Saturday, October 11, 2014

Amy Porter - Masterclass & livestream recital today

Dear Flute Lovers,
Early-birding it again... I got up at 7 am this morning (it's a three hr. time difference for us here on the West Coast) to watch the enthusiastic and totally helpful Amy Porter teach a masterclass streaming online. I later realized it's in replay at these links all day!
Hugely entertaining!

So yes, so far, you can still watch it in repeat even if you didn't get up early like I did (peep!):

Saturday Oct 11th, 2014 from 10 am 12pm (east coast)
Master Class:

Four students perform: Stamitz, Jolivet, Boehm and Mozart, and receive instruction.Broadcast from Skidmore College. Super interesting to watch another teacher with so many well-tested ideas.

Amy Porter performs CONCERT tonight: Oct. 11th, 2014
This evening  is Amy Porter's recital at this link:


(5pm live stream west coast time, 8 pm east coast North America)

Just watched the entire recital in replay at the above link.
What wonderful showmanship! So spicy the rep. and so nicely filled with contrasts.
Amy Porter opened with the Poulenc Sonata (loved the tempo), by memory, with elan! And even though the audience applauded between movements she was gracious and yet impulsive! It was refreshing!
Bold opener! Great!

Next, Amy came out on to the stage alone, and played an all new interpretation of Bach's Cello Suite No. 5 (two mvmts.). Fabulous! Piazzolla-like flourishes made the opening into an extravaganza of ideas. Loved it.

For the third piece, Christopher Caliendo's latest 11th Sonata.
Totally hilarious!
Got to see!

After a long intermission (skip ahead), there were three contemporary works including Ian Clarke and Daniel Dorff's new work "Three Lakes".
Wonderful contrasts! Well done!

Best, Jen

Saturday, October 04, 2014

How to Warm-Up to practice flute

Question: What do you do to "warm-up"?

I have played flute for a few years, on my own, and the more I read on the internet about flute practice, the more I realize that I'm supposed to be "warming up", but I don't fully understand what that means. I'm doing more like what this fellow in the painting above is doing; I'm sitting down, playing through my pieces; just sort of blasting through them until my tone clears.
I know I play better after awhile, but am I wasting my time if I'm not doing a "warm-up" on flute?
And what do more advanced players do when they warm-up? Where should I be heading?
Thanks for your suggestions.

Jen replies:
Here are some flute warm-ups that I would recommend:

For Beginners:
A typical warmup might consist of 5-10 minutes very simple, plain, single tones or very simple songs.
Because the tone is often airy and the method of blowing not very developed, the simpler the warm up the better. The low register is an easy way to start as it does not take much co-ordination to sound

Low Longtones and warmups: free printable pdf.

The flute's middle register can be gradually incorporated to get the  air speed moving and the sound quality more full toward the end of the warmup. I like to do this with melodies.

I fill in the wide leaps in the melodies with relaxed scales (chromatic or diatonic; take your pick).
I play the melodies very slowly like a cadenza, and put pauses everwhere. I relax into them.

All the while, I reference back to how I feel, and how it looks in a mirror when I'm relaxed, poised, and co-ordinated (which believe me is an endless wandering...hahhahaa.)

Yes, the most important focus for the student warming up likely is POSTURE, as the holding of the flute  easily.
Getting used to that, and to then add the lung action are key at this stage of learning to co-ordinate. I suggest standing while practicing the flute, and of course, having a coach (a flute teacher) really truly helps (even if you only have five lessons, at least you'll have a coach at the beginning to spot you!)

Warmup with your teacher at the start of a lesson. They'll help you in no time.

See video on posture called: Easy Posture - Pure Tone

As the beginner progresses with the improvements of the lung action, along with their ease of holding the flute, the hand position is also to be noticed when changing between two notes. A mirror in the practice area and/or a flute coach (during a lesson) are both very useful here.

 I add frequent pauses (play three notes and then hold the fourth, or play two and hold the third note with a great tone....) to any warm-up, so the student can observed their  posture, hands, and listen carefully to the sound without becoming out of breath. Anything can be played in these tiny note groupings.

