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!

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Flutists: Should You Play Piccolo?

If you are a flutist, odds are you have come across the piccolo at some point. The piccolo is a member of the flute family, and it can be a vital tool in a flutist’s arsenal.

Killer Harmony | 7 Reasons Every Flutist Should Play Piccolo |If you are a flutist, you should consider learning to play piccolo. It will open up more doors, help your flute playing, and make you more well rounded.

I first got into the piccolo a few years ago when I got my own instrument. I still have it and use it a lot; it’s an Armstrong 204 piccolo. As a flutist, playing the piccolo has opened a lot of doors.

So, in short, yes you should play piccolo. Here are a few reasons why.

1. You’ll have more opportunities.

Playing the piccolo, even if it is not your specialty, will open many doors for you. You open yourself up to more solo, chamber, and large ensemble repertoire.

While there is not much in the way of solo music for piccolo, the repertoire is growing. And if orchestral playing is of any interest to you, piccolo is super important. Even the principal flute has to play piccolo occasionally.

You can also take on doubling gigs, which is where you are required to play both flute and piccolo. You don’t have to be the best piccolo player, but you should know the basics.

2. You’ll have a unique part.

If you play in a concert band a lot, playing piccolo is a great change from flute. While the piccolo usually plays with the flute section, it does have its own solos. This past year, I had a few piccolo solos in my university band, and I would not have had a solo otherwise.

Even when the piccolo plays with the flutes, it will be heard more. The piccolo is a higher pitched instrument, and the sound will naturally carry over the band or orchestra.

You have a bit more leeway with piccolo, because you are your own section leader. You will be heard amongst all of the other instruments, and it’s cool to get some solos.

3. It will help your flute playing.

I know, it sounds crazy. The piccolo requires a different, smaller embouchure, so how could it help your flute sound? Playing piccolo is harder than flute, and it requires a lot more skill, muscle control, and proper breathing.

All of those techniques from the piccolo can be transferred back to the flute. When I switch back and forth, I notice an improvement in my flute sound, for sure.

Playing the piccolo will also help with your ability to tune. The piccolo requires a more accurate pitch when tuning, and you have to make more adjustments. This will improve your aural skills.

4. It will make marching band easier.

If you are required to participate in a marching band, playing piccolo is something to consider. It is much easier to achieve a proper stance with piccolo than flute.

The piccolo is held closer to the body, and you can turn easier and your arms will not be so tired.

Another benefit to piccolo on the marching field is that you will be heard. It is almost impossible to hear concert flutes outside amongst dozens of brass instruments and the drum line. The piccolo will carry more through the field, and that part won’t get lost.

5. You can take it anywhere.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can just pull out a piccolo in the middle of the library. Though I have done that for scheduled performances :).

You can stick your piccolo in almost any purse or bag you have, so it is super easy to take it with your flute. There are also some flute cases that have a pocket or section for a piccolo.

Being able to put a piccolo almost anywhere means that you can whip it out at a moment’s notice. You won’t have to worry about not having room for it when heading to a rehearsal or performance.

6. It’s expected of you.

At the collegiate and professional levels, it is almost always expected of you to play piccolo and to have your own. Whether you are going to be playing in an orchestra or a studio, a piccolo is a necessity.

If you take a job that requires piccolo and you can’t play it, that will make you look bad. You don’t want that. That being said, not every flutist plays piccolo, so having it as a skill can set you apart when it comes to finding jobs.

For the aspiring private teachers out there, piccolo can also open you up to more students. While most flute players start out on the concert flute, some will want instruction on the piccolo. The last thing you want to do is turn a student away and send them to your competition.

7. It’s fun.

Not everyone will enjoy the piccolo, but if you do, there’s no better reason to play piccolo than that. I really love pulling it out and playing everything from Vivaldi or Telemann to Gordon Jacob.

Piccolo gives me a nice break from the flute, and it helps my flute playing in the process. The piccolo is a great way to take a break from the concert flute without having to take a complete break from music.

If even a small part of you wants to learn piccolo, do it. You will probably enjoy it and if not, there’s always the concert flute. You can also learn other flutes, like the alto or bass, or other ethnic flutes, like recorder. (I know…)

So…

Have you played the piccolo before? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments!

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Supplies for Every Flutist or Flautist

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my favorite supplies that every musician should have. Now, I’m going to get a bit more specific and share my favorite supplies for every flutist. It may seem like you don’t need a lot of equipment for such a small instrument, but there are some tools that will make your life easier.

Killer Harmony | Supplies for Every Flutist | There are some things that every flutist needs and others that are just plain helpful. Here are my favorite flute supplies that every flutist needs.

