The eager high school musician, accepted into music school, may want to come into university with a new instrument that is up to the standard they feel is necessary for this transition in their life/career. Here are some considerations for these students and their family to ponder before diving in blind.
Most students will not have the same primary instrument teacher from high school to college. There are A LOT of changes that takes place within the first year of being a music major: embouchure changes, posture changes, sound production, reviewing basics and establishing a strong foundation for the next 4+ years…
All that being said BEWARE buying a flute before consulting this new teacher. Equipment is important, but it is not everything, if you have an instrument that is reliable and consistent then hold off on the expense until university. If you need to upgrade, consult with this new teacher and maintain good communication. Trial instruments, get feedback, and ask questions (it’s okay to not know everything there is to know about flute manufacturing and your teacher will have had an array experience in this area).
Changes and control
Similar to the last point, change is inevitable – especially if you plan to improve. Most student flutes require less work to manipulate factors like tone, focus, and color; many flutes with higher specs require work to really master control of these elements (albeit the sound is often better balanced and blended) which is another factor to consider. As a music major the technical demand will increase, and the decision to get a new instrument at the same time there is more of a demand to be musical may be a road block.
The Importance Of Trials
If you have the opportunity to trial flutes rather than just do a quick test in a store take it. You can get more opinions on instruments and better weigh your options when you have more time to spend with the instruments and learn how they work over a several days.
Just Another Flutist, Joanna, is a partner with the Flute Center of NY and has a concise video on setting up trials and how to structure them to get the most out of the experience:
There are a lot of options and things to consider when making a flute upgrade:
New or Preowned
Inline or offset G
Open or close holed
Silver… what kind: coin, sterling?
Mixed – interior walls, plated, riser, etc.
C or B foot
Foot joint roller keys
Thickness of wall
Having a repair tech in house or having a trusted one to go to after purchase
Do you have any advice for soon to be music majors? When did you upgrade and what do you think is important to know about the process?
In August I did a post which covered the flutes I had played before getting to university; now I will covering ALL the piccolos I have owned and played from high school (which was when I started playing flute) through graduate school.
One important note before I get into the reflection is that it is very common in my area that university students upgrade to a professional piccolo – a piccolo made of higher quality materials (resin/wood/metal); even in my undergrad (as a Music Education major) I felt this pressure to upgrade. And then as a Master of Flute Performance student there is DEFINITELY a push to upgrade, however, I am here to share why this isn’t a must have. Don’t feel pressured to do something that isn’t financially viable or you (yourself) feel is necessary.
It is important to know that I started playing flute as a sophomore in high school for marching band. The flute section comprised of 2 seniors, 2 sophomores, and 2 freshman. Because the seniors were graduating I started my piccolo training only 3 months after learning flute (this is as a 15 year old).
Emerson – Nickel Silver Plated
Durable for outdoor playing, I used mine exclusively for marching band every year.
Metal LH 1st finger rest to help with the size difference from flute (like a hand crutch).
Reliable – I kept this instrument through my undergrad for any outdoor playing – the mechanism held up well.
The shrillness that comes with metal piccolos – less suited for indoor/concert playing.
Jupiter Nickel Silver Plated Head; Plastic Body*
*Before the PROS/CONS I just need to disclose I went through FOUR (yes, 4!!!) of these in a month so here’s what happened: The September of the following school year – my first school year exclusively on marching piccolo – I took a trip to a SamAsh because it was “the” musical instrument distributor in my area. The night I took home my first one I was practicing and then went to remove the head joint… and off came the barrel (aka the part that attaches the body to the head). We went back the next day and got a replacement… and I tried it in store (cautious) and it happened again. I’m not here to say anything bad about SamAsh or Jupiter, but this was VERY frustrating 8 years ago (now it’s actually comedic). I don’t know why we kept on going back to this one model of piccolo, and for context this all took place in the month of September by October I had found the piccolo I still have today. On the 3rd and 4th piccolos, there were issues with the mechanism going out of alignment. Anyway so:
Decent price (just speaking on my own experience I can’t say much more than that)
FRAGILE – better suited for indoor/concert rather than outdoor/marching
Quality assurance – in my own experience from 2013
Gemeinhardt 4SP; Plastic Head and Body
WINNER, WINNER. This is the piccolo I still own today, of course I have played professional piccolos, but in my own experience this piccolo plays well enough that I can not justify the price gap from this to a higher quality one.
