NFA: Flying with Your Instruments

The 2018 NFA convention is less than two weeks away, which means you are probably thinking about your travel plans. Hopefully, you already have everything set, but you still might be worried about flying with your instruments.

Hannah B Flute | Flying with Your Instruments

While this is my first time attending NFA, I have flown with instruments before. So, I am going to share tips from my own experience as well as from various travel websites. The tips here will be in chronological order, so you can get a head start with the first few tips before you even arrive at the airport.

You really shouldn’t be worried about flying with instruments, and these tips will further diminish your worries.

1. Boarding/Check In Upgrades.

I don’t know much about other airlines, but Southwest has an amazing upgrade option called EarlyBird Check-in. Southwest is unique in that you do not get an assigned seat on the plane; you choose your seat when you board the plane.

So your boarding position could have a huge impact on not only the seat you get but also the overhead bin space. Overhead bin space is crucial for musicians, because it means you can still bring your carry on and personal item on the plane.

As the plane fills up, passengers might be required to gate check their items; DO NOT DO THIS. Your instrument needs to make it onto the plane in your hands (more later).

For these reasons, I decided to pay the extra $15 each way to purchase EarlyBird Check-in. This feature will check me in automatically, and it will check me an 12 hours earlier than normal check in.

If you can swing it, boarding and check in upgrades can relieve some or all of your travel stress.

2. Remove Excess Items.

Make sure your case is void of items that might be considered suspect. A simple reed knife or cigarette paper (for pads) might be okay to a musician, but that same item might pose a problem for security personnel.

So try and keep your case simple and neat, that way if your bag needs additional screening, it won’t take as long.

If possible, store these other items in another bag or suitcase. You can still have them on your trip, but it won’t seem as scary to those who might need to investigate your bag.

3. Get to the Airport Early.

Give yourself extra time to get to the airport, through security, and to your gate. You never know what the traffic will be like on the way to the airport; especially if your flight is at a busy time.

You also want to allow extra time for going through security. While there shouldn’t be a huge problem, you want to be prepared for the worst. Depending on your instrument or baggage, it might be manually searched. The TSA staff might also want to inspect your instrument itself.

Then, you will still have to make your way to the gate. I am pretty lucky in this regard, because the Kansas City airport (my home airport) does not have one central security line. Each group of gates has its own security line, so once I know where my gate is, I can go through security and be at the gate.

But if you aren’t so lucky, you will still need time to get from security to your plane’s gate.

4. Have Your Paperwork Organized.

Especially if your instrument is on the more expensive side, or you are traveling with a wooden piccolo (see CITES), you will want to have proof that you own your instrument.

Be prepared with the serial number, approximate value, and purchase receipt or invoice. While you shouldn’t need to show this information to anyone, it is good to have it for your records. You will also want this information if your instrument becomes lost or stolen.

God forbid something so terrible, but you should be able to show proof of ownership.

And a side note: be sure your instruments are insured, whether on their own policy or under a home owners or renters insurance. You want to protect your babies.

5. Pack Your Instrument with Other Items.

Whether you stick your flute or piccolo in a backpack or you store some clothes in a bass flute bag, make use of all available space. Packing your instrument with other items will help keep the instrument safe during any turbulence, but it will also allow you to carry more stuff on board the plane.

My goal every time I travel, alone or with family, is to carry on everything I bring. Yes, I know that’s a crazy goal, but it cuts down on time spent in the airport and lessens the chance of losing something of value.

I will probably be packing my flute in my backpack or carry on bag. That way, I can have my flute with me but also have space for things like my computer, snacks, and other necessities.

If you have to carry your instrument case separately, make sure you have documentation from the FAA that states musical instruments count as personal items.


If you only follow one of my tips, make it this one. Do not check your instrument. Do not gate check your instrument. And do not let your instrument out of your sight/possession.

This is possibly the most important tip of all, because it actually concerns you and your instrument.

If your instrument is too big to carry on, please consider buying an extra seat. Yes, it is expensive, but the cargo hold is often not temperature controlled. Anything you check will be subject to fluctuating temperatures, and instruments (especially wooden ones) can sustain major damage.

Make sure your instrument makes it onto the temperature controlled cabin of the plane. If you play a string instrument, make sure you tune the strings down so that they don’t break. And make sure your instrument is in a hard case.

