Wild confessions of a professional flutist.

Archive for October, 2013

The Bad Trill

Years ago I was working on a piece for a flute lesson, and I was very worried about a long, high trill.  I wanted it to be brilliant and to really sparkle.  I also wanted it to be long enough, without running out of steam.  I was worried about having enough air to make it all work, so I practiced extra long tones and agonized over all of the breath marks.

At the lesson I did it!  The trill soared and was brilliant!  I was thrilled.

Then my instructor gave this comment, “When I was studying with Samuel Baron, he warned me to not allow a trill to sound like an alarm clock.”

It took me a moment to realize that she was talking about my trill – THE trill.  I was crushed. 

The next day, I quit.  Cold turkey.

After a few days and a bit of perspective, I pulled myself together and realized that she was right.  That long, high, loud, fast trill DID sound like an alarm clock.  My instructor’s criticism was right on the numbers.  And, it was time for me to get back to practicing my flute.

I have never played such an insensitive, assaulting trill since.  (And, to be honest, lots of my students have heard this story, shortly after playing their own alarm-clock-like trill. . .  They won’t do it again, either.)


You know you’re a musician. . .

“You know that you’re a musician when, in joining your dad and brother’s acorn-whistling contests, you figure out how to play Hot Cross Buns.” – flute student, Brittany Petros

Yup.  That’s how I knew!

Student Breakthrough

“It seemed so hard at first, but now it’s EASY!  And, it’s REALLY FUN!!”  – flute student, Joselyn Allin


This embouchure octave slur breakthrough happened during a  young student’s recent lesson.  She started as a beginner in the middle of this past summer because she wanted to join band with her friends.  These friends have already been in band for two years. . .

Practicing has been difficult and boring for her thus far.  And, when band class started, she discovered that the other kids know much more than she does.  She brought her band music to her lesson that week and told me she was scared.

That’s when I told her that if she practices my way, not only will she catch up to the other kids, but she will end up being one of the best ones.  She seemed skeptical, but I told her to trust me, and she did.

A few weeks later, she proudly announced that the other kids don’t know how to play a B natural.  Last week she was excited to learn notes lower than the ones the other kids know, and informed me that the other kids “don’t even do long tones.”  And, this week she learned to control high notes with her embouchure, and discovered that it sounds “way prettier” to do it that way.

She laments the fact that she can’t play the band music.  “YET!”  I interrupted.  “Never say that you can’t do something.  Say that you can’t do it yet.”

“I can’t play the band music YET.”  She announced.  Then she flashed me a gigantic smile.

She gets it!

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