The 3 B Flats

The flute has many alternate fingerings for different notes. Alternate fingers exist for many reasons, such as to improve intonation or to facilitate quick passages. The note B flat is a testament to the use of alternate fingerings on the flute.

Hannah B Flute | The 3 B Flats

There are three main fingerings used for first and second octave B flat. Each fingering has its pros and cons. They are also used in different situations. Every flutist should know each fingering and when each should be used.

Knowing the three fingerings and each one’s purpose allows you to make an informed decision on fingerings when playing through a piece. The 3 B flats are what we are going to talk about today.

What are Alternate Fingerings?

Almost every instrument has different ways of playing the same note. The flute is no exception. A couple of notes on the flute have alternate fingerings that serve different purposes.

Some are helpful in faster movements, and others are useful when moving between certain notes.

Alternate fingerings are just that, alternative ways that a musician can play a certain note on their instrument.

The most common note on flute with alternate fingers is the first and second octave B flat and A sharp.

The Long B Flat

This is the most “traditional” fingering for B flat. It is also fairly easy to teach to younger students. The fingering is different enough from B natural to keep confusion minimal.

Hannah B Flute | Long B Flat Fingering

The long B flat fingering is commonly used by beginners. It is also helpful when B flat is not part of the key or B natural is part of the key. Another situation where this fingering is helpful is when the music calls for a lot of high F sharps or G flats.

This fingering is also often used in chromatic scales and passages. It also is used when the other two fingerings are too difficult or otherwise impractical.

The Thumb B Flat

This fingering is the second most common and is taught after a student is comfortable with the long B flat fingering. This fingering is perfect for flat keys, such as F, Bb, Eb, Ab, etc.

Hannah B Flute | Thumb B Flat Fingering

Thumb B flat is sometimes taught to beginners, but it can be confusing for some. The two thumb keys are the “key” to mastering this fingering.

The B natural thumb key is used more often than the B flat thumb key, so it can be hard to learn when to use each one.

While this fingering is easily confused with B natural, it can be incredibly helpful. This fingering is especially useful for fast passages in pieces where B flat is part of the key signature. As long as B natural or C flat do not occur in a piece, the thumb B flat can be used throughout the work.

The Lever B Flat

This fingering is the least common of the three. Some beginner flutes do not even have the key that allows for the lever B flat. But it is, like the other two, a great option in certain situations.

Hannah B Flute | Lever B Flat Fingering

I just started using the B flat lever fairly recently, but it is incredibly helpful. It is great for chromatic scales and passages. The long B flat can be slightly flat, and the lever avoids that. It depresses the same keys as the B flat thumb key, but it allows for an easy transition to B natural or C flat.

The B flat lever does not use the F key, like the long B flat. Excess keys pressed down can change tuning ever so slightly. That is one of the faults of the long B flat with the lever makes up for.

How to Choose?

Each fingering has their merits. The long B flat is great for beginners, because it is the easiest to understand of the three. While it is not always the easiest in faster pieces, it works in almost every situation.

The thumb B flat is perfect for fast runs and scales in flat keys, but it doesn’t work when there are B naturals in the key signature. It doesn’t always work, but it is a great tool when it does work.

The lever B flat, while the least common, is useful in slower chromatic passages. Intonation is more noticeable in slower music. Since the lever is not as quick and easy to use as the other two fingerings, slow music is where it shines.

Related: Tools & Resources for Self Taught Flutists


Have you used each of these fingerings before? How do you choose which fingering to use? Leave a comment below!


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Career Paths for Musicians

Usually, I write about stuff that would appeal to all sorts of musicians. I try to appeal to both amateurs and professionals. But not all music topics will be for all musicians. So today, I’m focusing on those of you who are professional musicians or aspiring professionals: career paths for musicians.

Hannah B Flute | Career Paths for Musicians

A music career is very difficult. Pro and aspiring pro musicians often have to work multiple jobs to bring in enough income. It is not impossible to become a professional musician; technology has actually made it easier than ever.

In this post, we are going to explore some different career paths for musicians. Some common, others not so common.

Portfolio Careers

Most musicians have what is called a portfolio career. They do multiple different things. Performing on the weekend and teaching during the week is a common combination.

Some musicians even have day jobs outside of music. They pursue music on the side until they can do it full time.

A portfolio career is important for any musician. You don’t want to rely on one stream of income. If you’re a performer and suffer from a huge injury, you need something else to fall back on until you are well enough to perform.

