Jen Cluff ~ Practising the flute - intermediate level                       practising "how to practice" flute

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

A four-part series of articles on "How to Practise" for intermediate flute players by Jennifer Cluff

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Note: Practise (with an "S" ) is indeed the correct spelling, however "practice" is in common usage.

Practicing articles index:

1. Getting "into" practicing flute

by Jennifer Cluff. Aug. 2000

Question: How do I get myself excited about practicing?

Answer: Beautiful musical sounds are compelling to humans, and there's no better way to entrance yourself, and get your musical vehicle (your own body) in the mood to play music than to focus on "freeing" passages and patterns that sound gorgeous. Try some of the suggestions below to see which appeal to you most, and remember the goal is to "sing out" and feel wonderful!!!!

A) The Orange Juice warm up by Paula Robison from her Warmups Book.

( These are two-octave chromatic scales, all slurred, starting on "the most beautiful low C you can muster" says Paula in the notes; then start on low C#, then low D etc.) Use a metronome after establishing a flow in dynamic intensity and forward moving airstream. Really sing out on the high register.

B) De la Sonorite by Moyse (longtones) or Bell's Warmup, as it's called in the Robison book. Moyse asks you to think of each tone (starting with B2) to sound like a struck bell, full of life and ringing. Also fun to
try ringing objects in the room or projecting a distance to a far wall or window. This releases the airflow.

C) Pacing around, or loosely striding all around your echoey spaces at home playing gorgeous sounds and making up fragments of melodies that 'just come to you'.

D)Playing, with passionate feeling, some of the most beautiful slow movements you've got in your repertoire (slow Bach or Vivaldi movements are also very good for this.)

E) Playing along with a favorite CD with matching sheet music if you have it, and/or holding drone notes to a well loved recording, or just improvising among the voices in the piece, (not worrying about whether
you're very good at improvising or not.)

F) Singing and or dancing. (to develop "body rhythm and open throat/good pitch)

All of these tend to get me started practicing because they're open ended starting points.
And I hear that Galway paces around the house doing scales every morning (driving his wife bats!)
I have begun to think that striding about in a thoughtful manner while playing something you KNOW or are making up (like improvised scale-patterns) re-balances the body, so it won't stiffen into a "locked posture". This is important in staying loose when returning to practice after a hiatus.

What to do to further your developmental practicing:

What most of us usually do after a sabbatical is take the hardest piece we *used* to play last season, put it up on the dust covered music stand, and try and bang our heads against it at full velocity.
Why are we shocked when we're assailed with atrocious lack of control, tenser and tenser physique, and horrible results of squawking and sputtering! (pets and family members running screaming doesn't help either! :>)==#
Don't we ALL just do that? And then one gets really discouraged, and starts to despair about auditions or gigs coming up. ("Only weeks away! ACK! What was I THINKING?!")

Well, this is NOT the way to scare yourself before relaxing and enjoying yourself. *Believe* me.

So, after warming up and getting the most "singing sound" (previous ideas A thru' E ) for a few days, here are some tried and true suggestions for co-ordinate your playing *much* sooner.
Fool around with these ideas:

1. Play through some well-loved melodies that have "soul" and "speak to you". They could be slow movements of sonatas (as mentioned before). Or they could be out of a collection of heart-breakingly gorgeous vocal/instrumental solos like:

"Sing!" by John Wion;

"Tone Development through Interpretation" by M. Moyse;

or (especially for novice flute players):
Karen Smithson's wonderful books in five volumes called "Playing the Flute".

The folk melodies and famous orchestral themes in Smithson's volumes 3 to 5 are deeply moving, have a profound effect on your intonation and phrasing (because familiar) and are progressive in terms of sightreading increasing flats and sharps as you progress through the volumes by key....they're just great collections!!! If you have a pianist friend, there are beautiful accompaniments too.

If the Smithson books are too rudimentary for you, remember that purchasing them will give you good books for your future teaching of students.

2) DUETS: The One Flute Band!

Use a simple tape recorder to *discover* your duet collections.
This makes you play "as if" you are performing with another flutist.

Here are the steps, and all you need is a boom box cassette player
that records with a mic. of some sort, plus a blank tape. (and your metronome!)

a) learn one voice of a flute duet (one you've never heard before, or an old favourite)
b) really sculpt the phrases, and make it beautiful.
c) set the metronome to a reasonable speed for that part.
d) record yourself playing the one part. Keep the metronome going throughout the recording.
e) play it back (up the volume until it sounds "live")
f) play the other flute part on top.

You'll soon find you're so excited by being a one-flute-band that you'll want to re-record the original part to increase the beauty of your phrasing and "singing" quality.

What these two experiences of "returning to your flute" have in common is that you're inspiring yourself by playing things that sound beautiful. And you'll probably not feel as inspired about technical practice until your heart's alive and well from hearing gorgeous melodies and tone colours.


Once you're well begun in practicing everyday (because it seems like "real music" instead of like some technical grind....) start adding one of the ideas below to your practice time, and continue to add yet another one (or more) as you feel you are curious and inspired. The key to long and enjoyable practice sessions is "wanting to play THAT music I adore" not "making yourself do things you don't really like". So try one or more, and keep adding, until you develop a rhythm of "interest" in each thing.

1) Studies and Etudes:

Get a list of fabulous and highly recommended etudes, and work through one book at a time with the goal of making an incredibly moving musical interpretation out of each etude. The first stage is learning the notes.