7. Maintain Physical and/or Visual Contact.

This goes for any instrument. During your whole trip, you want to make sure you know exactly where your instrument is. You can take a break if it goes up into the overhead bin.

Other than that, you want to keep track of your instrument. Thieves can be quick, and it only takes one second looking in the other direction for someone to steal your instrument.

In order to avoid this, don’t travel with an expensive looking case or bag; use the case your instrument came with. Flutists, as stylish as Fluterscooter bags are, they look and are pricey. Thieves can see an expensive bag and they will go for it.

But no matter the case you use, do not leave it with anyone. Do not set it down without securing it to you. When sitting at the airport, string your arm or leg through a strap on your bag. That way, no one can just walk by and grab your bag.

8. Use Straps.

Whether you are sitting at the gate, on the plane, or walking through the airport, straps are your best friend. Make sure your case or bag has straps. They could be backpack straps or an over the shoulder strap. But you want to have straps that can be secured to your person.

If you merely sling your case over one shoulder or hand carry it, the likelihood of dropping it or someone stealing it increases.

Don’t let that happen to you.


As much as we’d like to believe the world is full of good people and that TSA is completely understanding, that is not always the case. Make sure you have extra time and that you are alert during your trip. And if you’re looking for something to do on the plane? Why not learn a foreign language?

Do you have any tips for flying with your instruments? Leave your tips in the comments!


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Foreign Languages for Flutists

If you have played classical music before, you probably know that most music terms are not in English. Tempo markings, dynamics, and characteristics are all in Italian. Some composers, like those from Germany and Russia write their notations using their mother tongue. Italian and German are two perfect foreign languages for flutists.

Hannah B Flute | Foreign Languages for Flutists

That’s why it is important for serious musicians to learn what these phrases mean and how they fit into the context of the language they come from.

Each instrument also has its own history and repertoire. Violinists have a lot of music written by Italian and German composers. A lot of piano music is was composed by Germans.

The central “school” for flutists was and is located in France. So, French is probably one languages flutists should consider learning.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. Click here for my full disclosure policy.

1. French

Many important flute pieces come from the likes of Gabriel Fauré, Cecile Chaminade, and Philippe Gaubert. Marcel Moyse, Pierre Taffanel, and the aforementioned Gaubert wrote many pivotal exercises for flute tone and technique.

Whether you want to learn repertoire from the “French Composers” book or to work through “De la Sonorité,” French will help you.

Yes, there are English translations of the text in the Moyse and T&G books, but being able to read the original version allows you to better understand the purpose of the exercises.

French is also fairly easy to learn for English speakers. It is difficult to speak it, but reading it is a breeze.

2. Italian

If French isn’t your cup of tea, consider learning Italian. Most music terms are in Italian, like forte, crescendo, and andante. Learning Italian means you can understand the terms rather than remember them purely as music vocabulary.

Even the French pieces use some Italian words for names of movements or dynamics. And if you understand Italian, you can easily learn to how to understand written French.

And if you took some Spanish in high school, that knowledge can help you along with Italian.

3. German

If you find yourself playing a lot of Hindemith, Bach, or other German composer, think about learning German. The vocabulary will certainly be a challenge, so don’t think it will be easy.

Like with other languages, knowing more than just the translation of German words will help you show the composer’s vision. Studying German could also help you if you decide to move to Europe.

German is spoken in a few different European countries. If you’re searching for a job or schooling overseas, German could help you find cool and interesting opportunities.

4. Spanish

The next foreign language for flutists to consider learning is Spanish. If you are into Latin music or jazz, or even world music, Spanish is a great language to learn.

If you want to teach flute, Spanish can help you find more students. This point mostly applies to American flutists, but flutists in other countries can benefit, too. The influx of Spanish speaking immigrants is reason enough for Americans to learn the language.

How to Learn a Foreign Language?

If you’re still in school, consider taking a foreign language as an elective. The Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music Education don’t usually have a language requirement, but the Bachelor of Arts does.

Even if you don’t have to take a language course, doing so is a cheap and easy way to get all your credits and learn a new language that can help your music reading skills.

For those of you who aren’t in school or can’t take a foreign language course, you have a few options. First, you can find a course at a local community center. Second, you can find a conversation partner.

But my personal favorite is using an app and website called LingQ.

What is LingQ?

LingQ is an online language learning program in the form of a website and mobile app. It does cost money, but I personally believe it is worth it.