 This means pausing on any note, and holding it briefly, listening, observing, then stopping, resting every muscle in the body so that no tension is maintained, and then, after a relaxing moment of regular breathing, breathing deeply and restarting on the same note that you just paused on.  Relaxing every few seconds is something that should be emphasized from the very beginning of every practice session.

Typically, trying to play high notes too soon is a frequent human failing. :>)
I like to remind flute students to ease gradually into a fuller sound, and not to blast out high notes until their lower notes sound more clear and full, which may take ten minutes of low register playing.

I think that the longtones in the low register from B natural to B-flat, as slow whole notes is the quickest beginner warmup.
Hand position and posture can both be easily observed when playing such simple two-note slurs.
These two note "Longtones for pure tone warmups" will be mentioned throughout this blog post.

Read about warmups and longtones with pictures:

Low Longtones and warmups: free printable pdf.

Slow, low and lovely melodies can be played in between the longtones. It's never boring when you can apply your tone to beautiful tunes!
I use slow easy solos, bits of Bach, Celtic tunes, and low register melodies from easy flute books, or even famous melodies from great Operas etc. Suit yourself, enjoy yourself, and don't play complex things too soon in your practice session. Warm up to them. :>)
Novices (Played flute 1-2 years or more):

Novices who are studying with a flute teacher will have used beginner warmups for a year or more, and so will know to warm-up the low longtones and play around with low melodies before their sound quality naturally improves after ten minutes or so.

Novices will also have learned to play longtones in the low and then middle register.

Read about warmups and longtones with pictures:

Low-Medium Longtones and warmups: free printable pdf.

When these are familiar, they can be sped up, so that the pairs of notes can be slurred through quite quickly and fluidly. The student will advance to playing three slurred chromatic notes in a row (B-Bb-A with a pause on the final note, breathe, and repeat) in a relaxed way, waiting for their co-ordination and sound quality to improve.

The most common fault of novices is to shorten their warm-up, so that their tone is still fuzzy or unclear, and to right away start playing pieces.
The most important focus for the novice student warming up is tone quality. The tone will gradually become more focussed and more rich in quality. If it is not improving they will need to review their posture and lung action. A quick check list of key points that lead to improvement during the warmup will be something their teacher can help them with in lessons.

Example questions:
Are your feet equally balanced? (you are standing)
Are you creating a long distance between your hips and your shoulders?
Does your head feel relaxed on your neck?
Is your throat open and free?
Is your sound steady and pure?

By checking themselves during the warmup, they can eliminate typical problems that may hinder their best sound quality.

Middle register Longtones (starting with an octave leap from B1 to B2) are the quickest warmup.
Melodies that sustain in the middle register and become gradually more rich in tone as they descend are the most interesting warmups.

High Register could be warmed up and experimented with for up to ten minutes for a novice.
See the last few pages of this pdf:
Low and Middle Longtones and warmups: free printable pdf.

And then over many months, gradually ease your way higher on the flute.
Medium and High Longtones: free pdf

Additional warmups can be added that loosen the fingers, such as slow trills that gradually speed up.
But only do a few moments of this, and really go deeply into what you're doing when it is light, easy and tension-free.

Intermediates: (2-7 years of playing steadily).

Intermediates would warmup the following skills:
- tone quality in low register & then tone quality in middle register free printable pdf.

Depending on resting in between, the intermediate would then go on to warming up their tone quality in high register. free pdf

Posture is, as always, important to self-check.
See video on posture called: Easy Posture - Pure Tone

One of the fastest ways of balancing the body when playing intermediate warm-ups is to walk slowly from one side of the room to the other, in order not to "hold" the body static at the start of
If you don't need the music stand for your warmup, then move freely away from it.
Walk around, sense your balance, listen closely. Loosen up and explore. There's no need to stare vacantly at your music. :>)

High register can also be left for the 2nd half of the warmup, as it  is often demanding on the embouchure at first. You can warmup again later on high notes, dividing it into your second 20 minute practice session. That's the best way to not tire yourself out in the first 20 minutes. :>)
Slow, low and middle register melodies can be played to solidify the  tone quality before continuing with more skilled warmups.

Lung warmups:
Intermediates might be looking to increase their air speed on command.
One of the quickest warmups for this is saying slow and deliberate "HA!HA! Haaaaaaa's" on various long tones.