And also considering that when you upgrade to a professional instrument you also have to pay for professional REPAIRS!!!! That is the biggest reason I keep this piccolo, it saves literally hundreds of dollars to play on this piccolo (especially considering piccolos go out of alignment much easier than flutes).
Durable; can manage both indoor and outdoor playing
The plastic helps reduce the shrillness in the tone, more suitable for playing indoors than metal student piccolos
Stable tuning/intonation – 8 years on the piccolo – and even after playing professional piccolos I find that I can navigate tuning on this instrument with no issues.
Not available anymore – the current comparable model would be the 4P
Bonus: Piccolos I Played In College
Haynes – Grenadilla Wood
This was a school instrument that I shared and borrowed within my studio, mainly because there was a stigma on student piccolos versus professional.
The wood made the tone significantly less shrill.
Durability – for all wooden instruments, being mindful of the temperature and not cracking the wood.
Scale, tuning – this particular piccolo just didn’t feel right under my fingers for the few years I played it; and intonation was always a struggle between registers.
Basically designed to be a “small flute” – has RH pinky keys, extending the lower register of the piccolo.
I don’t have any PROS/CONS for this still I tried it at a convention, but it was mind-blowing and I am still mildly interested in owning one for the novelty of a piccolo actually being designed to be a “small flute”.
What piccolos have you played? Thoughts on student versus professional models? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
As mentioned in previous analysis posts, part of analysis is understanding the context of the composer and their piece. I’ll be starting with a brief overview on Prokofiev and then reviewing the entirety of the Op. 94 before finally isolating the Andantino movement.
Sergei Prokofiev: Restrictions in Russia
Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian composer who was alive (1891-1953) during the time of the Soviet Union. This is significant because of the control the government had over artists, especially during Stalin’s life. Prokofiev and Shostakovich, his contemporary, had targets on their backs because they were giants – having international success (Prokofiev spent a lot of time touring outside of Russia). Shostakovich was made to be an example: in 1934 his opera, Lady Macbeth, premiered and the general reaction had been positive… that is until Stalin had gone to the opera in 1936, in which he openly ridiculed Lady Macbeth. Shortly after this an anonymous article “Muddle Instead of Music” was published giving the opera a scathing review (it’s also worth noting Lady Macbeth was banned in the Soviet Union until just several years after Stalin’s death). After this the limitations placed on composers were unclear, to say the least; there were many shades of gray, all subject to the opinion of Stalin, and the price to pay for pushing the envelope was step (if not death, exile, or a whole other range of fear tactics and harassment). Generally speaking music that underwent “Russification” followed the principles of this new term for enforcement ‘Socialist Realism’: presented Russia as an prosperous and idealistic nation, including folk songs that reinforced this Russian nationalism, and finally music following classical traditions (the atonality and serialism in other parts of the world at the time was definitely NOT in line with “Russification”).
Prokofiev a composer, pianist and conductor did his best to adhere to these murky principles. A notable work he was asked to compose – in an act of redemption – was Zdravitsa for Stalin’s 60th birthday – here the principles of Socialist Realism are clearly followed: the text was already chosen for him, he chose to set it starting and ending in a Major key, and having a nostalgic quality that gave this sense of Russian pride. Other notable works include Lieutenant Kije (op. 60) a suite for orchestra; Romeo and Juliet Overture (op. 64), and (very familiar for orchestral flutists) Peter and the Wolf (op. 67) a children’s tale for narrator and orchestra.
Sonata in D Major (op. 94)
In 1943 Prokofiev finished his Sonata for flute (op. 94); this piece was written in the Classical style which is already setting it to be inline with “Russification”. This piece was written while Prokofiev was also working with Ivan the Terrible; and it was first performed by flutist, Nikolai Khaikorsky in 1943.
