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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The Benefits of Doubling (+ a free guide!)

As flutists and other woodwind players know, you can’t always get away with playing just one instrument. Especially for music majors and professionals, the benefits of doubling are numerous.

Hannah B Flute | Benefits of Doubling

Playing a second instrument can help you get more performing and teaching gigs. It can get your foot in the door with other musicians. And it can even help improve your playing on your main instrument.

Today, we are going to talk about the benefits of doubling that flutists should know about, as well as the different types.

Primary to Primary vs. Primary to Secondary

To me, there are two main types of doubling. There is primary to primary doubling and primary to secondary doubling. Bret Pimentel has an amazing post for flutists who want to double, and that is where I learned this terminology.

Basically, primary to primary doubling is when a flutist decides to learn an instrument outside of the flute family. It could be saxophone, clarinet, piano, etc. It just can’t be another flute.

Primary to secondary doubling is when a flutist learns another type of flute. That could be piccolo, alto flute, or even flutes from other parts of the world.

The type of doubling that is best for you depends on your goals. Do you want to play in a big band or a musical theatre pit? Try saxophone or clarinet. Would you prefer to play in a symphony or opera orchestra? Then learn piccolo or alto flute.

Primary to secondary doubling will be slightly easier, because the technique for flutes is fairly similar. The embouchure changes only slightly.

Primary to primary doubling requires the player to learn a whole new instrument. You almost have to forget that you are a flute player.

A Little Backstory

I started music when I was 5 or 6, but I didn’t really start with woodwinds until age 14. At that time, I learned the saxophone. Flute came soon after, because I wanted more opportunities within the classical music scene. I wasn’t a huge fan of jazz.

Eventually, I decided that doubling between families took too much time away from what I really wanted. So, I settled on the flute family.

As mentioned, there are times where primary to primary doubling is perfect. But for the remainder of this post, I will be focusing on primary to secondary doubling for flutists.

Playing Piccolo

Piccolo is the most commonly asked for double in almost all situations. Whether you play in an orchestra or band, you will probably be called upon to play piccolo at some point. If you are an amateur player, though, it may not be as necessary.

For the career bound flutist, it is EXTREMELY difficult to have a career on flute that doesn’t include piccolo. It is possible, but rare.

Being able to play piccolo at least a little bit will help you a lot. It means you can audition for jobs that involve piccolo. You can take on advancing flute students who want to learn piccolo. So try to treat the piccolo as an extension of the flute.

Should You Play Alto Flute?

The alto flute is not quite as common as piccolo, but its use is growing. More flute choirs are popping up, and more flute players, pro and amateur, are buying alto flutes.

Modern composers are starting to write more and more for the alto flute. That combined with flute choirs means that the opportunities for playing and teaching the alto flute are increasing.

The alto flute will continue to become more important to flute playing. Its use in orchestras is limited, but that may change in the near future. From solo and chamber playing to teaching, the alto flute has many venues now.

If you are looking to expand downwards in the flute family, try the alto flute. Alto flute resources are limited, but Chris Potter has an amazing website for alto (and bass) flute. If the alto flute interests you, go check it out.

The alto flute is a little more complicated than piccolo, since it has two headjoint options. Other than that, it is an easy transition for most advanced flutists.

Related: Piccolo vs. Alto Flute

The Benefits of Doubling Flutes

I have found that piccolo and alto flute both help my flute playing in different ways. The piccolo helps me get better control in the high register. Playing alto flute helps better my air support.

Other benefits of doubling include marketability and access to more repertoire.

Marketability pertains to more than just professional musicians. If you play flute and piccolo, you will be able join more ensembles and competitions than if you only played flute.

Maybe your local band is full of flute players but no one likes the piccolo. If you can play piccolo well, you might just get your foot int he door.

The alto flute is similar. If your community has a smaller flute choir, they might need alto flute players. The group might be overflowing with C flutes. If you show up with an alto flute, you will have a better chance of joining the group.

Then there’s access to more repertoire. While the piccolo and alto flute don’t have as much solo repertoire as flute, they have their own set of music. Piccolo and alto flute have their own parts in chamber music, and they can provide more depth to larger works, too.

So…

There are many benefits of doubling that flutists can take advantage of. Even if you just add piccolo to your routine, you will be able to play a lot of different music, and it can help your flute playing.

Be sure to subscribe below to get your free guide to practicing as a doubler.

Do you play multiple flutes? Which ones? Leave a comment below with your answer!

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Piccolo Bores: Cylindrical vs. Conical

A while back, I wrote a post about different materials that piccolos are made of. You can find piccolos in various metals, woods, and even plastic. Aside from their different materials, you can also find different piccolo bores.

Hannah B Flute | Piccolo Bores

The bore is the shape of the inside of the tube of a wind instrument. Many instruments, like the oboe, have a conical bore. Other instruments, such as the concert flute, have a cylindrical bore.

You asked for it, and now I’m delivering! In this post, we are going to look at the differences between cylindrical and conical piccolo bores.