 Finger action warmups
Intermediates may use chromatic scales or trills to warmup each individual finger.
 Trills, Chromatics free pdfs:

During these trills or scales the flutist can:
- walk around the room to get better body balance
- check hand position for ease by placing pinky fingers first, and repositioning  their thumbs
- play a simple warmups for fingers (short chromatic scales) while looking at hands in mirror

Much of the above is covered in this free article on how to practice the flute:

The most common problem is playing finger exercises with poor tone  quality. The opposite is recommended; never play anything else that's more complex until your tone quality is beautiful.

The second most common fault is avoiding the high register longtones  because they don't sound beautiful at first. This leads to the student  trying to play high notes later in their practice session without any embouchure skills.
The solution is to set aside a skill building 10-20 minutes of high longtones practice in every second daily practice session.
It may not take place in the warmup, but it can be a separate area of focus prior to playing in the highest octave in pieces.

Embouchure experiments may be used in the above, and successes noted.

Read about warmups and longtones with pictures:
Advanced Intermediate:

An advanced intermediate likely practices every day and does not "lose their tone" very often.
If they do lose their tone, looking at the embouchure in the mirror usually shows them how their lips have just slightly changed since yesterday, and seeing it the mirror and changing it back only takes a moment or two.
The more advanced flutist's warmup may be much quicker than less adept students because their basic tone is often already in place from the day before.

Here are the areas that can be quickly warmed up:

1. Tone plus Posture, hand position, body balance - quick longtones in groups (three notes at a time, four notes at a time, one octave at a time, descending chromatically to set the embouchure as in De La Sonorite by Moyse.)

Here are the equivalent exercises that have been linked to all levels of flutists, above:
- tone quality in low register & tone quality in middle register free printable pdf.
- tone quality in the middle to high register. free pdf

2.Easy finger motion - Trills done with each finger in turn, concentrating on lightness.
  and easy Chromatic scales ascending, in groups of notes, turning around and
descending, all while keeping clear tone. Free pdf.

3. Articuation warmups - All articulations studied as a separate skill in lessons and in practice sessions can be warmed up by short "Tu-Tu-Tu" and "Du-Du-Du" passages on single notes.
If double tonguing is being warmed up, "Tu-Ku-Tu-Ku" and Du-Gu-Du-Gu" can be used on single notes. Any piece of music can be multiple-tongued by just saying "Du-Du-Du" while holding a longer note.

Skill builders that can also be warmups:


4. Downward smeared octaves and overblowing harmonics are fantastic at this point.
The simplest possible wide interval leaping is a skill that could be used  as a warm-up.
These are the BEST!

i) Werner Richter Basic Embouchure Placement exercise (video on embouchure flexibility)

ii) and Leone Buyse "Magic Carpet" overblowing harmonics in three octaves

Click on picture to enlarge.

Notes about the book/source:
 Richter's book is called: Conditioning Training for the Flute Embouchure - see sample of Basic Exercise).

Buyse's Warmup is called "The Magic Carpet" and she demonstrates it on her video online. It was given as a "Super Duper Zen Yoga Warmups" by H.B." handout at the NFA convention some years ago.
The above jpg is a screen shot from page 1 of the handout. Click on it to view the exercise.

 I personally play it by adding the sound of the real fingering at both the beginning and end of each series of harmomic overblowing, to set my lips in their optimal position for relaxed, flexible ease during warm-up.

Also incredibly fast warm-ups seem to always happen using these two techniques:

5. Spit-buzzing by Keith Underwood. This technique brings your upper lip into co-ordinated placement. See video (scroll down) at:

6. Singing while playing by Robert Dick. This technique brings your lung resonance and throat tuning into play. See video:

Lastly, for the very warmed up:

7. Dynamic warmups - crescendos (and not that many diminuendos)

The standard tone development book "De La Sonorite" by Moyse has a great "Fullness of Tone" exercise where the player crescendos to their maximum relaxation and open, big full sound at fortissimo.

