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The Sensible Flutist

The Sensible Flutist: July 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Boom Stand

Tight hips and hunched shoulders are instant killers to a great big resonant flute sound. Practicing hip openers in yoga and constant attention to opening the shoulders and chest to stand straight is a constant pursuit; however, why do hunched shoulders occur? It seems that putting a music stand in front of you could present a problem. Because you can only adjust a stand's height and the angle of the music holder in a vertical plane, the music will remain a static distance away from you and you will inadvertantly hunch your shoulders and head towards the music to be able to see (and not have the stand so high that no one can see you!).

Here's where the Boom Stand comes in. It's a regular mic stand with a music holder attached to the end. In addition to adjusting the height and angle, you can also bring the music closer to you while the base stays stationary. What an idea! I mentioned this quandary in @DTClarinet's practice group (, and was actively thinking about what changes I could make to a traditional music stand when I found the Boom Stand.

The only downside to this side is the price. If you visit, they have a special internet price of $90. In the search for more ergonomic tools to improve our practicing and how our bodies feel, I think that if you have problems with neck and shoulder strain, it's worth the investment.
I'm also interested in hearing from you - do you use a modified music stand? If so, what changes did you make? Let me know!

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Online Music Teacher Community - Friend or just more Competition?

At what point do we as musicians stop enjoying the global sharing of resources and begin to realize the ever increasing competition that is all around us as a result of the far reaching impact of the Internet into our lives? Will there come a time when people stop looking for music teachers in their local area and opt to study only with major teachers because they happen to offer lessons via webcam?

I think musicians must embrace social media and the technology that makes virtual lessons a reality, but will the local music teacher who may have the same amount of enthusiam and creativity lose out on this? Have I already lost out on students because their mom or dad found them online lessons with a teacher who lives 500 miles away? Gone are the days of competing against a few music teachers, but now you're competing with tens or hundreds of other teachers that are now offering virtual lessons. Why not become one of them?

I think online lessons are wonderful tools, especially for more mature players who are looking for a way to easily take a lesson or two with a well respected master teacher, but I think that nothing replaces a good, local teacher for beginners and continuing students.

I am open to offering lessons via Skype, so I'm not against this newest development in technology. The amount of competition that exists currently can be overwhelming at times. Musicians must learn how to deal with this new layer of complexity, and go forward. Be confident in what you have to offer, and creatively build your audience and studio. Keep your eyes and ears open for the next opportunity, and never be afraid to take risks. This is the face of the future.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Practicing - Reichert No. 1

I'm experimenting filming myself with my new computer, and I figured a practice clip would be a good place to start. I'm exposing myself a lot in doing this, but since I've been discussing and researching practicing lately, why not continue in that theme?

I filmed this last night after dinner, discovered Windows Movie Maker tonight, and now I'm on youtube practicing Reichert No. 1. I was wrapping up tone/tech work for the day, and I would normally run through these but I was trying to get maximum resonance at the points I typically lose it. Just getting this visual of myself means I need to open my chest more and raise my head so it doesn't look like my head coming out to meet the flute. Visuals are so important.

Please excuse the poor sound quality and awkward beginning (I need practice editing these clips). Please leave feedback, too! We're all in this journey together.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

NPR's Hey Ladies: Being a Woman Musician Today

This link has been floating around in various circles of mine today, and I just had a second to start sifting through all the keen insights put forth by women musicians. Immediately, I latched on to what Alli Rogers, a solo artist, had to say:

"I think that creative people are wired to be constantly searching. Searching for inspiration and insight, questions and answers, meaning and significance. It's like artists are able to create the beautiful things they do because they take the risk of diving beneath the surface of what our eyes see and bringing back what they find from below for everyone else to experience. This is an all-encompasing task and as a new mother, I am having a hard time diving beneath the surface with the great and exhausting privilege of loving and raising a little boy! I am aware that there are less successful women in music than men and I think part of that is because many woman become mothers and are not able to give their whole selves to music because their hearts are with their children. Not to mention they are just tired all the time! Some people manage to do both parenting and creating at the same time, but I can't think of any musical 'greats' that have managed to do this well. I think being a mother is a creative and noble work and if I have to choose music or my family I will always choose my family. Somehow I don't think men who are fathers have to make the same choice, they seem able to separate themselves better. The fact that it is the mother who physically carries and births children is a picture of this I think." (emphasis added)

Her opening statement on creativity is just out of this world. This also happens to tie into a conversation I had on twitter today about managing priorities in our lives. I look forward to getting a little more time to explore all the survey's themes.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Efficient Practice Tips

I am a private flute teacher and a freelancer. But did you know I work in a full time management position by day? I got the job fresh out of college when I was burned out, and wanted a steady paycheck and the chance to do something different for a while.