The second stage is playing the study with a moderate metronome marking, gradually increasing it until a week or so later you're at a performance speed. ( If breath markings are a problem ask me for info.)

When the study sounds fabulous, try taping yourself and listening back to "hear yourself as others hear you" (there's a book avail. by that title that is highly recommended, have a look for it.)
Be on the lookout for great tuning, clear articulations, gorgeously phrased melodies and a large range of dynamics. This method of working etudes will give you incredible knowledge.
Trust me. I've done it for years, and this is the most fun and exciting way to learn flute technique!!!

2) Great standard Repertoire:
Choose a CD that you really think represents a great performance of standard repertoire, and get the sheet music that goes with it. One good one to start with is the Mozart Flute Quartets (Emmanuel Pahud does a great job on these on his CD.) Play along with Pahud, pretending he's giving you a lesson on how to play the quartets. Really listen and discover why he's considered so fabulous. Open your ears to his every nuance and seek to recreate it in your own playing. Perfect your playing to as close as you can get to this performer/interpretation.
Choose other CDs and other composers.
You may develop quite a collection of famous players who are teaching they know, without ever charging you for the advanced lessons.

3) Great Orchestral Excerpts:

Get Jeanne Baxtresser's CD and Orch.Excerpt book, and work on one excerpt at a time following her advice from her website at:

The advice may lead you to listen to the whole orchestral spectrum of the pieces and not just the flute parts. This will develop your ear for orchestral composition, which will make you a bit of a genius when it comes to performing with large ensembles in the future.

4) Create your own rotational technique plan:

Follow the advice of great flute players everywhere and create a cycle of Taffanel and Gaubert finger exercises that allows you to increase your speed each day with the metronome. It's impossible to play all scales and arpeggios and big exercises everyday, so make a chart and work through them marking down your fastest and most clear and accurate speed of the day. It's better to be too slow and perfect, than too fast and full of blips and blurps.

Keeping a journal of your work also makes you slightly excited and competitive about your own progress. If you can see the speeds going up, it'll inspire you to keep coming back to the T&G and improving.

5) Go to flute concerts, listen to flute broadcasts, watch flute videos.
Nothing makes you find the next thing you really want to work on like seeing another (or hearing) flute player do something stunning and beautiful. Expose yourself to these things, so that you're aware of all the "cool" things out there. Avoid "living in a practice room" instead: take yourself to the practice room when you're full of awe and inspiration from the real world "out there".

6) Jazz or folk improvisation:

The following is a beginner's improvising plan written by Don Hosek from the Flutenet discussion group on Yahoo.

Some basic improv exercises:

1. The one-note improv. Pick your favorite note (mine's Bb1) and do a simple "rhythm jam" on it. Just play the one note, but try playing a rhythm that you make up as you go along. Perhaps use the rhythms of speech, or start with the rhythm of a melody that you know well and then begin making variations on that rhythm. Remember, after all, that notes are not all
there is to music. Time also plays a role.

2. As you get familiar with that, begin adding a second note. Try doing jumps of different intervals but always return to your center note. Hey it's just like your lip flexibility exercises, but with swing & flash.

3. Now, begin getting adventurous: Instead of returning to your center note, move somewhere else. Work in arpeggios and scale runs. Do intervals across the scale, e.g., C-F-D-G-E-A-F-B-G-C. Remember to keep rhythm in mind. Stay in one key for now, although for color, you may want to occasionally (assuming you're in a major key) flat the 3rd and 7th. If
you're in a minor key, alternate between the minor and major sixth and sevenths.

4. Play a tune that you know well by ear. If you know it on the flute, play it in a different key than you learned it in so you're working more by ear than by notes. Try incorporating variations into the tune, first in the rhythm, then try varying the melody.

5. Begin breaking down the key a lot more. Try using different sorts of arpeggios, like diminished (play a minor with a flat fifth) or augmented (play a major with a sharp fifth). If you do a scale run, the fourth or fifth note must be in a different key. E.g., C-D-E-F# or E-F#-G-A-Bb. Take any opportunity to modulate into a new key.

Note that I've just broken down into five short steps things that you can spend years developing. Don't come at this planning to do exercise 1 on Monday and get to 5 on Friday. Expect to spend increasingly long times on each exercise. And remember, this is only just scratching the surface, we haven't even begun to consider improvising against a backing progression. But if you work a little improv into your daily warm-up, you may be pleased and surprised with the results.

Don Hosek (copied with author's permission from Flutenet archives; 2000)

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More ideas for advanced practice for Classical flutists

2. How to Practice technique

A young flutist on the brink of college entrance asked the flute list for advice on fitting into his practice schedule all the scales and exercises he knew were necessary, but seemed so overwhelming.

Jen Cluff replied:
A rotation schedule for technical practice and/or commentary on how to work out technical challenges is a very complex and individualistic topic for discussion. I think that asking your own private teacher for advice is a good idea because they will know more about what level you're playing at and what, specifically you should focus on for
immediate improvement. Your letter however DID inspire me to think about creative solutions to the necessity of technical practice, so I'll give you my "best ideas of the moment" to see if they are of any help to you. See below.

How to practice Technique:

There are as many ways of practicing technique as there are flute players.

Every flutist, over time, develops a method of rotating the basic areas of practice:

Tone, Scales, Articulation, Arpeggios, Finger Exercises, Dynamic Control, Studies, Sight Reading, Special Techniques, etc. And the success of your program depends on developing your own ways of challenging and rewarding yourself, and finding out how the technical practice relates to an actual musical context.