"The Physical Flute" by Fiona Wilkinson has some good basic crescendo-diminuendo exercises that are skill building.  Link to the Wilkinson book is here: It's a darn fine basic all around thinking warmup book. Excellent, concise, worth buying:

Great melodies from Moyse's book "Tone Development Through Interpretation" are also useful here. This famous book has melodies in all registers with all dynamics. They are advanced. They take a deep soul and alot of listening and lessening, and increasing.

Or write your own, or play famous violin works, or opera arias. Very fun.
The main thing is to listen to them closely as you warmup, and to create creative cadenzas out of the skills you're warming up.

Only one caveat: don't drill diminuendos. Seriously.

 Remember when diminuendo-ing: 

Tapers and diminuendos can be (don't do this!) tension producing when repeated as an exercise. So never go longer than five minutes without completely relaxing and finding out how you can do even LESS when tapering the sound.

Honestly; another great human error is over-doing it; using too much increased tension to do something "tiny".

Don't add tension. Always release tension when practicing.

Read Whone's great words from his book here. They're edited down for flutists fast reads.

8. Embouchure placement exercises for advanced flutists would then be utilized in all the above, gradually over time:


____________________end warmup ideas

For free pdfs for flutists use these links:

Fast Easy Fingers:
How do I get faster fingers?
Easy trill lifting and chromatic scales: 20 pages
Download pdf including trill chart:

Read about how to use with hand pictures to help relax hands:

Also see, free at my blog:
Longtones and Warmups: (equivalent to De La Sororite first excercise).

Low Longtones and warmups: free printable pdf.

Medium and High Longtones: free pdf

Read about warmups and longtones with pictures:

Additional Practice Materials: Scales and Arpeggios for Daily Exercises (novice to intermediate):

Moyse's Daily Exercises made easier:
Download pdfs of Moyse's work at these three blog posts:
It makes a full book of everything from major/minor/whole-tone andscales in thirds.


If you want to look at some practice plans (how to practice to cover all basic skills), have a read here:
What should I be doing in my practice time?

Hope this helps,
Best, Jen

Friday, September 19, 2014

Livestream for early birds; The Nielsen Competition

Flute Lovers,
 Watch Nielsen 2014 flute performance competition live, Saturday morning Sept. 20th, flute soloists with orchestra; Semifinals: 3 players tomorrow morningat 10 am West Coast North America (1pm East Coast NA, and at 19:00 Denmark) with orchestra.

Live stream Nielsen competition:

These three flute players are advancing to the finals of the Carl Nielsen International Flute Competition 2014: Listen Saturday Sept. 20th at above link.

S├ębastien Jacot (27 years / Switzerland)
Yukie Ota (29 years / Japan)
Yaeram Park (18 y / South Korea)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flutterby does not faze flutist

Dear Flute lovers,

Now that's a player who can concentrate. A beautiful moment.

Flutterby does not faze flutist (video)\

Youkie Ota was joined by a butterfly on stage, that seemed to enjoy her playing, waving its wings to Sancan's Sonatine for flute and piano.

Enjoy. Unbelievable.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Joshua Smith plays Widmann's Suite

Well flutey dudes,
if I listened to this new piece twice in a row,
and enjoyed the playing and writing THAT much,
well... I thought you flute-lovers would too:
Listen to a new flute work:

Joshua Smith, Flutist
audio recording BBC Proms - Sept. 7th 2014
Starts 19:26 minute mark.
Composer: Jorg Widmann
Title Flute En Suite (2011)

Well WELL worth a listen. :>D Yowza!
Best, Jen

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

How to Organize Your Flute Music

Dear Flute Lovers,
It's that time of year; everyone is asking what to bring to their fall flute lessons, and is sorting through piles of flute sheet music, wondering how to organize it. I've had some questions about this by email from my own students, and so I'll tell you all I know. :>)

1. The Big Flute Binder

Firstly, do you have a flute binder? These three-ringers are very useful things to have.
All your current flute music all in one place?
Only one flute book to put into your bag (along with your flute and your flute swab) and you're out the door?
Oh wow, you say. Well,

 Voila, the simplest way to keep everything in one place.

(click on picture to enlarge).

If you can find the three-ring binders that are about 1-inch wide at the spine, and have two interior pockets, buy five of them. They will take you through the next two decades of flutey business.
Note the tabs. Note the pockets. (Note that you cannot have a flimsy music stand to hold a full binder....)

