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Preparing for Your Undergraduate Flute Lesson

Following these simple steps will help you get the most from your flute lessons. One of the biggest challenges of teaching undergraduate students is that there simply isn’t enough time to address all of the issues that I notice as a teacher. Generally teachers will prioritize issues in playing with the steps listed below. The more initiative you can take to address what you can do yourself, the more you will get out of your flute lessons and the higher the level you will reach.

  1. LISTEN to your piece. There are many recordings available through various mediums; it is usually always possible to find a professional recording of your piece so that you can get a sense of the music. Avoid student performances on you tube. Instead spend $1 to get an appropriate recording from itunes if there isn’t a professional recording available elsewhere. Do not listen to your piece 1000 times. The point of this is to get a sense of the piece, not to provide you an interpretation to copy or as a short cut to learning it.

  2. Learn the NOTES and RHYTHMS of your piece. Use a metronome for this. Learning the rhythm without counting it first or using a metronome is a total waste of time. Do not simply turn the metronome and play along, be very sure that what you are playing is matching with the metronome and that you have taken the time to count out subdivisions and understand the mathematics of every rhythm that appears in your piece.

  3. Take care to execute the correct ARTICULATION as it appears in the score. It is very easy to read what’s on the page. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring the articulations the composer has taken great care to put into the composition. Articulations are not suggestions (except in early music) and ignoring them or playing them incorrectly is equivalent to an incorrect note or rhythm. If you are playing a piece where articulations are open to interpretation listen to some recordings to get an idea of what might be appropriate.

  4. Take notice of the DYNAMICS that have been written into the score. These are also not optional (except in the case of early music). If you are playing a piece where dynamics are left up to the performer listen to some recordings to get an idea of what might be appropriate. Simply playing everything at the same dynamic is not an appropriate option.

  5. Take steps towards understanding the STYLE of the piece. Listen to other works written in the same time period and other works by the same composer. Doing this will help you to understand the composers musical language and will offer insight into how you might play the piece.

  6. Consider how you will INTERPRET the piece. Taking into consideration all the previous steps, its time to choose which tone colours, vibrato, phrasing, articulations and dynamics you may wish to employ. This is where music making becomes fun as you are in charge of the artistry of your work. Keep in mind that the decisions you are making rely on following the steps in order. Skipping any step leads to artistic decisions that may not be informed and therefore may be inappropriate to the style or what the composer wrote in the score.

While these steps certainly don’t function as a definitive guide to preparing for your lesson they can be used as a guideline for your process. For undergraduate students I would expect that steps 1 though 4 are addressed BEFORE attending the lesson. (At least!) Keep in mind that you are now in pursuit of a music degree and that command of reading and executing the score is a starting place for working with your teacher. There are so many high level concepts and ideas to cover in your degree that large amounts of time spent correcting what is already written on the page is not an efficient use of you and your teachers time. The most exciting part of studying music is learning the things we have never thought of or cannot teach ourselves, therein lies the real value of your teacher!

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