Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flute Care for beginners

Dear Fluters,

For those who subscribe to this blog, this information will already be well known (since most of you are teachers and advanced students)but please feel free to send this link on to the band teachers you have on your email lists.

In the past few weeks I've received the following questions:

Hi, I just started flute for the summer, and a) my footjoint is falling off; b) my headjoint is stuck and I can't take the flute apart; c) I don't know if I'm cleaning it right; I have a fluffy stick and you're supposed to leave it inside the flute right? d)the keys are making sticky noises etc.

Since most of these questions turn up every few weeks as a result of my website's link with youtube, here is the most recent video I've made for beginner flute band students that shows some of the important "How to start flute" information.

Here's a video on how to care for your flute for the beginner band student.

And here are links to previous videos for beginner flutes who want to know some How To Play the Flute information.

Video on cleaning the flute without bending the keys.

Video on how to assemble the flute to avoid the need for future repair work.

Video for band teachers, or private teachers on teaching the remedial band flutist.

Link to fingering charts for beginner flutists.

Articles on "how to play the flute" for beginners.

Link to Band Teacher's handout for the Top Ten Secrets of Good Flute Playing.

Link to books on "How to play the Flute" that are good for beginners.

A sitemap that will help you find all kinds of information on my website about flute playing in general.

For flute shopping, an article on why some flute brand names are better than others.

And finally, a few words about this particular student who wrote to me.

Dear Jen, hi. I'm 12 and just started the flute. I went to Ebay and bought a VENUS alto flute for $850. It hasn't arrived yet. Is this a good alto flute? I'm all excited. There were already two other piccolo players in my band (and they only need one the teacher said) so I got the alto instead. What do you think of Venus? Are they good? Signed Shawna

Jen replies:
Dear Shawna,
When you purchase an instrument be sure that you're buying a well-known brand name that comes highly recommended by a private flute teacher who will help you pick one out. Venus is NOT a well-known or highly recommended brand name, and is actually known for making cheap, bendable flutes that can not be easily repaired, and degrade really quickly (start leaking and squeaking, and falling apart.)Unfortunately, there are very few good alto flutes under $2000, and at 12 yrs. old you will find the Alto too large to hold comfortably for any length of time. I suggest that you wait until you're at least 16 before you're large enough to hold up an Alto flute; addditionally, Alto flutes are too soft in volume to be played in a regular band (you can't hear them) and also need their sheetmusic to be transposed as an Alto is a G instrument (not a C instrument.)
Try to send the Alto back when it arrives, and save up for a piccolo, using your private flute teacher's expertise to help you pick out a good one. Piccolo is much more often used, and perhaps in a year or so there will be an opening in your band for a piccoloist. Meanwhile, start private flute lessons to get ahead on your main instrument; the flute. Good luck.
Jen :>)

Feel free to comment below.
I really had a full couple of weeks answering these questions for the flute beginners and band students. I'd love it if band directors already knew the answers and could advise their students on their MAIN instrument, the flute, rather than leave it up to long-distance email-teachers like us. :>)

P.S. And the big answer I almost forgot to write: if your headjoint is stuck, or your footjoint is falling off, find out where the best flute repair technician is in your town (ask your private flute teacher) and take your flute in for a quick, inexpensive repair to these two items.
Comments (12)
Blogger Sheila said...

So true. I remember, long before I played in school band, wondering how the band teacher could possibly 'teach' all the instruments. When I got to band, I found out that they just couldn't. They have such a huge responsibility!

Good advice you give! Some things just have to be said. :D

Take care,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 7:12:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks for your comment. Yes, it's too much for one person to teach in a class full of bleats, blats and boings!!^*&^*^*&^ hahhaha!

I remember doing all the same things that the kids in band still do today. Good thing they make those tank-like flutes for school band use that are heavy, hard-to-blow and partially indestructable. But when a student's parents buy them their own flute, I feel that I'm helping the student AND the parent by giving free advice about flute care.
Thanks again for commenting. Jen :>)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 7:36:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your video. Unfortunately we are not allowed to access You Tube from school, so I am downloading to my laptop. Are you going to make a DVD available that has a compilation of all your little "workshops?"

As a flutist who IS the high school band director, I can tell you that the kids contact you because you are available online, which is what kids do now, the immediate. If they could text message, they could!

