Rapid (5 Minute) Warm Ups

If you are like most musicians today, you have a lot going on. Sadly, we don’t always have hours to practice. We also don’t have tons of time to warm up be it for a practice session, rehearsal, or a performance.

Hannah B Flute | Rapid Warm Ups

That’s why I have experimented over the past year with different warm up ideas and have found what works for me. Today, I am going to share some rapid warm ups with you for when you don’t have much time to practice.

Now, you can spread these warm ups out over more time, but they can be done in five to ten minutes if and when necessary. So, let’s get into the rapid warm ups.

Harmonics

The flute, like other instruments, has what is called the harmonic series. I won’t get too technical here, but the harmonic (or overtone) series is where you have a fundamental (think low C) and then there are overtones on top of that fundamental.

If you play a low C (C4) and over blow, you will get the C above that (written C5). Over blow more and you will get a G5. Again, over blow, and you will get a C6. Then E6, G6, Bb6, etc.

Trevor Wye has a great exercise for harmonics in his tone book, but if for whatever reason you don’t have that book, you can create your own exercises by overblowing and hitting different harmonics.

Playing harmonics helps prepare the lips and the ears for playing the flute. You can really feel how fast you have to blow and at what angle in order to hit notes throughout the range of the flute. If you are short on time, stick to just harmonics on low C. But if you have a bit more time, play harmonics on low C#, D, Eb, etc.

Related: Scientific Pitch Notation (C4, etc.)

Long Tones

Long tones make most flutists feel one of two ways: love or hate. They are great for improving your tone, but they can be a bit boring. I mean, you are playing one note for as long as you can.

But there are many things you can do to make long tones more interesting. Adding dynamics, changing the tone color, and adding or subtracting vibrato will switch up the sound, and you can still get your long tone practice in. No more lying to your teacher.

You can also experiment with different intervals. Instead of just playing chromatically, try using the whole tone scale, or go down or up in minor or major thirds.

This will also help “speed” up your warm up, because you are cover multiple flute playing basics with just one exercise.

T&G 17 Daily Exercises

Taffanel & Gaubert to the flute is like butter to bread. I love alternating between exercises 1 & 2. They are a great way to practice scale patterns in all of the keys.

The exercises also cover the entire range of the flute, so it cuts down on time playing scales each day. Yes, you should still play scales, but in a pinch, these exercises are a good substitute.

The other exercises are also good, and you can choose one or two to fit your needs for that particular day. If your copy of T&G has been left untouched, I suggest you pull it out, because it really is that important.

Scales (In Context)

If you still have time to warm up, I recommend playing the scale(s) associated with any etudes or repertoire you are working on. Not only does this help prepare you for playing that etude or piece, but it can also get you to practice your scales.

When you have a piece in a particularly tricky key, or if you have a more difficult run based on a scale, use that scale to warm up for the real thing. If the piece is in a minor key, play the relative major and all three minor scales.

Pieces with key changes are also good for this. Play all the associated scales for your piece. That way, your fingers will be warmed up and ready to play in the appropriate keys.

So…

All of these warm ups together do take longer than each on their own. Determine your goals for the day, and choose the warm up that will best prepare you for your practice.

Did I miss any warm ups? What do you do when you are short on time to warm up? Let me know in the comments!

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Important Flute Pieces

It is that time of the year again. School is starting up, and some of you might be preparing for college or ensemble auditions. Because of this, I wanted to share some of the most important flute pieces.

Hannah B Flute | Important Flute Pieces

While some auditions do specify what pieces they want you to play, others give you free choice. If the latter is the case, you want to make an informed decision so that you can show off not only your strengths, but your knowledge of the flute and flute repertoire.

I will be sharing some of my favorite flute pieces as well as other pieces that are considered pivotal. The flute has a lot of repertoire, so hopefully this list will help narrow your scope when looking for pieces to play.

And while you’re here, be sure to check out my tips on how to sight read.

Baroque: J.S. Bach

J.S. Bach was one of the most well known composers of the Baroque period. He wrote music for violin, keyboard, cello, flute, etc. His Partita in A minor for solo flute is incredibly technical, and it is really only for the most advanced players.

Some of his less difficult works include his flute sonatas. However, two movements from Bach’s orchestral suite will always stick out in my mind: Polonaise and Badinerie. For all of you Kansas flute players, Badinerie is actually this year’s audition piece for all state.

Classical: Mozart

Who could write a post about music that did not include Mozart? The Concerto in G major is asked for in almost every professional orchestra flute audition; it is that famous.

Then you also have the Concerto in D major. That one is important too, however, sorry oboists, we stole it from your C major concerto.

If you are not up to the challenge of learning a concerto, then try Andante in C or the Mozart Rondo. Andante in C major as written as a second option for the second movement of the Concerto in G major. So it is a nice introduction to his bigger works.

Romantic: The Paris Conservatory

As with Mozart, we can’t talk about flute repertoire without touching on the Paris Conservatory or the book “Flute Pieces by French Composers.” This book is a must for every serious flutist; it contains many of the pieces written for the Paris Conservatory.

You have the more famous works like the Chaminade Concertino and the Faure Fantasie. You also have some lesser known works like the Perilhou Ballade.

The Paris Conservatory played a huge role in flute repertoire, and every flutist should learn at least one piece out of “that French book.”

Contemporary: Ibert

While I have not personally studied it, I do know that the Ibert Concerto is a very important piece for flutists. What’s kept me from learning it then? Cost.

Most contemporary works are still under copyright protection which means that you have to purchase the music. It isn’t available on a site like IMSLP.