Cylindrical Bore

If an instrument has a cylindrical bore, that means that the tube does not get larger or smaller from one end to the other. The best example for this is the modern metal flute.

If you measure the diameter of a flute at the tenon between the headjoint and body, you will find the same measurement at the end of the foot joint. The headjoint itself does taper slightly, but that is beside the point for this post.

Pros

A cylindrical bore gives a fuller sound in the low register. Since the tube diameter does not get smaller at the end, the sound has more space to resonate.

Cylindrical bores also tend to have a more even scale, and the harmonics are closer to where they should be. Cylindrical bore piccolos are also more similarly built to flutes than conical bore piccolos.

Cons

Not many piccolos are cylindrical bore. That makes these instruments hard to find. Most cylindrical bore piccolos are made of metal, which is not usually a preferred material.

Because the low register is so strong, other tuning issues, particularly in the upper range, can arise. That means more time practicing or searching for alternate fingerings.

Models

Nagahara Mini

Jupiter JPC700

Armstrong 204

Most metal piccolos

Conical Bore

A conical bore instrument has one end that is noticeably smaller or larger than the other. Within the instrument, the tube tapers like a cone. In some instruments, like the oboe, it gets bigger as you reach the end of the instrument.

The case is reversed with the piccolo; the end of the instrument is smaller than at the top.

Pros

Conical bore piccolos are plentiful. Most piccolo models are made with a conical bore. If you only plan to learn how to play one bore, go for a piccolo with a conical bore.

Piccolos with a conical bore have fewer tuning issues than their cylindrical counterparts. And since most professionals and teachers have played a conical bore piccolo, more information and alternate fingerings are readily available.

Cons

The footjoint end of a conical piccolo is smaller than on a cylindrical piccolo, and that results in a smaller sound in the low register. Some piccolos, like those by Yamaha, really struggle in the low range.

One reason that the flute is cylindrical is because of various developments that helped the flute become a better instrument. However, the piccolo has been left in the dust. It is almost as if the piccolo is stuck in the 19th century, pre Boehm.

Models

Gemeinhardt 4SP, 4SH & 4SS

Most plastic, composite, and wood piccolos

How to Choose?

In most cases, you cannot request a certain bore for a piccolo. Some models are made with a cylindrical bore, others with a conical bore. While you can change certain specs on a piccolo, like adding a split E, that is not the case for the bore.

Rather than choosing a piccolo because of its bore shape, choose a piccolo based on materials, workmanship, and how it fits you. I have played an owned both a cylindrical bore piccolo and a conical bore piccolo, and they both play well.

It’s less a question of the shape and more a question of whether or not you can get a good sound out.

So…

Have you tried both cylindrical and conical bore piccolos? Which piccolo bore did you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

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Guide to Piccolo Materials

Piccolo makers use materials in their piccolos to get a distinct sound. Different materials can also affect the price of a piccolo. This post will give an overview to the different piccolo materials you can choose from.

Hannah B Flute | Guide to Piccolo Materials

When choosing a piccolo, you can choose from a variety of materials. The most common are metal, plastic, and wood. Plastic is the cheapest, followed by metal, and wood is more expensive.

There are also two types of plastic: straight plastic and composite.

In this post, we are going to explore the many piccolo materials. We will also look at the pros and cons of each.

Plastic

Plastic piccolos are one of the most common, especially for students. They are cheap, resistant to extreme temperatures, and they work well for beginners.

Some piccolos are made with both a plastic body and headjoint. Others have a plastic body and a metal headjoint.

The pros of a plastic piccolo include the lower price as well as the durability of the piccolo. If you will be playing outside, plastic piccolos can withstand the heat and cold. You don’t have to worry about cracking, like with a wood piccolo.

Cons of a plastic piccolo include the airy tone you can get. However, they are great in almost every other way. Even if you choose to buy a wood piccolo down the line, a plastic piccolo is a great back up instrument.

Common brands: Yamaha, Jupiter, Gemeinhardt

Price range (new): $500-900

Price range (used): $250-450

Composite

Composite is a type of plastic piccolo. These usually come configured with both a composite body and headjoint. Though you can buy a wood or metal headjoint if you wish.

These piccolos are a combination of plastic and wood. I currently play a composite piccolo, and I love it. Composite piccolos give you all the benefits of a wood piccolo without the price or the worries about cracks.

You can play a composite piccolo both indoors and out. No need to worry about the wood cracking. The plastic in the piccolo stabilizes the wood for a more refined sound and requires less management.

Common brands: Pearl, Guo, Di Zhao, Roy Seaman

Price range (new): $800-1100

Price range (used): $650-900

Metal

Metal piccolos are probably the least common, but they do exist. They serve their own purpose for piccolo players. Metal piccolos, like flutes, come in different metals.

You can find metal piccolos that are silver plated, solid silver, and even gold.

