Tools & Resources for Self Taught Flutists

If you have ever taken private flute lessons, you know that they can be quite expensive. I wrote a post a few months back asking: Are private lessons necessary? Now, I want to share some tools and resources for self taught flutists, because lessons aren’t always realistic.

Killer Harmony | Tools & Resources for Self Taught Flutists | Cover Image

Since finishing my degree in music performance, I have significantly decreased how often I take private lessons. They are no longer included in tuition costs, and it can be hard to schedule them. Now that I have a full time job, scheduling lessons is even harder.

So, I want to share some of my favorite tools and resources that can help you improve your flute skills, even if you aren’t taking lessons.

YouTube

There are dozens of videos on YouTube that can help you learn everything from the basics of the flute to advanced techniques. There are many flute and general music YouTubers who post tips and tutorials on various music topics.

One of my favorite flutist-YouTubers is Joanna Tse, or JustAnotherFlutist. She posts tutorials and flute reviews as well as funny stories that make her super relatable. I haven’t been able to find any other flutists on YouTube as funny as her.

Then, of course YouTube is also a great place to find free recordings of music you might be working on. When you don’t have a teacher to demonstrate how a phrase or piece should sound, recordings are a great option.

You can listen to multiple recordings to get different interpretations, and you can use different ideas to create your own sound. Even if you do take lessons, YouTube is the best place for free recording. Plus, the video format usually (not always) allows you to see the flutist in action.

Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute

If you are at the intermediate level or above, these books are perfect for you. Trevor Wye includes some text to describe how different exercises should be worked on.

The six books in the omnibus edition include: tone, technique, articulation, intonation & vibrato, and breathing & scales. The last book covers advanced exercises, and that one has a ton of reading material.

I use some of his tone exercises for my tone warm up, and it is amazing how those exercises help. The exercises in his other books are also great for improving in those areas of flute playing.

Trevor Wye’s Proper Flute Playing

Wye also wrote a book that goes with his practice books, except that it is meant for reading. There are no exercises, but he does go into different concepts of flute playing.

If you want to read about how to play the flute well, get this book. Proper Flute Playing talks about almost anything related to the flute.

Taffanel & Gaubert Daily Exercises

This book is really only for advanced flutists, but it is super helpful. If you have worked through various beginner and intermediate books, and you have started on Trevor Wye’s books, this is another resource to look into.

This is another book that work out of almost every time I pick up my flute. I have worked on some of the exercises so much that I know them by heart. That’s how good this book is.

The T&G book has 17 different scale exercises including different patterns and finger twisters that can be played in each key. It is a relatively expensive book for what you get; my copy cost about $20. But for advanced flutists, it is worth it.

If you are a beginner, these exercises are going to be intimidating, so I would recommend working through some beginner method books and then the Trevor Wye book before jumping into this one.

Amazon

If you want a one stop shop for a lot of music stuff, Amazon is (almost) perfect. While you should definitely avoid most of the lower cost instruments, they also carry sheet music and flute accessories.

I have purchased many different pieces from Amazon as well as my piccolo swab and all of my various flute and piccolo stands. If you are an Amazon prime member, you also get free two day shipping.

The great thing about Amazon is that you can use it as a resource for more than just music. You can get all of your flute accessories, clothing, and even groceries from one website. It’s amazing.

Blogs, like this one

Of course I have to mention my blog as a resource for self taught flutists. While I do want to branch out from the music niche a little, I do still plan on writing posts about music in the future.

There are a few other bloggers who write about music and the flute, such as Jennifer Cluff and Bret Pimentel. They are both super interesting to read. Pimentel is a woodwind doubler, so if you play any other woodwinds, he is definitely a good resource.

But, reading this post, you have obviously stumbled onto my blog. So, have a look around, and I hope you find something that piques your interest.

So…

Do you have any other favorite resources for flute? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to follow me on Instagram (@killerharmony) for behind the scenes pics!

Flute Prices & Brands 

If you are a flutist or want to become one, you need to have a good quality flute that fits you and your playing style. There are a lot of flutes to choose from at different levels and from different brands.

