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.┬áIf 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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Flute Specs: Beginner vs. Intermediate vs. Pro

B foot. Split E. C# trill. Soldered tone holes. What do these all mean? These, my friends, are just a few flute specs. Flutes come with many different specs, sometimes even made specially for the person who will play them.

Hannah B Flute | Flute Specs: Beginner, Intermediate, and Pro

Different level flutes come with different features that are meant for players at that level. Beginner flutes are made so that it is easier to make a sound. Professional flutes offer more resistance and special features.

Today, we are going to look at some of the most common specs, what they mean, and who they are for. Remember: no two flutes play the same, and no two players play the same.

Beginner Flutes

These flutes have the fewest amount of add ons; the specs are pretty standard across different brands. That is part of why the cost is lower for beginner models that intermediate or professional flutes.

Specs

Beginner flutes are silver plated throughout the entire flute. Silver is expensive; by plating a flute, you can cut cots while still having the sound of a full silver flute.

Beginner flutes also come with a C footjoint. Flutes with C footjoints have a shorter tube and one key fewer than flutes with a B footjoint. These flutes go down to middle C rather than the B right below middle C. The lack of a low B is not a big deal for most beginners, and the lighter weight makes holding the flute easier.

Student flutes come with closed hole keys. Keys with open holes in the middle require a more refined hand position. Starting out on a flute with closed holes allows the player to focus on other things at first, but hand position is still important.

The offset G key is almost always used in newer student flutes. If the G key (left hand ring finger) is in line with all of the other keys, it can be harder to reach. An offset G key can alleviate this problem

Intermediate Flutes

Intermediate flutes go by many names. Sometimes they are called step up flutes or mid level flutes. No matter what you call them, these are the flutes between beginner flutes and professional flutes. They offer more professional specs while staying budget friendly.

Specs

A handmade headjoint is one of the features that sets apart intermediate from beginner flutes. Beginner flutes are almost always factory made. The bodies of most intermediate flutes are also factory made. Intermediate flutes will have a handmade headjoint, though.

Another feature seen on many intermediate flutes, at least in the United States, is open holes. Open holes, while not necessary, allow the player to start learning certain extended techniques, like quarter tones.

The third common spec for intermediate flutes is a B footjoint. While this is less common in Europe, North American flutists looking to upgrade will probably find a flute with a B footjoint.

The last spec that is standard with most intermediate flutes is a higher silver content. Whether it is a silver headjoint or a silver headjoint and body, intermediate flutes contain more solid silver than student flutes.

Options

It is at the intermediate level where you have the ability to start customizing your flute. Student flutes come as is, but intermediate flutes offer extra features that can help with certain notes and fast passages.

The first common option for intermediate flutes is the split E or the G disc. Both of these options fix the same problem: the high E. A split E key closes the lower G key. This flattens the pitch of the high E and allows for more control and less cracking.

The G disc takes a different approach than the split E by placing a “donut” in the lower G tone hole. Doing this allows lowers the pitch on the high E without making as much of a sacrifice as the split E.

The C# trill key is yet another common option for intermediate flutes. The key is placed onto the flute between the thumb key and the trill keys. It facilitates C# in both trills and as the main note.

Professional Flutes

The biggest thing that professional flutes have on intermediate flutes is that they are fully handmade. Professional flutes are also more expensive. Aside from that, there are not a ton of differences between intermediate and professional flutes.

Professional flutes are slightly more customizable. They come in different metals, even silver plated. Professional flutes are priced highly for a reason: they are for professionals and serious amateurs.

These flutes are not for the faint of heart.

Specs

There are two specs that you will likely only find on professional flutes. Those two are: solid silver keys and soldered tone holes.

Most professional flutes are all silver, including the keys. While some lower cost professional flutes have plated keys, solid silver keys are just as common. Are they necessary? It’s up to you on whether you want to spend the money.

