If you struggle to make it through a musical phrase (or a measure!) without taking a breath, this video is for you! Click below to get started!!
While you're at it ---> Get the free printable to help you while you practice!
Are you new to the flute?? Such an exciting time!! In this video I'll guide you through all of the steps you need to know from opening your flute case for the first time to putting it together and finally to holding it correctly.
Have you learned any other assembling and holding tips from your teacher? Leave them in the comments below!
Practicing is hard... Can I get an amen??
It's especially hard when you have no idea where to start or what to do. It took me a LOOONG time to settle on a routine that a) wasn't boring and b)was productive.
In today's video, I'm going to share that routine with you--so grab your flute and let's practice together!
Have you been looking for a good way to track your practice routine and stay motivated? I have tried many different practice journal methods over the years, and this seems to be the way that works the best for me:
Write down everything I need to practice--including daily exercises like tone, scales, and etudes.
Check off each day of the week that I practice it.
Make notes at the bottom with anything that I want to explore further, or random thoughts that pop up while I'm practicing.
It's super simple, and it keeps me focused when my distracted brain wants to do everything but practice. Like Insta stories. Or watching a YouTube video. Or answering a text. Or eating. You know... the usual.
Here's your very own Weekly Practice Tracker -- I hope it works for you!!
Leave a comment below with any practice tracking hacks that you love--the rest of us would love to hear them!
Today, I’d like to introduce myself to you and give you a little peek into my background! I hope it gives you some insight and encourages you on your journey.
I grew up in a smallish town—Salem, Missouri. And, let me tell you… we lived in the middle of nowhere. Literally. Like, a “house-surrounded-by-eighty-acres-of-woods” nowhere. Not ideal for a teenager wanting to hang out with her friends (and this was WAY before texting—even before widespread internet, if you can even imagine!)
I started playing flute when I was eleven and took to it quickly. I had a musical family (dad was my band director), and honestly, I didn’t have to work that hard to get first chair in my band most of the time.
You might be thinking--- oh geez. That must have been so hard. Poor you.
But don’t let my circumstances fool you. Sure, it wasn’t too hard to swing first chair out of the two others in my middle school band… but once I got to high school and started auditioning for things like All-District Band and especially All-State Band, I had a rude awakening.
My natural ability wasn’t cutting it anymore. And I had no clue how to practice—or even how to make myself practice.
So, you can only imagine what happened when I stepped into my first All State Band audition.
Had I prepared? A little. Did I know what I was getting myself into? NO.
I wasn’t prepared for the hundreds of other flute players who would be there—sounding AMAZing. This freaked me out so much that I actually blacked out during my audition. I have no idea what came out of my flute—or if anything came out at all! All I know is that I didn’t make call-backs, and I was so down on myself about it.
It didn’t have to be.
If I knew then what I know now---and if I had access to experienced flute teachers close by, my audition experiences would have been much smoother. I just needed someone to help me believe I could achieve my goal—and someone to show me how.
It took me about fifteen more years to learn how to prepare well for auditions and combat audition anxiety—and I have to say that I am in a MUCH better place then I was then. However, I want to do everything I can to share my experience with flute players just like you so that you don’t have to walk out of your auditions and performances feeling like you didn’t do as well as you wanted to.
Thank you so much for reading my story! If any of it resonated with you, I hope you will join me and the other flutists in my tribe as we crush those amazing goals you have. Be sure to follow me on YouTube for weekly videos and on Instagram for all of my studio and home life shenanigans. I can’t wait to hang out with you there!
Have an amazing day… and Happy Practicing!
Well, the title speaks for itself, but Smyth Flute Studio has new digs in Jeff City Missouri! If you are a flute player in the Capitol City or surrounding areas (Wardsville, Holts Summit, Ashland, Tebbets, Hartsburg, St. Martins, etc...), contact me today to schedule lessons! I'm so excited to gain a whole new group of flute students and grow musically together!
Read more about flute lessons HERE.
Listen/Watch me in action HERE.
Read about my experiences HERE.
I am SO looking forward to meeting you and playing awesome music!!
If you've ever had the opportunity to meet someone who is visually impaired, you know that conversing with such a person is a refreshing experience. Personally, I have a lot of appreciation for those who aren't distracted by the visual nature of our world, and namely, our society. But if you've never had the chance to teach music to someone who is blind, you are really missing out!!
I never dreamed I would ever encounter a situation like this--it's a subject that wasn't discussed in my music education courses--and if by chance it actually was, I definitely didn't pay attention. So when I got the call from a colleague who teaches at a local middle school about how he had a blind student who wanted to learn to play the flute--I was more than a little hesitant. How would I teach her? Would I have to feed her everything by rote? Was it even possible for a non-sighted person to play an instrument and read music? I told my friend that I needed a few days to do some research to even consider the possibility of teaching in such a unique circumstance. After talking with several others and doing countless Google searches, I decided it was worth a try. I would give it a few weeks, and if I failed, I would just help the poor girl find a more qualified teacher.
Well, that was a year ago, and I've never been more proud of Lydia and what she has accomplished in such a short amount of time. We've had several challenges: a flute that was in ill repair, practicing roadblocks, and trouble communicating with those who are helping her at school--but all in all I feel like we've done the best we can with what we have--and to me this is a huge success. Our lessons fly by so fast that we are both left wanting more time to continue the learning process. I've enjoyed it SO much, and it has been eye-opening to educate myself about a musical language that, up until last year, I didn't even know existed.