Now I'm working towards a return to school to earn my master's, and hopefully develop more opportunities to do this music thing full time. So with the backstory out of the way, I've been asking a lot of my twitter and Facebook pals for their tips on efficient practicing. I live in an area with a limited number of students and paid freelance gigs. So at my busiest, I'm teaching a couple nights a week and rehearsing on top of that. That leaves me with very little time to practice to get ahead in this rat race.

I've always had problems staying consistent with my practice. For those of you reading this that are still in school, GO PRACTICE! The "real world" changes everything. For full time professionals and those of us still doing it as a part time affair, efficient practicing means we must be mindful of our practice time. Otherwise, we're just wasting time and missing out on family time, other hobbies, and life in general. That isn't a good place to be.

So the tips I got were very interesting. Some I had considered before, others I hadn't. Here's the list:

1) Work on things that require the most control (thanks, @adrenalsenorita). Articulation, speed, intervals, dynamics, etc. all are crucial elements of a good warmup to make sure you're ready to tackle your rep. I wholeheartedly agree with this tip and already integrate into my practice on those days I just have no time. Do these and you'll find yourself progressing quickly. For quick pick me ups on bad tone days, do some vocalizations and whistle tones, too. You'll open up your sound immediately.

2) Another tip I received from @multiphonic was to have a specific plan going in. Knowing what you're going to work on helps you focus on your goals. He also recommends to not do more than one thing at a time, but instead isolate specific tasks. I would add that this strategy requires consistency. If you have just an hour to practice, then practice as much as you can in that hour but come back the next day to build on the previous day's work. If you have lots of ideas to explore, realize that it's going to take you a longer time to explore those same ideas than someone with a lot more time than you. Don't let it overwhelm you, but approach your practice time sensibly and you will begin achieving your goals.

3) @multiphonic also gave me a great reference to @DTclarinet's site ( You can become a member of a practice journal group and share your experiences with other members of the group. This is a great concept and keeps you accountable in the practice room, too.

4) A strategy of mine in order to efficiently practice is to treat each chunk of time in your day that you have the opportunity to practice is to approach it as if that's the ONLY time you have to practice that day even if you think you may have time later on. Divide the time up so that you have adequate time to warm up and save time for repertoire (your "priorities"). For example, I have 40 minutes at lunch time during my day to practice. Instead of using that 40 minutes solely on my "warm up," I take 20 minutes to warm up and the remaining 20 minutes on repertoire or excerpts...anything that needs my precise attention at that time. If I can return to the flute at another point later on that evening, then I will do another section of my "warm up" to include work on issues I noticed in my first practice session and more work on rep. I'm in the process of testing this strategy out, and I think it will help me for several reasons. 1) I like warming up too much...I think all that work has made me a strong technical player, but I could do more with rep and I have less time now and 2) it's all about balance. We must have a healthy work/life balance, and we should mirror that in our practice sessions.

5) Finally, work only on what you have problems with. It's gratifying to play what we already know, but if we're time crunched, stick with what you have issues with. It's not "fun," but it will get the job done. That's what practicing is. As Erica Sipes (check out her wonderful blog at who also recently blogged about this topic) tweeted to me, schedule time to play fun stuff. Erica also points out that in the course of your practicing, if you make a mistake more than two times, something needs to change. It's so true, and I think that's a rule a lot of us like to ignore (myself included).

I came across a book about two years ago called, "Practicing for Artistic Success" by Burt Kaplan ( I just received a copy today, and future blogs will discuss what I learn from this resource. In the meantime, practice with heart and maturity, and you will progress faster than wasting hours upon hours of precious time. And you didn't have to spend all that time holed away in a practice room, either. It's all about devising effective strategies for yourself and/or trying strategies that have worked for others. Now go forth and be productive, practicing members of society!

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blavet - Sonata No. 4, Op.2 "La Lumagne"

I'm famous. Someone posted this on youtube after they found a recording online of me performing the Blavet on a March 2007 recital. Saving it for posterity here.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Intention and Emotional Inhibitions that affect it

So sorry for the 2 week gap in blogging, but my lone computer began acting up and I was blessed to get another one so soon. So now I have a new computer that I can dedicate exclusively to my online musical activities.

