Flute Practice: Quality Over Quantity

For most musicians, time is not on our side. We have to hustle with a day job, work tons of gigs, teach, or do a combination of things. That is why flute practice is so important. But, if you don’t have much time, you need to focus on quality over quantity.

Killer Harmony | Flute Practice: Quality over Quantity

In music school, the idea that I had to practice for hours a day was drilled into my head. If I wanted to be the best, I had to practice as much as I could. Now that I am out of school, that is just not possible for me.

I work full time in an field outside of music, and so I don’t have multiple hours a day to dedicate to practicing. I wish I did, but I don’t. Since graduating, I have learned to appreciate the time I do have to practice.

Here is why quality practice is so important and how you can make the most of the time you have.

Get up earlier.

One thing I have started doing lately is getting up a little earlier than normal. I set my alarm for thirty minutes before I *need* to get up, and I use those 30 minutes to practice.

I did this in school, so why can’t I do it when I’m out of school?

There are many benefits to practicing first thing.

The obvious benefit is that you get it out of the way. You don’t have to think about it all day. That’s especially nice if you work all day.

Another perk of practicing first thing is that I have the energy to do so. I know some people are super groggy first thing, but I am lucky that I am not. Since I am awake, I am able to use some of that energy to practice.

If I were to wait until I got home from work, I would be tired, and I would not have the motivation to practice.

Make a list.

It can be a mental list. I like to make a list of what I want to accomplish in any one practice session. Maybe my goal is as small as improving my harmonics. It might be as big as perfecting a section of a concerto.

A list can help streamline your practice and help you focus on what you need to work on. If you just pick up your flute without any goals or direction, you will just be wasting that time.

So make a list of a few small, achievable goals that you can work on for your next practice session.

Another great thing about listing out your goals is that you can look back at them. You can look back to see if you accomplished your goal or if you missed something.

Then you can reevaluate for your next practice session.

Take a break.

If you are not genuinely motivated to practice, you will not get anything done. I have found that unmotivated practice is a huge waste of time and energy. It accomplishes nothing.

While it can be tempting to practice whenever you have the time, it’s not always worth it. If your mind is elsewhere, put the flute down and come back later.

Mindless practice is exactly that: mindless. Walk away. Go watch a show. Read a book. Take a nap. Do whatever it is that is taking your attention away from the flute.

Part of practice is being able to discipline yourself, and that includes knowing when to take a break. You will improve, but not if you are practicing without wanting to.

Make the most of your time.

When you have limited resources, you learn to make the most of what you do have. That includes time. Unless you are in music school (not working), or you somehow managed to find a full time performing job, you will not have endless practice time.

You will have an outside job, or other classes, or other life responsibilities that you need to tackle. That, sadly, leaves less time for music.

But part of becoming a well rounded adult is learning to make the most of what is available to you. If you really prefer to practice for a longer period of time, utilize your days off. Get up earlier. Go to bed later.

Do what you need to do to practice how you need to, but remember that time is limited. So make the most of it.

How/When I practice.

As I stated above, I like to get up about 30 minutes earlier than I need to so that I can get clock in a half hour of well rested, motivated practice time. I start with harmonics and then long tone to warm up my lips.

Then I move to some technical exercises so that I can work my fingers and practice different articulations. After that, I play through Debussy’s Syrinx from memory. That helps me maintain the piece from memory, and I can practice my expressiveness.

Finally, I move into solo and ensemble music. Since I play in a flute choir, I usually like to work on the harder sections or pieces. I also like to work on a solo or two to build my repertoire list.

If I have the motivation later in the day, I practice some more, and I will usually pick up my piccolo. However, since I have already achieved thirty minutes of uninterrupted practice, I don’t feel bad if I don’t have the motivation to play later in the day.

That’s the nice thing about having an outside job. I can be more forgiving with myself when it comes to music. I don’t *have* to practice all the time. Music is something I can do on my own terms.

So…

How do you practice? Do you practice quality over quantity? Let me know in the comments!

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Gift Ideas for Musicians

With Halloween being over and the holidays coming up soon, I thought it would be fun to write a post about gift ideas for musicians. Whether you are a musician or you know a musician, this post is for you.

If you aren’t a musician, but you know one, it can be hard to think if gift ideas. If you are a musician, hopefully this post can give you some inspiration for your own wish list.

Killer Harmony | Gift Ideas for Musicians

Gift giving is one of the best things about this time of year, and I want to share my ideas for gifts that every musician needs. So without further ado, here are my top gift ideas for musicians.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.

Music Stand

And not the teeny tiny wire stands. As a musician starts to progress and work on more and more music, they need a better music stand. Those folding wire stands can barely hold anything before they collapse.

You don’t need the most expensive stand out there, but you need one that is durable and can hold your music.

