The Benefits of Doubling (+ a free guide!)

As flutists and other woodwind players know, you can’t always get away with playing just one instrument. Especially for music majors and professionals, the benefits of doubling are numerous.

Hannah B Flute | Benefits of Doubling

Playing a second instrument can help you get more performing and teaching gigs. It can get your foot in the door with other musicians. And it can even help improve your playing on your main instrument.

Today, we are going to talk about the benefits of doubling that flutists should know about, as well as the different types.

Primary to Primary vs. Primary to Secondary

To me, there are two main types of doubling. There is primary to primary doubling and primary to secondary doubling. Bret Pimentel has an amazing post for flutists who want to double, and that is where I learned this terminology.

Basically, primary to primary doubling is when a flutist decides to learn an instrument outside of the flute family. It could be saxophone, clarinet, piano, etc. It just can’t be another flute.

Primary to secondary doubling is when a flutist learns another type of flute. That could be piccolo, alto flute, or even flutes from other parts of the world.

The type of doubling that is best for you depends on your goals. Do you want to play in a big band or a musical theatre pit? Try saxophone or clarinet. Would you prefer to play in a symphony or opera orchestra? Then learn piccolo or alto flute.

Primary to secondary doubling will be slightly easier, because the technique for flutes is fairly similar. The embouchure changes only slightly.

Primary to primary doubling requires the player to learn a whole new instrument. You almost have to forget that you are a flute player.

A Little Backstory

I started music when I was 5 or 6, but I didn’t really start with woodwinds until age 14. At that time, I learned the saxophone. Flute came soon after, because I wanted more opportunities within the classical music scene. I wasn’t a huge fan of jazz.

Eventually, I decided that doubling between families took too much time away from what I really wanted. So, I settled on the flute family.

As mentioned, there are times where primary to primary doubling is perfect. But for the remainder of this post, I will be focusing on primary to secondary doubling for flutists.

Playing Piccolo

Piccolo is the most commonly asked for double in almost all situations. Whether you play in an orchestra or band, you will probably be called upon to play piccolo at some point. If you are an amateur player, though, it may not be as necessary.

For the career bound flutist, it is EXTREMELY difficult to have a career on flute that doesn’t include piccolo. It is possible, but rare.

Being able to play piccolo at least a little bit will help you a lot. It means you can audition for jobs that involve piccolo. You can take on advancing flute students who want to learn piccolo. So try to treat the piccolo as an extension of the flute.

Should You Play Alto Flute?

The alto flute is not quite as common as piccolo, but its use is growing. More flute choirs are popping up, and more flute players, pro and amateur, are buying alto flutes.

Modern composers are starting to write more and more for the alto flute. That combined with flute choirs means that the opportunities for playing and teaching the alto flute are increasing.

The alto flute will continue to become more important to flute playing. Its use in orchestras is limited, but that may change in the near future. From solo and chamber playing to teaching, the alto flute has many venues now.

If you are looking to expand downwards in the flute family, try the alto flute. Alto flute resources are limited, but Chris Potter has an amazing website for alto (and bass) flute. If the alto flute interests you, go check it out.

The alto flute is a little more complicated than piccolo, since it has two headjoint options. Other than that, it is an easy transition for most advanced flutists.

Related: Piccolo vs. Alto Flute

The Benefits of Doubling Flutes

I have found that piccolo and alto flute both help my flute playing in different ways. The piccolo helps me get better control in the high register. Playing alto flute helps better my air support.

Other benefits of doubling include marketability and access to more repertoire.

Marketability pertains to more than just professional musicians. If you play flute and piccolo, you will be able join more ensembles and competitions than if you only played flute.

Maybe your local band is full of flute players but no one likes the piccolo. If you can play piccolo well, you might just get your foot int he door.

The alto flute is similar. If your community has a smaller flute choir, they might need alto flute players. The group might be overflowing with C flutes. If you show up with an alto flute, you will have a better chance of joining the group.