If the Ibert Concerto is daunting to you, try Piéce. Ibert wrote this unaccompanied work as an encore to his concerto. He literally wrote it on the spot at the afterparty of the concerto’s world premiere.

Baroque: Vivaldi

This is for all of you piccolo nerds out there: Vivaldi. While Vivaldi wrote more for strings than for winds, his piccolo concertos still remain famous. His Piccolo Concerto in C major is particularly well known.

Etudes: Andersen

Joachim Andersen wrote etudes upon etudes upon etudes for flute. Andersen Etudes are very important to flute playing. While you probably won’t perform these etudes, they will help your technique on the pieces you do perform.

Contemporary: Debussy

If you haven’t played either Syrinx or the opening solo from Prélude a L’apres-midi d’un faune, you haven’t lived. Debussy’s flute writing is challenging yet beautiful.

Yet another unaccompanied piece, Syrinx tells the story of Pan and Syrinx, in which Syrinx disguises herself as bamboo and Pan turns into a flute. In the end, Pan realizes what he has done to his love, and the end of the piece shows his sadness.

The prelude is an orchestral work which starts with solo flute. The opening solo requires a good breath support and overall control. If an upcoming audition calls for orchestral excerpts, consider playing Debussy.

Baroque: Telemann

Telemann wrote 12 Fantasias for solo flute. They are in different keys, and they are all unique. Each Fantasia has multiple movements and can be performed as its own work.

I love playing them on both piccolo and alto flute in addition to C flute.

Contemporary: Flute Sonatas

There are many flute sonatas from the 20th century, and so I thought I would combine them all under one section. There are sonatas by Hindemith, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Taktakishvilli, Martinu, and a whole lot more.

There is also a Sonatine by Dutilleux.

So…

While I could not touch on EVERY piece of flute repertoire, I hope I introduced you to at least one new piece to learn. If you guys want to see a version of important flute pieces specifically on chamber works or orchestral works, let me know.

Are there any important pieces that I missed? Leave your favorites down in the comments!

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When Your Practice Time is Limited

There are many reasons why your practice time is limited. It could be because of work, school, other extracurricular activities, or simply your own well being. In any case, you don’t have a ton of time to practice, so you have to make the most of the time you do have.

Hannah B Flute | When Your Practice Time is Limited

When your practice time is limited, you have to learn how to work well in a short amount of time. You can’t waste time setting up your instrument or tuning or doing countless exercises.

So, in this post, I’m going to share my tips for how to practice when you’re under a time crunch.

Rapid Warm Ups

While I do not advocate for rushing through your warm up routine, sometimes you do have to slim it down. If your normal warm up routine takes 20 minutes but you only have one hour to practice, that’s a third of your time gone.

Instead of taking a full 20 minutes to warm up, try and condense it down. Do you really need to play all 12 major scales and all 36 forms of minor scales? Stick to the scales that are relevant to what you are working on. For example, if you are working on the first movement of the Mozart Concerto in G, work on your G major scale.

Is your full long tone routine really necessary or can you choose a few exercises? Instead of using a long exercise to work on tone, try some harmonics exercises. They are simple and they warm up the lips in less time.

Double Duty

Part of my technique practice includes some of the daily exercises from Taffanel and Gaubert. If I am short on time, however, I will find some more technical parts from my repertoire.

Using the Mozart Concerto as an example, I will work on the scales in thirds at measure 60. I can also work on the broken arpeggios in measure 127-134. That way, I can still practice technique, but I don’t have to feel like I am “wasting” time. I can both practice technique and work on my repertoire.

Look for short bars or phrases in your repertoire that are particularly technical. Then isolate them and use them for technique work. Make your repertoire do double duty for you.

Plan Your Practice

If you know you only have 30 minutes to practice, try and plan how those 30 minutes will go. Is there a particular piece you need to work on for a concert? Did you come short of achieving a certain goal during your last practice session?

Write down what you want to do in your practice and determine how long you would like to spend on each thing. The time does not have to be set in stone, but it can give you a rough estimate of what you can accomplish.

Then, determine what is most important. If you have a concert in the next week, that music is probably going to be more important than the music for a concert next month.

Do the most important stuff first so that you know you will have time to practice what is of the highest priority.

Split Your Practice

If you only have 20 minutes in the morning and another 20 minutes in the evening, don’t be afraid to use all of that time for practicing. You don’t have to practice all at once; in fact, having multiple practice sessions can be a good thing.

You can focus on one thing for your morning practice and another for your evening practice. Not only does that mean you are practicing more, but it means that you can stay focused on the task at hand. You can set one goal per practice session as opposed to two or three different goals.

If you do practice multiple times a day, be sure to use my tip for rapid warmups. Yes, you want to be warmed up for each practice session, but you should spend the majority of your time actually practicing, not just warming up to practice.

Listen to Recordings

If you don’t have much time to physically play your instrument but you have time to listen to music, listen. Find recordings on YouTube, Spotify, or Naxos. Listen to recordings while cooking, driving, or cleaning the house.

I’ve written about the importance of listening before, and it is still true. Music is like a language, and the more you listen the more you will understand it.

Listen to recordings of the same piece by different performers. Figure out what they do differently. What do you like or dislike about a particular recording? Use these findings to help your own interpretation.

So…

What you practice each day will depend on what your goals are, your playing level, and the amount of time you have. These tips are a good guide for anyone who does not know what to start working on.

If you have any other tips for practicing on a time crunch, leave them in the comments below!

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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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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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