Finding “Motivation” to Practice

Ah, motivation. We all seem to need it to get stuff done these days. Finding motivation to practice music can be difficult at times. That is why I want to move away from “motivation” as a way to practice.

Hannah B Flute | Finding Motivation to Practice

Relying on a motivator often means relying on something external. ┬áThere are days where I don’t want to practice, because I can’t find anything to motivate me.

Discipline, however, is more consistent than motivation. Discipline should be the main factor in you practicing.

Motivation vs. Discipline

Motivation is the state or condition of having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.

Discipline involves an activity that helps develop a skill.

Both motivation and discipline *can* be applied to music and musicians, but discipline requires nothing more than you and your instrument.

Motivation requires something like an upcoming lesson or concert. That event gives you the desire to practice so that you can do well.

The problem with this is that we don’t always have a concert or lesson in the near future. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t practice.

Discipline, like daily practice, will help develop your playing each day. No need for a concert or lesson.

Finding Discipline

If you have never done disciplined practice, it can be hard at first. Discipline has to come from inside you rather than something external.

Your desire to improve as a musician is a great start, but you need to make it a routine.

For example, every time you use the restroom, you wash your hands. Right?

That is discipline. We have trained ourselves to wash our hands before leaving the restroom.

You can practice in that same way. Not when leaving the restroom, but each day. Find a time to practice, even write it down on the calendar.

Think of practicing as something you just do. It is part of your day, just like washing your hands.

Using Reminders

When you start practicing by discipline instead of by motivation, it can be hard to get in the groove. Reminders can be anything. It can be an alarm telling you it’s time to practice. You can also use paper reminders, like on your mirror or music stand.

No matter what kind of reminder you use, make it something that does inspire (or even motivate) you.

In the beginning, it is hard to practice based on discipline alone. Adding in one or two outside factors can help you. Soon enough, you will be practicing without those outside motivators.

You will be disciplined.

Is Motivation All Bad?

No. Motivation can be a good thing, and it can be a great way to get you to practice. Relying solely on motivation, however, is not good.

There will be many times where you are not motivated by anything to practice. If that is the case, it will be a lot harder for you to pull out your instrument than if you also had the discipline to.

Finding motivation to practice is a nice thought, and it can be helpful. Motivating factors, like performances, can help you build that discipline necessary.

It can help you become disciplined to the point where you will continue to practice after that next concert.

Motivation can be a great way to get anything done, but it should be accompanied by discipline.

Why Practice?

I’ve talked all this time about motivation and discipline to practice, but I haven’t mentioned why we practice.

As musicians, we should always want to improve. Odds are, you are not the best performer on your instrument. Therefore, you can learn from someone. You can learn what the greats have done to hone their craft.

Just as how a student studies, a musician must practice.

It is how we can learn and grow. Practice allows us to play new and increasingly difficult repertoire.

Without practice, we would be forever stuck as a beginner.

It’s About You

In the end, practicing isn’t about motivation or discipline. It’s about bettering yourself, both as a musician and as a person.

Music allows you to express your own creativity. You can even form your own community with other musicians.

Practicing is a means to an end for musicians; it is how you meet or even exceed your goals.

Some days, you will be really motivated to achieve those goals.

Other days, discipline will be all you have.

So while music is something to be enjoyed, we cannot rely on our love for music. We will not always be motivated to play or practice.

Musicians need discipline.

So…

What are your thoughts on finding motivation to practice? Do you prefer discipline? Let me know in the comments!

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NFA: Flute Shopping

Hello flute friends. June is here (and almost gone, what?). That means that NFA 2018 is right around the corner. Being that it is the biggest flute convention of the year, you might be thinking about flute shopping there.

Hannah B Flute | NFA: Flute Shopping

Well, I’m right there with you. I’m not sure if I’ll actually buy a new instrument, a new headjoint, or nothing at all. But I will be spending some time in the exhibition hall looking at all things flute.

In this installment of my NFA series, I’m going to share some tips for flute shopping as well as other flute products you could buy.

Know Your Budget.

Flutes can cost upwards of $20K, but you probably don’t have that much money to spend. Right? So make sure you have a budget for spending at the convention.

Do you want to purchase a new flute or piccolo? Or are you planning to stick to the small stuff, like sheet music?

Decide how much money you can and are willing to spend at the convention before you go. Then stick to that budget as best you can.

You could create a daily budget or a budget for the whole convention. Your budget could also have different sections for things like sheet music and instruments.

