2019 October Reaching the Next Level - FATB 3

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Playing Tips for Flute Players by Zoë Booth

Warm-Ups for Flute Players - Improve Your Playing by Exercises by Zoë Booth (published by Pipeblower Publishing, RRP £8.95)

If you’ve enjoyed Zoë’s hints and tips for free here, you can also purchase her book, packed with loads more exercises and in-depth descriptions  - a beautifully presented treat for yourself or a  flute-playing friend!

“Thank you. It’s brilliant! Looking forward to my practice session tomorow.”

“I love the prescriptions for 30 minute and 10 minute warm-ups; it’s easy to work out which exercises to do with limited time.”

October 2019
This month: Reaching the Next Level
Welcome to my flute-playing free Hints and Tips Page; a new page is posted here on the first day of each month.

I hope it has been a terrific start to the term and year; if you're a teacher, you're probably balancing all that early energy and enthusiasm against the prospect of a long term, and if you're a pupil (and we all always are) perhaps you're over the optimistic September-phase and into the realistic, progressive work towards goals both short- and long-term. As for Flutes at the Barns, there is plenty going on as the finishing touches are put to the course later this month whilst we simultaneously look forward to Flute Days in the new year on tone, the all-important voice of the flute. Closer than that, however, there is a FATB Flute Day in early November which is very apt for this month's theme on this page, as it too is called Aiming High!


Reaching the Next Level is about developing your playing meaningfully; for motivation and self-confidence we need to keep progressing and not remaining static. Let's take a few examples of how we can do so.

A Comfortable Routine - If you are in a good practice routine, that is great... but too comfortable and it may not be helping you? Have you got the right balance between the enjoyable playing you love AND the repetitive and challenging bits that you need to get better? Only you can know. A good tip to find this out is to write down what you did in your last practice and how long you spent on the different activities. If you were to design a practice session that would be useful, how much of it would challenge, how much would be instrumental, creative, repetitive, familiar, new? Now compare that to your list and see if you can spot where you can shift the balance the next time you have a session.

Adapt - Let's assume the repertoire in your practice changes, and with that the focus on your playing slightly changes too. Are you addressing what you need to though? Are those high notes still languishing because you're playing lots of baroque? Are those fingers in stasis because you're favouring repertoire or keys that don't challenge? What about interpretation - are you creating a sense of character and style based upon what you have heard others play (or, even, just what comes out when you do) or are you striving for something both genuine to you and fitting to the genre? Reflect and address what you need to, or you'll still be playing the same things in the same way this time next year.

Aim - There's no better way than to get to the next level than by setting yourself a challenge, it pushes you. I don't mean an exam (although it could be), but you could try playing in front of neighbours, recording yourself, attending a Flute Day, joining a group, taking a Performance Assessment (non-exam!), going on a course, completing a collection of pieces or a book. Try to get there and achieve it, and it will help you put the final polish on in a way that isn't needed when we just practise for ourselves.

Let's take just one activity as an example, and work on pushing through it to different levels in order to take our playing further.

Click here for this month's .pdf on Reaching the Next Level>>

This is a very simple - but hugely beneficial - universal tone exercise, whatever your level, focussed on the fundamental register.

1. At the basic level play each bar of notes with focussed, well-supported and even-sounding tone, fitting into one breath... just because this is level one, it could take a lifetime to achieve!
2. When you are ready for the next stage, slow the tempo and stretch out the breathing without compromising the tone quality; as well as focussing on listening, you will now be really focussing on the in-breath quality as well as the blowing and support.
3. Each stage needs to be played until you are great at it and then some; once it gets boring, keep playing it anyway (though remain mindful and listening)! If you are truly ready for level three, add a crescendo and diminuendo to each bar of notes, keeping your quality AND intonation.
4. Still want more? You must be about six months in (at least) by now?! Try playing it without vibrato at all, or with a vibrato that changes as you crescendo and diminuendo, now we're really pushing for something, especially if you are still achieving the quality you mastered in levels one to three as well!
5. What, you can do all that already?! (You must have been doing long notes for years!) OK, put it all together and try it with a different tone colour today... and a different tone colour tomorrow!


I look forward to hearing your stories about reaching the next level, and - indeed - welcoming those of you booked onto the November Flute Day!

Happy flute-ing,


P.S. Please send your questions and comments to me at info@flutesatthebarns.com

Next Time, November 2019: Dynamic Development

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Flutes at the Barns is a division of Zocopoco Limited, registered in England and Wales no. 7287733.
Registered office: 30 Whitecroft, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 1UU.

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