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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


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

4 Tips for Building Speed on the E minor “Elegie-Etude” by Donjon

The All-Region audition is getting closer. Here are some tips I’ve shown my students to help them build their speed on the “fast etude” for this year’s Texas All-State Auditions. I hope they help!

1. Chunk by Chunk

  • Practice small chunks at a time, say two or three lines. Gradually increase your speed.
  • Start with a comfortable metronome tempo. When you can play the entire section easily without flaws at this tempo, bump the metronome up one click (generally 3-4 beats per minute depending on your metronome). Repeat, gradually increasing your tempo over the next few weeks until you reach your goal tempo.
  • Try piecing the chunks together a few at a time near the end of each week.

2. Use Alternate Fingerings

  • For measures 26-33, use the alternate F# fingering for all F#s in this section.

  • For measures 18, 19 and 20, you can leave your third finger on the right hand down as you play the first two groups of 32nd notes of each measure. Look for other measure that might work like that for you!

3. Daily Repetitions

  • Building speed takes time. The more daily repetitions, the better. It will probably take you many weeks to reach reach goal tempo. So start today – don’t wait!

Procrastination + Fast, Unsure Fingers = Fall Apart at the Audition.

4. Three Points of Balance

  • Check your balance points as you play. Are you putting too much pressure on the right hand? Or too much on the left? In order to play fast and fluid, you need to have equal pressure and balance between each hand.

  • Exercise: Try holding your flute with only the three balance points. At first, the flute may roll backwards on you. That means your not putting enough pressure on one of these three points. Practice over a bed or couch (for your flute’s safety!). When you can keep the flute from rolling backwards using only these three points, you’ve got your flute balanced!

Good luck building your speed, and good luck at the audition!