I have and love this Gearlux music stand. It is super durable, but it is also easy to take with me to rehearsals or performances. The top part is vented, with holes, that make it a little lighter, but still a great stand.

So if you have an advancing musician in your life, a new music stand is a great gift!

Instrument Stand

This is different from a music stand, because it holds an instrument, rather than music. There are stands for almost any musical instrument.

Almost any musician, beginner or professional, can benefit from an instrument stand. Putting your flute, violin, or saxophone on a stand keeps it safe when you’re not playing it.

Setting your instrument on a table or chair is not safe. You never know if it could get knocked off or roll onto the ground. Some one could sit on it. It’s just not a good idea.

An instrument stand saves you from that issue. Good quality stands are built to keep your instrument on them and secure in their place. My favorite brand for instrument stands is Hercules. They are made super well and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Pencils…lots of pencils.

When writing on sheet music, you never want to use pen. The music might be a rental, or you may want to change something later. That is why pencils are the way to go.

But pencils can get lost or left behind at rehearsals. So an abundance of pencils is necessary. You could get the simple wood ones or some cute ones with music notes on them.

Another great tool to go with pencils is a pencil guard or holder for a music stand. These things keep pencils out of the way of your music, but still close by for when you need them.

This one is a great way to keep your pencils secure, right by your side. Another great pencil holder that can also hold other accessories is this one.

Blank Notation Paper

Notation paper is perfect for budding composers, aspiring teachers, and anyone else who wants to write their own music. Notation paper is also great for music majors, because they often have assignments that require blank notation paper.

There are a few different styles, but I really like this Hal Leonard one. It can fit in a binder, which is great for students, and it is also not too bulky.

While there are countless music notation programs, there is something about putting pencil to paper. You aren’t bound to the limitations of a particular program, and you can write anywhere. No need to have room for a laptop or tablet.

Case/Cover/Gig Bag

Most instruments come with good cases already, but it can be fun to give someone a cuter or more stylish case or bag. For flutists as well as clarinet and oboe players, Fluterscooter is a great brand.

I do not have any of their bags yet, but I think they are so cool and pretty. They are more expensive than other brands, so you want to be careful before giving these bags as a gift, but they are worth it.

I think the black patent leather bag is so chic and professional, and it puts any other case cover to shame.

Another great brand for cases and bags is Protec. They make cases and case covers for almost every instrument. I have their flute case cover, and it has lasted over four years now. They are insulated, and they come with an awesome shoulder strap to make carrying your instrument easier.

So…

If you’re a musician, what’s on your wishlist this year? If you know a musician, do you think you’ll get them any of these items? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Choose a Piccolo

The piccolo is a hotly debated topic in the flute community. Some flutists love it, others hate it. I have yet to come across people who don’t have some amount of love or hate for the instrument.

If you are in the group of piccolo lovers, then you have probably thought about learning how to play it. Maybe you even want to jump right in and buy your own. No rental program. You know the piccolo is for you.

Killer Harmony | How to Choose a Piccolo

Now, if you haven’t played flute for very long, piccolo is probably not something you should be starting. Focus on the flute first to build those fundamental skills, such as tone and technique. Then you can learn the piccolo.

If you already have a firm grasp on the flute and you want to learn the piccolo, keep reading. I have some tips for how to choose a piccolo.

NOTE: This post includes affiliate links. To read my full disclosure policy, click here.

Determine your budget.

This is a biggie for any major purchase. You have to know how much money you are able and willing to spend on a piccolo. If you can only afford to spend $600, that narrows your search considerably.

If you have a bigger budget, you can look at a wider range of piccolos.

Thinking about your budget keeps you from trying piccolo outside of your price range. It also keeps you from finding “the one” for thousands more than you can afford. You avoid the disappointment of loving an instrument that is too expensive.

Now, if you are searching for your first piccolo, you don’t need to spend a lot. Some great models can be found for around $400.

If you are looking to upgrade your piccolo, you will have to spend a little more. Just as with an upgraded flute, an upgraded piccolo will cost more than a student model.

Determine your needs.

What will you be playing piccolo for? In what environment(s) will you be playing? Do you have the patience to maintain your piccolo?

These are just a few questions you can ask yourself when choosing a piccolo.

If you will be playing outside a lot, an all silver (or silver plated) piccolo is a smart choice. These piccolos are very durable, and they can project quite far.

Another great choice for outdoor performances is a plastic piccolo. Plastic piccolos are good, because they aren’t affected by the weather as much as wood, but they still blend well.

If you only plan to play indoors, and you can spend a lot of time maintaining your piccolo, go for a wooden model. These are more expensive, but they sound very mellow, and they blend with other instruments.

