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.


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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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.


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


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Life After Music School: Year One

It has been a year since I finished my last final for my undergraduate music degree. This past year has brought a lot of change. Life after music school is not what I thought it would be. Transitioning from student to “real” adult was tough.

Hannah B Flute | Life After Music School

For the first two months after graduation, I tried to make an income through music and writing. Sadly, that did not happen. It takes time to start a career in a creative field, like music.

I got a part time job and then left that for a full time job. This year in review will cover what I learned from a year out of school as well as my plans for this next year.

School is Not Everything

Until this year, school was all I knew. I was in school from the age of three (preschool) until age 21. A year out of school has taught me that there is much more to life than school.

I have also learned that I really do want to earn a masters degree in music. When I was still in school, I thought my desire for a masters was simply a desire to stay a student.

That is not the case. I have learned how to function as an adult outside of the school/college system. I now know that my life does not need to revolve around grades or juries.

But it is Something

School may not be the center of my life anymore, but it is still important. I had an informative phone call with a flute professor at a local college. She told me that a masters degree would give me more credentials and would show more legitimacy than just a bachelors degree.

Since a music career is something I really want, I can be confident that going back to school next fall (2019) is a good decision.

A masters degree will give me the chance to study flute at an even higher level than before. I can also choose an area within flute to focus on. Some people choose new music, others choose early music. Other flutists even choose to specialize in piccolo or low flutes.

Discipline is More Important

As an adult, I have had to start paying for more things myself. Living rent free at home with my parents, I need to contribute to the household in someway. I have also had to give myself music to practice.

While my parents do still pay for a lot of my expenses, I am slowly starting to take on my own bills. That means I can’t just go out a blow all of my paycheck on clothes, shoes, or partying.

Since I don’t pay rent, I have to do my part in other ways. I will help shop for food, set the dinner table, do the dishes, and clean around the house. If I don’t help out, my parents could charge me rent or even make my move out.

When it comes to practicing, I have to find things for me to play. I am no longer in weekly lessons. It’s up to me to find repertoire that will challenge me. Yes, I do play in groups that have music chosen, but solos are my own choice.

If I don’t have anything to do, I won’t do anything. I think a lot of you will agree.

Save as Much Money as Possible

Living at home has allowed me to live very frugally. When my paycheck comes in, I leave some of it in my checking account, but most goes straight into savings.

Saving money is important, because you never know what will happen. You could lose your job, get into a bad car wreck, or get really sick.

Having an emergency fund is key.

Also, since I have decided to go to graduate school, I have had to save money for that. Applications, transcript requests, and travel to auditions all cost money. That doesn’t even begin to cover tuition and fees.

While I do intent to apply for scholarships and assistantships, I still need to have enough money in my accounts. There is a chance I might not get any financial aid, apart from loans, and so the more money I have saved, the easier it will be to pay for a masters.

Shoot for the Stars

Being out of school has also taught me to take as many risks as I can. Shoot for the stars, as they say. I don’t want to be one of those people who looks back on their life wondering “what if?”

What if I auditioned for grad school? What if I applied for that cool job?

Complacency has become my biggest fear since graduating. That is why I have become much more active with this blog and on social media. My online presence is my ticket to the future that I want.

Have a Safety Net

…in the form of a day job. I am still in the beginning stages of my career as a musician and writer. While I am serious about this career path, I do like having a job for financial support.

I currently work full time as a teller for a local bank. If I need to work part  or full time outside of music to make ends meet, I have a back up plan. I plan to work as a teller until I start grad school

Maybe music will only ever be a side hustle, but maybe not. In either case, having experience in a full time job will help me. With previous teller experience, I can apply for other bank jobs in the future, should the need arise.


A lot can change in a year. I moved back home, got two different jobs, joined local music groups, and decided to apply for a masters. This next year will also bring a lot of change and growth. From visiting my first NFA convention to applying and auditioning for a masters of music, I can’t wait to see what this next year holds!

What did you learn after finishing school? Let me know in the comments!


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Career Paths for Musicians

Usually, I write about stuff that would appeal to all sorts of musicians. I try to appeal to both amateurs and professionals. But not all music topics will be for all musicians. So today, I’m focusing on those of you who are professional musicians or aspiring professionals: career paths for musicians.

Hannah B Flute | Career Paths for Musicians

A music career is very difficult. Pro and aspiring pro musicians often have to work multiple jobs to bring in enough income. It is not impossible to become a professional musician; technology has actually made it easier than ever.

In this post, we are going to explore some different career paths for musicians. Some common, others not so common.

Portfolio Careers

Most musicians have what is called a portfolio career. They do multiple different things. Performing on the weekend and teaching during the week is a common combination.

Some musicians even have day jobs outside of music. They pursue music on the side until they can do it full time.

A portfolio career is important for any musician. You don’t want to rely on one stream of income. If you’re a performer and suffer from a huge injury, you need something else to fall back on until you are well enough to perform.

A composer needs another way to make their income in case they have a bad bout of writers block.

If you’re a musician who plays or works in the music industry professionally, you need options. This blog post will help you figure out those options that are right for you.

Related: Portfolio Careers: What, Why, Who?


This is the most common career path in music, and it is also the most competitive. It is also the most draining, because performing usually means a lot of time spent traveling.

But performing solo, in a chamber group, or in a larger orchestra can be a fulfilling career path. Most performers supplement their income in other ways, because a lot of them don’t make a full time income on performing alone.

If you love being on stage and playing music for other people, consider working towards a performance career.