Killer Harmony | Flute Brands & Prices | Flute shopping can be hard. You have to consider the price you can pay as well as the brand of the flute. Some brands and materials or better than others.

As a recent flute grad, I have learned quite a bit about the different options available, and I would like to share that info with you in this post. Brands and prices vary differently depending on where you live, so I will be discussing the most common brands and their flutes in the US.

I hope you can use this as a guide to determine the best flute for you. But first, a disclaimer: don’t just take my advice for choosing a flute. Find a reputable flutist or teacher who can help you in the buying process.

1. Student model flutes

These are the flutes that are best for beginners. Most student flutes are made out of silver plated nickel, and they are built to withstand a lot. Almost every flutist starts out on this type of flute, because they are reliable, and they are budget friendly.

At this stage, you probably won’t know what to look for in a flute, which is why you should consider finding a teacher and asking for their help. You can buy a flute from the company, a music store, or second hand. Some music stores also allow you to rent your flute before buying so that you can test it out. Then, you won’t be obligated to pay in full without knowing if it is for you.

Some good student model brands include Yamaha, Jupiter, Gemeinhardt, Trevor James, and Di Zhao. The first three brands are a little cheaper than the last two, but Trevor James and Di Zhao flutes are better for if you want a long lasting flute. The other brands are not always as well built, and so you will need to upgrade sooner than if you have a better constructed student flute.

Most, if not all, student flutes can be found for less than $1000. But be careful of the really cheap ones online. They are not made well, and some repair technicians will not work on them. The least you can get away with paying for a student flute is around $200 for a used Yamaha.

2. Intermediate model flutes

These flutes are great for advanced players. Once you have started to out grow your student flute, it’s time to upgrade.

Intermediate model flutes usually have a solid silver head joint and a silver plated body and foot joint. They also have open holes, a B foot, and sometimes other mechanisms to help facilitate playing.

Some intermediate models are considered professional quality (I play one of these myself). These flutes are made of the same materials as other intermediate flutes but might be partly handmade or have a professional level head joint.

Intermediate models are often also called step up flutes, because they are a step up from student models. These flutes start at about $1200 and can go up to about $3000, depending on the maker. If you have been playing flute for a few years, this type of instrument is a great choice.

3. Solid silver flutes

These flutes can be considered intermediate or professional, depending on the brand and the amount of hand work put into them. Solid silver flutes are a bit darker than silver plated flutes, and they sound slightly more mellow.

Solid silver flutes are usually considered more professional than flutes with only a solid silver head joint. I have yet to upgrade to an all solid silver flute, but I would like to in the near future.

Silver is the standard metal for flutes, so it is a good choice for professionals and advanced students. While silver is the standard, there are other metals that are used on some flutes.

4. Other metals

Flutes can use a few different metals in their construction. The most common metals, as discussed above, are silver and nickel. These two metals are relatively hard. They will carry more, and they are cheaper.

If you want a really mellow sound, you can invest in a gold or platinum flute. These flutes are really only available at the professional level; I don’t recommend them for students. I personally do not want a gold or platinum flute in the future. They are a little too mellow for me.

Gold flutes are better at blending into other instruments, so if you want to play in an orchestra, they are a great choice. I don’t know much about platinum, but I assume they are similar.

Gold and platinum flutes are more expensive than silver flutes, and usually start at around $8000.

Which flute is right for you?

I am not going to recommend one flute for everyone. The flute that is best for you will depend on your needs and what you want out of a flute. Students should go with a silver plated nickel model. Advancing students and beginning professionals should upgrade to a flute with a silver head joint.

More advanced professionals can then experiment with solid silver and other metals. When you are ready to upgrade (or even to buy your first flute), you should try as many different ones as you can. You may have a dream flute, but you could end up finding a model that is even better.

So…

What flute do you play right now? What do you love about it? Let me know in the comments!

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What’s in My Flute Bag?

With back to school season coming up, I thought it would be fun to tell you guys about what I keep in my flute bag. As an aspiring professional flutist, I like to keep a lot of stuff on hand.

Killer Harmony | What's In My Flute Bag? | As a serious musician, I have a lot of stuff to carry around. I keep a lot of important things in my flute bag. So, I decided to share what is in there.