I think the best advice I can give about designing your own method of rotating your technical exercises on flute, is to stay curious and excited about it. Practicing "technique" will certainly not hold your interest long if it is frustrating, repetitive, non-musical or "forced" out of you. So therefore you must design a practice program that:

a) Balances intensity with relaxation (endeavour to play arpeggios as relaxedly as you play a the slow movement of a beautiful sonata, for example)

b) Balances pure "technique" with a musical application.

(ex: evenness in scales is directly related to the evenness of the scale-passages in your pieces)

c) Balances the challenge of creating something beautiful with challenging yourself to systematically cover all the basics of flute playing during your practice schedule.

The knowledge of balancing your practice regime comes with time and a lot of personal "trial and error". What is perfect for one person isn't any fun at all for another. Highly organized people may keep a chart of their accomplishments, with notes jotted down after completion of each practice area, while others are happier with an "intuitive" approach that allows them to switch from intense concentration, to fun things, from disciplined and focussed, to free and expressive.

I think that many of us fall into the latter category, and like a change every twenty to thirty minutes (sometimes even every 10 min.) during our daily practice sessions. So with this in mind I'll give you some hints of what has worked for me…and you can see for yourself whether any of my methods are useful to you.

Hints for success in practicing technique:

- It's fun having two music stands; one for technical practice and one for music that you are really looking forward to playing that day. Try switching back and forth from one to the other as you practice, so that you are rewarded for long bouts of technique with a gorgeous piece of music (that you'll suddenly hear has improved from your technical exercises.)

- Stretch out or shake out, and breathe deeply in between bouts of technical practice. Keep your body aware of tension or "holding" so that you immediately know when to stretch it out and relax it again. The worst thing you can do during daily exercises and scales etc. is to play stiffly, and "hard", not allowing yourself to play with musicality and a sense of "soaring".

- See if you can relate every technical item to a musical use. For example if your piece or study has huge interval leaps in it, it might be a good idea to spend time on leaps in your technical practice. This method of going from the pure technique to the piece can also be applied in the other direction: in fact going backwards from your repertoire to your technique is exactly what Taffanel and Gaubert, Andersen, Boehm and Moyse etc. were doing when they wrote their technique books. They looked at the individual technical challenges in the repertoire of their day, and took tiny motives or fragments of a demanding technique, and built etudes and daily exercises out of them. If you're creatively inspired you can actually design your own technical exercises out of tiny tough parts that exist in your pieces.

Remember: there is always a musical nuance for each flute technique that presents a challenge. Always make your technique sound like real music!

-Tell your body that all technique is just one long glorious longtone. If your body is "set up" in a poised and relaxed manner to play the most beautiful long note, the airstream and breath support will make 'technical' fingerings and embouchure leaps much more subtle and gentle. There's no point playing your tone exercises with perfect poise only to start gesticulating wildly and pounding the keys when you come to a page full of scales and arpeggios. See if you look the same in the mirror when your fingers are moving rapidly as when they are still. Finger movement should not disrupt the equilibrium of the whole body. Fingers need to be comfortably close to the keys whether they're moving quickly or staying still.

  • Avoid sacrificing tone for speed. If you want to go fast with your fingers focus on your tone quality as the metronome is set faster, and slow down again if you lose your full rich tone. Otherwise you'll only teach yourself to lose your tone as soon as you see lots of fast notes, (and there's no piece in the world that actually asks the flutist to do that :>). If you do lose your tone, simply return to your Moyse Sonorite exercises and regain it before you continue your technical exercises. Why not? It'll relax you and rebalance you physically to play long slow notes.
  • Make things enjoyable for yourself. If you hate the sound of a certain exercise, maybe you could be interpreting it differently, or give it a different musical "character". For example scales can be "sung like an opera singer", or Taff. & Gaubert Daily Exercises might be interpreted as "Merlin's Magic Spells" (E.J. 14), "Swallows in the afternoon sun" (E.J. 12), "La Mer", or the Sea (E.J.10). Be creative with your sound. Make everything you play sound magical.
  • Jennifer Cluff. Principal Flute; Vancouver Island Symphony.

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    3. Daily Practice Books/Rotating Technique

    For highschool students and University undergrads I've created a technique rotation document that includes facets to look for during technical practice, and some suggestions on how to use the standard books:

    Taffanel & Gaubert's 17 Daily Exercises;

    Reichert's Seven Daily Exercises;

    Trevor Wye's Practice Books for the Flute ~ Tone book Vol. I

    Trevor Wye's Practice Books for the Flute all five volumes together [Omnibus edition]

    Moyse's De la Sonorite;

    Filas's Top Register Studies

    Wummer's Daily Exercises, etc.

    A new book has just been published by Trevor Wye that you should take a look at if you've already completed his five practice books (Tone, Articulation, Scales, Intonation etc. all found in the Omnibus edition.) The new book combines all of the major technical books of the past (Taffanel & Gaubert, Reichert etc.) plus it puts them in a sensible order.

    A daily practice card is included that is moveable from section to section on which you can write the metronome markings and names of the exercises that you've completed. Purchasing this one volume could save you time and money as it contains many of the exercises that you'd normally purchase as separate volumes and puts them all together in a great format. It's called: Complete Daily Exercises for the Flute: Essential Practice Material for all intermediate to advanced Flutists (Novello). It is orderable from and makes the flutist's life so much easier by having a great deal of the more advanced technical books excerpted within it. I've included it in the lists of practice routines below.