No matter how you separate things out, have an overall budget in place so that you don’t get sucked into those amazing 18k gold, really expensive flutes. Unless that’s what you’re looking for, that is.

Stick to Your Budget.

Obviously, if you’re budget is less than $5000, you won’t be able to get a gold flute. Certain brands might also be out of reach with that budget. That’s okay.

When you approach a booth and ask to try flutes, tell the salesperson what your budget is. Flutists and vendors are nice people. They WANT you to buy something. So they’re gonna be willing to work with you.

If you’re curious about what you can get for $X, look online at FluteWorld, FCNY, or Carolyn Nussbaum. These online flute stores list the prices of various flutes (and their specs).

By researching different flutes beforehand, you will know what specs you can get and which ones you might need to save for or skip. Adding specs like a C# trill, split E, a gold riser, and more can significantly increase the cost.

Related: Flute Specs

Decide What You Want.

Do you want to buy a flute? A piccolo or low flute? Do you just want a new headjoint? Or are you going to jump on the LeFreque train?

Once you have your budget and know what you can afford with that budget, decide what is most important. If you’re headed off to music school, you will probably want to upgrade your flute followed by piccolo, then maybe an alto flute.

If you are an amateur, you may not need or want a professional level flute. But you may decide that you want a bass flute so you can join a flute choir.

Maybe you’re fine with your set of instruments and you want to test out a new headjoint or a LeFreque.

Now, some people might say you should decide what you want BEFORE setting your budget. That can work for some people, but usually finances aren’t as negotiable as what we choose to purchase. Do what works for you.

Try Lots of Flutes (etc.)

When you get to the convention, try as many flutes, headjoints, etc. as you can. There will be a ton of vendors there (view last year’s exhibitors on pg. 199). Check out different vendors, try out different brands, and test different models within your budget.

Even if you have your heart set on a (insert flute brand here), try others. Your “perfect” flute may be one you never expected.

This is also a great time to ask the flute vendors about flute trials. If you find a couple flutes you really like and want to test out a bit more, see if you can take the flutes on trial. You could either test them during the convention or maybe even take them home. (Again, ask the vendor)

You can also look into financing, if that is something you’re interested in. Financing can help you get a flute without having to pay for it upfront. You usually have to make a downpayment, and there will be interest. But for some people, it’s worth it.

Other Things to Buy

If you’re not looking at flutes, what else can you buy at the convention? You can buy anything from sheet music to cleaning supplies. If your budget is too small to pay for a new instrument, you can also look at different upgrades.

Whether you want to get a LeFreque or a new headjoint, there are low cost ways to upgrade your current instrument.

One thing that I would recommend looking at during the convention is sheet music. Yes, there are tons of places to buy sheet music online, but a lot of them don’t provide free samples.

You can’t actually see what the music looks like, or how it’s layed out, unless you’re in person. I am fortunate enough to live close to a well stock sheet music store, but I know a lot of people don’t have that luxury.

So consider looking at some sheet music while you’re in the exhibition hall. You might just find a new favorite piece.

So…

Will you be flute shopping at the NFA convention this year? Let me know in the comments!

Laurel & Yanny: Sound Perception

Do you hear Laurel? Or do you hear Yanny? This case of sound perception has been dividing the internet for the past few days. You can find the offending audio clip all over social media.

As with the famous dress of 2015, the audio clip is some sort of illusion. Some people clearly hear “Laurel” and others clearly hear “Yanny.”

Sorry Team Yanny, it’s actually Laurel.

In this post, I am going to share with you what we as musicians can learn from Laurel & Yanny.

Gold vs. Silver

In the flute community, there are people who prefer the sound of gold flutes and those that prefer the sound of silver flutes. Silver and gold are the two most common materials of flute, but every flutist has their preference.

What this audio clip proves is that we all hear certain things differently. It can explain why one flutist will only play gold flutes and why another might only want to play silver flutes.

It’s not that gold or silver is definitively better than the other. The two materials have their own unique qualities, and we all hear things in our own ways.

C foot vs. B foot

A recent thing I learned was that the length of the flute can affect how it sounds. The longer tube of a B foot flute can make it sound darker. A shorter C foot flute sounds brighter.

Or so they say.

I’m not a scientist, but it would make sense that a tube’s length would affect the sound waves that the tune produces.

A B foot also weighs more than a C foot, and that added weight *can* darken the sound of a flute.