A composer needs another way to make their income in case they have a bad bout of writers block.

If you’re a musician who plays or works in the music industry professionally, you need options. This blog post will help you figure out those options that are right for you.

Related: Portfolio Careers: What, Why, Who?


This is the most common career path in music, and it is also the most competitive. It is also the most draining, because performing usually means a lot of time spent traveling.

But performing solo, in a chamber group, or in a larger orchestra can be a fulfilling career path. Most performers supplement their income in other ways, because a lot of them don’t make a full time income on performing alone.

If you love being on stage and playing music for other people, consider working towards a performance career.

There are many performance jobs out there, including orchestral positions, pit orchestras, musical theatre, opera, chamber groups, and solo jobs. It can be tough to get started in a performance career, so be sure to never stop working and building connections.


Music education is a major at almost every school that has a general music major. Why? There is a a growing need of qualified music educators. Even though school budgets have cut many music programs, there are other places where you can teach music.

You can teach anyone from preschool to adult, and you can teach for a school, a community center, or on your own. You can even teach music online with some programs now.

If you enjoy working with people and you are good at helping others learn, consider being a music teacher.

There are dozens of ways you can teach music. There are the traditional teaching careers: K-12 teaching in a public school and college/university teaching. With the advancement of technology, however, there are even more ways of teaching.

You can also set up a private teaching studio, where you teach who and what you want. Your studio could be online, out of your home, out of a music store, or a combination of these.


Music therapy is a growing field. It combines music with other therapy techniques. Music therapist work with people with disabilities. They use music to help patients in various ways.

This includes allowing a person with autism to express themself or helping a patient with early stages of dementia slow down memory loss.

While it is a new field, music therapy it is a legitimate career path with a growing number of jobs.

If you want to work with people with disabilities and you are patient and caring, consider being a music therapist.

You do need special training, either a bachelors in music therapy of a bachelors equivalent for those who already have a degree. If you are interested enough and willing to do the work, music therapy can be a very rewarding career.

Music therapists either work in hospitals or for themselves with a private practice. Some even work in music stores.


Another new way to make money as a musician is by writing articles, blog posts, and even books. With the internet, it is even easier to write and publish a book on your own. A blog is even easier to set up.

There are a few different free platforms where you can start a blog. The most common are and Blogger (Google). I started this blog on Blogger, because I could use my already active Google account to set it up.

Blogger is totally free, and it allows more features than the free plan on and other “free” blogging sites. Other free sites usually have some strings attached.

The platform might post ads on your blog, and they keep any profits. Free blogs also have certain limitations on what you can do. And almost all of those free sites? They can claim ownership of your content. They can even shut down your site if they feel it goes against their policies.

Whether on your own website, a free blog, or in a book, writing is a great way for musicians to make a living. Writing is flexible; you can do it from the couch or in an airplane.

A blog is the easiest way to get started with writing. It can build your web presence, and you can figure out if you like writing enough to make it part of your career.

Related: How to Start a Blog


One popular career path for musicians is composing and/or arranging music. Composing is pretty straightforward. You write new music. Arranging is where you take music already written and write it for a new instrumentation.

An example would be a concerto written for a solo instrument with piano accompaniment. A concerto, by definition, is for a soloist with orchestra. But since most musicians don’t have easy access to a full orchestra, music publishers will make and sell arrangements with piano.

If you are good at improvising or you like experimenting with new instrumentations, composing and arranging might be the path for you.

Composers and arrangers either work for themselves or with a tv or film company. A film composer writes music for film and television, and is sometimes even a full time employee. Most composers do start off self employed.


There are dozens of other career paths for musicians that we haven’t even touched on. If you would like to see a part two in the future, leave a comment below!


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How to Learn a Piece of Music

As a semi pro musician, I have to learn a lot of music in not much time. I have a day job; I have this website to maintain. So I don’t have hours upon hours to learn new pieces. I have to know how to learn a piece quickly and efficiently.

Hannah B Flute | How to Learn a Piece of Music

Over the past few months of being out of school, I have figured out my process for learning a piece of music. I have a full system, from reading a piece for the first time to maintaining a piece you have already learned.

Without further ado, here is how I learn a piece of music.

Stage 1: Sight Reading

The first thing I do when I start working on a new piece is sight read it. I usually try to do this without hearing the piece first. When I was still new to the flute, hearing either a recording or my teacher helped me figure out how the piece should sound.