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    Everything you need to know about flute technique

    If you've never practiced flute technique before: Start by reading the first two articles #1 and #2 from the top of this webpage, to insure that you are getting all the "helpful hints" that are available.

    It’s very important to ask your private flute teacher for suggestions since they are far more attuned to your own personal "flute needs" than anyone else.

    If you've been away from the flute for a spell, and would like to gradually start developing your skills again, you can start your technical improvements immediately with documents #1 and #2 and THEN move onto this one.

    If you've been practicing technique for quite awhile, and would like to know how to rotate your technical practice, read this #3 document to be sure you're covering all the basics, and then continue on and have a look at Mary Byrne's professional level rotation suggestions in the document #4.


    For younger flutists who have questions about practicing "technique":

    When you first started on the flute your concerns are with producing a good sturdy sound, and learning all the flute fingerings, so that you can easily find your way around the instrument without stopping and hunting for a finger combination.

    At the next stage you may start noticing that some areas on the flute have great tone, while others (extremely high and extremely low notes) perhaps don't sound as great, and you begin "Tone exercises" to even out your range of good sound. At the same time you'll be working to make your tonguing clear and accurate, and be attempting to play the dynamics that are written. You may even have a number of scales and arpeggios assigned systematically by your teacher, through which you endeavour to work so as to become "fluent" on the flute when sightreading, or when working through increasingly more difficult pieces and studies.

    All of these technical areas are normal starting points when learning an instrument, and are gradually built up one by one until a certain proficiency has been reached that allows you to play musically-interesting and intellectually or emotionally rewarding "pieces" composed for flute.

    A point comes, however, when you hear a flutist on a recording or live in performance, who has mastered these basics so well that they sound "effortless". Not only are their tonguings "clean", they're immaculate! And complicated! Not only is their tone beautiful, it's "expressively beautiful" and deep with musical meaning. Not only do they have some dynamics and vibrato choices, they have a colourful pallet of both, that they apply like an artist applies a new colour to a canvas…….You're blown away by the complexity and the "simplicity" of what you're heard. Well what you've just witnessed is a player who practices "technique".

    What is the 'freedom' of technical practice?

    Technical practice may at first sound unromantic: like spending hours repeating complicated patterns that don't form themselves into a complete piece of music. But that description only applies until you try practicing technique yourself, and realize how satisfying it is to hear how much more artistic you sound after only a small amount of concentrated effort. The more improvements you hear in your playing, the more convinced you become that it's your extra effort at "technique" that is responsible for your freedom to express music 'your way'.

    In this way it will be seen that discipline (in practicing technique) leads to freedom, and self-expression. And after proving that to yourself you'll find that the discipline is no longer an imposition that binds you; it becomes an ingenious way of letting you express yourself in all your individuality.

    Below you'll find a list of the steps that lead toward this "freedom of expression".

    You can use this list when you design your practice regime to check whether you're developing all the areas you'll need when the time for "great artistry" arrives for you.

    If you have difficulty taking-in this list of techniques (because you're just playing for fun, or because you don't have much time to practice) imagine that you're an amateur Karate student and your goal is to have terrific kicks and throws. The teacher knows that you can't successfully kick if you're not stable on your feet; that you'll only throw yourself off balance by attempting high kicks too early etc. So imagine the list below as a Karate belt- list that begins with a yellow belt, and ends with a black belt. In this way you'll get a great overview of flute techniques that you'll need to be a truly expressive and communicative artist and you'll mentally put them in the order you need to stay "securely planted on your own two feet".

    Note on books listed below: You may only need one or two technical books at a time so try to work each book thoroughly instead of buying all of them and never really mastering any of them. In most cases one or two books at each level is sufficient.

    But if you are concerned about the minimum number of books to buy (due to budget restrictions) see the top of page 16 for a minimal purchase list.

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    Technical accomplishments; In order of development:

    Goal: Artistic Freedom of Expression

    Level One: Legato tone quality:

    At the first level you have a secure knowledge of all fingerings and you are able to move between any two notes (while slurring) very smoothly. You have a good, solid tone right the way up from C1 to C4, and you will be doing longtones every day to make the tone even more consistently beautiful. Learning legato tone quality means matching great tone and smooth finger changes together perfectly so that there is no "airiness" and no lumps and bumps in your sound. This 'level one' work will continue to be a practice area for a lifetime, so it will be the first thing you'll do everyday when you begin to practice.

    Good tone is also the result of good posture and breathing so be very physically aware as you warm up, to be sure you're supporting your tone with the best physique you have learned for flute playing.

    Good technique books for this: Trevor Wye's Tone Vol. 1; M. Moyse's De la Sonorite, Paula Robison's Warmup Book. {The Bell's Warmup}.

    Level Two: Legato tone quality in melodies

    The tone qualities that you develop during "longtone" exercises need to be applied to actual music, in order to learn to hold your "best tone" while reading written music. Pieces that require the flute to rapidly finger, or leap to notes that are at a distance, or play in all three octaves in less than a bar, for example, cause us to lose the "core of our sound" due to strenuous flute-demands arriving too quickly. The object is to perform slow and beautiful melodies without losing our "best" tone, to eventually learn to sustain an unwaveringly glorious sound no matter which rhythms, tonguings or wide leaps are called for.