Drawn vs. Soldered Tone Holes

Like the C foot vs B foot conundrum, soldered tone holes are argued to have a darker and richer sound than drawn tone holes. This is because the tone holes are heavier.

Drawn tone holes are “drawn” from the metal that is part of the tube of the flute. Soldered tone holes are manufactured separately from the tube and then soldered on.

As with different metals and different tube lengths, the different method of forming tone holes can also play a role in how your ear perceives the sound of a flute. But some people might hear a bigger difference between drawn and soldered tone holes than others.

Testing Flutes

The Laurel/Yanny debate is also proof that having a friend listen while you test out a new flute can be important. The ears of a good friend or colleague can hear things you may not.

The same flute will sound different to the audience than to the player. A trusted friend can play the flute for you so you can listen. If you must go play testing alone, then a recording device can simulate the experience of having another person there.

While I believe you should pick the flute that you like best, listening and not just playing flutes can help you make your decision.

Why do I hear …?

The main reason people hear Laurel or Yanny has to do with pitch frequencies. If your ears pick out the higher frequencies, you are more likely to hear “Yanny.” For those of us that hear more of the lower frequencies, “Laurel” is the obvious choice.

If you major in music, you have to take two years of ear training. While I don’t know about other students, I was taught to listen for the bass line.

The bass line is the fundamental part of any piece of music, so that is what my ear gravitates toward. As a flutist, of course and can also hear higher frequencies. That is why I understand how some people might hear “Yanny.”

The Oral Cavity

Another reason why Laurel and Yanny can be easily mistaken is that the shape and size of your oral cavity is almost the same for both words.

La and Ya are very similar; r- and n- are also similar. The sounds el and ee are also very similar.

The only part of the mouth that changes is the tongue along with slight change of the lips. Try saying “Laurel” and “Yanny” and pay attention to how your mouth feels with both words.

Almost identical, right? The slightest change in your mouth can result in larger changes outside of the mouth.

So flutists, be sure to remember that when practicing long tones and working on intonation.

So…

Which word do you hear? Is there anything else flutists can learn from this phenomenon? Leave your response in the comments!

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How to Sight Read

There are many skills that musicians must develop. Finger agility, hand-eye coordination, note reading, and many more. The skill that is possibly the most important is sight reading.

Hannah B Flute | How to Sight Read

If you can sight read music, you can do just about anything. Sight reading allows you to play in ensembles, learn pieces more quickly, and even take on last minute gigs.

This post is all about how to sight read. Start off on the right foot with your next piece by sight reading it first.

What is Sight Reading?

Sight reading is exactly what it sound like; it is where you read and play a piece of music at first sight. This is an important ability that you should learn as soon as you can.

If you are not able to sight read, that means you will have to spend even more time looking at the piece before you can actually start to play it. sight reading speeds up that initial process of learning a piece.

Sight reading not only speeds up the learning process, but it also means you can play in more settings than on your own.

Why is Sight Reading Important?

Most ensembles do not pass out the parts before the first rehearsal. Your first look at the piece will be with everyone else around you. You will not have the time to look over the whole piece to figure out what the hard parts are.

Ensembles require you to sight read in the first rehearsal. Only after reading through the piece will you (usually) get to break the piece down and work on it.

If you are serious about music and want to take on gigs, sight reading is sometimes necessary. You may have one rehearsal with the other musicians, and that may be the time when you get your part. In that case, sight reading will help you give a better performance without a ton of rehearsal time.

Know Your Music Theory

A big part in sight reading is knowing how to read music. Know all the notes in the written range of your instrument. Check out this PDF if you don’t know your instrument’s range.

You should also be able to read simple and complex rhythms. Notes and rhythms form the basis for written music, and those foundations will help you sight read with ease.

Be sure you know your time signatures and your key signatures. If applicable, know the different clefs that your instrument plays in. That will help you with the next step.

Check the Piece

Before you start to play a piece, there are a few things you should check. First, check the clef. While flutists and violinists will only ever play in treble clef, bassoonists and cellists could play in bass or tenor clef.

Next, check your key signature. Part of knowing the notes is knowing if any are sharp or flat. The piece won’t sound right if you miss every F# or Bb.

Thirdly, you should check the time signature. The top number notates how many beats are in a measure, and the bottom number notates the type of note (quarter, eighth, half) that gets a beat.

Lastly, you should also check to see if there is a metronome marking. In ensembles, the conductor will set the tempo, but in your own practice, it’s on you. You don’t have to sight read fast pieces at tempo, but you should at least know what you’re working towards.