I stirred up an interesting debate among several flutists on Twitter the other morning when I tweeted about a statement I'd heard the night before. I jam with a group of amateur musicians that just love music and come together to improv and play a variety of folk tunes. I enjoy it because it's such a different environment from a professional aspect, which I find refreshing. In a former life, I would have refused to join these people but I now see it as a unique opportunity to play just to have fun with no pressure.

This violinist, who is a music major at a university out west was discussing why she must practice to the group and stated that as you get closer to the "ideal," you're able to play with more freedom. I agree with this statement in the sense that if you obtain a technical mastery over the instrument, you have a greater awareness of what the instrument can do for maximum expressiveness. I disagree with the statement in that there is no one "ideal." We are constantly shaping ourselves as musicians and our musical identity is always a work in progress. In this mixed group of amateurs, the reaction was one of, "Well, what's the ideal?" Even without a strong music background, they already sensed that there is no true ideal.

While jamming that night, I was tired and didn't feel emotionally involved. I still got something out of going; however, I noted the heightened emotional state of the others there. I am a very private person that has a hard time showing emotion to anyone other than my husband. There are certain tunes, especially some Appalachian folk tunes (from my SW Virginia upbringing), that can bring me to tears. Patriotic outpourings of support for members of the military of any type make me cry. But why is it that I have such a hard time expressing myself, whether it be on a personal level or a musical one? Why do I sometimes feel disconnected from the music even though I, as a classically trained flutist, can interpret the music and present it in a neat package?

Because of this observation from the night before, I continued to tweet, "I'm jealous of amateurs that love music so much, they can play with no cares." Yes, they may be blissfully ignorant, but they love it and that's what I strive to preserve in my own music making. I think it's hard as a professional musician to maintain that element. It could be why even though I'm classically trained, I am very interested in branching other to other genres of music such as folk music that I can connect with on a deeper emotional level. Branching into other genres means interacting with musicians that may not have the same background or education that I do, but they do it for the love of it and invest a lot of themselves into their art. Their varied experiences can help me along my musical metamorphosis.

The debate then took this turn towards the question of professional versus amateur, and what we as professionals know versus the ignorance of amateurs. I am a very open minded person when it comes to hearing new ideas. I think that a young, budding professional can watch an amateur and examine why they do what they do and perhaps draw from that. How amateurs connect with music on a purely emotional level is a lesson to be learned for those of us that once felt that same way, and have lost a connection with the music.

As far as this "ideal" this young violinist referred to, what is it? I think as musicians and artists, we should be constantly exploring new ideas in our playing and never stop learning. I believe that our musical lives are cyclical, and that is the one thing I love most about music. With the number of fantastic flutists in the world today, we have a huge abundance of ideas that can keep things fresh for us.

With all these new ideas, we must have a strong sense of who we are musically with mastery of our instruments in order to keep those new ideas from throwing us into confusion. I discussed this in an earlier blog post ( Open mindedness will keep you from boxing yourself in. Don't be afraid to explore new ideas, and see where they lead you. New ideas will only propel you further in your musical journey, and encourage freedom.

Should we incorporate everything we discover? No. Young students should be given a strong foundational musical education so that they are able to make decisions for themselves as they advance in their studies. These young musicians already love music. They wouldn't be devoting themselves to learning an instrument if that wasn't the case. Hopefully, they have teachers that allow them to creatively explore the limits of their instruments and lead them to perform with freedom and expressiveness.

On a professional level, we shouldn't box ourselves in but allow ourselves freedom. I contribute my own struggles with the difficulty I have displaying my emotions for the world to see. That's an issue in my own performances that I am working through, and which is why a lot of my focus is on this topic at the moment. Allow your students freedom and creativity within an intelligent framework to preserve intention. We flute players must allow musicality and freedom to shape us who we are as musicians, and not who can play the fastest.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ibert-Flute concerto 1st mvt, Marcel Moyse, Flute

I'm currently reading the biography of Marcel Moyse that was written by Ann McCutchan. It provides a very insightful perspective into the man that shaped a whole generation of American flutists, and whose influence is still felt today and he is certainly one of mine. Here is a recording of Moyse playing the first movement of the Ibert Concerto that was written for him in 1934.