The program uses the input method, which focuses on reading and listening. You don’t have to spend time on grammar exercises or other monotonous assignments. And the content is more realistic than say in Duolingo.

You can read actual stories and articles, and you can import your own “lessons” from the internet.

When you first start a new lesson, you will see words in a few different ways. New words will be highlighted in blue, known words will be regular, and your “LingQs” will be in four shades of yellow.

LingQs are the words you are currently learning, and they have four stages. The first stage is the brightest; these are words you just saw for the first time and need to review. The second stage is a slightly lighter shade of yellow. These words are considered to be recognized; you can understand them in context, but not necessarily on their own.

The third stage of a LingQ is when a word is familiar. You don’t fully understand the word, but you do know it to an extent. The fourth stage is “learned.” These words are almost known and are underlined. You may need to review these words, but they are basically a part of your vocabulary.

Reading and Listening?

Does the input method really work? It does for me, and it might work for you. Just give it a shot.

How Much Does LingQ cost?

There are three plans offered by LingQ, including Free, Premium, and Plus plans.

The free plan is basically a trial plan. It does have features and you can use the plan long term, but you are limited. You can only create 20 LingQs and import only five lessons.

I am currently using the Premium plan, because it is the best value for my money, and it has all of the feature I need. I can create as many LingQs as I want and import as many lessons as I want.

You can pay for the plan each month, every six months, or every year. The longer the term, the cheaper it is per month.

If you are someone who likes a lot of one on one learning, you might consider the Plus plan. It is expensive, and I wouldn’t recommend it for more than a month or two; you can always downgrade.

This plan gives you free “points” that you can spend. You can spend points on things like working with a tutor, get your writing corrected, or even buy Paid lessons.

Get Free LingQs

Want free extra LingQs? Use my referral code and get 100 extra LingQs when you sign up for a free membership!


Are you learning a foreign language to help your musical career? What language are your favorite foreign languages for flutists? Let me know in the comments!


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Should I Use a Practice Journal?

Practicing music should be fun. Plain and simple. Any practice that you don’t at least slightly enjoy will not be as beneficial. Thus brings the question: should you use a practice journal?

Hannah B Flute | Should I Use a Practice Journal?

A practice journal allows you to track your practicing. You can use whatever method to track your practice. Choose a method that works for you. If your practice journal doesn’t fit your needs, you will be less inclined to use it.

You can track the amount of time, what you practice, or a combination of both.

This post will help you decide whether or not you need a practice journal and how to create one that suits your needs.

Why Use a Practice Journal?

If you want to track your practice for any reason, you should use a practice journal. Writing things down makes it much easier to remember them. Our minds are fascinating, but they can’t keep track of everything.

A practice journal is a specific notebook or journal you use to track your practice. It is separate from planners and other notebooks. You can keep in on your music stand or by your instrument case, so you remember to use it.

One of the biggest benefits of tracking your practice is seeing how you’ve grown. After you’ve used a practice journal for awhile, you can go back to when you first started and see how far you’ve come.

Seeing your growth, on paper or through recordings too, can be incredibly motivating to keep practicing.

Also, if you have a lot of music to work on, a practice journal can help you organize everything. Track the days you practice a certain piece, and you can use that information to plan future practice sessions.

What Do You Track?

There are two main things you can track in a practice journal: time and progress. If you work best by tracking time, then your practice journal can be a time log.

However, if you’re like me, tracking the time might make you anxious. A few years, I used a music practice app. I can’t remember the name of the app, but it allowed me to create different sections of practice, like tone, technique, etc.

Well, the main way it tracked my practice was by timing me. I basically had to set time based goals, and that didn’t work for me. In order to meet a time goal, I would usually end up fooling around for the later part of my practice.

This time around, I’m tracking what I practice each day as well as what I accomplished or learned that day. I have found that system works much better for me.

Since I’m preparing for masters auditions and have a lot to work on, I can track what I practice each day. That way, I can go back the next day and see what might need more attention (i.e. the pieces I haven’t practiced in the last few days).

My Practice Journal Setup

I use a simple notebook that I got at CVS to track my practice. Each month, I make a new “section” in the journal. The first page has all of my goals for the month. Then I have a calendar page which includes all of my rehearsals and performances that month.

Next is my practice tracker. At the top of the page, I wrote the days of the month. On the left side is all of the categories I want to track that month. The categories could be exercises, movements, excerpts, or instruments.

Watch the video of my practice journal.