And those readers who are well informed-about-office-supply-equipment and all its oddities, will mention at this point that for a three-hole binder, you need a three-hole punch and access to a photocopier in order to have working copies of all your music all in one binder, but I swear the binder system really works! 

Just find that dern three hole punch, and your life will be simplified. All your beautifully new fresh published sheetmusic will stay safely out of the rain, at home on your shelves, for reference, while you write all over your photocopies, and create a working book of all that you're working on in lessons. No time wasted. See what you think. Bit brilliant. :>)

2. Storing Your Flute Music

At home on your bookshelf, the easiest way to store flute music is in cardboard, upright file folders (buy four pack of file folders at stationary store and unorigami them). The easiest way to catagorize flute sheetmusic is:

Love it
Might be useful
Hate it (also known as 'Yuckeroo-holiday').

(click on picture to enlarge).

Lay all your music out on a bed or table, and put it in those three piles. Then transfer them to the upright boxes. Again; Voila.

And you'll notice after ten years that you almost never need to look at the "Yuckola" file, and that you'll seldom need the "might be useful" file, (unless you get a new ensemble or a new gig, or a new outlook.)

But the "love it" file boxes, they'll start to grow.

Put them on the easiest place to reach on your bookshelf.
If you get too many, subdivide them again (see 3 below).

And put the unloved music in the hard to reach place in the dark end of the shelf; be ergonomic. :>)

You'll soon find it easy to put music back where it goes if there are only three categories, plus, you'll know which file box you're looking for when you're in a rush to find something. Love and hate are easy to remember.

3. Sorting Sheetmusic By Category

If you own a large amount of sheetmusic, and you find at least half of it lovable and/or useful, you may want to buy a few more file boxes, and put it into standard categories. I still put the "love it" music on the right hand side of each file box, so I don't have to look very far when I'm looking up solos or etudes that are always fave-raves. The right hand side of the box is easiest to reach for if you're right handed. If you're left handed, or have another system, put the best loved music where it's easiest to reach.

(click on picture to enlarge).

If you have a gigantic sheetmusic collection (as do flute teachers) you will eventually have all these categories in your WALL of sheetmusic.

Solos - Etudes - Ensemble
With subcategories: 
Solo: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern (fave ones on "easy to reach" side)
Etudes: By level of difficulty (fave ones on one side)
Technique Books: sorted by usefulness (good ones on one side)
Ensemble Music: Duets, Trios, Quartets, Choir, Orchestral, Band, Woodwind Chamber Music, String and Flute Chamber Music, Pop/Folk Band Music etc.

(click on picture of all categories, to enlarge).

And there's no reason not to design your own categories. I know I did. They grow as does your career as a performer.

My main concern is being able to find exactly what I'm looking for extremely quickly, with zero frustration. But that's just me. :>)

4. Getting the Right Music To Your Lesson

Getting the particular solos, duets and etudes that you need for each lesson can be made easiest by the big flute binder (no. 1 above), with its tab markers so you can flip to what you need on the music stand without having to hunt for anything.

Flip to your duet, flip to your etude; flip to your scales.
Fabulouso. And they tell flutists, "Don't be Flip"....ha!

But if you prefer, you can buy or find an old-school over-sized music folder, and use that instead.

Here's your big black folder and notebook on its way to your flute lesson, showing the music you're currently playing, the flute in its case,  and the notebook most students use to write down their lesson pointers.  Put all this in a bag the night before. Note the pencil. Very zen. Note the pencil.

(click on picture to enlarge).

The "Flute Lessons Notebook" is something that I, as the teacher, use to write down everything I'm telling the student. Other teachers have the students write things down so that they re-phrase them to suit themselves. The student then uses those notes (and sketches) during the week for their practicing, and then write down questions they come up with during their practice. When the student starts lessons with the notebook with them, they can ask the questions that pertain to this past week's practice, right at the start of the lesson, so they don't forget, and the teacher can write the answers during warm-ups.

It's just a spiral ring pad, but it's a lifetime of memories for what that teacher taught you, when you look back. Ask anyone who has one. It's like a photo album of what you learned.
If you have a binder, just put lined paper into the back for the teacher to write on, if needed.