There are many performance jobs out there, including orchestral positions, pit orchestras, musical theatre, opera, chamber groups, and solo jobs. It can be tough to get started in a performance career, so be sure to never stop working and building connections.


Music education is a major at almost every school that has a general music major. Why? There is a a growing need of qualified music educators. Even though school budgets have cut many music programs, there are other places where you can teach music.

You can teach anyone from preschool to adult, and you can teach for a school, a community center, or on your own. You can even teach music online with some programs now.

If you enjoy working with people and you are good at helping others learn, consider being a music teacher.

There are dozens of ways you can teach music. There are the traditional teaching careers: K-12 teaching in a public school and college/university teaching. With the advancement of technology, however, there are even more ways of teaching.

You can also set up a private teaching studio, where you teach who and what you want. Your studio could be online, out of your home, out of a music store, or a combination of these.


Music therapy is a growing field. It combines music with other therapy techniques. Music therapist work with people with disabilities. They use music to help patients in various ways.

This includes allowing a person with autism to express themself or helping a patient with early stages of dementia slow down memory loss.

While it is a new field, music therapy it is a legitimate career path with a growing number of jobs.

If you want to work with people with disabilities and you are patient and caring, consider being a music therapist.

You do need special training, either a bachelors in music therapy of a bachelors equivalent for those who already have a degree. If you are interested enough and willing to do the work, music therapy can be a very rewarding career.

Music therapists either work in hospitals or for themselves with a private practice. Some even work in music stores.


Another new way to make money as a musician is by writing articles, blog posts, and even books. With the internet, it is even easier to write and publish a book on your own. A blog is even easier to set up.

There are a few different free platforms where you can start a blog. The most common are and Blogger (Google). I started this blog on Blogger, because I could use my already active Google account to set it up.

Blogger is totally free, and it allows more features than the free plan on and other “free” blogging sites. Other free sites usually have some strings attached.

The platform might post ads on your blog, and they keep any profits. Free blogs also have certain limitations on what you can do. And almost all of those free sites? They can claim ownership of your content. They can even shut down your site if they feel it goes against their policies.

Whether on your own website, a free blog, or in a book, writing is a great way for musicians to make a living. Writing is flexible; you can do it from the couch or in an airplane.

A blog is the easiest way to get started with writing. It can build your web presence, and you can figure out if you like writing enough to make it part of your career.

Related: How to Start a Blog


One popular career path for musicians is composing and/or arranging music. Composing is pretty straightforward. You write new music. Arranging is where you take music already written and write it for a new instrumentation.

An example would be a concerto written for a solo instrument with piano accompaniment. A concerto, by definition, is for a soloist with orchestra. But since most musicians don’t have easy access to a full orchestra, music publishers will make and sell arrangements with piano.

If you are good at improvising or you like experimenting with new instrumentations, composing and arranging might be the path for you.

Composers and arrangers either work for themselves or with a tv or film company. A film composer writes music for film and television, and is sometimes even a full time employee. Most composers do start off self employed.


There are dozens of other career paths for musicians that we haven’t even touched on. If you would like to see a part two in the future, leave a comment below!


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Garner’s Abuse of Power

Today is a sad day for flutists young and old, near and far. It was revealed to many that the well known and well respected flutist and professor, Dr. Brad Garner, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault.

Hannah B Flute | Garner's Abuse of Power

Garner taught at University of Cincinnati, and he basically built the flute program from scratch.

But he used his power and authority to manipulate and harass students for over two decades.

In this special, extra post, I will be discussing the issue as well as my thoughts on sexual assault and the vulnerability of young flute students.

Who is Garner?

Garner is most know for being the first flutist to receive a doctoral degree (DMA) in flute from Juilliard. Until last December, he was the flute professor at University fo Cincinnati.

He is also know for being a headjoint maker, with his company Garner headjoints.

Garner has played with the New York Philharmonic and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center as well as around the world.

He is a very prolific flutist. But that doesn’t give him the right to abuse that power and status.

Why this Matters.

Garner used his power to scare students. If a student spoke out about his abuse, he had the power to stunt their career growth. He could assign them the “bad” parts in orchestra. He could use (or refuse to use) his contacts to get auditions for his students.

This case parallels that of Larry Nassar, the famous doctor of Olympic gymnasts who was recently sentenced for up to 100+ years in prison for sexual abuse.

If you know anything about that case, simply change the word “gymnastics” to “flute studio.”

We cannot let anyone else get away with something like this. Garner deserves a similar sentence to Nassar.

What he did/said.

According to the Daily Mail, Garner would inappropriately touch his female students. He would send them explicit photos, and he would even record his sexual interactions with students.

One student claimed he smacked her butt when she bent down to pick up her flute.

Garner has responded to the allegations as a “witch hunt.” He has denied all allegations.

One student told the Cincinnati Enquirer that if you were on Garner’s bad side, he had the power to destroy your career.

All of this, and possibly more. It’s disgusting.

What I think.

Again, I think it is disgusting.

Anyone in a position of power should know better than to use that power to control others. Be it students, employees, or otherwise.

What now?

Share this. Share this article and others like it with as many people as possible.

Support others. If someone confides in you about being abused, listen to them. Believe them. Help them.

Spread the word about Garner’s heinous acts. He deserves to have his reputation tarnished.

Actually, he deserves more than that. He deserves to pay for what he did to who knows how many students.

So share this.


Even though I don’t normally post on Wednesdays, I could not stay silent about this issue.

Please, share this article as well as this one in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

We will never forget this.