I've compiled the following guides to use if you or someone you know is teaching a non-sighted musician. Researching all of this on your own can be tedious and time consuming, so I hope these resources take a little pressure off--especially if you are a full time school music teacher who doesn't have time to pee, let alone time to search for helpful tools to teach your student!
Please contact me/comment below if you have any questions or if you have additional pointers!
I record all of the music that is to be learned as well as any additional instructions/reminders. Lessons are too short for Lydia to make notes on her electronic braille device, so I spend a few minutes after she leaves to record and email everything to her accessible phone.
2. Drilling the Braille
Learning music is incredibly difficult for even a sighted person. Take away the ability to see and it gets even more interesting. To complicate things further, Braille Music is COMPLETELY different than normal Braille that a blind person reads on an everyday basis--so they are essentially learning TWO new languages instead of just one. It can be quite confusing for the student and requires intense desire to learn. Though I do choose to teach some sections of music by rote--especially if we are running low on time before a performance--I require Lydia to learn everything by reading it for herself and then to translate it to me before we play. I have print copies of all her music so I can help her double check if the transcriptionist did their job correctly.
3. Tactile Aids
Graphic tape is such a wonderful invention--one that I hadn't even heard of before I started teaching my student. This tape can be placed on various points of the instrument to aid the pupil in locating the correct hand position, joint alignment, lip placement, etc.
4. Hands On
With most students I am very careful not to do a lot of touching--blame it on my public school days--but in the case of teaching someone who can't see, touching is unavoidable. I am constantly using touch to remind Lydia how to hold her head, where to place her hands, the shape her tongue needs to form for effective tonguing, and keeping an efficient embouchure formation.
1. Body Awareness
I have never encountered a sighted beginning flute player that has much body awareness--if any. Encountering a beginner who has never had sight is a completely different ball game. Even a year in, we are still going back to the basics of how and where to hold the flute in the air, where the lip plate should rest under the mouth, the angle of the head, etc. As with most things, I'm expecting this challenge to resolve itself over time as Lydia becomes more comfortable with how it feels to play the flute.
2. Describing Music
Visual aids in teaching the nuts and bolts of music are non-existent in our lessons, so I've had to become better at finding a wide range of explanations for everything from the staff, meters, time signatures, to articulations, dynamics, and repeat signs (oddly enough that has been the most confusing so far). I've noticed that Lydia thinks more deeply than any student I've ever had. Once she grasps a concept or learns a certain technique, she never loses it. Her mental capacity blows me away every time we have a lesson, and I know this will serve her well as she continues to memorize more and more music. I haven't tried this yet, but I received some advice early on about making tactile representations of these different musical elements so that a visually impaired student can be "clued in" about what the rest of the ensemble sees in the music.
Again, I'm sure this one will remedy itself with plenty more repetition--but there's something about seeing the notes go by on a page as your reading and playing the music that makes feeling the beat so much easier. Since Lydia must first translate the Braille into the notes and rhythm, memorize it, and then play it, applying rhythmic concepts such as keeping a steady beat have been so much more difficult. We will continue to do as much clapping and counting out loud with a metronome/tapping feet as we possibly can, and my hope is that eventually it will "click" with her.
If you or someone you know has the wonderful opportunity to teach a blind musician, I hope my pointers and resources have helped you in your instruction. I would love to hear your stories, so please leave a comment to join in the conversation!
And We're Back!
Leaves are falling and the crisp air is a gentle reminder that the semester is in full swing! Lessons at Smyth Flute Studio are ramping up and I am ready for new discoveries and musical milestones for each of my wonderful students.
Rehearsals at the Missouri Symphony Conservatory are also underway and the flute sections in both orchestras are quite sizable! I am so pleased with the talent and morale in each of the sections--the first concert is bound to be a treat. It's also very exciting to teach the young flutists the differences of playing in an orchestral setting versus band. Considering I was almost thirty years old before I played in an orchestra myself, I find it so important to show each of the students the ins and outs of sitting in the back of the ensemble. Most of them love the new found "freedom" they have to whisper to one another without the director noticing. :)
Thank you to all who attended the Pipes and Keys family concert last month--it was a blast! I must say my most favorite moment of the recital was playing a Bach invention with Elysia from Crecelius Flute Studio while Jazz Flute Extraordinaire Justin Cook beat-boxed in the background. A-Maz-ing. I'm sure we were quite the spectacle...but it was a performance I will never forget. Recordings will be coming soon, but to see some recently uploaded videos from our Summer Duo Recital, click HERE and scroll to the Chamber Music section. Enjoy!
Taking a much needed break from the rigors of pro orchestra auditions this year has been bittersweet. I find if I don't have something musically challenging on the horizon I get horribly bored and un-motivated in my flute playing. So--I'm dreaming up a solo recital...hopefully for Spring 2015. I'd like to combine a few older pieces in my rep that I've never performed with some new ones. Here are some considerations...I'd love to know what you think!
Sunday Morning by Ian Clarke
Piece by Jaques Ibert
Bortel--1900 and Cafe 1930 from the History of the Tango by Astor Piazzolla (replacing cello with flute, of course...however in moments like these, I really wish I would've learned classical guitar...)
Happy fluting, everyone!
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