In 1944 Prokofiev revisited the work for violin – this would later be published as Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (op. 94bis).
There are 4 movements:
Andantino (QN=80) starts and ends in D Major.
Scherzo (dotted QN=69) opens with ambiguous tonality (am-CM-dm-FM); ends on an am chord.
Andante (QN=50) starts briefly in FM before exploring other keys; ends with FM.
Allegro con brion (QN=112) starts and ends in DM.
Given the understanding over the overall work, and the restrictions Prokofiev had we can begin to look through the first movement:
I. Andantino (QN=80)
For those familiar with musical forms, true to the piece’s name, this first movement is in sonata form. Here’s the breakdown:
The black represents the pillars – sometimes Sonata form has an Introduction (not the case here); there will ALWAYS be an exposition, development and recapitulation (pay very close attention to the repeats they are important to the form); and sometimes there is a coda (which there is in op. 94).
The green represents cadences. HC = half cadence; PAC = perfect authentic cadence; IAC = inauthentic cadence. The exact cadences in this diagram are not as important as the cadence’s function… basically is it stable or unstable?
Finally, the purple represents tonality or tonal areas. The exposition begins in the tonic or home key, by the secondary theme there is a new key (usually related to the home key) that will be explored. The development continues off the end of the exposition somewhat stable, but then can do an array of things to ‘develop’ melody and harmony such as use sequences, variations, toncizing other tonal areas, or fragment previous material. Finally, the recapitulation works very similarly to the exposition (since it is recapping that material) however everything is now in the tonic/home key. The coda ends up a tag at the end, extending the material, in this case it still ends in D Major to get that nostalgic and classical tradition feel that would be expected of Prokofiev by Social Realists/the government.
The exposition in this first movement ends before rehearsal 4 (in the Schirmer 1965 revised edition) or measure 40. One easy visual cue to tell that the exposition ends and the development has started is the repeat – knowing this saves so much time.
The primary theme starts in D Major ending with a PAC in measure 8. The transition is still tonicizing the home key, but with added chromaticism; there isn’t a formal HC as seen in the template above, but the instability of the D in the flute against an F-natural (the lowered 3rd) and in an inversion – with the F being underneath the D – has the same effect that a HC would in measure 20.
The secondary theme starts in measure 21 introduces a new rhythmic motive (dotted eighth sixteenth); the new key is not clear, but Prokofiev brings out the E – G# – B repeatedly throughout this new theme despite never fully tonicizing it. Then, in measure 30 (or rehearsal 3) the unstable tonality remains the same, but Prokofiev expands on the secondary theme with rhythmic variance with the groups of 6 as well as the contrasting longer durations (quarter and half notes).
The development spans from rehearsal 4 to 8 (or measure 41-87 and features the infamous climax of the piece that utilizes the extreme high register of the flute (D7).
This section starts without any piano, and allows the flute to show off their full low register with a short, articulate sounds. The new variance in the rhythm are the driving sixteenth triplets placed on the second half of the beat – Prokofiev continues to use this motive throughout this section to drive forward. At rehearsal 5 (measure 51) there is a transposed return of the opening theme – down a half step, starting on G#. With quotes from the closing and secondary themes before, yet again, returning to the opening theme now an augmented fourth (or a tritone) above the original pitch. And then seemingly out of nowhere, Prokofiev abruptly changes the key signature, measures 64-69. He leans into the instability with a quick time signature change from 4/4 to 2/4 and back to 4/4. In measure 74, Prokofiev gives the flute 2 groups of 5 to launch into the climax combining the transition theme from the exposition with the driving triplets; emphasizing the virtuosic arpeggios up to the D7 by repeating them 5 times.