Metal piccolos, while uncommon, are great for marching band and other outdoor events. Metal piccolos carry more than plastic or wood, so they can be heard on a large football field.

My first piccolo was silver plated, and it was a great first instrument. I was able to use it in marching band, and it was also very affordable. Metal piccolos do cost a bit more than plastic piccolos, but not by much.

Used metal piccolos are a much better deal than new, because they are not in high demand.

If you plan to play outside a lot, metal piccolos are worth looking into.

Common brands: Gemeinhardt, Armstrong

Price range (new): $1100-2700

Price range (used): $250-1000

Wood

Professional piccolos are almost always made of wood. You can even choose from different woods. Grenadilla is the most common wood, and you can find many companies that use the wood in their piccolos.

I have played a school owned wood piccolo, and it was definitely a step up from my metal one. However, wood piccolos vary a lot in cost. Wood piccolos start at around $1500 and can go up ten-fold. The most expensive wood piccolo I have seen costs around $15000.

If you choose to buy a wood piccolo, be very aware of your budget, and shop smart. Unless you are a professional piccolo player in an orchestra, you probably don’t need all of the bells and whistles. You probably don’t need a handmade mechanism.

The biggest con of wood piccolos is the cost, but you can find lower cost wood piccolos.

Common brands: Yamaha, Lyric, Resona, Gemeinhardt

Price range (new): $1500-15000

Price range (used): $1200-10000

So…

What kind of piccolo do you play? Have you experimented with different piccolo materials? Comment below, and be sure to follow me on Instagram (@hannahbflute)!

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Protec Flute Case Cover Review

If you have been with me for awhile, you might have seen my first review of this case cover. I wrote that post a few years back, and I wanted to write an updated version for you all.

Protec is a company that makes cases and covers for a lot of different instruments. They have cases and bags for woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, and more.

Hannah B Flute | Protec Flute Case Cover Review

Today, I am going to talk about their deluxe flute case cover.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. To read my full privacy policy, click here.

Why Get a Case Cover?

There are a few reasons why you might want a little something more than just your flute case. First off, student flute cases rarely have a pocket to store cleaning supplies, pencils, and the like.

Intermediate through professional flutes come with case covers, but they are thinner and may not last very long. I know with my current flute, the case cover started to get a little wear and tear after a little over a year.

A case cover also (usually) comes with a shoulder strap. That frees up your hands for sheet music, a music stand, or whatever else you may need to lug around.

Case covers are a simple, convenient way to keep all of your flute related items together but out of the flute case itself. I love being able to keep my flute, cleaning cloths/rods, piccolo, pencils, and instrument stands all in one place.

Why Protec?

Protec Flute Case Cover

There are a lot of companies out there that make flute case covers. I am reviewing the Protec cover, because I actually own it. I have had it for almost five years, and I used it on and off for most of that time.

The Cost

When I got my first flute, it actually came in a case similar to professional flutes. But it didn’t have a case cover. So it also had no outside storage, handles, anything.

I came across the Protec cover at a local music shop, and it looked like a great solution. It was also cheap, which was great for a student. I believe I payed around $35 for the cover.

The Colors

I went with the classic black, but the case cover also comes in purple and pink. If you prefer to have a brighter case so you can find it, go with the pink. If you want a more professional cover that you can take on stage, go with black.

Purple is also great if you want to stand out a little bit, but you still want a more subdued look.

The Features

One thing that I liked about the Protec cover when I was using it was that it had tons of room for accessories. The outside pocket is much bigger than on other case covers. It’s big enough to fit a piccolo, if you have one.

The case cover is also pretty durable. I put it through quite a lot, and it still works. Yes, there is wear and tear, but nothing major.

You can also carry it multiple ways. There is the traditional handle, found on many student flute cases. You can carry it on your shoulder with the detachable shoulder strap. Finally, there is a handle on the end of the case, so you can carry it the long way.

Who is it For?

The Protec case cover is great for students and people who want a more durable cover than what they have. It is budget friendly, and you can order it from just about any online music retailer.

The case cover is also great for more advanced players who don’t have the money to spend on the more expensive case covers.

Almost any flute case can fit in the cover, student or professional, C foot or B foot. Your flute will probably fit, though it is always a good idea to check for return policies when buying online.

Who Should Shop Around?

While I believe any flutist could benefit from the case, it does have its problems. If you are like me, and you play quite a bit of piccolo, this is not the case for you.

The large outside pocket is great, because it does fit most piccolo cases. However the outside pocket is meant for storing accessories. Therefore it is not insulated like the main pocket.

That is okay for casual players, and for people who don’t play piccolo much. But it poses a problem for flutists who will be bringing their flute and piccolo around together a lot. That issue is actually what made me stop using the Protec cover.

There are tons of other companies that make case covers that do have space for a piccolo in the insulated compartment. I do plan on reviewing one of them (Fluterscooter) in the future.

So…

Have you used the Protec case cover? Do you use another brand of case cover? Let me know in the comments!

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