RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Band

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


Dealing With Braces: 5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Flute Tone

20120830-151544.jpg You just got braces and your mouth hurts. Your teeth are sore. When you pick up your flute, only airy sounds whimper out. Relax. Don’t panic.

It’s going to be okay.

With enough patience and diligent practice, your beautiful sound will sing out once again.

5 Steps to Reclaim Your Tone

  1. Be Patient: Don’t try to practice lots of technical exercises right off the bat. For the first week, play lots of low notes. Slow and slurred. Add the middle register the second week. When you’re ready (probably the third week), add the high register.
  2. Practice in Shorter Intervals: Start out in 10-15 minute intervals. Take breaks in between to rebuild your embouchure. Do this several times a day for best results.
  3. Tone Builders: Don’t worry about sound quality right now. It will improve over time. Just play! Start with the low register, then build higher. You may not want to even try high notes for a few days after you first get your braces on. (see tip #1)
  4. Octave Slurs: Add octave slurs when you can play both low and middle register notes. Start with low E. Play low, then high without tonguing. I recommend half notes or whole notes. Repeat several times on each note, then go to the next higher note (i.e.  F, F#, G, etc.).
  5. Use a Mirror: Chances are, your aperture location has shifted since you now have a further distance between your lips and teeth. Use the mirror ever day to see how you need to readjust your aperture with so it’s lined up with the center of the tone hole. You may also need to adjust your angle of air down into the flute more.

For some, adjusting to flute life with braces can take a few months. Others, only a few weeks. It really depends on how much you practice, and how smart you practice.

You may have to repeat these steps after future orthodontist visits. Most likely, they won’t be as difficult as the first time. Cool thing is, braces are only temporary. In the mean time, these tips will help your tone sparkle, even with braces.

* For further reading, check out this article on Jennifer Cluff’s Flute Blog. She has a cool idea of how to use masking tape on the embouchure plate to improve tone.

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:

7 Apps Every Musician Should Use


Who says practice time has to be inefficient and take our entire day? With so many technologies available to musicians, we can hone our craft more productively. And save tons of time in the process. These apps have helped both me and my students to find success on the flute.

Check them out:

  • ForScore: The digital age of music is here. Keep all of your printed music stored and organized on your iPad or other device so you don’t have to lug tons of bulky books around. You can even sync recordings from your iTunes account to a particular piece of music. And you can write notes on the music, including accidentals or other directions for performance. There’s even an optional blue tooth foot pedal you can purchase if you want hands-free page turns.
  • Tonal Energy: By far the best metronome and tuner app I’ve found. It’s easy to use and has so many features. You can adjust it to work for you. The tuner settings allow you to adjust the sensitivity from low, normal or high. There’s a visual graph of your sound so you can see if your tone or vibrato is steady. Plus numerous other features, including a metronome with sub-division capabilities.
  • Musician’s Practice Journal: Record your practice times and activities to track your musical progress. You can even view charts compiled from your data to monitor your practice habits and see what you’re spending your time practicing.
  • Notability or Evernote: If you want to keep track of your progress on an etude or solo, try Notability or Evernote. You can take a picture of your embouchure and record segments of your playing and plug the recording right into the note you created. Evernote and Notability both organize your files so they’re easy to recall later.
  • Pandora Radio and YouTube: Listen or watch hundreds of thousands of flute recordings – all for free! Search terms like flute, James Galway or Emanuel Pahud (just a few examples) and watch or listen to the pros. Anytime you want. Many give professional advice and tips for success through the videos they’ve recorded. Did I mention it was free?

What apps have you found to help you as a musician?

Flute Fingering App for iPad and iPhone


Finally, an app for flute and piccolo that is easy to use, and is helpful when you forget which trill key to use for C to D. Or when you wonder, how do I play a tremolo from D# to F#?

Check out Fingering Woodwinds by Patrick Q. Kelly for iPad and iPhone, available for download on iTunes.

Outstanding Features Include:

  • Easy to read graphics and note selection.
  • Touch screen interface.
  • Standard fingerings for C1-C4.
  • Frequently used alternate fingerings.
  • Trills for major and minor 2nd.
  • Tremolo fingerings for major and minor 3rd.
  • Note play back so you can hear the pitch of the note or trill/tremolo.


  • The range for piccolo has not been adjusted, so disregard the low B, C, C# fingerings listed.
  • There are no fingerings listed for flute above High C.

Overall, this app is the best I’ve seen for flute and piccolo fingerings. I am not familiar with the fingerings for the other instruments included, so I can’t speak for those. This is a great app, worth the price for fast, portable reference.

Six Strategies to Tackle Your Solo


I recently handed out solos to my students for the Solo and Ensemble Contest. Some took the music, excitement shining through their eyes at the upcoming challenge. Others pushed their chair back, afraid the music would hurt them somehow. “That’s a lot of notes,” they told me.

So what do you do to learn a new piece? There’s no doubt it can be an overwhelming task. Learning a new solo can be like putting a puzzle together. The box has a beautiful picture full of the promise of beauty and enjoyment. But when you open the box, there are hundreds of tiny squares, all shapes and colors and you wonder if it will ever look like that box. Where do we start?

Piece by Piece.

Strategy #1: Set Attainable Goals – If I know that I have three months to learn my solo, I need to set a goal of how much I should learn week by week in order to pace it out. Let your teacher help you set these goals if you’re not sure how to do this. Make sure your weekly goal is not too high. Otherwise, you may get frustrated if you don’t achieve it. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to learn half of my solo by Friday,” say “I’ll learn two lines of my solo by Friday.” For beginning flute players, this may be four measures by Friday.

Strategy #2: Mark Your Music – Always mark accidentals, key signatures, and counts for difficult rhythms straight into your music. You may even want to use highlighters to color code your dynamics or other markings that you are likely to miss during the actual performance. As you are learning the piece, if you miss a note, mark it.

Strategy #3: Break Solo into Learnable Chunks – I’ve found that if I break my solo into learnable chunks first, it’s not so overwhelming. This also includes the difficult passages. Work on them first. Many people procrastinate when it comes to learning the runs or technical passages because, let’s face it, they are the hardest parts. The problem with this approach is that runs take the longest to learn. So if you start them early on, your fingers will develop enough muscle memory to sustain you through the pressure of the actual performance.

After you learn all the pieces of your solo, then you’re ready to start piecing the chunks together. You might add two parts together, then three, etc., until you can play the entire length of your solo.

Strategy #4: Use a Metronome – Always learn your solo under tempo. As a general rule, I teach my students to start out at half speed, and then work the tempo up slowly. Once you can play the entire solo at the slower speed, including the runs and technical passages, then you are ready to move the metronome up to the next tempo setting.

Strategy #5: Polish Your Solo – Allow yourself a few weeks before the performance to polish the piece and perfect it. It’s during this stage that you can continue to build speed if your solo requires it, and enhance the musical elements such as style, dynamics and vibrato. This is where the musical magic takes place.

Strategy #6: Don’t Procrastinate – There’s nothing worse than putting an entire puzzle together, only to find the last piece is missing. If you wait until the week before your solo to learn it or work on the challenging elements, you’ll be nervous when you go into perform and won’t know what’s going to come out of your flute. That beautiful picture you wanted to create in the beginning will most likely be a blurred version of the original and the musical magic will not take place.

Whatever strategies you choose to learn a solo, we have to start piece by piece until that musical image comes into view. Best of luck to you as you put together the musical puzzle of your solo.

*Reposted by Rachelle Harp, RH Music Studio, LLC from 2011

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)