Coming Soon: PracticingFlutist Podcast

Coming soon, the PracticingFlutist Podcast! I love finding new and better ways to practice and I love talking about that, so producing a podcast about practicing seems like a natural fit!

I plan to publish every Monday and Thursday, with each episode focusing on a very specific practice issue. I’m aiming for each episode to be between 10 and 15 minutes long. The relatively short time is meant to make the individual episodes easy to get through and keep me from getting too longwinded!  I’ve also got some fun music facts and trivia to add variety and keep things from getting too serious. Practicing should be enjoyable, after all! 

I’m slowly getting the technical issues worked out which were daunting at first, but not that bad overall. Now I’m practicing my delivery and making myself listen to the painful results. Just reinforces that if you want to know how you are coming across, as a musician or a speaker, you have to make recordings and listen to them. Thank goodness for mute buttons and editing programs!

So, if you’ve got questions you want to hear suggestions for or topics you want to hear about, please do send them to me! Of course I’m doing this for my own self, but my goal is to help as many musicians as I can to play better, easier and more enjoyably, so it really helps when people let me know what they want. Hope to see you on the podcast airwaves soon!

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Flute Tip of the Week – Spring Cleaning

It’s Spring Cleaning time! I’m sure you take care to swab out your flute, wipe off the tenons, maybe gently wipe the lip plate and keys, but have you looked at the inside of your case lately? Might be time for a good de-linting! You can gently vacuum the inside of your case to remove lint, dust, and loose fibers that otherwise could get into your flute’s mechanism. Just make sure you take your flute out of the case first!

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Flutist or Flautist?

Flutist or Flautist? This has to be the question I am asked most when I meet someone and they find out I play flute. It’s funny how much of a controversy this simple issue of what someone who plays flute should be called.

One of my teachers insisted on flutist. She reasoning was, “I speak English and I live in the 20th century.” (Guess I’m dating myself here!) But she made perfect sense. I like Nancy Toff’s discussion in her book, “The Flute,” of this all-important issue. It turns out that the term “flutist” predates “flautist” in the English language by over 200 years! Flautist is the word for flute player in Italian and Spanish.

Granted, flautist sounds more sophisticated, and maybe that’s what people are going for when they say it. I’ve noticed that the people who say “flautist” are usually non-musicians, have some knowledge and enjoyment of classical music, and maybe even go to a concert once in awhile.

When I was in high school, I thought being called a flautist was cool. At a summer camp I went to, the flute section had Tshirts made up that said “If you’ve got it, flaut it.” We were also trying to be cool. Now, I prefer “flutist”. It just seems logical to me. How about you?

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Don’t Practice Tired

“Don’t practice when you are overtired.” Easier said than done for most of us! I am sure that every flutist has felt the need to practice when they were really too tired to get any good out of it. Besides being unproductive because you can’t concentrate well, you run the risk of physical injury when you practice under strain. If you are truly too tired, stop, get some rest, and get up a little earlier tomorrow so you can practice when you are fresh.

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Flute Swabs

Are you swabbing out your flute before you put it away? Hopefully so, it is critical that you keep your flute clean inside and out. But what are you using to swab out your flute?

I advocate using a simple, 100% cotton handkerchief or bandanna. They are absorbant and nonabrasive, readily available and inexpensive. Cotton works great for wiping off the tenons so the joints go together smoothly, too. They are also washable so when they get grubby, just throw them in with the regular laundry (using fabric softeners may not be a great idea, though).
Very practical!

Silk is nice, but it can be fragile and tends to flatten out after a couple of uses. A 10″ or 12″ handkerchief will stay full enough to clean the whole tube for several uses. You could just use a strip of cotton or a square piece of cotton, but I think the edges should be finished so stray threads don’t get caught in the mechanism.

As for the fuzzy things that are so popular, I do not recommend them. They are supposed to “wick the moisture away from the pads”. Great! But what do you do after you have done that? You stick it right back into the flute! Where is the moisture supposed to go? I live in Florida and any moisture that is allowed to sit around leads to one thing, mildew. While I haven’t heard of too many cases of “flute mildew”, I do know that once you get the moisture off the pads, you should keep it away from them. If you feel you have to use the fuzzy things to swab out your instrument, fine, but do not store them in your flute or inside your case. Besides, you will still need a soft cloth to wipe off the joints and the fingerprints, so why not just get a cotton cloth or two and leave the fuzzy things alone. I also suggest that your flute cleaning cloth not be stored inside the case with your freshly swabbed out flute.

This is all part of good flute maintenance, which results in better flute performance. It’s easy, it’s practical and it’s cheap. Besides, you can create a collection of cool “flute” bandannas that will make you the most stylish and hip flutist around!

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