    Often we practice our longtones and then proceed to our favourite piece and promptly abandon our great tone. Also, when pieces call for tonguing the often tone becomes airy because the lips accidently stop holding the "good tone" shape.

    The best way to solidify your great tone is to play pieces that strengthen and hold your embouchure in a gentle and relaxed way, so that you can be very sensitive to the minute changes in the embouchure and what they can do for (and against) your sound. After practicing longtones, always check your tone out on some amazing and inspiring simple melodies. Pay attention to the tone staying beautiful, even when you do tongue.

    Note: I recently read that the famous tone officianado, Marcel Moyse, suggested that you play medium soft melodies first in your practice routine, before you practice your longtones. So if you feel you'd like to start with a melody or two of great beauty BEFORE you do your longtones….feel free to do so. The books below provide great tunes for a "pre-longtone" warm-up also.

    Good technique books for this: Complete Daily Exercises for the Flute. By Trevor Wye; Sing! By John Wion (a collection of famous arias and symphonic melodies); Tone development through Interpretation by Marcel Moyse (an important book for future 'colour and dynamics'; worth investing in.) The Warmups from The Physical Flute by Fiona Wilkinson.
    These warm-ups of Wilkinson's include tone consistency exercises as well as warm-ups for performing effortless wide-interval-leaps. It is a great overall warm-up book.

    For particular help in the top register: Top Register Studies by Thomas Filas.

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    Level Three: Finger looseness and accuracy:

    The next level of technical mastery is to train your fingers by exercising them everyday, to be loose AND accurate. Fingers that clutch or grip the flute, or pound downwards so hard that they become difficult to lift must be taught to be light and respond quickly and accurately. The best exercises for this is chromatic scales and regular major and minor scales. The best idea is to gauge how much finger pressure it actually takes to overcome the springyness of your flute's keys. The finger pressure needed to overcome the spring tension on any key is perhaps a lot less than you thought. The finger needs only it's own weight, not any actual downward force.

    Note: Memorizing your scales is a very good idea!!!

    Many teachers and exam systems ask you to memorize scales. The reason for memorization is that you can then look in a mirror while practicing to see if you've got a healthy posture with easy breathing, that your fingers are not lifting too high, and that you're not gripping the flute too hard. So DO memorize your scales over a period of months so that your eyes will be free to check the mirror. Memorizing scales will also cause incredible improvements in your sightreading as well as make you more comfortable memorizing other music, when necessary, in the future.

    Good technique books for this: Complete Daily Exercises for the Flute. By Trevor Wye; Paula Robison's Warmup Book (The Orange Juice Warmup); Any exercise book that contains all the major and minor scales written out in two octaves; Taffanel and Gaubert's 17 Daily Exercises(hereafter known as T&G: E.J.): learn E.J.3 (chromatic scales) and E.J. 4 (The Scale "Game").

    Note: Use a metronome for all scales and perform them all-slurred at first. Increase speed gradually by clicking the metronome only one click higher each time a speed feels and sounds easy. Keep your gorgeous tone from level 1 and 2 and slow down and stay steady if there is any lack of clarity in your scales.

    Level Four: Rhythmic Precision

    By this level you'll have a much improved tone quality when travelling up and down the flute, and your knowledge of all the regular scales will have made flute playing quite a bit easier for you. The next stage is to further even out the fingerings so that all rhythms are very precise and clear, and there are no "blips or slips" when you're playing strings of running notes. You'll also want to find a single lip position that is good for many notes in a row. Groups of four (or six) 16th notes in a row must contain 16th notes that are absolutely identical in length, with no one note longer or shorter than another, and all with the same clean tone and finger lightness. The way to practice this is to play slurred 16th notes with a metronome, asking the fingers to all behave alike, and make every finger combination as clean and precise as every other finger combination. Any Daily Exercise book that contains patterns based on all the major, chromatic and minor scales is also good. In most cases you will still be slurring all your technique, to insure that it is your finger accuracy that is being improved while you use the metronome.

    For easy scales set the metronome somewhat faster. For uneven or difficult ones, set the metronome to a slower speed.

    Good technique books for this: Complete Daily Exercises for the Flute. By Trevor Wye; T&G; 17 Daily Exercises; E.J. 1 and 2; Andre Maquarre's Daily Exercises; John Wummer's Daily Exercises; Mathieu Reichert's 7 Daily Exercises

    Level Five: Clean and neat articulations:

    tonguing on the flute is the way to add definition, or 'clarity' to rhythms. Because the tongue doesn't function well if there is insufficient air support in the flute tone, I suggest that you reach a high level of finger and tone accuracy by learning all technical exercises all-slurred first, and only then add tonguing. Once the fingers are perfectly coordinated and audibly regular in their rhythm, you can be sure that having the tongue say "Tu tu tu tu" (pronounced as in French) will be a simple thing to apply to any single note or scale.

    To coordinate your tongue at first, practice any exercise or scale with many "tu's" on each note. (ex: tongue four or more "tus" on each note of a scale, going up to the top and back down again.). You'll soon notice that not every single "tu" sounds the same. Your task is to discover how to make them all identical. If you can learn to tongue clearly and cleanly on a single note, and then next on moving strings of notes, you can put your tonguing on "automatic pilot" later when you encounter more complex articulations.

    Good technique books for this: Complete Daily Exercises for the Flute. By Trevor Wye with the additional articulations printed on the practice card;

    Or: All the books mentioned in Levels Three and/or Four, but with the tonguing options either provided by the authors, teacher, or added by the student.