My current piccolo of choice is the Pearl pfp-105e. It is made of “grenaditte” which is a material made of plastic resin and grenadilla wood. This piccolo is great, because I can play it both inside and out. I get all of the benefits of a wood piccolo, but it doesn’t cost as much.

Know what you are getting.

While I did buy my piccolo online (who doesn’t love Amazon Prime?!), I was smart about it. I knew that Pearl was a reputable brand, and I had heard great things about the specific model I was considering.

Not only that, my flute professor recommended that model to me. I did not buy blind (deaf?).

All of that helped me choose a piccolo that was right for me.

If you are going to buy online, make sure you can either return it or complete a trial period. The best case scenario is buying in person, but that is not always possible.

Or, maybe you’re like me. Maybe you have been given a recommendation for a specific brand. Or maybe you even know someone who has one, and you were able to test it out.

The main thing is: DON’T BUY CHEAP. While you definitely don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a piccolo, you do need to invest a little bit of money. The cheaper the piccolo, the more problems you are likely to encounter.

So spend the money upfront on a piccolo that is reliable. Get something that you know you will use.

Don’t be afraid to rent at first.

As with any new instrument, you might not end up liking the piccolo. You might prefer flute. If you are unsure of enjoying playing the piccolo, don’t hesitate to start on a rental instrument.

It will be much easier to return a rental instrument at the end of a set period (usually a month) than to try and return a purchased instrument. Rental contracts often give you the option to stop renting at any time.

With a purchase, it’s up to you to either return it soon enough or find someone to sell it to.

Renting can be very cost effective, and some programs let you upgrade or cancel at any time. If you find after a few months that you want to own your own piccolo, you can purchase the one you are renting or buy another model and return your rental one.

Get a second opinion.

If you are buying in person, the sales person might try anything to get you to make a purchase. If you are not sure, take it to someone else. Ask your flute teacher or another flutist to come along.

Usually, people will be more inclined to give an honest opinion if they aren’t trying to sell to you. Also, having someone you trust give their opinion means that you don’t have to consult only yourself.

So…

Have you purchased a piccolo before? What model or brand did you choose? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to comment if you want to see a review of my piccolo!

Intermediate Flute Exercises (+ Free Download)

If you are an intermediate level flutist, you have probably started to learn about the concept of warming up. What is a warm up? Why is it necessary? These are just a couple of questions you might have. I have flute exercises just for you.

Killer Harmony | Flute Exercises (Download) for flutists

As a music grad, I have learned a lot about how to prepare yourself to play flute. That includes how to warm up my lips and my body so that I don’t injure myself.

But not everyone has the luxury of taking private lessons and learning all about warm ups. If you don’t warm up, like for a work out, you have a greater risk of injuring yourself. So, to avoid that, here are some tips for warming up.

(Plus a free download of some flute exercises!)

Note: This post contains affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.

Stretch out.

This one is for your body. If you don’t stretch your muscles, they could tense up during play. This is especially true if you aren’t using a proper stance or hand position.

Giving your muscles a short stretch can help relieve possible pain, and you will be more flexible during your practice session.

Roll your shoulders, flex your elbows and wrists, and stretch out your neck. If you will be sitting, stretch out your back so you can maintain a better position for yourself and your flute.

Put your flute together.

This isn’t exactly a warm up, but it’s still something to think about. the way you put your flute together can have a major impact on your flute practice.

When assembling your flute, DO NOT touch the keys or the mechanism. Doing so can cause the keys and rods to bend. Bent keys lead to leaky keys. Leaky keys result in a flute that can be annoying at best and unplayable at worst.

Always assemble your flute (and hold it) by the smooth parts around the barrel and (for the foot joint) the end of the flute.

Long tones.

Long tones are the bane of many flute players’ existence. It can be super boring to just play one note for as long as possible. But long tones can help you in many ways.

If they are the first thing you play, they will help you create your sound for the day. You don’t have to worry about crazy finger patterns. All you have to focus on is creating the proper embouchure.

The best starting note for long tones in the B in the middle of the staff. It’s a fairly open note, but both the left thumb and index finger are down. This means that the flute is easier to hold in place than other more open notes.

Harmonics.

The harmonic series is something that every flutist should learn and understand at some point, so now is a good chance to learn.

Since flutes don’t have an octave key like other woodwinds, we have to rely more on the harmonic series to play higher notes. Let’s take that B again.

The B in the middle of the staff (B4) is the lowest B on flutes with a C foot. It is also the lowest note with that same fingering. So, it is considered a foundation.

This note is the start of a harmonic series. The B above it (B5) has the exact same fingering, except you need to change the air so that you produce a higher pitch. That is a perfect example of harmonics on flute.

Other notes in the same harmonic series are F#6 and B6.

To learn more about the harmonic series, check out Trevor Wye’s Practice Books for the Flute.