Now, if you are just taking lessons for fun, you may not need everything here. If you are a music major, you are just curious about what I use, this post is for you.

Without further ado, here is what I keep in my flute bag.

About the Bag

The flute bag I use is the ProTec Flute Gig Bag. I got it for about $35 from a local music store, but you can find it online.The bag comes in different colors, such as black, blue, and purple.

I went with black, because black goes with everything, and it blends in on stage. I love being able to keep my case with me during performances, and you can’t do that with a bright colored bag.

If you want a full review, let me know, and I will get a post up!

My Flute

Um, duh. It is a flute bag. So I have to keep my flute in it. I have a Lyric Artisan Flute, which I love. Lyric flutes are a branch of Miyazawa, similar to the Powell Sonare line, for you flute nerds.

My flute has a silver head joint and a silver plated body, foot joint, and mechanism. I have a B foot, a split E mechanism, an offset G, and the more common features that you see on flutes.

I do keep my flute in its own case, because the bag doesn’t have the parts that keep a flute in place like a normal case. My flute is in its French style case, which means a case that doesn’t have a handle or any exterior storage.

My Piccolo

I have an Armstrong metal piccolo, which I used for marching band in college. Now that I don’t have access to a wood model, it has become my primary piccolo.

I have had the instrument for three years, and it has served me well. It was the best birthday gift I ever received. I do need to upgrade to at least a composite model, and I hope to do that soon.

If you are a serious flutist, you should consider investing in at least a student model piccolo. It will be greatly used, and the piccolo can open up many other doors than just the flute.

Flute Cleaning Cloths

I probably have more cloths than the normal person, but I need all of them. For my flute, I have and use four different cloths at least once a week.

The first cloth is a swabbing cloth. I use it with a cleaning rod to swan out the inside of my flute. Since saliva and condensation collect in the flute, it is important to swab out your flute after playing it.

The second cloth I use daily is a microfiber cloth. I use this to wipe off any dirt or finger prints that collect on my flute. Unfortunately, I can’t skimp here, because I have acidic sweat. My sweat has actually caused a bit of the silver plating to come off of my flute. I have to polish my flute every time I play it.

Another cloth I use to polish my flute after the microfiber cloth is a plain cotton cloth. I don’t always use this cloth, but it is great for a second go over the head joint.

The last cloth I have is a two sided polishing cloth. It is meant to get the serious dirt and grime off of your flute. I only use it once or twice a week, and I don’t use it on my head joint. I did that once, and my lower lip had a slight discoloration for awhile.

Piccolo Cleaning Cloth

I do also have a piccolo swab. The swab is just a silk cloth that I bought off Amazon. I use it with the piccolo cleaning rod that came with my instrument.

Instrument Stands

A must have for me is a flute and/or piccolo stand. I have a bigger stand that stays in my room at home and smaller stands that can fit in my case for rehearsals and performances.

My flute stand is by Hercules; it is the travel size one. I also have a piccolo stand that is by K&G.

Instrument stands are awesome, because you don’t have to haphazardly put your instrument on a chair or table. You can safely put it on your stand and know that it will not get sat on or knocked off.

A Pencil

You need a pencil. Whether you have a private lesson or an ensemble rehearsal, a pencil will save your life. You can mark notes in your music, write down important dates, and much more.

Avoid using pens, because you can’t erase them. You never know if your teacher will want to make a change or if they might take a change out. If you are borrowing your music, you especially shouldn’t use pen. Borrowed music needs to be returned in good condition; pen doesn’t allow for that.

Earplugs

As a piccolo player, I have to have earplugs. When I am playing in the high register or just playing loudly, my ears need protection. I love and use Etymotic earplugs. They allow me to still hear what’s going on so I can tune to others, but they lower the volume of everything by a slight amount.

If you play piccolo or any other piercing instrument, you should own a pair of earplugs and actually use them. They will save your hearing.

So…

What do you keep in your instrument case? Let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to sign up for the Killer Email Squad to get music tips and tricks sent directly to your inbox!