    For serious and advanced students you may also enjoy: Marcel Moyse's: School of Articulation (or Ecole de l'Articulation.) pub: Leduc

    And Robert Stallman;s The Flutist's Detache Book for studies that focus on clean tonguing.

    Level Six: Expanding your dynamic range:

    Most flutists play at a medium loud volume, and have a range of dynamics from medium loud to medium soft. The true range of music is VERY VERY LOUD to unbelievably soft with a zillion shades of grey in between. In order to expand your pallet of dynamics and "colours" on the flute, you first must learn the art of crescendos and diminuendos on a single note.

    Gradually you will move to various different notes and expand the dynamic range on each one. This is very much like doing longtones except every note must be kept in tune while you first crecendo to your fullest and then diminuendo down to the faintest possible sound.

    This technique is best achieved by creating various vowel shapes in the mouth cavity that range from AWE (for loudest) through EH, AYE, EEE and oooooooo (softest possible).

    The description of this technique is fully covered in the book The Physical Flute.

    Apart from staying in tune while doing this, you'll also need to keep your "best" tone.

    Later you can experiment by taking all your other technique exercises and expanding them with dynamics. (crescendo down all your scales, for a change etc.)

    Best Book: The Physical Flute by Fiona Wilkinson.

    Other books: Tone Development through Interpretation by Marcel Moyse

    De La Sonorite by Marcel Moyse (Fullness of Tone section.)

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    Level Seven: Apply your clean technique and dynamics to studies and pieces:

    Since your pieces and etudes require all the above qualities (to leave your brain free to interpret "with your greatest" artistry, the musical ideas of great composers) the best thing to do is to "layer up" these skills one by one. This is why these topics comprise six levels. Each level must be practiced with some audible success in order to "train" the physique to produce a clear and clean execution of the various musical facets: tone, airspeed and lip positions, fingerings, articulation, and dynamics. As you build them up in your practice regime you'll find yourself leaving each layer on "automatic pilot" as you progress upward.

    Finally, your pieces are your reward for layering up all the skills in one incredibly solid series of human actions: they'll sound gorgeous. (Not breathy, not spitty, not shrieky); In fact, if you progress in this order everyday when you practice you'll find that what used to seem like difficult pieces are suddenly very easy.


    You will use this series of "Technique" practice levels for a lifetime so learn each one as thoroughly as you can before placing it on "automatic pilot".

    Professionals do a 'maintenance practice session' on each of these areas each day, so as not to lose the skills they've developed, so you should feel very proud when you've completed your expertise at a certain level. It means that you'll be able to "maintain" it without as long an "input" time as at first.

    Remember too that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. In other words you can easily apply all six levels to any bar of music that you're learning: first slur the bar to get the tone, play a smooth joining of all the notes without jarring the lips, keep your fingers light, so you are only overcoming the spring tension of each key……and finally, add the tongue and the dynamics (in either order.)

    Ta dah! A professional sound….and one that will startle you with its clarity.

    Good luck, and stay fresh in your outlook!

    Remember that your goal is FREEDOM, and you'll be inspired to stick with your plan to improve.

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    4. Rotating Your Technical Practice:

    Let's say that you've spent several months gradually incorporating the seven levels of playing above, and that you feel you're making steady progress. Your tone is lovely, your high notes are getting easier, your slurring is neat and precise, fingers are light and agile, and your tonguing and dynamics have both improved. Now, how do you keep all these qualities without practicing for 14 hours every day?

    You may have tried to play ALL your exercises everyday, and found that you have very little time to work on repertoire. Or you may have a big concert coming up, and you're afraid to lose the skills you've gained if you don't spend a large part of your practice time on your scales and technical facility.

    At this point it becomes important to be able to rotate your technical practice so that over the course of several days you have "checked" your level of technical accuracy, and increased your abilities.

    Here is what I recommend for a rotation of your newly developed technical skills:

    Plan A:

    Level One: Legato tone quality:

    The Physical Flute by Fiona Wilkinson (basic Warm-ups)

    Level Two: Legato tone quality in melodies:

    Tone Development Through Interpretation by Marcel Moyse (choose one selection and do accompanying exercises from back of book.

    Level Three: Finger looseness and accuracy: (next three levels = one book.)

    & Level Four: Rhythmic Precision:

    & Level Five: Clean and neat articulations:

    Use the book Complete Daily Exercises for the flute by Trevor Wye (follow the sections on chromatics, then major & minor scales using articulations as suggested.)

    Level Six: Expanding your dynamic range:

    The Physical Flute by Fiona Wilkinson (Dynamics section)

    Level Seven: Apply your clean technique and dynamics to studies and pieces.

    A list of graded etudes can be found on this website.

    Also any good syllabus from other Conservatories or Exam systems should be a good indication of the level of pieces and etudes you should be working on. Check the flute Repertoire Lists online


    Plan B:

    Level One: Legato tone quality:

    Marcel Moyse: De La Sonorite; Longtones all three octaves.

    For particular help in the top register: Top Register Studies by Thomas Filas.

    Level Two: Legato tone quality in melodies:

    Trevor Wye: Complete Daily Exercises; Section One:Vocalise.(choose one selection).

    Or: Any slow movement from a Baroque work (Bach, Handel, Vivaldi)

    Level Three: Finger looseness and accuracy:

    Paula Robison: The Warm up Book; The Orange Juice Warmup

    Or: From the Trevor Wye collection: Chromatic Scales.

