Wild confessions of a professional flutist.

Archive for July, 2013

The Sharp C#

Me:  What was that?!?

Brittany Petros (Flute Student):  C#

Me:  Be careful with the pitch – I think you pierced my eye!

Brittany:  I think I pierced D. . .


Nightmare Circles

Summer is tricky.  Either there are lots of fun things to do, so practice time becomes rare OR you get a bit bored and don’t feel like doing anything, especially practicing.

This practice tip will help you to get better even when your motivation gets a little low.

Take some time to play through everything you are currently working on, and have a pencil handy.  When you come to a spot that is tricky or not readily playable for any reason, circle it.  I call these spots “nightmare circles” because they are little nightmares in the middle of the music.

On the days when you either don’t have much time or don’t feel like doing anything, commit to working on at least one or two of your nightmare circles.  There is really no need to play through all of the easy spots every day, but if you spend some time solving actual problems, you’ll hear your playing improve.  Nightmare circles can become your little musical vitamins!

When you are able to get in a better practice session, be sure to play through the whole piece to see how much progress you have made and to circle any new problem areas.  Use your nightmare circles as little stepping stones toward mastering your musical projects.


“I didn’t get it before!

“I didn’t get it before! Before, it sounded like crazy nonsense, but now I get it!” – flute student, Gabby Doucot

This comment was Gabby’s response to my incessant pleas to double-check the long notes by subdividing.  When she finally did it for a week, her rhythm was perfect!

Perform It

This practice tip may sound ridiculous, but it will help your playing right away.

When working on a new piece of music or technique, it’s really common to move on to something else before the project is truly mastered.  To bring it to a new level – play it for someone else.  In fact, play it for anyone you can get to sit still for a few minutes:  parents, siblings, the kids you babysit, your best friend, your spouse, a colleague, a neighbor, your favorite clergy member, your worst enemy, ANYONE.  When you play in front of another person, you will quickly realize what still needs work, what can go wrong, and what sounds fabulous.  It can be a great source of motivation (no one wants to play badly in front of anyone!) and can go a long way toward building your confidence.

Make playing in front of people a regular part of your practice routine (even force someone to listen to scales, if that’s what you are working on!) and see how ridiculously prepared you will be for your next big gig! 


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