Octave leaps.

Because we have to work more with our lips to achieve notes in different octaves, it is important to work on octave leaps or octave jumps.

This is where you start on one note and then leap up or down to the same note in a different octave. Octave exercises help build lip strength as well as better air support.

I don’t practice octave leaps as much as I should, but they are essential when you are still fairly new at the flute. You should also be able to play any note as a starting note, because you want to be prepared for anything.

Some composers like to write music that starts out on a difficult note. (Pun intended.)

Chromatic scale.

All scales are important, and you should know the majors, natural minors, harmonic minors, and natural minors. But one scale that often gets neglected is the chromatic scale.

The other scales all fit into one key signature, but the chromatic scale includes every note. So while you might learn your Bb major scale along with an etude or solo in that key, the chromatic scale gets left behind.

It’s important to know the chromatic scale, because there are some chromatic passages (especially in newer works), and it is a great way to test your knowledge of the entire range of the instrument.

So…

Now that you know what you should do to warm up, where can you find all of those exercises? I decided to create a PDF of these exercises, and I’m offering it up FOR FREE!

Just subscribe below, and you will get access to a free download of all the exercises mentioned in the post!

Download the exercises here.

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Flute Deals & Rebates: Fall 2017

Buying a new instrument can be expensive, and coupons or other deals can help bring down the cost. So, I wanted to talk about a few flute deals and rebates that are going on now. If you want to buy a new flute, now is the time to do it. There are multiple rebate programs going on right now.

NOTE: I am not affiliated with any of these programs. I just want to share the information with you if you are in the market for a new flute.

Killer Harmony | Savings & Rebates for Flutists Fall 2017

I found all of these deals on FluteWorld, but you can qualify for these programs if you purchase a new instrument through a reputable dealer. Each of the programs have varying terms and conditions, so I will link to an information page where you can learn more.

So, let’s get started!

Jupiter’s Banding Together Celebration

Jupiter is a well known musical instrument brand, and flutes are just part of what they make. They have quite a few models that will qualify for this program, and the best part is the savings are instant.

This is not a rebate program.

You won’t have to wait to get your savings.

The Banding Together Celebration runs from October 1 through December 30, 2017. A few select Azumi flutes are also part of the savings program.

Qualifying Instruments

Piccolos: JPC 1000, 1010, & 1100E

Flutes: JFL 1000RBO, Azumi AZ1, AZ2, & AZ3

Alto Flutes: JAF 1000, 1000U, 1000X, 1100E, 1100UE, & 1100XE

Bass Flutes: JBF 1000

Contrabass Flutes: JCF 1000

More Information

Pearl Flutes

Pearl Flutes is offering a cash back mail in rebate for their Quantz flute line. These flutes are great for students who are outgrowing their first instrument. While I have not personally played any of these models, I do love my Pearl piccolo.

You will have to send in the rebate form in order to get your savings, but for $50, that is worth it. Any bit of savings helps.

This program runs from October 1, 2017 through January 15, 2018.

Qualifying Instruments

Flutes: PF-525, 665, & 765

More Information

Trevor James Step Up Rebate

I know a lot of people (online anyway, lol) who love Trevor James flutes. I have their 10x student model, and it sounds better than other student flutes. For this program, you do have to fill out a rebate form.

If you want to buy a Trevor James step up flute or low flute, you are in luck!

This rebate program started October 1, and it ends December 31, 2017.

Qualifying Instruments

Flutes: Cantabile, Virtuoso

Alto Flute & Bass Flute

More Information

Step Up to Yamaha 2017 Promotion

Yamaha is a very well known musical instrument brand. They are also another brand offering a promotion for any step up instrument purchased.

I have never played a Yamaha flute, but I know they are common for beginners. Some people love them enough to upgrade to a more advanced Yamaha model.

The Yamaha program is a rebate program. Some models will get you $50, others $100.

The program runs from October 1 until December 31, 2017.

Qualifying Instruments

Piccolos: YPC 32, 62*, & 81*

Flutes: YFL 362, 382, 462, 482, 577*, 587*, 677*, 687*, 777*, 787*, & 800 series*

Low Flutes: Alto & Bass flutes*

More Information

Please Remember!

Every flutist has different needs and what works with one flute might not work with another. Always try before you buy if you can, or make sure you can return the instrument if you are not satisfied.

Each of these brands make high quality flutes, and I would not recommend these programs if I didn’t trust these brands. However, you should still test out the models you are interested in. We all have different mouths, and we all have different needs when it comes to our instruments.

So…

I’m considering getting an alto flute from one of these companies, and if I do, I would love to do a review. Let me know if you would like to see that!

Are you in the market for a new flute? Do you think you will check out some of these instruments? Let me know in the comments!