Then there’s access to more repertoire. While the piccolo and alto flute don’t have as much solo repertoire as flute, they have their own set of music. Piccolo and alto flute have their own parts in chamber music, and they can provide more depth to larger works, too.

So…

There are many benefits of doubling that flutists can take advantage of. Even if you just add piccolo to your routine, you will be able to play a lot of different music, and it can help your flute playing.

Be sure to subscribe below to get your free guide to practicing as a doubler.

Do you play multiple flutes? Which ones? Leave a comment below with your answer!

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NFA: Flute Shopping

Hello flute friends. June is here (and almost gone, what?). That means that NFA 2018 is right around the corner. Being that it is the biggest flute convention of the year, you might be thinking about flute shopping there.

Hannah B Flute | NFA: Flute Shopping

Well, I’m right there with you. I’m not sure if I’ll actually buy a new instrument, a new headjoint, or nothing at all. But I will be spending some time in the exhibition hall looking at all things flute.

In this installment of my NFA series, I’m going to share some tips for flute shopping as well as other flute products you could buy.

Know Your Budget.

Flutes can cost upwards of $20K, but you probably don’t have that much money to spend. Right? So make sure you have a budget for spending at the convention.

Do you want to purchase a new flute or piccolo? Or are you planning to stick to the small stuff, like sheet music?

Decide how much money you can and are willing to spend at the convention before you go. Then stick to that budget as best you can.

You could create a daily budget or a budget for the whole convention. Your budget could also have different sections for things like sheet music and instruments.

No matter how you separate things out, have an overall budget in place so that you don’t get sucked into those amazing 18k gold, really expensive flutes. Unless that’s what you’re looking for, that is.

Stick to Your Budget.

Obviously, if you’re budget is less than $5000, you won’t be able to get a gold flute. Certain brands might also be out of reach with that budget. That’s okay.

When you approach a booth and ask to try flutes, tell the salesperson what your budget is. Flutists and vendors are nice people. They WANT you to buy something. So they’re gonna be willing to work with you.

If you’re curious about what you can get for $X, look online at FluteWorld, FCNY, or Carolyn Nussbaum. These online flute stores list the prices of various flutes (and their specs).

By researching different flutes beforehand, you will know what specs you can get and which ones you might need to save for or skip. Adding specs like a C# trill, split E, a gold riser, and more can significantly increase the cost.

Related: Flute Specs

Decide What You Want.

Do you want to buy a flute? A piccolo or low flute? Do you just want a new headjoint? Or are you going to jump on the LeFreque train?

Once you have your budget and know what you can afford with that budget, decide what is most important. If you’re headed off to music school, you will probably want to upgrade your flute followed by piccolo, then maybe an alto flute.

If you are an amateur, you may not need or want a professional level flute. But you may decide that you want a bass flute so you can join a flute choir.

Maybe you’re fine with your set of instruments and you want to test out a new headjoint or a LeFreque.

Now, some people might say you should decide what you want BEFORE setting your budget. That can work for some people, but usually finances aren’t as negotiable as what we choose to purchase. Do what works for you.

Try Lots of Flutes (etc.)

When you get to the convention, try as many flutes, headjoints, etc. as you can. There will be a ton of vendors there (view last year’s exhibitors on pg. 199). Check out different vendors, try out different brands, and test different models within your budget.

Even if you have your heart set on a (insert flute brand here), try others. Your “perfect” flute may be one you never expected.

This is also a great time to ask the flute vendors about flute trials. If you find a couple flutes you really like and want to test out a bit more, see if you can take the flutes on trial. You could either test them during the convention or maybe even take them home. (Again, ask the vendor)

You can also look into financing, if that is something you’re interested in. Financing can help you get a flute without having to pay for it upfront. You usually have to make a downpayment, and there will be interest. But for some people, it’s worth it.

Other Things to Buy

If you’re not looking at flutes, what else can you buy at the convention? You can buy anything from sheet music to cleaning supplies. If your budget is too small to pay for a new instrument, you can also look at different upgrades.