In the professional flute world, there is a long running debate between drawn and soldered tone holes. Drawn tone holes are created by “drawing” the silver from the tube to create the tone holes. Soldered tone holes, on the other hand, are made separately from the flute and then soldered onto the tube.

Options

Professional flutes come in all sorts of metals. You can find silver plated flutes, sterling silver flutes, gold, and even platinum flutes. Professional flutes can also be found in different types of silver, like the darker Britannia silver.

So…

This is just a short list of all the different specs that you can find for flutes. Did I leave out any of your favorite flute specs? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already.

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Laurel & Yanny: Sound Perception

Do you hear Laurel? Or do you hear Yanny? This case of sound perception has been dividing the internet for the past few days. You can find the offending audio clip all over social media.

As with the famous dress of 2015, the audio clip is some sort of illusion. Some people clearly hear “Laurel” and others clearly hear “Yanny.”

Sorry Team Yanny, it’s actually Laurel.

In this post, I am going to share with you what we as musicians can learn from Laurel & Yanny.

Gold vs. Silver

In the flute community, there are people who prefer the sound of gold flutes and those that prefer the sound of silver flutes. Silver and gold are the two most common materials of flute, but every flutist has their preference.

What this audio clip proves is that we all hear certain things differently. It can explain why one flutist will only play gold flutes and why another might only want to play silver flutes.

It’s not that gold or silver is definitively better than the other. The two materials have their own unique qualities, and we all hear things in our own ways.

C foot vs. B foot

A recent thing I learned was that the length of the flute can affect how it sounds. The longer tube of a B foot flute can make it sound darker. A shorter C foot flute sounds brighter.

Or so they say.

I’m not a scientist, but it would make sense that a tube’s length would affect the sound waves that the tune produces.

A B foot also weighs more than a C foot, and that added weight *can* darken the sound of a flute.

Drawn vs. Soldered Tone Holes

Like the C foot vs B foot conundrum, soldered tone holes are argued to have a darker and richer sound than drawn tone holes. This is because the tone holes are heavier.

Drawn tone holes are “drawn” from the metal that is part of the tube of the flute. Soldered tone holes are manufactured separately from the tube and then soldered on.

As with different metals and different tube lengths, the different method of forming tone holes can also play a role in how your ear perceives the sound of a flute. But some people might hear a bigger difference between drawn and soldered tone holes than others.

Testing Flutes

The Laurel/Yanny debate is also proof that having a friend listen while you test out a new flute can be important. The ears of a good friend or colleague can hear things you may not.

The same flute will sound different to the audience than to the player. A trusted friend can play the flute for you so you can listen. If you must go play testing alone, then a recording device can simulate the experience of having another person there.

While I believe you should pick the flute that you like best, listening and not just playing flutes can help you make your decision.

Why do I hear …?

The main reason people hear Laurel or Yanny has to do with pitch frequencies. If your ears pick out the higher frequencies, you are more likely to hear “Yanny.” For those of us that hear more of the lower frequencies, “Laurel” is the obvious choice.

If you major in music, you have to take two years of ear training. While I don’t know about other students, I was taught to listen for the bass line.

The bass line is the fundamental part of any piece of music, so that is what my ear gravitates toward. As a flutist, of course and can also hear higher frequencies. That is why I understand how some people might hear “Yanny.”

The Oral Cavity

Another reason why Laurel and Yanny can be easily mistaken is that the shape and size of your oral cavity is almost the same for both words.

La and Ya are very similar; r- and n- are also similar. The sounds el and ee are also very similar.

The only part of the mouth that changes is the tongue along with slight change of the lips. Try saying “Laurel” and “Yanny” and pay attention to how your mouth feels with both words.

Almost identical, right? The slightest change in your mouth can result in larger changes outside of the mouth.

So flutists, be sure to remember that when practicing long tones and working on intonation.

So…

Which word do you hear? Is there anything else flutists can learn from this phenomenon? Leave your response in the comments!

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