The Next Downbeat

When you finally get to sight read, there is one thing that you should always do. Get to the next downbeat, visually and physically. Avoid focusing on each note as it comes up.

Yes, music from the baroque and classical periods are fairly predictable, but romantic and 20th century composers are less so. Newer works have more chromaticism and other weird quirks that you need to prepare for.

If you’re a flutist playing in Db major, it’s tempting to use the thumb Bb for everything. But if you get a rogue high Gb, that Bb thumb will cause you to sound flat. Other instruments probably have similar issues.

So always keep your eyes ahead of yourself in the music. That will help you stay on track and avoid mistakes while sight reading.

Practice

As with anything in music, you will not become a master overnight. Sight reading takes practice. If you take lessons, ask your teacher for sight reading exercises. If you do not take lessons, look online for easier pieces for your instrument.

Incorporate sight reading into your practice routine, just like scales and tone exercises.

You will not be perfect, after all, sight reading is only your first time playing a piece. But sight reading practice will help you with reading music and, in a way, multitasking.

Sight reading requires you to adapt to any changing key and time signatures, look out for upcoming sections, and play the piece in time.

So…

Do you have any sight reading tips? Leave them down in the comments!

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Piccolo Bores: Cylindrical vs. Conical

A while back, I wrote a post about different materials that piccolos are made of. You can find piccolos in various metals, woods, and even plastic. Aside from their different materials, you can also find different piccolo bores.

Hannah B Flute | Piccolo Bores

The bore is the shape of the inside of the tube of a wind instrument. Many instruments, like the oboe, have a conical bore. Other instruments, such as the concert flute, have a cylindrical bore.

You asked for it, and now I’m delivering! In this post, we are going to look at the differences between cylindrical and conical piccolo bores.

Cylindrical Bore

If an instrument has a cylindrical bore, that means that the tube does not get larger or smaller from one end to the other. The best example for this is the modern metal flute.

If you measure the diameter of a flute at the tenon between the headjoint and body, you will find the same measurement at the end of the foot joint. The headjoint itself does taper slightly, but that is beside the point for this post.

Pros

A cylindrical bore gives a fuller sound in the low register. Since the tube diameter does not get smaller at the end, the sound has more space to resonate.

Cylindrical bores also tend to have a more even scale, and the harmonics are closer to where they should be. Cylindrical bore piccolos are also more similarly built to flutes than conical bore piccolos.

Cons

Not many piccolos are cylindrical bore. That makes these instruments hard to find. Most cylindrical bore piccolos are made of metal, which is not usually a preferred material.

Because the low register is so strong, other tuning issues, particularly in the upper range, can arise. That means more time practicing or searching for alternate fingerings.

Models

Nagahara Mini

Jupiter JPC700

Armstrong 204

Most metal piccolos

Conical Bore

A conical bore instrument has one end that is noticeably smaller or larger than the other. Within the instrument, the tube tapers like a cone. In some instruments, like the oboe, it gets bigger as you reach the end of the instrument.

The case is reversed with the piccolo; the end of the instrument is smaller than at the top.

Pros

Conical bore piccolos are plentiful. Most piccolo models are made with a conical bore. If you only plan to learn how to play one bore, go for a piccolo with a conical bore.

Piccolos with a conical bore have fewer tuning issues than their cylindrical counterparts. And since most professionals and teachers have played a conical bore piccolo, more information and alternate fingerings are readily available.

Cons

The footjoint end of a conical piccolo is smaller than on a cylindrical piccolo, and that results in a smaller sound in the low register. Some piccolos, like those by Yamaha, really struggle in the low range.

One reason that the flute is cylindrical is because of various developments that helped the flute become a better instrument. However, the piccolo has been left in the dust. It is almost as if the piccolo is stuck in the 19th century, pre Boehm.

Models

Gemeinhardt 4SP, 4SH & 4SS

Most plastic, composite, and wood piccolos

How to Choose?

In most cases, you cannot request a certain bore for a piccolo. Some models are made with a cylindrical bore, others with a conical bore. While you can change certain specs on a piccolo, like adding a split E, that is not the case for the bore.

Rather than choosing a piccolo because of its bore shape, choose a piccolo based on materials, workmanship, and how it fits you. I have played an owned both a cylindrical bore piccolo and a conical bore piccolo, and they both play well.

It’s less a question of the shape and more a question of whether or not you can get a good sound out.

So…

Have you tried both cylindrical and conical bore piccolos? Which piccolo bore did you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

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