Whether you want to get a LeFreque or a new headjoint, there are low cost ways to upgrade your current instrument.

One thing that I would recommend looking at during the convention is sheet music. Yes, there are tons of places to buy sheet music online, but a lot of them don’t provide free samples.

You can’t actually see what the music looks like, or how it’s layed out, unless you’re in person. I am fortunate enough to live close to a well stock sheet music store, but I know a lot of people don’t have that luxury.

So consider looking at some sheet music while you’re in the exhibition hall. You might just find a new favorite piece.

So…

Will you be flute shopping at the NFA convention this year? Let me know in the comments!

What Pros Can Learn from Beginners

Professionals, no matter the field, are great at what they do. With musicians, the pros have spent countless hours honing their craft. With other professions, people spend years in school and earn multiple degrees. In any field, though, there is a lot that pros can learn from beginners.

Hannah B Flute | What Pros Can Learn from Beginners

My recent ebook, “Become a Musician” is for beginners, but it can remind us pros and advanced musicians about the basics. As we progress in a given field, it can be easy to forget how hard certain things are at first.

Whether that thing is getting a sound out of the flute or learning how to read music, the concept is the same. Professional musicians can easily forget those first days as a flutist.

I know I don’t remember my initial struggles. And that was only a few years ago.

A Beginner’s Mindset

Newcomers to the flute, or any instrument, usually have an idealized view of their pursuit. The flute is such a pretty instrument, it must be easy to play, right?

Pros and advanced amateurs know that is not the case. The flute can be beautiful, but it can also be finicky. It can go in and out of tune, and alternate fingerings are sometimes necessary for good intonation.

Thinking like a beginner can help more advanced players break through walls in their playing. While I don’t support rushing through pieces or exercises, beginners just want to play. They have yet to learn the importance of technical exercises.

Set aside time to just play your instrument, no rehearsing, no practicing. Just play. Remind yourself why you even started music in the first place.

Music should be fun, regardless of why you play. If music is your livelihood, your career, you should still enjoy it. It can be easy to become stressed when music is your job, but you can overcome that stress.

Whether it is playing a duet with a friend or playing along to a pop song, do something you love and that isn’t attached to a paycheck.

Take Things Slow

When you are comfortable with your instrument, you might be tempted to rush. It could be a piece, or your practice session, or something else. Time is not always on your side as a musician.

But beginners can’t speed through things like the pros can. Taking it slow is something every pro can learn from beginners, in every field. If you only have 15 minutes to practice, choose something that is doable in that time.

You may be tempted to rush through your whole practice routine, I know I am. But stop. Take a minute, and be mindful about what you’re doing. Do you feel rushed? Do you wish you had more time to practice?

That’s normal, but it should be the exception, not the rule. Being a musician in the 21st century means much more than practicing. It means scheduling lessons and rehearsals, writing blog posts and emails, and more.

You won’t always have hours to practice. Some days you may not practice at all. So appreciate the time you do have to practice and practice what you know you can improve. A slight improvement is better than none.

Solidify the Basics

If you come across a high note or a symbol you don’t understand, stop. What is the fingering for the note? What is the symbol? Can you look it up?

Beginners are constantly working on the basics of their instrument; they are beginners, after all. After years of playing, you may think you know everything there is to know about music theory or the flute.

Yes, us pros know a lot, but that doesn’t mean we should stop learning and studying the basics. If you don’t understand something in your music, learn it. Consult a teacher or another musician.

Be constantly learning and growing, even as a professional musician.

Know your key signatures, time signatures, and other notations. Get comfortable in the common range for your instrument. If it’s a transposing instrument (a key other than C), know how the transposition works.

Sometimes, Less is More

Many music teachers recommend that beginners practice no more than 20-30 minutes a day. To professionals, that can seem too short a time to practice.

There’s orchestral excerpts, etudes, and solo rep to learn. How can we accomplish anything in less than half an hour?

I’m not saying you have to limit your practicing to 30 minutes a day, but I am saying that longer practice sessions aren’t always better. Overuse injuries do exist, and they are no joke. They can put you out of commission for weeks or even months.