The Journal

Before you start a practice journal, you need to get a notebook you can use. You can use a smaller notebook or a larger one, depending on your preferences.

There are many different styles available. You can get a notebook with lines, without lines, or even a dot grid notebook. Choose one that you like and think you will use the most.

If you’re intimidated by making your own practice journal, you can find different templates or ideas for journals online. There are plenty of videos of people showing how they use their practice journal.

Everyone works differently, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your perfect setup.

When You Shouldn’t Use a Practice Journal

While most musicians would benefit from a practice journal, there are a few exceptions.

First, beginners shouldn’t use a practice journal, yet. When you are completely new to an instrument, you need to focus on the basics. Learn the fundamentals of your instrument first. You can track your practice later.

Another situation where a practice journal could be a hinderance is if you don’t practice every single day. In this case, a practice journal could just cause more anxiety around practicing.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for daily practice, a practice journal could make you feel guilty for not practicing or writing in it.

The third instance where you might want to avoid a practice journal is after time away from the instrument. Whether that is because of a surgery or other reason, take things slowly at first. If you haven’t played regularly in a while, you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself at first.

In all of these cases, a practice journal can come later. As you improve on your instrument or start to practice more, you can create a practice journal.


Do you use a practice journal? How do you track your practice? Leave your answer in the comments and be sure to subscribe below for freebies!


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How to Organize Your Practice Space

Whether you just have a music locker or a full room dedicated to practice, you need to keep it organized. You need to be able to find pieces and exercise books when you need them. So, I’m sharing my tips for how to organize your practice space.

Hannah B Flute | How to Organize Your Practice Space

Currently, I have a whole wall in my bedroom that is dedicated to my music stuff. And that doesn’t include a bookshelf for music and books that I’m not using at the moment.

In college, however, I only had a small music locker to store and organize my stuff.

I’ve had both ends of the spectrum in terms of space, and here are my top tips for organizing your practice space.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. Click here for my full disclosure policy.

How Big is Your Space?

Do you have all or part of a room? Or do you just have a small locker? The size of your space will determine how much you can store and how you can organize it all.

When all I had was a locker, I kept my older materials in my dorm or at my parents’ house. The last thing I needed was to take up space with unnecessary materials.

Now that I am living at my parents’ house, I have more space. I have a bookshelf where I can store old music textbooks and method books. My “music corner” as I call it is where I store everything else.

If you’re a pianist or vocalist and all you have is a bag, you’ll have to be even more picky about what you include. You will also probably need somewhere to store your excess music elsewhere.

Prioritize Your Music and Instruments

If you know me, you know that I am a musical instrument hoarder. I have 3 C flutes, 2 piccolos, an alto flute, 2 alto saxophones, a clarinet, 2 recorders, 2 penny whistles, 4 ocarinas, and a lot of other instruments.

I know that I don’t need all of those instruments to be in my music corner. Flute, piccolo, and alto flute are my primary instruments, so I keep (my best models of) those instruments on my desk.

The rest of my instruments are scattered throughout my room and the house.

If you only play one instrument on a regular basis, you just need to store that one instrument. You vocalists don’t have to worry about storing instruments, unless you also play another instrument.

Storing your ever increasing music library can get a bit more complex. If you’re like me, you won’t have space to store all of your music together. When that’s the case, make sure your current and standard music is as close to your practice space as possible.

Don’t Forget Accessories

Most instruments have some sort of accessory to go with them. You will also probably want to have a music stand. So don’t forget to include some space for your various music accessories.

If you’re limited on space, get a music stand that can collapse down. That way you can store the stand when it’s not in use. I’d still recommend getting a sturdy music stand. Avoid those cheap wire ones. Peak has some good music stands that fold up easily for storage and transport.

Flutists, you will want a flute stand, a cleaning cloth and rod, and a polishing cloth. If you play piccolo, you should also have a good pair of ear plugs, a piccolo stand, and cork grease (for plastic and wood piccolos).

Other instruments will require their own accessories. Reed players will need enough good reeds, cork grease, swabbing cloths, etc. Brass players will need to have valve oil. String players need rosin.

All musicians need a tuner and a metronome (could be an app on your phone). And of course, you can’t forget a pencil.

Set Up Your Space

Music stand. Unless you’re at music school or a vocalist, you will want space for your music stand. Most music school practice rooms will have at least one stand available, so students can pass on this one. For at home practice, you’ll want one.