The recapitulation spans from rehearsal 8 to 4 after reh. 10 (or measure 88 to 107). The stability of D Major is alluded to one measure before with the piano lead in and the repeated A5s in the flute. There is a PAC in 85, which quickly jumps into the transition where he (like before) plays with chromaticism but stays in the home key of D Major; with a pedal D in measure 91 that acts as a PAC – even though it is technically not when looking at the piano score, the restfulness before the next entrance functions in a similar manner. The secondary theme – which maintains the rhythm of the dotted eighth sixteenth – is now set in the home key, starting on the 5th (A5); this theme ends with an IAC (because the flute is on the 5th and note the root, D) with is still relatively restful, but alluding to something more which is fitting because it is followed by a fermata where the flute has a moment to rest while the piano maintains a pedal A2. The closing theme in the recap looks very similar to the secondary theme of the exposition with the biggest difference being the ending – which is on D to create a relatively conclusive ending – PAC.
Sometimes, but not always, the development and recapitulation are repeated (they are ALWAYS repeated together, however sometimes for brevity or with the addition of a coda, this second repeat is nixed.
Finally, the coda spans measure 108 to the end. For the first time in the work, Prokofiev starts the flute on the 3rd (F#) this is significant because the 3rd determines the quality, and in this case he is playing around with the quality of a D7 against a b-flat minor arpeggio; as well as varying inversions (measures 110-111). At the end, measure 115, Prokofiev does a brief return to that seemingly out of place B-flat major from the development with the perfect fourth of the F to the B-flat, a transposed version of the opening motive; before ending securely in D Major as would be expected of him within the Classical tradition.
Given the context of when Prokofiev wrote this piece and life/restrictions in the Soviet Union, it is clear that some boundaries where being pushed. At pivotal points, Prokofiev follows Classical traditions; but tonally and rhythmically (end with register to a point – the contrasting low to high in the development) he is exploring new terrain that somehow fits into the shades of grey within Socialist Realism.
Academia aside, this is beautiful flute piece to play and study – I look forward to working on this for my final Masters recital. Let me know your thoughts about this first movement in the comments.
This fall I completed the first book in the Suzuki flute method, as a classically trained flutist I had some tools in my belt prior to taking this course. After taking the course, I recognized some of the limitations in engaging young students, such as the younger siblings (anywhere from 3+) of students in beginning band (generally ages 9-10) . In this post I will be sharing a combination of methods that can be used to support new flute students of any age.
Starting with a Suzuki method technique…
This is a relatively inexpensive tool since one bag of rice can go a long way. The largest benefit of this method is that the student is directing the instruction: you don’t need to lecture them or walk them through the hows and whys. Simply modeling and having them copy you is enough to get them started.
Furthermore, this tool can be build on for the students as the advance: making a game out of spitting rice at a target/picture will inadvertently teach the students how to direct their air without a long explanation. Plus, the students get to navigate what works for them with minimal exposition from the teacher,
Mimicking Sounds (“mm” “pah” “poo”)
Sounds that engage the lips particularly using fricatives which are a hard constant sound (for example, a common choir warmup is singing with a “ffffff” or “zzzz” or “vvvvvv” sound).
You can find a variety of online content that reference about their preferred sounds; some work better depending on the individual – generally the “mmm” like M&M, “pah” with an emphasis on the pop ‘h’ at the end of the sound, and “poo” with an emphasis on the ‘ew’ ending sound are successful for forming the flute embouchure shape.
Breathing; Organizing Air
For early wind students learning how to organize and control their air is most likely a completely new concept. Isolating this skill before introducing the instrument can help avoid headaches and bad habits later on when the students have to worry about assembling and holding their instrument, forming the embouchure, and having enough air to play.
The system used for teaching breathing really depend on the student’s level – regardless of age. Some students are ready for an exposition on understanding inhaling and exhaling, while other students would just rather observe and copy, another group work better in a natural, less pressured environment, etc.
The most important take away is that you isolate the skill of breathing before adding the flute; and then you can play games to build on that foundation.
For young students using bubble wands or balloons, to see how long they can exhale, what they notice about needed to in take more air, and how that results in forming a bigger a bubble or balloon.
Not all students have the same learning style, some students benefit from seeing what they need to do and building on that some of these students prefer to teach themselves.
Two tools you can provide these students to enable their learning style are coffee straws and a mirror. The coffee straw can be placed between the top/bottom lip, no more than 1 centimeter in the mouth, at a diagonal where the higher point is pointed towards the roof of the mouth. This tool allows the students to see how large the aperture (or the shape between the top and bottom lip) should be. The mirror allows for self-assessment, with or without a coffee straw, the student can see their own lips and observe what they are doing with guided questions to help them notice what to look for.