Some of the tools on this list are necessary for every flute player and others are necessary for more advanced players but are helpful no matter your level. I have some tools that go with the flute and others that are nice accessories to have on hand for emergencies.

So, without further ado, let’s look at my list of supplies for every flutist.

Cleaning Cloth & Rod

A cleaning cloth for the inside of your flute is crucial to making your flute last longer without trips to the repair shop. You can use cotton or silk, though a silk cloth will get much wetter, because it won’t absorb as much moisture as quickly.

If you have an old cotton shirt, that can be used, just make sure you stitch up all of the sides so that thread doesn’t get stuck in the flute.

You also will need a rod to help the cloth move through the flute. There are rods made of plastic, wood, and metal. Wood and plastic are better than metal, since they won’t scratch the flute. Wood is the preferred material, but plastic rods can be cheaper and easier to come by.

A Good Case

Everyone should invest in a good quality case or a case and case cover. Most student flutes only come with a hardcover case with nowhere to store extra items or supplies. So, if possible, look for a good case to fit your flute or find a bag that can fit your current case.

Leaving a wet cleaning cloth in the case on top of the flute will almost negate the use of the cleaning cloth, because the moisture could go back into the flute. You also should not leave a cleaning rod in the flute either, if you can avoid it.

This is part of why I recommend the Trevor James 10x or the Di Zhao 200 to students, because both flutes come with a case that has an exterior pocket for your cleaning supplies. A good case or case cover will also last you longer than a cheap one that comes with most beginner models.

Polishing Cloth

A polishing cloth for you flute will keep it looking good on the outside. It is not as important to have one from the start. But polishing  off all of your finger prints and other miscellaneous marks will save your flute over time.

There are many different types of polishing cloths that you can purchase from cotton to microfiber. You should have a separate polishing cloth that you don’t put through your flute. That way you don’t have to polish the outside with the same cloth as the inside.

Flute Stand

While it’s not necessary, a flute stand will help you in many ways as a flutist. You can buy a simple stand that can fit in the foot joint of your flute, though that’s not the best place to store it. There are also more expensive stands that are usually sturdier and have room for a piccolo or multiple flutes.

I have both a portable single flute stand that I keep in my case, and I have a bigger three peg stand for two flutes + piccolo that I keep and use in my practice area. Having a stand will save your flute.

If you don’t use a stand, you will have to carefully lay your flute somewhere if you need to use the restroom or do something else. That can work for some people, but you risk breaking the flute. Flute stands start at less than $20, so if flute is something you plan to continue with, just get a stand. Your flute will thank you.

Pad Paper

Have you ever heard your flute make a clicking noise, particularly when you open a key? That is a sign of a sticky key. And yes, they are annoying. If you have this problem, it is nice to have some pad paper, or cigarette paper, on hand. Using the thin piece of paper, you can stick it under the problem key, depress the key a few times, and blot away the moisture.

You can buy official pad paper or use cigarette paper, because that works just as well. If you use cigarette paper, be sure you are legally allowed to purchase it or get your parent to do so. If you go for cigarette paper, try and get ungumed paper, which won’t have a sticky ridge on one end of the paper. For gumed paper, avoid that side or edge if you can’t find ungumed.

Some people, especially saxophone players, use dollar bills to help sticky pads.  While that is convenient, dollar bills are a bit too tough on flute pads. So stick with thinner papers.

Mini-Screwdriver

Most flute repairs should be done by a professional, but a screwdriver can be helpful in a pinch. If a screw is falling out, you can use a small screwdriver to put it back into place. Having access to a screwdriver is super nice in case you need it.

You can purchase an eye glasses repair kit, and the screwdriver will work for a flute. Or you can buy a special flute screwdriver. The one I have has two different tools. It has a screwdriver day a little tool on the other end t fix loose springs.

At the beginning of your flute playing journey, you won’t need a screwdriver, but it is nice if you play a lot. It can also come in handy if you teach and have students who have problems with their screws.

Flute Plugs

If you have recently upgraded to an open hole flute, you might need to practice getting used to it. Your flute probably came with a set of plugs. If not, see if you can borrow a set from a teacher or friend.

Plugs will fit inside the holes of your keys so that you can still play the flute. Plugs are also useful for more advanced players who have a flute with an “inline G” key. That is when the G key is lined up with other keys, requiring more of a reach from the player’s left hand.

Plugs make it less work to play, but they should be phased out over time.

So…

Those are some of my favorite supplies that every flute player should have, or plan to have in the future. Did I miss anything? What are your favorite flute supplies? Comment below!

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