Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Are there any "how to teach flute" books?

I'm a self-taught flutist (I only took a few lessons way back in highschool before the teacher moved away) and 30 years later, I'm now helping my young daughter to learn to play the flute.
She has natural talent (as I guess *I* did ;>) but I'm at a loss to really know "How to teach" as I never actually had any background in that. My only flute lessons were really just comprised of playing duets.
I asked at my local music store about "how to teach the flute" books, and they said they didn't know of any.
Right at the moment, my daughter has a tendency to breathe every bar, and I hope this isn't going to become a bad habit, but what do I suggest to her?
Any help at all or lists of good books to look at would be great.
Thanks. Dad of six.

Dear Dad,
1. There is a great novice/intermeidate level flute "how to" book with demonstration CD of all the basic flute techniques. The photos are good, the explanations are clear, the the exercises short, pithy and totally set the flute student onto the right track.

See Vernon Hill's "The Flute Player's Book" at:

You can also order this and all the other books mentioned below at:

2. To teach you "how to teach" there are several books. The best I've found are: The Art of Playing the Flute (Vol I to III) by Roger Mather
You can find the above three Mather volumes by ordering them at or by filling out an "Interlibrary loan" request slip at your public library.

You can also look through all the myriad flute teaching books at:
I Flute teaching books
II Flute teaching booksand at:
JustFlutes look under TUTORS on the top right pop down menu for "music catalogue".

3. An illustrated flute "How to" book that every flute teacher will want to own (to show the pictures to the student especially) is:Illustrated Fluteplaying. Robin Soldan/Jeanie Mellersh

4. You'll also find a flute teaching manual online in PDF called the Charles Delaney Teaching Guide. It is aimed multi-instrumentalists who already play an additional instrument, and has some dated advice, but is otherwise fairly sound, and a quick read.

5. A very full list of books that are about teaching the flute will appear on various bibliographies (try ordering titles you're interested in from the library
using "inter-library-loan").See:
I Flute teaching bibliography

II Flute teaching bibliography

III Flute Teaching Bibliography

IV. Flute Teaching Bibliography

6. A chart of flute levels (estimates of grade levels for buying new sheet music for students, or for knowing
what skills are next to teach) can be found online also.

7. There are also some good flute magazines to subscribe to.
One of the least expensive in the U.S. is Flutetalk.

Flutetalk contains acres of articles on teaching flute.
You may find back-issues at your local music library or
University library under periodicals. The British Flute Society also puts out "Pan" magazine, and there is a young person's flute magazine in England called "Flutewise" which is specifically aimed at the 8 to 15 age group.
Beginner books:
As for books that help you with hands-on formats so you can go smoothly from skill to skill: there are two sets of books that are good for absolute beginners. They
both help you teach, page by page, so that all the information falls within an intelligent, and time-tested order,and there are tunes to play and duets
as well.
Look for Trevor Wye's Beginner Flute books and also Karen Suzanne Smithson's Beginner Flute books.
The second title, in five volumes has extensive short flute solos (folk and classical) with piano, so if you play piano, you can really help your child along with playing repertoire that teaches.

Update: As of 2009 there are even more beginner flute books now in print that come with demonstration Boosey and Hawkes Beginner book for flute with CD, Abracadabra flute with CD by Pollock etc.
for more titles. Order from or from any music store.

Method Books:
The least expensive, and most hardy method books (by Altes, Wagner etc. plus studies, scales and duets of all kinds) can be found on a CD-rom called "The
Ultimate Sheetmusic for Flute".
10. See: . This is sold in many stores and online as well.
Look for the CD-rom of "Flute, Methods, Studies and Ensembles".
The index to all the pieces on this one CD-rom is at the above link under Woodwind-Flute.

You can also find method books in the library, such as "How to Play the Flute" by Howard Harrison" or maybe can find inexpensive ones at your local music store, such as "The New Tune A Day" with CD.I have tried most all, and have found that there is no one clear "winner" for beginners.