While you should spend enough time practicing in order to accomplish your goals, you should be focused. If you are uncomfortable or in pain, or simply exhausted, don’t practice. Stop after that 30 minute mark.

It’s better to stop playing before you get injured. Also, practicing under less than perfect conditions can be pointless. If you’re head’s not in it, that mindless practice can come back to bite you in the form or unnecessary mistakes.

So…

What else can pros learn from beginners when it comes to music? Leave your answer below in the comments!

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How to Find Playing Opportunities

School is the easiest place to find opportunities to play music. Most schools have multiple ensembles open to students. The problem comes when you graduate. It can be hard to find playing opportunities outside of school.

Hannah B Flute | How to Find Playing Opportunities

I am lucky enough to live in a large metro area. The bigger the city, the more playing opportunities you will have. If you live in a smaller city or rural area, don’t worry. The internet has allowed musicians from all over to world to show their work.

In this post, we are going to talk about how musicians can find playing opportunities outside of school. Let’s get into it.

Church/Worship

If you belong to a church or other worship center, ask around about playing in a service. Many churches love having musicians play on Sunday. Even if you don’t attend service, you can contact local churches and offer to play for them.

Any place worth playing for will be accepting of guests. I have played for a couple of different churches, and it is always a treat to play music in that setting.

Whether you get to play at a regular service or at another special event, church is a great place to play music.

City/County Offices

Offices aren’t really a place to play but a place to find music ensembles. A lot of cities and counties have local music groups, like orchestras or bands. You can check online or go to your city or county hall.

If you live near other cities, check with those as well. One of the bordering cities where I live has a community orchestra each summer. I played with the group last summer and will play again this year.

Local offices may not play music, but they can lead you to groups that do. They are a great starting point for local ensembles. Whether you are returning to your hometown or moving somewhere new, city offices might be the easiest place to find a music group.

Your Teachers

If you live near your college town, ask your (former) professor if they know of any groups. Not all groups are affiliated with the cities where they operate. So you might need to look elsewhere.

At least in my state, the musicians know other musicians. And so they know the different groups in cities throughout the state.

Your teachers guided you through school, and they can still guide you after graduation. If you’ve left school, a simple email to your teacher is all it takes. Even if they don’t know of groups in your area, they can still help you find other opportunities to play.

The Internet

It may be obvious, but the internet is a great place to find places to play music. You can learn about local busking laws, if that interests you. You can also connect with other musicians, near and far.

With apps like Instagram and Acapella, you can collaborate with other musicians wherever you are. I have made a ton of online music friends through Instagram, and I just downloaded Acapella for myself and for collaborations.

Facebook groups are also great for connecting with other musicians. A lot of groups allow musicians to share links. This includes music camps and festivals.

Music Associations

I am a member of the National Flute Association (NFA), and that allows me to attend the annual NFA convention in rotating cities. This year’s convention is in Orlando, Florida, and there are a ton of opportunities to play flute.

You can find the entire convention schedule of events here. There’s an option to search for participatory events.

Other instruments also have associations of their own, like the International Clarinet Association and the International Double Reed Society.¬†If you can’t go to these associations’ conventions, they can still help you find places to play your instrument.

One of the benefits of a membership with the NFA is a membership directory. You can use it to find local musicians who might want to play with you.

There are tons of other benefits that can further your development as a musician.

Your Own Self

If you are out of options, you can even make your own opportunities. Offer to play at senior centers, community events, and other places. Put up posters asking for musicians to play with you.

This route is definitely not for everyone, I don’t feel comfortable advertising myself around town. But if you are confident enough and willing to do a little work, this could be a great choice for you.

Just remember to be safe, don’t give out too much personal info, and screen people before you play with them. Especially if you are younger, don’t agree to meet just any random person. Be safe and smart about it.

So…

How have you found playing opportunities outside of school? Did you find them yourself or with the help of a teacher or friend? Leave your answer in the comments below.

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