    Level Four: Rhythmic Precision:

    Taffenal and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises; E.J. 1 & 2 (also found in the Wye Collection.)

    Level Five: Clean and neat articulations:

    Perform the two octave major and minor scales from memory (or read along in any scale book) with clear tonguing repetitions of four "tu"s on each note.

    Level Six: Expanding your dynamic range:

    Marcel Moyse: De la Sonorite Fullness of Tone exercises or low note crescendo exercises.

    Level Seven: Apply your clean technique and dynamics to studies and pieces:


    Plan C:

    Level One: Legato tone quality:

    Trevor Wye Vol. I Tone: all three octaves (this is Vol. I from "Practice books for the Flute" by Wye and is not to be confused with his: Complete Daily Exercises.)

    Level Two: Legato tone quality in melodies:

    Reichert's 7 Daily Exercises : no. 2 (choose others as you progress through the book.)

    Or John Wummer's Daily Exercises (choose any and progress through the book.)

    (Some of Reichert's Daily Exercises are also found in Wye's Collection).

    Level Three: Finger looseness and accuracy:

    & Level Four: Rhythmic Precision: (both can be practiced as below)

    Taffenal and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises; E.J. 3 & 4 (also found in the Wye Collection.)

    Level Five: Clean and neat articulations:

    Perform the two octave arpeggios from memory (or read along in any scale book) with various articulations. Listen for clarity, and remember to sustain the highest notes with sufficient air speed.

    Or: Taffenal and Gaubert 17 Daily Exercises; (any that deal with arpeggios.)

    (Many of the Arpeggio T&G exercises are found also in the Wye Collection.)

    Or: Maquarre's Daily Exercises; no. 1 : with double tonguing options suggested in FluteTalk Magazine article on Maquarre, April 1998.

    Level Six: Expanding your dynamic range:

    Fiona Wilkinson's The Physical Flute: Dynamics and 'melodies with dynamics'.

    Level Seven: Apply your clean technique and dynamics to studies and pieces:


    These three plans are samples of what's possible.

    Remind yourself of the necessity of relaxing and playing with musical nuance as pointed out in the first document: #2. How to Practice Technique. You may even want to print out all of these documents and hole punch them, so you can keep a journal of technical work on your music stand, and flip through from time to time to remind you of your needs in the "relaxing" department.

    On a budget??

    If you do not own all of the books mentioned you can get along quite well with just the short list of the following:

    1.Fiona Wilkinson's The Physical Flute

    2. Marcel Moyse's De la Sonorite

    3. Trevor Wye's Complete Daily Exercises or for novice/intermediate players, all five 'Practice Books for the Flute' Omnibus Edition.

    The Physical Flute by Wilkinson is available from Waterloo Music Publishers at:(in Canada) and also at

    Trevor Wye's Practice Books for the Flute Vol. I ~ Tone, is a less expensive substitute for the Moyse Sonorite book, but does not contain all the exercises in the Moyse. If you can afford it, the Moyse, published by Leduc is WELL worth purchasing for a lifetime of basic tone development.

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    Mary Byrne's Practice Routine:

    written in 1988 by Mary Byrne of The Victoria Conservatory of Music.

    ( Edited by J. Cluff 2000)

    One of the most important things you can do to aid your practice is to draw up a practice plan. This can be a very elaborate regime covering several months right down to the hour, or just an unspoken rule of thumb which governs what you cover in today's practice. IN any case, to know what you want to cover will greatly aid the direction of your practice. In a time where most people are too busy to waste time, you really cannot afford not to do so.

    In the past I have drawn up enormous plans on how precisely I will cover my entire library in a fifteen week summer. Two weeks later I am so frazzled from 7 to 8 hour practice sessions that the plan just about goes into the trash. I would encourage you to be more realistic about what you can cover 365 days a year in 1 to 3 hour daily sessions.

    I have recently read Geoffry Gilbert's practice Plan in the spring 1988 NFA Journal. Gilbert's plan struck me as being what I have been shooting for, but still managed to be about 55 years short of reaching. What I will give you here are the proportions of time Gilbert suggests for each activity, and then I will follow it up with how I have adapted it for my own personal practice.

    Gilbert suggests: 1/3 of the time on Tone exercises.
    1/6 of the time on "indespensible technique" (scales and arpeggios)
    1/6 of the time on "variable technique" (Taffanel and Gaubert, Maquarre, Moyse, Reichert, Wye and Boehm.)
    1/6 of the time on "expendable technique (Etudes, two per week)
    1/6 of the time on Literature: 1 piece per month unless preparing a big concert.

    I would also add that 10 minutes or so of 'whistle tones' or 'pale-note' exercises (the latter found in Trevor Wye's book #1; Tone~ Aquarium) make an excellent cool-down at the end of the practice period.

    Three hour plan: Gilbert fits the above sections into a three hour practice session, which roughly translated means:

    1 hour on tone, and 30 minutes on each of the remaining sections.

    Two hour plan: The above plan works well as a 2 hour session with 40 minutes dedicated to tone, and 20 minutes to each of the remaining sections. This plan should work well for flutists not actively preparing an audition, competition or recital.

    For flutists who are actively preparing one of the above "big performances" (recital, audition, etc.) I would recommend the following:

    • If you have more than 3 hours practice time, follow the above 3 hr. plan and devote the remaining time to pieces under preparation.
    • If you have 2 to 3 hours practice time, follow the 2 hr. plan (40 min. on Tone, and 20 min. on each of the remaining sections) and commit the extra time to your repertoire.
    • If you have less than 2 hours, you probably should not be preparing any of the larger concert goals. However if you are, just follow the 2 hour plan as much as possible.

