Buying a Professional Flute

I just bought my first professional flute, at NFA. If you’re following me on Instagram, then you already know this. And if your not following me, be sure to! I post lots of updates on there.

Hannah B Flute | Buying a Professional Flute

But, for this post, I wanted to share some information on how I ended up buying my new flute. I also want to share some tips for any of you who are looking at upgrading to a new flute.

The info I’m about to share will apply to flutes, piccolos, low flutes…and (to an extent) other instruments as well. Unlike last week, this post is gonna be a long one. So let’s get started!

Saving Up.

Before you actually go to buy a new instrument, you need to either have the money or know that you will be able to pay for it with financing. If you only have $100 in your bank account, you’re not gonna be able to afford a flute. That’s just the reality of the situation.

Over this past year or so, I have been saving up as much money as possible. Partly in anticipation of buying a professional flute, but also to build an emergency fund and to save for graduate school.

I do live at home with my parents and am lucky enough to not have to pay rent; I am also still covered for things like health insurance and the like. So, yes, it was easier for me to save enough money for a professional flute in one year.

Research Flutes.

Go online to sites like FluteWorld, Flute Center of New York (FCNY), Flutistry Boston, and Carolyn Nussbaum and figure out what different professional flutes cost.

I can tell you a range; professional flutes ranges from about $6,000 (entry level) all the way to $80,000. Its a large range.

You want to do your own research to see what is out there, what sparks your interest, and how much you would need for those flutes. Plus, there are over a dozen companies that make professional flutes. Different companies use different materials, like sterling silver, Britannia silver, Gold/Silver alloys, and more.

Different materials also cost different amounts. Gold and platinum flutes cost more than sterling silver flutes, for example.

Then you also have different mechanisms. Companies like Powell, Brannen, Miyazawa, and Pearl all use some sort of pinless mechanism, whereas other companies use a pinned mechanism.

Do you research to figure out what materials, designs, and models are out there so that you can prepare for the next tip.

Budget. Budget. Budget.

I cannot stress it enough: make a budget and stick to it. You can buy flutes at your budget or even under your budget. Just don’t go over your budget.

One thing I didn’t even touch on in the last tip was the different add-ons for flutes. You can get a C# trill key, a split E mechanism, a D# roller, and even different headjoint cuts. All of this does add to the cost of a flute. So when making your budget, don’t just consider the base price, consider the base price PLUS any extra upgrades you want for your flute.

Because this purchase was my first professional flute, I didn’t want to go too expensive. I set a budget of about $10,000. From the research I did, that seemed to be a good number in terms of what I wanted in a flute. I wanted (at least) solid silver throughout the tube; I wanted a C# trill key, offset G, B foot, open holes.

Now, you may not want some of those things; you may want a completely different flute. So again, do some research on the flutes that you are interested in and budget (and save) accordingly.

Test Flutes Out.

I was pretty lucky in that I was able to go to the NFA convention this year. There were SO many flute makers and flute dealers all in one place. I was able to try a Powell, a Burkart, a Di Zhao, a Miyazawa, and others before settling on my new flute.

While I do live in a major metropolitan area, there are not a ton of places for me to try professional flutes. My flute repair tech carries tons of flutes, but most of them are at the step up/intermediate level. The only professional flutes she carries are from Altus, Miyazawa, and Sankyo. All of those are great brands, but they barely scratch the surface of professional flutes.

If you are not able to attend a flute festival or convention (NFA or otherwise), you do still have options. All of the flute dealers I mentioned earlier (FluteWorld, FCNY, Flutistry Boston, and Carolyn Nussbaum) allow for in home trials. You can contact any one of those companies and add to try flutes. Now, trail by mail isn’t always free; you will either need to pay for shipping or have a hold placed on your card for the value of the instruments. Each company has different trial policies.

But no matter how you do it, try out different flutes before buying. You will thank yourself.

Be Open Minded.

Last November, I briefly played a Miyazawa 602. I was at my flute tech’s annual flute party, and, while I was mostly there to test piccolos, I had a second to try a 602. All I played was a scale, but from that, I thought it might be the flute for me.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I did not end up buying a Miyazawa 602. I tried one at NFA, more in depth this time. So for about nine months, I thought I knew which flute was for me.

I did play a Lyric Artisan flute; Lyric and Miyazawa are “partners” similar to Altus and Azumi. So I thought that Miyazawa would fit me. When I tried the 602, I realized that it wasn’t all that different from my Lyric. There wasn’t anything that struck me about the flute.

The flute I ended up choosing was a Pearl; you can check out my Instagram for posts about it.

While I had considered Pearl (my piccolo and alto are from them), it wasn’t my first thought. But when I walked through the Pearl booth at NFA, my whole world stopped when I saw this flute. I picked it up and instantly felt a connection.