Instrument stand. Keep your instrument safe and use a stand for it. You *can* haphazardly set it on a chair or desk, but that’s risky. Give yourself the peace of mind. You can find compact stands (meant for travel) if space is a huge concern. This flute stand is perfect, and it even fits in your footjoint.

Your instrument. The next (and most important) thing you need is your instrument(s). You can’t practice without your instrument. So be sure there’s space in your locker or room to properly store your instrument.

Sheet music. If you’re a music student or otherwise serious about music, you will want ample space to store your sheet music. You will at least want enough space to store your current music.

Your choice. How I organize my practice space is going to be different than how you want to organize yours. That’s okay. Just make sure you know where everything is. If you want to see how I organize my practice space, follow me on Instagram. This week, I’ll be sharing a tour of my practice space on IGTV.


How do you organize your practice space? Do you have a dedicated room? A locker? Something in between? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to subscribe below for your free sample of my ebook Become a Musician!


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Finding “Motivation” to Practice

Ah, motivation. We all seem to need it to get stuff done these days. Finding motivation to practice music can be difficult at times. That is why I want to move away from “motivation” as a way to practice.

Hannah B Flute | Finding Motivation to Practice

Relying on a motivator often means relying on something external.  There are days where I don’t want to practice, because I can’t find anything to motivate me.

Discipline, however, is more consistent than motivation. Discipline should be the main factor in you practicing.

Motivation vs. Discipline

Motivation is the state or condition of having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.

Discipline involves an activity that helps develop a skill.

Both motivation and discipline *can* be applied to music and musicians, but discipline requires nothing more than you and your instrument.

Motivation requires something like an upcoming lesson or concert. That event gives you the desire to practice so that you can do well.

The problem with this is that we don’t always have a concert or lesson in the near future. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t practice.

Discipline, like daily practice, will help develop your playing each day. No need for a concert or lesson.

Finding Discipline

If you have never done disciplined practice, it can be hard at first. Discipline has to come from inside you rather than something external.

Your desire to improve as a musician is a great start, but you need to make it a routine.

For example, every time you use the restroom, you wash your hands. Right?

That is discipline. We have trained ourselves to wash our hands before leaving the restroom.

You can practice in that same way. Not when leaving the restroom, but each day. Find a time to practice, even write it down on the calendar.

Think of practicing as something you just do. It is part of your day, just like washing your hands.

Using Reminders

When you start practicing by discipline instead of by motivation, it can be hard to get in the groove. Reminders can be anything. It can be an alarm telling you it’s time to practice. You can also use paper reminders, like on your mirror or music stand.

No matter what kind of reminder you use, make it something that does inspire (or even motivate) you.

In the beginning, it is hard to practice based on discipline alone. Adding in one or two outside factors can help you. Soon enough, you will be practicing without those outside motivators.

You will be disciplined.

Is Motivation All Bad?

No. Motivation can be a good thing, and it can be a great way to get you to practice. Relying solely on motivation, however, is not good.

There will be many times where you are not motivated by anything to practice. If that is the case, it will be a lot harder for you to pull out your instrument than if you also had the discipline to.

Finding motivation to practice is a nice thought, and it can be helpful. Motivating factors, like performances, can help you build that discipline necessary.

It can help you become disciplined to the point where you will continue to practice after that next concert.

Motivation can be a great way to get anything done, but it should be accompanied by discipline.

Why Practice?

I’ve talked all this time about motivation and discipline to practice, but I haven’t mentioned why we practice.

As musicians, we should always want to improve. Odds are, you are not the best performer on your instrument. Therefore, you can learn from someone. You can learn what the greats have done to hone their craft.

Just as how a student studies, a musician must practice.

It is how we can learn and grow. Practice allows us to play new and increasingly difficult repertoire.

Without practice, we would be forever stuck as a beginner.

It’s About You

In the end, practicing isn’t about motivation or discipline. It’s about bettering yourself, both as a musician and as a person.

Music allows you to express your own creativity. You can even form your own community with other musicians.

Practicing is a means to an end for musicians; it is how you meet or even exceed your goals.

Some days, you will be really motivated to achieve those goals.

Other days, discipline will be all you have.

So while music is something to be enjoyed, we cannot rely on our love for music. We will not always be motivated to play or practice.

Musicians need discipline.


What are your thoughts on finding motivation to practice? Do you prefer discipline? Let me know in the comments!

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