Now that I am more advanced, I am able to use my sight reading skills to determine how a pieces sounds. I use my knowledge of music notation (rhythms and notes) to read the piece down. Sight reading without hearing the piece also allows me to form my own interpretation of the piece

When I sight read a piece, I try to get through it with as few stops as possible. I like to save stops and starts for when I am actually working on a piece. My goal for sight reading is to get the basics under my fingers and to figure out which parts will need more attention and which parts I can simply run through.

If you want to see my tips for successful sight reading, let me know in the comments!

Stage 2: Studying

After I have sight read a new piece, I will either move on to a different piece, or I will start working through the piece. When I start working on the piece, I start to really study it. I find at least one good recording, if not multiple, that I can listen to for inspiration.

This is also the stage where I start chunking the piece. I look for the more difficult parts and the easier parts. I will also mark in things like accidentals and difficult rhythms.

After I have worked through the easy parts, I can then focus on the more difficult ones. Yes, it’s hard to work on the tricky stuff, but that is what will make you a better flute player.

Score study is also very important at this stage. If there is a measure or phrase that I don’t fully understand, I can look at the score to see what the accompaniment is doing.

Studying the score also helps me when it comes to fast runs. The flute part may have no obvious harmonies, but it could be a simple chord or arpeggio. The accompaniment part is very helpful when it comes to finding the harmonies.

Related: The What & Why of Score Study

Stage 3: Performance

After I get really comfortable with a piece of music, I start to practice performing it. Even if I will never actually play it in front of others, performance practice has many benefits.

First, I get to practice my stamina. When you perform a piece, you can’t just stop in the middle of it. You might have a rest here or there, but you need to get through the whole piece without stopping.

Second, I can figure out what notes or phrases are still causing me issues. When I play a measure or phrase, it will often seem more polished than it really is. Putting the piece back together brings those problems to my attention.

I can then go back to the learning stage and work more on those problem areas.

Related: Get Rid of Performance Anxiety

Stage 4: Maintenance

After I have fully learned a piece and practiced performing it, I then move it into the maintenance stage. This is where I put pieces that I have already learned and performed but I don’t want to lose the work I put into them.

Now that I am preparing for graduate school auditions for next year, I have a couple of pieces and excerpts that are in maintenance mode. These are pieces that I have already studied, but I need to keep up with.

They are commonly asked for in graduate auditions, and I don’t want to have to relearn these pieces.

Also, as an aspiring flute teacher, I need to be able to demonstrate pieces and phrases for any future students. I don’t want to feel like I’m reading a piece that I am teaching to a student.


How do you learn and study a piece? Do you listen to it first? Do you keep up with any old pieces? Let me know in the comments!

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NFA: Entering a Competition

Hello friends! This is the first installment in a mini series about preparing for the National Flute Association (NFA) Convention 2018. The first topic is about preparing for and entering a competition.

I wanted to start a series documenting my experience preparing for the convention, because this is sort of a big deal for me. Not only is it my first time attending the NFA convention, but it is also the first time I will be traveling on my own.

Hannah B Flute | NFA: Entering a Competition

I wanted the first installment to be about the initial planning stages and booking the flight and hotel. But since competition entries were due last week, I thought that made competitions the perfect first topic.

Without further ado, let’s get into how I prepared for and recorded my competition entry.

Become an NFA member.

The first requirement to entering a competition through the NFA is to be a member. There are different levels of membership, such as active, student, and lifetime.

You can also be an e-member (active or student) which means you can save a bit of money. The e-membership is the same as the regular membership, except for price and the lack of print publications sent in the mail. You instead are able to read them online.

While the deadline for competition entries has passed, there are many other benefits of being an NFA member. Benefits include attending the annual convention, a subscription to The Flutist Quarterly, and access to a large music library.

You can become an NFA member here.

Choose your competition.

This was the first time I have entered an NFA competition, so I chose just one. I decided to go with the Orchestral Audition Masterclass Competition. Since I am out of school, I don’t have a regular accompanist. This competition did not require accompaniment.

There are other performance based competitions, like Young Artist, Piccolo Artist, and more. You can also participate in a non-performance competition, like the flute choir composition competition.

You can enter as many competitions as you wish, but there is an entry fee for almost all of them.

Learn the Music.

Each competition has required repertoire that must be performed. Some repertoire must be a certain edition, others can be any edition. Make sure you know the requirements before you buy all the music.

You don’t want to purchase the pieces only to find out you needed a specific edition.

