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 WordPress.com 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 WordPress.com 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.

Life Update

Hey guys. I know it’s been awhile since I posted something here. That is because I have had a lot going on in my personal life. So, I thought it was time for a life update for you all.

While I do not make any money from blogging (some bloggers do), I still love sharing tips and tricks with you all. I also like being able to give you small glimpses into my life offline.

Killer Harmony | Life Update | Grey background with maroon text "Life Update" and teal text "About Me"

In today’s post, I am going to do a bit of the latter. I have some news to share, and I want to share my thoughts on the future of this blog. Don’t worry; I don’t plan to quit blogging anytime soon.

My New Job

I got a new, full time job! It took a few months of on and off job searching and about a dozen interviews, but I did it. At the beginning of this month, I accepted an offer to work as a teller for a local bank.

It may not be a music or writing job, but I have been enjoying it so far, and I think it fits my strengths and skills. I have always been good at mental math, and I am also very meticulous and detail-oriented.

I started last Monday, so I have officially completed a week of training, and I still have another week of training this week. These two weeks are at a different, busier branch than where I will be working. Then, next week, I get to go to the branch where I was hired.

Now, some of you might be curious about the bank I work for. For privacy reasons, and to stay in compliance with the company social media policy, I will not be stating the name of my employer.

*NOTE: The views and opinions in this post do not represent those of the bank for which I work.

Future Posts

With my full time job, I do have less time to dedicate to blogging, so I think I will stick to one post per week. If I have time to write a second post, then I will. I definitely don’t want to limit myself to one post a week.

However, I also need to have time to do other things, like cook myself some food and practice flute, and just be a twenty-something. Another change I am considering is adding some posts here and there that relate to my new found career path.

I am thinking about writing posts on applying for jobs (part time and full time), the interview process, and then maybe a few posts about the basics of my job.

Since blogging is not my job, I don’t feel bound to stick to one niche or subject. I have the freedom to write about what I choose. Blogging is something I do for fun, one day it might be for profit, but that is not the case right now.

I also want to use that freedom of a personal blog to appeal to a wider audience. You may not be interested in everything I post, but I want to have a little something for everyone.

That’s what blogging should be about, right?

I Still Love Music

I am still playing in a local flute choir, and I take private lessons when I can. Music is what I studied in college, and I want to maintain the skills I achieved.

Flute and piccolo will always be a part of my life; I have no doubts about that. Since I do have a job in another field (which I love), music has taken a slight back seat. I can’t get in much practice except for evenings and weekends.

I think that has been hard. As a music major, the bulk of my day was spent practicing alone or with others. That is not the case anymore. Music is still a huge passion of mine, and I want to keep that passion alive as best as I can.

Changing My Diet (Slowly)

This may or may not interest you, but since I have been out of the dorms, I have slowly changed my eating habits. In college, I was subject to what food was in the caf. If I didn’t find anything, I would have to order in or eat from the vending machines.

Now that I am back at home and have access to a kitchen, I have become more mindful of what I am eating. I meal prep my lunches for the week. I try to find healthier alternatives for snacks. Small changes have made me want to make bigger changes.

I have also started to limit my consumption of animal products. I already don’t eat any red meat or fish. Milk products and eggs don’t really appeal to me on their own. When I do consume animal products, I try to be more mindful of what I am putting into my body.

It’s the little things.


I know this post is a bit out of the ordinary. I normally write more informative content. But, I wanted to share a life update with what has been happening and why there was no new post last week.

With these changes, I will be blogging a little less frequently. For more regular updates and content, follow me on my other social media accounts.

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