Rarely would you teach a young student to do several things at once. As a general rule, you would want to establish small foundational steps that you continue to build on as they develop. While it is important to hold students to a high standard, allowing them the space to succeed with realistic goals and expectations is paramount.
When introducing the producing first sounds on head joint (after successfully forming the embouchure and exploring air organization), bringing the head joint to the student and asking them to just focus on breathing and forming the sound/articulation will provide the least distractions and eliminate any potential bad habits. By bringing the head joint to the student, they don’t need to adjust their body, move their head, etc – remind the student to let the flute come to them. Early on this could be a game in group lessons where the students “deliver” the flute to another student.
What do you do for getting the first sound on the flute? Have you seen any Suzuki flute teaching incorporated into the classroom before?
Hi Everyone, I am happy to report that I survived my graduate comp essays. I passed the history portion, and just waiting to get my theory results back.
I finished teacher training for Suzuki Flute Book 1 so I can now teach that!!
I got my own ukulele – since my Teacher Popular Music course is coming to an end, I’ll have to return the school’s instrument so I wanted to have my own to continue learning – right now I can really only play the opening to “The Moon and Me” from the Addams family music and the melody to the Animal Crossing New Horizons intro song.
I thought I also might be useful to share some holiday gift recommendations for flute players since this is being posted on Black Friday, and most online retailers will continue sales through the weekend.
Originally, I posted this list on my OG tumblr (x):
Warm up/Technique books:
1. Paula Robinson Warmup Book
2. Taffanel and Gaubert – This is on IMSLP
3. Reichert – Also on IMSLP
4. Trevor Wye Omnibus Edition
5. The Flute Scale Book
6. Moyse … he has so much I like his 24 little pieces in particular
Solo (ie etudes,flute and piano or orchestral/band excerpt)/Technique
1. Flute 101 and 102
2. Baxstresser Orchestral Excerpts for Flute
3. The Orchestral Flute Practice Book – Trevor Wye and Patricia Morris
4. Andersen op. 33 (etudes)
5. Berbigiuer (etudes) – This may also be on IMSLP
6. Karg-Elert Caprices (etudes)
Solo (ie solo flute or flute and accompaniment) music*
*as a general rule, Barenreiter or UrText collections (such as Bach or Handel collections) are great if you’re looking for a specific piece and also want some other material to read through
Also, many parts published by the “International Music Company” are littered with errors (I have had several pianists go on and on about this so just a heads up to be cautious).
1. The Flute Book (Nancy Toff)
2. Flute Secrets (Trevor Wye)
3. Quantz’s How To Play the Flute
Some good flute specific online shops:
The Flute Center of NY has an online sheet music shop: Rose Music and the prices have been very fair in my experiences with them – and they usually have sales going on soo definitely worth checking out.
Flute World also has a ton of music on their website, but it can sometimes be more expensive or take awhile to get to you because they do not have the item in their facilities and have to order it for you.
Or the Flutistry of Boston also tends to have a wide array of flute goodies!
How was your November? Do you have any holiday gift recommendations – flute-centric or otherwise?
Developing a good relationship with your instrument repair technician is so important to getting the most mileage out of your instrument. As a result, you can become aware of the tendencies of your particular instrument (what is the first thing to go out of alignment? What little things should you be taking note of that could lead to bigger issues?), how to preserve your instrument (ie. brushing your teeth/rinsing out your mouth before playing), and what cleaning tools are helpful or harmful to your instruments.
Like most beginning flutist, I started with the cleaning rod that came in my flute case and an interior cloth to swab through the flute. . . That was it.
At the basic level, that is all you really need to keep the flute from rapidly becoming worn out. HOWEVER, you must not leave the cloth and rod INSIDE the flute.
Why? Because leaving the rod and cloth inside the flute – the moisture that your just swabbed out (with the rod and cloth) will be sitting in the flute as if you didn’t even both to swab which is problematic for the flute’s pads which will – as a result – collect moisture and start to stick and deteriorate. Likewise, you do not want to take the interior cloth and place it OVER the flute for the same reasons. So what do you do with it?