After you have the music, start learning it. Listen to the pieces, study the score, follow the same learning process as you would for other pieces.

Hopefully, if you are entering a competition, you are already at a high level, and you know how to learn a piece of music.

For any pieces that require accompaniment, start working with your accompanist. Let them know you are preparing for a competition. The sooner you can start rehearsals, the better prepared you will be for the competition.

Preliminary Recordings.

Start doing some preliminary recordings far in advance. These recordings don’t need to be perfect or even good. They are merely a way to get you used to playing for a device.

While the competition required audio recordings, I made a few video recordings and posted them to Instagram. Doing so helped my confidence. I was able to play for my recording device without any problems.

I didn’t experience any nerves related to recording. Recording for fun will also help you learn from the mistakes you make. When playing, it is hard to focus on some of the details. Listening back to your recordings helps you hear things you wouldn’t otherwise.

Getting Feedback.

During the process of learning the music for the competition, I took the works to my flute lessons. I was able to get feedback specific to my needs from someone who knows me well.

My teacher gave me tips on where and how to breathe. She also gave me tips for tricky fingerings.

While I do believe advanced players, like those entering competitions, can learn a lot from themselves, nothing beats a good teacher.

Feedback is important for any musician, but feedback from different sources is especially important when you are entering a competition. Different judges have their own expectations, and having a variety of people listening to you is extremely valuable.

Audio Recording.

When you have learned all of the music, gotten great feedback, and made some basic recordings, it’s time to make your competition recordings.

I took a day that I had all to myself and dedicated it to making sure the pieces were polished enough to record. That day, I started with my normal warm up routine.

I then focused solely on the competition repertoire. I made multiple takes of each work. Having the whole day for recording allowed me to space my takes out throughout the day.

I did a round or two in the morning and another round or two in the afternoon. Breaking it up helped me avoid too much tension that could bring down the quality of my playing.

When recording, you want to put your best foot forward. That means you want to be well rested, and you don’t want to overwork yourself. Whether your audition is recorded or live, having that day to focus on the audition makes it easier to stay on task.


Have you ever participated in a music competition? Entering a competition for the NFA was a great experience for me, whether I advance or not. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a competing musician.

Leave your thoughts on competitions in the comments below!

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Technology for Musicians

In this day and age, technology is everything. From social media to cameras and audio recorders, there are many ways technology can help musicians. This post will cover technology for musicians.

Hannah B Flute | Technology for Musicians

With each passing year, social media gets bigger and bigger. We can connect with other musicians all over the world. Cameras and cell phones have also allowed for musicians to learn music and connect with others online.

I love using technology to learn more about music, to share my own recordings, and to help others with their musical journey.

Social Media

Certain social media sites have growing communities of musicians.


There are many Facebook groups dedicated to classical musicians. Some are general music groups, and others are for players of specific instruments.

Different groups work differently, some are more conversational and others focus more on sharing links to music: recordings and sheet music.

I am in a few flute groups and a couple of general classical music groups. I can pose questions, share links to my recordings and this blog, and I can answer others’ questions.


The music community on Instagram differs significantly than that on Facebook. There is less conversation on Instagram and more sharing.

Like sharing videos and photos related to music.

Comments on photos and videos allow connections with other musicians. Compliments and constructive criticism can help not only the one posting the video, but others who watch the video and read the comments.

Instagram stores also let users share more content and give others a look behind the scenes.


Computers allow us to access social media, to watch videos on YouTube, to listen to recordings of great musicians, and more. There are also different audio and video programs that allow you to record and edit clips of your playing.

Garageband and iMovie are good starter programs for Mac, and similar programs exist for Windows.

Computers are probably the most famous piece of technology, and there’s a lot of stuff we can do with them.

There are many online music courses that you can take from the comfort of your own home. You can even take private music lessons online.

We can also buy sheet music and other accessories online.


Cell phones allow us to use social media on the go. You can also download apps like YouTube and Spotify. Phones make for great, cheap, tuners and metronomes.

You can also uses the Facebook and Instagram apps to connect with others on the go.

Cell phone cameras also allow us to record videos and audio clips without the need for a fancy or expensive camera.

Phones are a great way to keep up with the online music community and listen to recordings whenever and wherever you are.

Why is Technology Important?

Technology is a huge part of our daily lives. We use it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Why shouldn’t we extend that part of our lives to music?

Just because I play classical music, that doesn’t mean that I have to stick to the technology they had back in that period.


How do you use technology as a musician? Let me know in the comments!