Also, many of us teach in towns where there are only mediocre repair techs, if any at all. And one more eye opener for you...we cannot, by law, as public school teachers, instruct our students or their parents NOT to buy any particular brand or not to shop at any particular outlet for instruments(Walmart, etc.) There are lawsuits in the courts against teachers who have put these objections in writing. Private teachers can be clear with their opinions, as they are paid for their expertise
...public "servants" have to tiptoe around to get their point across.

And, in response to Sheila, we don't teach instruments, we try to teach music to the kids.

Thanks, Jen, for being there for all of us!

Sue Cechal

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 7:49:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Sue,
Wow. Thanks.
I've been thinking alot about the lack of good repair technicians, and the difficulty of shipping student flutes out-of-town to get them serviced. I wonder if the students realize that they can rent a flute while theirs is being serviced? Here in this very small town the flutes must be sent to a larger city for repair, but the local music store will rent a Yamaha 200 for less than $20.
As for school teachers not being able to recommend brands, I can see that could be a problem---but yes, then you could send the student to read my articles. I've tested tons of flutes; and I can always update my "which brands to buy" page any time I want, all the while not earning any income from such recommendations.
So yes, this seems to be working well for all of us.
Thanks again for your kind words. Jen :>)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 8:45:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

P.S. All the videos I put up on youtube are just for general information. I'm considering producing a DVD to follow my "Magic Flute" book. It'll create masses more work, but it will be fun work. So, you may have to wait, but for now, feel free to download videos to wherever they help the students. Best, Jen

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 8:48:00 PM

Blogger Sheila said...

Sue: Yes, I completely understand that you don't teach 'instruments'. I was just giving the impression I had when I was very young. That's what I meant by saying they "couldn't". I think what you're doing is a great thing, kids need music in their lives. I just see how difficult it is, and the big responsibility it must be!

Ah Jen, I can't WAIT for that lovely book to be done! But in the meantime I get to peek! :D Oh, a DVD would be fantastic! Go for it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 9:52:00 PM

Anonymous Carol Alban said...

What a great website!
I'm a private flute teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and I'm going to send my students here.
Thanks to Jennifer for providing such a great resource for flutists!
Carol Alban

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 9:54:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Thanks so much Carol. Glad to be of help! :>)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 1:19:00 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

HEllo Jenn,
i just recently bought a yamaha 221, and i was wondering if you think its a good flute for a beginner? I completely had no clue about flutes whatsoever until just a few days ago as i did much research about caring and playing. I am still finding trouble blowing out properly as i need much practice in my breathing and lung volume. (it's my second day practicing)
And i also want to ask how long would i expect to have this flute with me? I'm hoping it would last me for more than 6-8years, is that possible? ( i will very carefully and tenderly care for it frequentl) (p.s i bought this flute for 330USD$, as i live in Taiwan, they are cheaper than prices in US)

Friday, May 02, 2014 1:48:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Yes, Yamaha 200 series is a good beginner flute. It should last you from 5-25 years depending on whether you eventually progress to a point where you need a better instrument.
But you do need lessons as a beginner. So be sure and go for high quality flute lessons to start off on the right foot. Best, Jen

Friday, May 02, 2014 8:25:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jen,

I am a 15 year old flute student, and have been learning the flute for about 6 years. I haven't really heard anything about cleaning the pads of a flute, but vaguely recall an old band teacher telling us flute to place a piece of paper or tissue between the key and the tone hole of the flute and gently pressing the key. As I regularly get my flute serviced, I haven't tried this since I was first told to. What can you say about this method, is it safe, or will it damage the pads? Should I use a certain type of paper? Is there a better alternative, or should I leave it to the professionals?

Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 5:56:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Anon,
Absolutely leave pad-cleaning/replacing/shimming to the professionals.
There is nothing a flutist needs to do to the pads for home care, except avoid accidentally abrading them (roughening them)from rough polishing cloth use.

The blotting of pad surfaces with cigarette or hair-curl papers is generally for oboe or piccolo when they have a "water bridge" between key and key-hole during a performance. The emergency removal of a "water bridge" is by using cigarette papers to blot it off the pad is likely what your band leader was talking about.
You don't need to do this generally. So don't use pad papers as a general rule.
It's a myth that the pads need to be cleaned with dragging papers out from underneathe a depressed pad. It actually abrades the pad when done wrongly.

Best, Jen

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 7:56:00 AM


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