SOLUTION! If you are working with a standard student flute case – that would be one that does not have a separate case cover or exterior pocket – this is one smart way to store your rod and interior cloth. The rod already has a spot in the flute case (typically this is at the bottom edge adjacent to the case latches).
If you take the interior cloth and tie it around the case handle – the cloth will be able to dry much faster than it would in the case and it will not be damaging the flute.
It is also IMPORTANT to note that for the interior swab there are two options that DO NOT work well with the flute. Avoid these swabs types with your flute:
A weighted swab – these work well with instruments like the clarinet or saxophone – however, given the thin diameter of the flute and delicate keys: the string and weight can cause damage to the flute.
The caterpillar or fuzzy swabs (you’ll know them when you see them) – these are problematic for two reasons.
The fuzzy fibers can pill off and get stuck on the pads or within the mechanism (causing it to become worn down).
The tendency with these swabs is to just leave them inside the instrument. As mentioned earlier, this will allow moisture to collect and can cause damage to the pads.
A good interior cloth will not have any frayed or loose edges that can get caught on the small parts of the flute. Likewise, the material should be able to absorb any moisture inside the cloth with 1-2 pass throughs; and should be thin enough that it is not getting stuck in the instrument. Interior swab suggestions:
The cloth in the full Yamaha Flute Maintenance Kit – this is a good option because the kit has other cleaning supplies your student will need like pad paper and an exterior cleaning cloth.
These are cleaning supplies I found useful as I started to play more.
Pad paper was the first addition to my cleaning accessories – if you do not have a case with storage or a case cover, I would recommend keeping these in a separate bag. Pad paper does not need to be used after every playing – if you hear a sticky key or feel like key is leaking you can place the paper under the key, press down for several sections (DO NOT PULL THE PAPER OUT WHILE THE KEY IS DOWN) and then lift the key and remove the paper. Repeat on a different area of the paper becomes soaked.
Things to be aware of:
NO DOLLAR BILLS!!!! You may of heard of band directors using dollar bills as a quick fix… it would be better off if you did nothing at all than use a dollar bill. Ask your repair tech, a dollar bill may absorb some of the liquid, but can very easily add gunk (dust, bacteria) to your pads.
You CAN use cigarette paper though.
I will say it again, DO NO pull the paper out while the key is pressed down – this can tear your pads (to replace your pads can get expensive real fast, ask your tech what their rate is for pad replacement and the number will amaze you how much those tiny things cost).
Be wary of powdered pad paper, sometimes okay – I prefer to er on the side of caution and avoid it.
Look at the body of your flute – particularly where you place your right hand (behind those three keys). What do you notice? Overtime, you may see what appears to be dust and gunk build up. Whatever you do DO NOT attempt to clean it with Q-tips or even think of sticking anything near the rods. Ask your repair technician and they will warn you to proceed at your own detriment. So if you can’t go in and clean it – what are you meant to do?
In this case, there are 2 solutions you can use in tandem:
(1) You can blow a quick stream of air to loosen or remove the visible dust. You don’t want to spit on your flute, but using your air to dislodge the dust is the first step.
(2) This is a preventative step. What you are most likely noticing is tarnish, hence, placing anti-tarnish strips somewhere in your case – usually underneath the flute. Please know, there is not anything you can do to fix it on your own (please DO NOT try to DIY this at home), you would need to bring your flute in to get a full COA to remove the tarnish – do not worry so much about tarnish because it is a cosmetic issue that in most cases does not effect the mechanism.
Anti-tarnish strips can be placed in the case with your flute. Read and follow the directions for the specific strips you buy – typically, they will need to be changed out every 6 months (and one pack of anti-tarnish strips will be more than enough; especially if you end up cutting the strips to fit into the flute case).
Exterior cloths are like pad paper – they do not have to be done after every use. Although with the exterior cleaning cloth, many of us may prefer to wipe down the flute to get rid of finger prints.