If you're interested for yourself, and your own playing, Trevor Wye also has a good series of books on TONE,
. If you have the cash, this book is worth investing in for yourself:

But of course, if you have the cash for lots of books, you probably could have afforded half-hour weekly lessons with a qualified flute teacher, so I expect you'll use the public library.

Other flute books and solo sheetmusic
12. For lists of books of all kinds that contain actual
flute music, exercises, scales, etudes etc. see:

Jen's list of flute books for those on a budget

Jen's favourite flute repertoire

Best flute books (for the advanced flutist) including teaching books

Taking lessons yourself.
Finally, if you take weekly flute lessons yourself, you will gain alot of insight from your own teacher about how to teach.
To find a teacher go to:
I highly recommend this, as the worst part of not having flute lessons is the development of bad-habits of which we're unaware, and then later have to be
There are myriad bad-habits that creep into flute playing, and they are SO frustrating to try and "un-do".
In fact, a flute teacher said the other day:

"of all the self-taught flute students I've ever met, some of them did one or two flute skills quite well, but all had learned the remainder of the skills incorrectly and had to re-learn them all over again."

The re-learning process can take 2 or more years. Consider this when trying to teach something you don't know how to do, or when deciding to self-teach.
For common bad habits in flute playing see:
15. Bad Habits Flutists do not want, article.

16. Free flute exercises and sheetmusic can be found online here.

17. Free flute listening and flute MP3s from James Galway can be found online also.

18. And for good quick reference, FAQ, and standard flute information see the beginner and intermediate articles on flute at these links:

Flute Beginner's Articles
Intermediate flutist's articles.

Good luck with your daughter's slightly too large embouchure.
I think the quick answer would be to ask her to very gently press the lips together vertically, on either side of the lip hole.

Doing this with the fingers first to find the muscles, and asking her to use a mirror to see that the hole in her lips is the size of a grain of rice (lying
horizontally) usually works.
Jen Cluff
Comments (4)
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another fantastic resource!

I know there are books and articles on teaching music, but I never expected there would be so many on specifically teaching flute. When I start my own studio after college, this post is something I'm going to use to help get myself started.

Monday, October 12, 2009 10:34:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks for your comment. Yes, indeed; there are alot of books on teaching flute, and now we just need to correct the old myths and self-taught typical pit-falls.'

I remember when Galway said a few years back, that it was really unfortunate that there is still no "flute school" that trains flutists properly; there's still no one tried and true flute "method" that is accepted world wide, and is regularly taught. Galway states in my fluteloops interview that compared to violin and piano, flutists still need to develop a "school of pertinent technical information about HOW to play the flute".

Well, finally we teachers emerge on the internet, and there are enough of us doing the research and the "in the field teaching" to know what works and what does not, with modern flute teaching. So at last we can all communicate freely and easily and create information sites.
What a resource we ALL are!
Teachers reading my articles can send me new information and update my collected ideas from all the flute methods I've tried out.

I do read o(r order in from libraries) every new flute book that arrives on the pedagogy scene.

I can't wait to move forward in flute pedagogy and get rid of old wive's tales and myths!

I see them blandly perpetuated every time I get a new student (from band-background) and when I adjudicate flutists.
Very much in need of a free pedagogic collective!

Thanks for your comment.

We move forward! :>) (LOL)

Monday, October 12, 2009 1:15:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great resource

You might be interested to know that recently in Australia the below linked book ("Starting Out - Tips, Traps and Troubleshooting for the Beginning Flute Teacher") has been released. It is a wonderful book that is targeted at young flute players who are starting to take on students for the first time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012 2:09:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks Anon, for the link to "Starting Out". I've just ordered it and will read it when it arrives.
Thanks for the knowledge.
Best, Jen

Sunday, August 19, 2012 5:05:00 PM


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