The flute is a beautiful instrument central to many different ensembles ranging from concert bands and orchestras to jazz bands and everything in between! It is also one of the toughest instruments to initially make a sound on and requires more air than it’s other woodwind counterparts. So what should flute students focus on in their practice to see the best results?
Let’s take a look at central practice techniques for flute students and how to get started with flute lessons in Houston!
Breathing techniques for wind musicians are vital to focus on, as efficient use of the airstream is essential to endurance in long passages and for creating a focused, vibrant tone.
Flutists should practice taking breaths from the bottom up, expanding the lungs from the stomach region upward, and releasing the air in a similar manner from bottom up. This ensures that maximum air capacity is attained, and helps to release the airstream in a controlled manner. This manner of breathing can be practiced without the flute as a breathing exercise, as well as during long tones at the beginning of practice.
Long tones are essential for a flutist to practice for smoothly connecting one note to the next. Long tones focus on the particular air and embouchure changes between two notes, because there are subtle differences in the production of every note on the flute.
Long tones should be practiced at the beginning of the practice session as part of the warm up. Students can start on B above the staff and slur down half steps, taking in as much air as they can and using the entirety of their air capacity throughout the long tone. Initially, these should be practiced without vibrato for general smoothness and focusing of the airstream, with the addition of vibrato (waves vibrating within the notes) once the student has mastered this technique and can add vibrato without taking away from the pure quality of sound.
Practicing scales is imperative for building a solid technical foundation. Students should learn all twelve major and minor scales, memorizing key signatures and expanding their scale practice to multiple octaves to learn the subtle differences in fingerings between the octaves.
There are a number of scale books central to flute pedagogy for intermediate and advanced students. Some of these include the Reichert Seven Daily Exercises, the Taffanel/Gaubert Seventeen Daily Exercises, and the Moyse Daily Exercises. These books include scale patterns of all the scales and focus on building endurance and technique.
It is important to work on pieces to apply these techniques to, no matter what level you are at. Repertoire is a fun way to practice the flute and will allow the student to have pieces to choose from for recitals and auditions.
For beginner students a great book of pieces is the 40 Little Pieces In Progresssive Order For Beginner Flutists, edited by Louise Moyes. These are easy for the beginner to start learning melodies, and your Houston flute teacher can accompany you on the piano which allows the student to begin working on ensemble techniques such as good rhythm and communicating with another musician. I also encourage my students to learn popular music such as movie soundtrack pieces or pieces from pop culture, whatever music will be enjoyable and fun for the student as that is what I personally really enjoyed playing as a budding flute student!
For more advanced students repertoire selections are boundless, from the classic Bach Sonatas to the vast French repertoire to 20th century works. We have been fortunate to have many pieces written for our instrument! Talk with your teacher about pieces and listen to recordings to hear what you want to work on. Ideally the student will learn a wide variety of pieces and styles to become a well rounded musician.
Playing the flute is eternally rewarding and most importantly should be fun for the student! I hope this guide of practice techniques will help inform you on what you can practice on the flute to maximize results and become a well rounded flutist!
Contact us today for to get started with flute lessons in Houston! Our teachers come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your child!
By Jennifer Ridout, a Lessons In Your Home Flute and Piano Instructor