Microfiber is the standard material for cleaning cloths. The wonderful thing about these exterior microfiber cloths is that you only need ONE because you can just wash it once it starts to get dirty and it can last you years!
Like interior cleaning cloths you want a cloth that does not have any frayed or loose edges that can get stuck on the flute. Be aware that a cut up shirt or piece of old fabric WILL NOT BE EFFECTIVE because this material tends to unravel (making it very easy to get snag on the flute) and usually can’t fully remove grime.
When using the exterior cloth be sure to avoid going near the pads and rods. When cleaning the body and foot joint with the cloth: just stick to the top of the keys, and parts of metal that are easily accessible. You DO NOT to stick the edge of a cloth into the mechanism and risk moving something out of alignment or tearing a pad!
Isopropyl / Cotton Ball
The days before COVID-19 when conventions and fairs were safe and instrument vendors brought dozens of flutes to try – isopropyl and cotton ball/pad where used on the lip plate to disinfect between players. Of course, currently, instrument sharing is not happening, but it is good to have these on hand. For example, when I get sick, I’ll clean around the lip plate just out of precaution.
REMEMBER you do not want to submerge the head joint because there is a cork that will need to be replaced if submerged (the cork should be replaced annually anyway), but you DO NOT need to apply the isopropyl INSIDE the flute, only apply it (if you feel so inclined) to the lip plate/exterior of the head joint.
If you own a case cover or have a case with a separate pocket, I have found the Valentino Cleaning Flag to be an efficient way to swab my flute during and after practice sessions. First, it’s only one piece so I don’t have to worry about threading a cloth through a cleaning rod. It’s easy to just grab and go. And like the exterior microfiber cloths you only need ONE – these are very easy to clean (I usually just do soap and hot water, and let it dry for 1-2 days).
What do you use to clean your flute? Has it changed since you started playing? Do you use any of these tools? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
With back-to-school season in full swing a lot of companies offer these savings and deals to entice families to buy new instruments. The factors that go into making that large purchase are vast – budget, stock, knowledge, trialing, repairs, etc. For each flute I mention, (whether or not it’s still in production) I’ll provide the pros and cons of that experience. With hindsight informing things I wish I knew as a young student.
When I was first starting out as a high school sophomore I was given an unused and unserviced 20 year flute; promptly switching to borrowing a Yamaha from a friend in high school who had stopped playing. Now I’m playing a Weissman Haynes that I trialed from the Flute Center of New York. Here’s how I got from that 20 year flute to today…
When I was 15 years old, I decided to join marching band; to do so required learning flute over the summer. This is went I was exploring temporary flute options. My sophomore and junior years of high school were spent playing silver-plated, factory produced flutes. I played the same flutes in both marching band and concert band so durability was very important. I started with a KING flute, over the summer, and ended up with a Yamaha 221 by the time my sophomore year started.
My first “flute”: King Flute 610
It was a free instrument – An older band family had it sitting around for ~20 years.
I was able to use it to practice fingerings.
Later on (in my late undergrad), I was able to use it to learn about flute repair and got to see how the mechanism works up close.
The head joint cork desperately needed to be replaced. (Over the 20 years of sitting, the cork began to rot and the head joint had a very strong smell and would not tune).
The metal was extremely malleable – easy to bend and dent.
Servicing the instrument was a nightmare because KING no longer manufactures flutes.
My first REAL flute: Yamaha 221
Another free instrument: I borrowed this one from a friend who had quit back the previous year.
Very durable – the instrument was very low maintenance as far as COAs go (minimal mechanism issues).
Easy to get a sound out of and great sound quality for a student instrument (since it was well maintained and cleaned).
I was going to need a more permanent solution for continuing in band (which you’ll see I ended up purchasing my own Yamaha 221 after this section).
Repairs – since I was borrowing this instrument getting repairs was challenging because I didn’t know who I could trust to service it and the family I was borrowing the flute from had absolutely no clue either.
School loaner instruments: Bundy 300 / Gemeinhardt 2SP
If you’re budget is tight… DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON AMAZON. School loaner instruments are one option. Most schools will give out the higher quality or even brand new instruments out on a first come first serve basis so you should be in touch with the band director early to discuss what works for your situation.