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How to Manage Multiple Instruments

If you are a musician, odds are you have thought about playing different instruments. Maybe you have thought of playing multiple instruments, or you already do.

Killer Harmony | How to Manage Multiple Instruments |If you want to play multiple instruments, you need to be smart about it. Keep everything organized, and know how to prioritize when you are short on time.

Playing multiple instruments is super common in music, especially for professionals and advanced amateurs. Whether you play multiple instruments in the same family, or you play all sorts of instruments, it can be tough to handle.

You have to be able to give each instrument its own time and attention, and you have to be able to keep track of them all. So, here are a few tips for managing multiple instruments.

1. Prioritize.

I know I say this a lot, but prioritizing is the key to success when you have a lot going on. Odds are, you cannot treat all of your instruments with the same priority. You have to choose which is the most important.

Pick a primary instrument.

If you haven’t already, you need to pick one instrument that is your main instrument. That is the instrument that will always get attention before the others. It is what you play in ensembles. It is also, usually, the instrument you have played the longest.

By picking a primary instrument, you know just what to practice if you are severely limited on time.

2. Determine the instruments’ relationships and purposes.

How are the instruments you play related? Do you mainly stick to string instruments? Are you a flutist who plays piccolo and alto flute? Or do you play instruments from different families.

Once you determine how all your instruments are related, and what purposes they serve, you can better organize your collection of instruments.

You may be a trumpet player who dabbles in piano, because your music degree requires piano proficiency. Or, you may be an oboist who still plays clarinet sometimes so that you can join marching bands or play in musical theatre shows.

Your instruments’ relationships and purposes will help you further prioritize and manage all of your practice. If you have a piano exam next week, you should probably focus on piano. If you only want to play guitar for fun, let it be a stress reliever.

You get it, right?

3. Get organized.

The more instruments you play, the more equipment and sheet music you will have. When you have more stuff, it is hard to keep it from becoming a huge mess in your room or your locker.

Organize your sheet music into different folders based on instrument and even the type of music. Get different bags or folders to organize your music equipment.

Keeping organized means you won’t be searching for a clarinet reed when you need it. Your reeds will be with your clarinet, and your rosin can stay with your violin. You will be less stressed.

4. Make a schedule.

If you have a certain amount of time to practice any instrument, you should make a schedule to stay on track. If you only have an hour, you should probably focus on your main instrument.

Have more time? Warm up and practice your main instrument, and then move to your other ones. Use your upcoming events to figure out what needs the most attention.

If the marching season is over, odds are you won’t need to spend time on the mellophone. Are methods exams coming up? Get out those beginner books and practice for your test.

5. Get the right gear.

If you have a ton of instruments to deal with, you want to get some gear that will help. There are cases which can hold multiple instruments, if you play combinations often. You can also find instrument stands for just about any instrument.

As a flutist who frequently plays piccolo, I love having a flute bag that will fit both. I can grab my flute bag knowing that both instruments I need will fit, and I can cut down on bags to carry.

If you play a larger instrument, you can even find a case that has a pocket for your music. Instead of carrying your instrument and also a music folder, you can keep everything together.

For the pianists, you can get a binder, a multi pocket folder, or a good tote bag to keep your music and metronome in.

Related: Supplies for Every Musician

6. Be flexible.

If you play more than a couple of instruments, you probably won’t play all of them every day. That is completely okay. Things happen, and we might not have as much free time as planned.

This is where it is important to be flexible. If a guitar string breaks and you’re out of replacements, move to another instrument. If all your reeds have gone bad, take a break and practice piano or something.

Flexibility is hard, but it is necessary when you have a lot going on.

You need to remember that you chose all of these instruments, and you should be able to go with the flow that they all bring.

7. Music should be fun.

Whether you are an amateur or you want music to be your career, keep at it for the music. Music should be fun. Adding multiple instruments to your arsenal is awesome, because it adds to the amount of music you can play.

If you want a career in music, it will help you to play multiple instruments, but play music because you love it. If you only add in another instrument because you think it will get you more money or fame, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

So…

How many instruments do you play? I play flute, piccolo, piano, and I have also dabbled in many other instruments. So, let me know if you would like to hear or see me play!