Don’t Rush the Purchase.

When you are trying flutes, it can be overwhelming. Especially if you are at a flute festival or convention and are surrounded by flutes, don’t feel like you have to buy a flute then and there. Even if you want to.

As much as I fell in love the flute, I knew that I did not want buyer’s remorse. Professional flutes cost a lot. They are an investment, not an impulse buy. That’s what sheet music is for.

I left the Pearl booth and walked around the convention a bit; I went to a couple of workshops, and I had lunch. During that time, I couldn’t stop thinking about the flute.

It was calling me. Maybe this is cliche, but we flutists are like the wizards in Harry Potter. The wand chooses the wizard; the flute chooses the flutist. And this flute chose me.

So, I went back to the Pearl booth that afternoon and tried the flute again, this time testing it in other ways. I fell in love all over again, and I knew it had to be mine.

Yes that all happened in one day, but it was over the course of a few hours. So if you can, try some flutes and walk away. Maybe try other flutes or do something completely unrelated to music. Later, you can come back to the flute(s) that you enjoyed and you can (hopefully) make a clearer and more informed purchase.

Now What?

Buying a professional flute is not for the faint of heart. Ideally, you will already be at a high level of playing before you even consider it. And that’s what’s so great about step up and intermediate flutes. They give advancing students the ability to upgrade their flutes and get some professional features but for a lower cost.

That also allows players to hold off on buying a high cost flute for a bit longer.

If you are in the market for a professional (or even an intermediate) flute, don’t hesitate to set up a trial. You can set up a trial with one of the previously mentioned companies, you can contact a local flute dealer, or you can also look for flutes for sale online. The last option is tricky, but it can be a good way to find used instruments which cost less than new instruments.

So…

Have you upgraded your flute before? What flute did you end up buying? Let me know down in the comments!

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Embouchure Changes…

Hey guys, so today’s post is going to be a little different. I’m going to get a little personal with you. This past week was insane. So insane that I’m writing this just minutes before it will be going up.

Hannah B Flute | Embouchure Changes

Amongst those changes was a revelation about my embouchure. I have a Cupid’s bow, and that means that I can’t get the best sound by playing exactly in the middle.

So what exactly happened this week? Read on.

My Embouchure.

Last Wednesday, I had a lesson with my flute teacher, and she noticed that I actually don’t play off to the side that much. I play a little off to the side, because the exact center would split my air stream. But I don’t play so far off to the side.

My lip muscles aren’t “built” to play like that. So instead of concentrating on playing off to the side, I will now be concentrating on keeping my flute level. No more “flute drop disease” as my professor in undergrad called it.

My arms are sure gonna get a workout from this.

Preparing for Vacation.

If you don’t already know, I have a full time day job as a bank teller. I started the job back in September, and before that I had a part time job as a cashier. I’ve been working almost nonstop for a year now.

And finally, this week is my one week of vacation. Yes, aside from holidays, I have worked five days a week for the past (almost) 11 months. I am ready for a break.

And my vacation couldn’t have come at a better time. A lot of craziness happened at the bank last week, some good, some not so good. But all I can say is that this past week makes my vacation that much more worth it.

Bound for Orlando.

The main reason I even scheduled this week as my vacation week was because of NFA Orlando! So while I don’t fly out until Wednesday, I get the whole week off (banking procedures dictate a full week of vacation must be taken).

So over the next couple of days, I will be packing and practicing in preparation for my first solo trip. It’s a little scary, but I know it will be a good experience for me. So if you see me, say hi!

I will be staying at the convention hotel, and I will also be bringing my own food. Yesterday, I went food shopping and found lots of easy, filling, space-saving snacks. In fact, I might just make a video of what I got (follow me on Instagram to see).

Related: NFA Convention

Starting Grad School…

Applications that is! I have been working on audition material for the past few months, and I have narrowed my choices to about three schools. And last week, I officially applied to my alma mater.

And actually, grad school might be a little closer than I thought, because I decided to apply for spring 2019 entry instead of fall. Online classes, anyone?

Within the next couple of months, I will apply to a couple of other schools, but this week, I will actually (attempt to) earn some graduate credit.

If you didn’t know, the NFA offers graduate and continuing education credit through a college called Seattle Pacific University. So for those of you already in graduate school or those applying, consider trying to get some credit while attending the convention!

So…

Sorry for the shorter post. As you might be able to tell, this week was crazy. But I managed to get this post up for you guys! If you are going to the convention, feel free to say hi if you see me. And, are you going to earn some graduate credit this week? Let me know down in the comments!

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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.

6. DO NOT ENTER THE PLANE WITHOUT YOUR INSTRUMENT.

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.

So…

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!

So…

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.

So…

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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