If loaning an instrument is not an option there are flute societies that offer grants for students to purchase instruments or even donate instruments to young students.
In many cases, the repairs for the instrument are covered by the school district so you don’t have to worry about finding a reliable technician.
It’s a great option for students who are unsure whether or not they want to commit to the flute – less financial commitment.
The district may hold on to worn out instruments due to lack of funding – these instruments are usually given out as a last resort if all the loaner stock is in rotation. This can make learning the flute frustrating for a beginner.
The students need to be responsible for properly cleaning and maintaining the instrument; in districts where the band director is not primarily a flutist this can easily get overlooked.
Preparing for college
The following year I became the section leader for marching band, was promoted to piccolo, and had made the decision to own my own flute. Shortly after the school year had started, I had bought my own Yamaha 211. However, that year I always went through what I’ll call the “tale of many piccolos”…
The piccolo saga: Emerson (silver-plated), Jupiter (half plating half resin), Pearl (half plating half resin), Gemeinhardt 4SP (resin)
To be specific: in the span of 1 month I went through 5 piccolos (since I tried 2 Pearls). It was during the month of September, my Junior year, when these horrific trials began…
The silver-plated Emerson was my outdoor piccolo for marching band – there were no issues to complain about. However, when I needed a piccolo for concert band, I decided the shrillness of the all metal piccolo wouldn’t do so I decided to find a plastic composite or combination piccolo.
For whatever reason, I kept on going back to my local SamAsh to get replacement instruments. I won’t recall all the gory details, but the worst experience I had was one of the Pearls ended up having the head joint come off with the barrel.
Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel, I discovered the Gemeinhardt 4sP which I still own to this day – and has miraculously not given me any technical issues (granted it is taken in for annual COAs). For piccolos, I’ll break them down by make – all metal, half, or all resin.
Emerson (All metal)
Great for outdoor ensembles – durable in high and low temperatures.
Very shrill for inside rehearsals/closed spaces.
Jupiter & Pearl (half)
Good option for outdoor/indoor – if you want just one piccolo.
In my experience, the half metal-half resin were not reliable – key issues and that one traumatic barrel accident.
Good for indoor/outdoor playing. Since it’s plastic it is less susceptible to cracking than wooden piccolos.
Easier (compared to all metal) to tame – intonation and shrillness.
Affordable and high-quality student instrument.
Very durable when well maintained.
This was a good enough instrument for beginning undergraduate/college auditions. (It can last a young student a LONG time).
Another flute upgrade looming for college (for a music education major).
I started out on my Yamaha 221 in the first year of my undergraduate degree, but knew I would inevitably need to upgrade. Since I am a stone’s throw to the Flute Center of New York so I scheduled a visit to trial flutes. All the flutes at this level (as an undergraduate student considering the possibility of graduate school in the future) where handmade and either silver (or silver and some other metal combo).
Flute trials: Powell with a Brannen head, Muramatsu EX, Haynes
There is a lot that goes into flute trialing and flute specs, if you want to see a post on that let me know! After my in person visit to the Flute Center, I ended up with these 3 instruments which I took out on a 7 day trial.
The body was an in-line G Powell all silver on the outside and keys, but gold playing on the interior walls; paired with a Brannen head joint.
The Muramatsu EX is an economical, sterling silver flute that is a great option for unversity students.
A custom Weissman model Haynes flute with a silver body and head with a 14K gold riser.
After trialing all the flutes for a week, I knew the Haynes flute was the one for me so that brings us to today…
Handmade, silver flute – instantly a much higher sound quality than my student Yamaha flute.
The extra keys: gizmo, C# trill and D# roller.
Adapting to the head joint – compared to the Yamaha (which had a narrow, oval embouchure hole) the Haynes has a much wider squoval shaped hole.
Having to find my own local repair technician that was (preferably) Straubinger certified.
The heavy wall makes this flute much heavier than my previous flute as well as most other professional flutes.
Have you played any of these flutes? What are your about these instruments? Have any questions about a specific flute – let me know in the comments below.