Jennifer Cluff

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

How to get a good flutey answer to an intelligent flutey question:

Have you ever been discouraged when you've asked a question on the internet, on one of the flute chat/discussion groups, and hardly received any useful replies?

Well, sometimes there ARE no answers to certain questions. Some flute questions are like the chicken and the egg, or open-hole vs. closed hole, or gold vs. silver, or b-foot vs. c-foot---the answers are endless.

But more often than not it is because you've asked your question in a way that would take someone a lot of effort to answer, and everybody online is speed-reading and deleting, just as you are, to cope with an excess of email.

So if your question was worded like this one below, take note, and read on.

Hi, my flute sounds weird. How frustrating. I have a big test tomorrow. What do you do if all the high notes don't come out?

What is wrong with the above question, do you think?

Answer: It would take too long to answer and it doesn't make anyone WANT to try and quickly point you in the right direction.

Basically, the person answering such a questions would first have to ask you all sorts of qualifying questions like "What exactly is wrong with the high long since you had it repaired? What does your flute teacher say when they try your flute? What test do you have tomorrow? Does your band teacher have a flute to loan you? Do you think it's YOU? Or do you think it's the flute? etc. etc." And even after you answer all those questions, the folks on the internet reading your answers would then have to type for 45 minutes to try and give you a check-list for all the possible problems and their solutions. It simply takes too long to answer.

And remember, the person answering you is not getting paid to answer you, they're just doing it to be helpful. So help THEM. Read on.

Here is a method that really improves your chances of getting a helpful answer to some of your flutey questions.

There are three main things your question should have:

1. An indication of what level of flute playing you are talking about,
and some example details that explain a little more about it.

2. An indication of how you have already attempted to solve the question through your own research.

3. An indication that you would be grateful to receive an answer (and are the kind of loveable person who may even send a thankyou note to someone who answered your questions online for free, which DOES take up someone else's time.)

In reference to number 2 above (your attempt to find your answers online through doing your own research) remember that and a few general keyword searches will often refer you to answers that are already online to be read, and that many flute discussion groups have files, archives, or search engines to retrieve similar questions that have come before.


Here are some typical example of flutey internet questions that unfortunately do not follow any of the above suggestions, and possible ways to ask them that MAY solicit more responses.

Poorly asked question:
Q: Hi, how are u? I'm looking for a song to play at midstate. Does
anybody know any good ones?
Improved way to ask the same question (numbers relate to the three
pointers above):
Hello, I'm hoping someone can help me, as I don't have a private
teacher to ask the following question .
I'm considering entering a competition for highschoolers that is called "Midstate" and is a U.S. Honour Band competition, with a list of suggested pieces for high school flutists.
I want to play a piece that is flashy, but not too technically difficult, as I only have four months to prepare. Pieces listed for my grade level are things like:
Carnival of Venice by Genin, and two contrasting movements from any Handel Sonata.
 I'm already familiar with these works, above, and really would like something more compelling and interesting to work on.
Does anyone have any suggestions of repertoire you enjoyed? I love the Romantic period.
Thankyou so much in advance. :>) Cindy


Reading over the above, which would YOU be more likely to answer?
The first (poorly asked one) or the second one (with lots of details). Which do you think would take less time to answer?
Which leads to less typing for the answerer?

You see, it is the same for flute experts, teachers and performers on the net. They want to type as little as possible, and possibly re-direct you to the URL of a page where this information is already available.

Let's try another question:
Poorly asked question:
Q: I want to buy a new flute, because my old one is basically busted.
What would be a good kind to get?

Improved way to ask the same question:
IQ: Hi, I'm hoping to get some suggestions from other intermediate flute players or their teachers.
I've been playing a closed-hole Artley for about three years, and it feels like it is holding me back. I have a budget of $700 or perhaps a little more, and would like a slightly better instrument on which I can develop better tone and faster fingers.
 My private teacher has suggested Yamaha 300 series, with open-holes (which worries me as I'm afraid I'd be unused to the open-holes) but I  also wonder  if there are any other flutes in my price range that would be worth trying.
Thanks so much for any suggestions you could make.



Final example:
Poorly asked question:
Q: Does anyone know the trill fingering for high G to A? It's in my song called "March" and I need it for the concert tomorrow.
Improved way to ask the same question:
IQ: Our band is playing "March" by Peabody, and if you are familiar with it, there is a long sustained trill from high G to high A followed by a rest, at rehearsal number 6.
 I've looked up various fingerings at flute fingering guides online and can't decide which one is easiest. Some of them are really tricky, and others have poor sound quality.
 What's the best way to figure out how to finger this trill?
Thanks so much for any help or insights on this kind of problem. We're playing the piece in two weeks and I'd also like to help out the others in my section with a fingering they all can use so we all sound alike.

Thankyou, Val
_________________end questions.

My final suggestions are:

1. Don't try to get information just a few days before a performance,
recital or competition, as you won't have time to incorperate it. The
time to ask questions is months or weeks in advance.

2. And remember to take the time to actually WRITE that thankyou email to anyone who gives you a helpful answer or suggestion.

 I find, as a teacher on the net, that only about 1 in 10 teenagers, and only 3 of 10 adults actually send thankyou notes, and as a result, after a few years, the really helpful teachers online (who are working at their computers for FREE and out of the goodness of their hearts) LOSE-heart, and slow down and then stop answering certain kinds of questions, and certain question-askers.  Remember that people online are not receiving a salary for answering questions, unlike teachers at your school.

And lastly, if your private teacher has told you to research the answer to a question in order to improve your researching abilities..remember that there was a life before google when LIBRARIES HAD BOOKS that had many answers.
Don't expect the internet to do all your homework for you.
The teachers online (who are not getting paid to look up your composer for you) often don't answer questions about certain things because they want you to learn how to look it up for yourself. :>)

Hope this helps you find all the answers you need, or at least meet friends who are willing to help you look for the answers.

Jennifer Cluff Flute teacher.

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© Jennifer Cluff