you gain over your fingers and your technique, as well as ability to read music by practicing scales and arpeggios every day.

4. Be a Time Jedi: Use the time you have wisely. Practice the hard parts – don’t skip them. Do more repetitions than you think you need. Slowly at first, then faster.

If you already know the low octave of a scale, try practicing the upper one by itself. Or even the highest few notes (aren’t they always the toughest ones?).

Use your time in band class to finger through tough scales or passages when your director is working with another section.

5. Routine: Same time. Same place. Carve out your routine and stick to it. You’ll remember more (and grow faster in your flute abilities) if you practice 5 or 6 days a week for 15-30 minutes at a time, than if you wait until Saturday to cram in two hours.

Simplify your schedule by practicing smarter, rather than harder. You’ll begin to master all the stuff that propels your music forward. And your music will take on a new life.

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.”~Malcolm Gladwell

More Practice Tips:

Alternate Flute Fingerings for the 3rd Register

If your third register is screaming at you, sometimes you may need a little extra help to bring the pitch down. Don’t throw your flute. Check out these alternate fingerings for the third register instead.

With a great embouchure and controlled air, these should make those sharp notes lose their edge.

  • Alternate E3:


  • Alternate F3:


  • Alternate F#3:


  • Alternate G#3/Ab3:


Check out Larry Krantz’s Flute Website for more options:

2014 Texas All-State Warm-Ups Now Available

They’re here! I’ve been working on creating a set of warm-ups for this All-State music, and thought I’d share them with those interested in signing up for my new website: The Flute Stop.

I’m in the process of transitioning this website over to the new one (not sure when the merge will be complete since teaching and mommy-hood keep me pretty busy). My hope is to provide more articles, tips, and tools to aid flutists everywhere.

To get your free copy, click on the link below (or the book cover) and go to the new site and sign up for the free newsletter. Don’t worry, your info is all confidential and I won’t send you a ton of stuff. Just the occasional updates.

Good luck!


2014-15 Texas Flute All-State Music Announced

Check the TMEA website for official listings, errata, and performance guide.


Book: Flute Etudes Book by Mary Karen Clardy, published by Misc Corp. or Schott


Selection 1

Pages: 2-3

Key: C Major

Etude Title: Courante

Tempo: Quarter Note = 100-132

Play from Beginning to End (no repeats)



M. 44 – the 6th note should be a high F (not a G)

Change the articulation of m. 35 to match the articulation of m. 37 and 39 (the second beat should be slurred in groups of 2)

All slurs indicate with dashed lines (e.g. m. 4) should be slurred as usual.


Piccolo: Play low Cs one octave higher (8va) than printed. (m. 8 & m. 72)


Selection 2

Page: 58

Key: Bb Minor

Etude Title: Op. 107/28

Tempo: Dotted eighth note 50-72

Play from Beginning to End



Clarifications: All slurs that end with a staccato note under a slur should be slurred into and released as a short note.

Play the last notes of all slurs this way, with or without the staccato release.


m. 2 – 14th note should be B-flat

m. 2 – last note should be a sixteenth note

m. 4 – 11th note is A-flat (the accidental does not carry across the octave)

m. 6 – 21st note should be G-flat

m. 8 – 17th note should be C-natural

m. 12 – The third slur of this measure should begin one note earlier (on high E-flat) and continue to A-flat as written

m. 16 – The last note is B-flat

m. 16 – Add a sixteenth rest after the last note


Piccolo: play as written



Selection 3

Page: 36

Key: C# Minor

Etude Title: Op. 107/23

Tempo: Quarter note 38-46

Play from beginning to end



m. 9 – omit the dots from the eighth notes in beats 2 and 3. (The resulting rhythm will be an eighth note and four 32nd notes, NOT a dotted eighth not and four 64ths)

m. 11 – the second to last note should be  C-sharp



m. 3 and m. 12 – play the low C#s one octave higher (8va)

m. 15 – play the last 4 notes (G, F#, D, C#) one octave higher (8va)

m. 16 – play the 1st note (B#) one octave higher (8va)

m. 23, beat 3 – play the 1st 3 (D#, E, C#) notes one octave higher (8va)

m. 25 – play the last 12 notes (starting on the B-natural on the 2nd half of beat 2) one octave higher (8va)

m. 26 – play the C# one octave higher (8va)

2013 Texas Flute All-State Audition Music YouTube Videos

Thanks again to Ms. Rachel Lopez, amazing flutist and teacher for sharing her recordings of this year’s Texas Flute All-State music on YouTube. She is amazing! Check them out. Best of luck preparing for auditions!

Etude 1 in G Major, Sigfrid Karg-Elert, Op. 107/12

Etude 2 in G Minor, Theobold Boehm, Op. 26/6

Etude 3 in Gb Major, Joachim Andersen, Op. 21/13