Notebooks rock. Over-sized fake leatherette brass-reinforced music folders rock.

And...not forgetting your flute and the correct sheetmusic when you get to your lesson also, bigtime, rocks.

5. Keeping the Binder Updated: emptying it of last year's stuff

(click on picture to enlarge).

When you finish with a piece or an etude, you can take it out of the binder, or folder, and re-sort it back onto your book shelves. See above picture.
That way your binder will only have your current materials in it, and not be over-stuffed.

Binders For All Occasions:

You can also have a separate binder or music folder for a particular weekly rehearsal or group that you belong to, so that all you need for those occasions is in its own folder or binder. For example, I was in a "Cello, Flute, Piano Trio", and had a separate binder and over-size folder for those rehearsals.
Then I knew I had everything for that group when I arrived.

Or for performing gigs, I put the whole show in a binder specific to that gig. Those are the occasions where I need to walk on with a plain binder under one arm, and place it on a stand and start to play. I have the entire program in order already, page turns secured, no fussing with music at all, just open the gig-binder and play the show. So soothing.

6. All Flute Related Equipment; At Home, and At Lesson.

Here's a basic view of all the stuff you need for flute lessons, both at home, and when you travel to your lessons.

At home:
Flute with cleaning rod or cleaning swab.
Music stand (Manhasset tall black ones are best for heavy binders, wind storms and dogs with huge wagging tails, like Labradors.)
Flute Sheetmusic
You may also add:
The Tuning CD (disc or mp3s)
A Metronome w or w/o Tuner (inexpensive is fine.)

(click on picture to enlarge).
At your flute lesson:
Flute with cleaning rod or cleaning swab.
Big Flute Binder with blank paper and pencil
or Music Folder with Pencil and Notebook.

I find a picture says a thousand words, and also is a simple way to picture how you can quickly get organized for September's lessons.
If you have any questions, use the comment button. Love to know other systems that people use too.

Enjoy the colourful life of being an organized flutist who knows where their sheetmusic is. :>)
Wish they sold "cover-pocketed one-inch navy binders, sprial notebooks,  three hole punches and over-sized music folders with pencil pocket and sharpener' as a starter packet for music students.

Best, Jen

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jen's feature interview

Dear Flute-lovers,

I had a wonderful interview with this writer, and here is the profile article that resulted:

The three photos are interesting to me too, because I know when and how they were shot.

The first photo in the above article is taken by a newspaper photographer standing high up on a cement parapet, looking down on the rehearsal entrance where the musicans spill out to cool off. It's just before an orchestral concert. It's outdoors in early summer. The photographer said "Concert dress --- get your instrument".  Secretly I am wearing bare feet. I have the original photo from the news photographer; it's been cropped to hide the feet. :>)

The second photo was taken at Ryerson Polytech College photography department back in 1979 by a fellow arts student.

I had just finished eating salt and vinegar potato chips, and before being able to wipe my hands, the student-photographer said: "Stand over here". (clicks on lights) "Play your flute."

(click on picture to enlarge)

The student photographer is now an instructor of photography there! And thanks to their project to shoot this series, I can now see from this photo the stress on my left arm before it became a "musician's injury". Note the flute:  in-line G, open holes, keys tilting slightly backwards,
Note the player: tension in left hand and forearm, neck askew etc.
This is five years before the injury occurred. (left scapula, followed by left wrist and forearm).

Finally, the third photo in the interview article was taken at home in the garden and was also the one used in Flutist's Quarterly biography. That is the most recent photo, obviously. I'm in my fifties now.

But I love that there was at least one from that 1979 salt and vinegar Gemeinhardt with a gold lip plate time of life. :>) Now I know what "brings back alot of memories" really means.

Enjoy! The article is so enthusiastic it's refreshing!
I love it! Thanks to the author a zillion thanks!!

Best, Jen

Bonus flutey items:

Leonard Garrison has Intermediate French Flute Repertoire teaching guides and performances now:

See the lower layer of videos: at his youtube channel.

And read the performance guides on Garrison's blog.

14 year old Emma Resmini plays Nielsen Concerto I:
Another amazing performance! Wow! (video).