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Are Private Lessons Necessary?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through a link, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read my full policy here.

If you have been singing or playing a musical instrument for quite some time, you might have asked this question. The short answer is: it depends. On your goals, your current experience, your budget, and a whole lot more.

Killer Harmony | Are Private Lessons Necessary? |Are private music lessons necessary? It depends on what you want out of them. They can be helpful but also expensive. Here's what you should consider.

If you are interested in private lessons and can afford them, they are definitely a worthy investment. This is especially true if you want to make music a career.

For some students, private lessons might be out of the question due to location, lack of funds, or a number of other reasons. Here are my thoughts on who should or should not take private lessons.

Another disclaimer: Everyone is different, and we all have different needs. While you may fit one of the categories below, your opinion on lessons may be different. This post is merely meant to be a guide for those unsure of the pros and cons of private music study.

For College/Career-bound Musicians

If you are in college or otherwise preparing for a career in music, private lessons are a worthwhile investment. Private lessons give you one-on-one time with a professional.

You can learn a lot from a private teacher, from how to practice effectively to the most important works for your instrument. A private instructor will know more about your instrument than your school band director. Unless, of course, your director plays your own instrument.

Starting with a thirty minute lesson once per week is a good way to get going. If you have not started college yet, you will have to take lessons as a music major. It is good to get a jump on private study if possible.

If you are out of college or will not be attending college for a music degree, lessons are still important. If you see music as a career option at all, you should study privately to improve your craft.

For Hobbyists and Amateurs

If a music career is not in your future and you want to play for fun, the choice is up to you. I am not going to tell you that you should or should not take private lessons.

Taking regular lessons can be a good motivator to keep up with your practice, but lessons can cost a lot of money. If you can’t afford weekly lessons, you could take lessons once or twice a month, so that you get good instruction but can save money, too.

You can also join community music groups to play music and learn for free. Networking with other musicians and learning about free or cheap resources is a great way to save money on something that is a hobby.

Each instrument also has its own standard method books that you can invest in. If you are a flutist, I suggest purchasing Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute. For pianists, the Hanon exercises are the best. If you play another instrument, you can ask around for what books you should use.

For Musicians on a Budget

If you are serious about music, taking lessons is not something to consider lightly. Investing in private study of your instrument can lead to great rewards down the line.

However, if you are on a very tight budget, there are some things you can do to still reap the benefits of lessons without making a huge dent in your bank account.

One option would be taking lessons less frequently. This might not be the best option for college bound musicians, but it can work when you don’t have the means to study privately every week.

Another option is finding a student who is willing to give lessons. Especially if you are only pursuing music for fun, you don’t need to study with the most well known professional. Ask around to see if a college music major would be able to give you lessons.

The third option is finding a teacher who could do a service exchange. Is there something you could offer them, like organizing their music or finding them new students? See if a private teacher is willing to work with you to adjust their rates.

For Beginners (Young and Old)

If you are starting an instrument for the first time, lessons are a great idea. Unless you have access to a top notch school music program, you won’t learn much in a group setting.

Private lessons will help you learn how to hold your instrument correctly to avoid injuries. Specialist teachers will also know the struggles facing a beginner.

As you start your musical journey, it is wise to take lessons for a while to get a grip on the instrument. Once you have mastered the basics, you can start to learn more on your own.

However, having a teacher at the beginning will make the learning process go much faster and easier.

For those in the Country

If you do not live close to a good private teacher, it can be hard to justify taking lessons. The long commute can drain you of energy before you even get to the lesson.

There are options out there, such as online lessons. While these lessons, done over video chat, are not as ideal as in person lessons, they are a great way to learn if you cannot get to an in person teacher.

This is also an option for anyone who wants to study with a teacher out of state. You can use programs like Skype or FaceTime to connect with a teacher without leaving your house.

If you live in a rural area, far from a decent private teacher, look online to see if you can find a teacher that works for you.

So…

Have you taken private music lessons before? Were they worth it? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to download a copy of my goal planning sheet so you can plan your music goals more effectively!

Thanks for reading!

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