    In all cases, resist the temptation to get right to the Concerto! What makes Gilbert's plan successful is that it develops a well-rounded flutist, rather than one who merely plays pieces from the repertoire.

    For beginning students (less than 2 years study) I like a simple Moyse-style warm-up and 5 min. or more of slow scales, followed by the literature at hand for the remaining time.

    With less experienced students, fatigue in muscles and wind power are a constant problem. Just getting everything to WORK for the first few months is the biggest adventure. For this reason, I rarely tamper with the facial muscles for the first year or so, even in the most remarkably quick students. Also letting the face 'do what it will' often sets the best embouchure…unless there is a real problem or difficulty. Instead I put my emphasis on proper posture, breathing and blowing correctly. I do however insist on the student doing a warm-up and on slow scales so that they can become accustomed to the routine.

    For moderately advanced students, I DO suggest a minimum of 1 hour daily. If there is more time available, it should be distributed between tone work and repertoire until the student has the stamina to take on the two-hour plan.

    Once the student has determined that he/she will be pursuing a "Career in Music", practice should be a minimum TWO HOURS DAILY!

    Flutists who are at liberty to spend 3 or more hours of practice a day should follow the three hour plan and devote extra time to repertoire.

    Perhaps it should be said that this constitutes a DAILY, not weekly , time commitment!!!!!!!!

    Fluting is a very physical activity, requiring fine tuned muscles, coordination and reflexes. This cannot be obtained or retained (!) on sporadic practice. It is imperative that there be daily practice. If this cannot be committed to, then perhaps your time could be better spent elsewhere. Bluntly put: If you cannot take the time to prepare whole-heartedly, then look to other areas of your life to find where your true interests lie.

    In other words: "Find your central interests, if flute is not IT".


    Personal Practice Regime (advanced flutist):


    Daily alternation of work areas:

    A B C A B C D.

    Plan A: Moyse~ De la Sonorite; Plan B: Robert Dick ~ The Other Flute

    1. Exercise I 1)Harmonics (spend 1/2 of the time)
    2. Exercise II 2) Extended Timbres (1/6 of the time)
    3. Exercise III 3)Multiphonics (1/3 of the time)
    4. Exercise IV

    Plan C: Trevor Wye ~ Vol. I/Tone Plan D: Moyse ~ Tone Development

    1. Low register or: Wye ~ Vol. 4/ Intonation
    2. Middle register
    3. High register 1) Wye vol. 4: from pg. 18 onward (1/2 time)
    4. Gnomes 2) Moyse: Tone Dvlpmt thru' Interpretation:
    5. Tone colour I or II choose areas to work including transpositions.
    6. Flexibility I or II
    7. Pitch control I, II or III.


    Indispensible Technique:

    Scales and arpeggios.

    Daily order of work areas:

    A G B C D E F.

    Plan A:

    1. Major Scales in 1/16th notes, starting on the tonic, up and down 2 octaves; then start on the super-tonic, mediant, sub-dominant etc. until you're at the highest note you can comfortably reach (B3, C4, C#4, D4 etc.) Every few days extend your range to a higher goal.
    2. Harmonic Minor Scales in 1/16th notes. Same program as above.
    3. Melodic Minor Scales. As above.

    Plan B:

    1. Major scales in groupings of six notes (two sets of triplets). Perform as above.
    2. Harmonic Minor Scales in groupings of six. As above.
    3. Melodic Minor Scales in groupings of six. As above.

    Plan C D E F:

    Use Moyse's Exercise Journalier (Daily Exercises) following the introductory plan by Moyse where ABCD is the basic group of exercises to be performed each time.

    1. Moyse's ABCD plus one additional exercise group.(ex: Moyse's E, F, G etc.)
    2. Moyse's ABCD plus an alternate exercise group.
    3. Moyse's ABCD plus another additional group.
    4. Moyse's ABCD plus another additional group.

    Plan G: Reichert's 7 Daily Exercises:


    Variable Technique:

    Daily exercises and technical "special areas" of work.

    Pattern of work: AC AD BE AC BE AD AE

    Plan A: Taffanel and Gaubert ~ 17 Daily Exercises

    Plan B: Maquarre ~ Daily Exercises

    Plan C: Trevor Wye ~ Vol. 2. Technique

    Plan D: Trevor Wye ~ Vol. 3 Articulation

    Plan E: Trevor Wye ~ Vol. 6 Advanced Technique.


    Expendable Technique:


    Worked in the following order:

    Andersen op. 15, Andersen op. 63

    Andersen op. 30, Boehm op. 26

    Melodious and Progressive Studies Vol. 2

    Melodious and Progressive Studies Vol. 3

    Casterede, Dubois, Hugues op. 32 and 75

    Jean-Jean, Schade Caprices.

    Taffanel and Gaubert Advanced Studies

    Vester 50 Classical Studies.

    ****************************end Mary Byrne document. 1988 (work in progress.)

    The fabulous flute Syllabus created by Mary Byrne is availailable for $8 Canadian dollars, plus shipping by contacting The Victoria Concervatory of Music, Victoria Canada, through:

    A huge thankyou to Mary for making the above document available to all of us!!!!

    Jennifer Cluff 2000

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