Category: Uncategorized

Practicing Flutist Tshirt Sidehustle

May 17, 2017 at 6:06 pmCategory:Uncategorized

In case you didn’t know, I have a sidehustle that includes designing Tshirts.  And surprise, surprise, many of them have musical themes. Might be a little weird, but it’s fun. It’s even more fun with people like them and buy them, makes me feel like I’m making a connection with them. Below are links to my newest efforts, available on Amazon’s newest POD Tshirt service. You can also search for Practicing Flutist to find them.  If you like them, share them! Or send me ideas for what you want to see on a Tshirt.


It All Started With the Flute . . .

December 17, 2016 at 5:02 pmCategory:Uncategorized

Imagine if the invention of the flute was the first step to the invention of computers? Musicians already know that musical activities can inspire great ideas in other fields. Steven Johnson, writer and researcher on the history of innovation, presents an entertaining and informative video describing how the invention of the flute 40,000 years ago can be connected to the invention of computers. Another prime example of how important music is to the human race (and should be in homes and schools, hint, hint!)

Click on the link to see Johnson’s TedTalk video, it’s surprisingly fun as well as informative!

How Play Leads to Great Inventions



Inspired by Pentatonix

December 9, 2016 at 9:08 amCategory:Uncategorized

I believe that much inspiration can be gained by listening to and watching the performances of excellent musicians, whether they perform Classical or pop, are instrumentalists or singers. One of my favorites to listen to and watch is the acapella group Pentatonix.

Especially at this time of year, I find listening to Pentatonix, and watching their videos to be very inspiring.  Their arrangements of Christmas classics combine the familiar beauty of old-fashioned carols with fresh, modern interpretations. Performance-wise they display such perfection of intonation and attention to detail that I think of them as excellent inspiration for what can be achieved by conscientious musicians playing in an ensemble.

From watching them in the videos it is evident that they  listen to each other closely, ALL THE TIME, EVERY SINGLE SECOND, so they can interact and adjust accordingly. I feel like I can almost see how intensely they are listening to each other, blending their individual voices into the overal sound and texture.

They also put the maximum amount of effort and attention into every syllable. It doesn’t matter whether they are singing lead or backup, each singer performs each and every note as if it were the most important note in the song. And their use of different syllables and mouth shapes to create specific sounds (also applicable to wind players, especially flutists!) demonstrates how much thought and pre-planning they put into making each piece of music special.  They are fully invested in making every moment great, because they know that every note counts.

For emphasis on intonation in a simple carol, check out Pentonix singing First Noel.

To hear how they approach tunes without lyrics, this link takes you to Pentatonix singing Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Suite, a fun listen and entertaining video!

And if you want just a little more, this arrangement of Carol of the Bells is fantastic! I hope that as you listen and you sill be inspired to continue developing your musical skills!


Intonation Naivete; Be Kind to Your Listener’s Ears

November 28, 2016 at 3:15 pmCategory:Uncategorized

Image result for ear hearing music


When I was young and naïve, I liked to program unaccompanied pieces, because I thought that I didn’t have to pay as much attention to intonation. If there was no other instrument to compare my pitch to, nobody would notice if I was a little (or a lot!!) flat on the low notes or just a tad (or a mile) sharp on the high notes? After all, only those extremely rare people with perfect pitch could tell the difference and even that was about the notes, not the intonation, right? HA! I was so wrong, and if you think this way, too, so are you!

Learning to play in tune isn’t just about learning to play in tune with others, it also about learning to play in tune with yourself. If you are playing without accompaniment, the pitch of the first note you play determines the placement and intonation of every note that comes after. EVERY NOTE.

In the listener’s ear, the intonation is always relative to some reference point. As a piece progresses, the reference might shift a little, but the listener’s brain is constantly measuring and comparing each new pitch to pitches that came before. The proportions of the intervals are dictated by mathematical proportions that occur naturally. Your brain recognizes them, even if you don’t know specifically what they are. Even if no one in your audience has perfect pitch, there is something in each of their brains that says “Hm, the notes seem like they fit, but something is a little off.” If the intervals between the reference pitch and succeeding pitches are too big or too small, you run the risk of sounding ‘off-key’ if it’s really bad, or just not quite right if it is only a little. So, yes, your intonation matters even when you are playing unaccompanied pieces.

To address this, practice your unaccompanied pieces against a drone pitch,  usually the tonic pitch of the piece or section you are working on. I advise you to practice this way for two reasons. First, so you can work on keeping a consistent pitch center, not letting your overall pitch wander around. Second, so you can work on learning the sizes of the intervals between the tonic and the other notes in the piece. It’s not enough to know the notes and which keys to press and how to make each note sound pretty, you have to learn the actual sizes of the intervals.

Just like when you sing and you don’t have keys or finger positions to help you find the pitches, you have to learn the size of each interval from one note to the next and from the tonic to each note. (Knowing the pitch tendencies of your instrument and how you play it is very helpful in this endeavor, hint, hint) This is what ear training courses are supposed to teach you, though most forget to teach you why you might want to know how to do this.

I’m starting to ramble now, and maybe rant a little, so I’ll summarize by saying this. Yes, your intonation does matter when you play unaccompanied pieces, so you have to subject them to the same careful intonation practice that you would anything else. Your audiences will thank you for it!


How You Should Use an Electronic Tuner or Tuner App

October 25, 2016 at 9:56 amCategory:Uncategorized

Image result for tuner image

Electronic tuners or tuner apps have become required tools for musicians who are serious about playing well in tune. But how do they work and how do you use them effectively?

First thing you need to know in order to use a tuner effectively is that it will not actually tell you whether you are in tune. All a tuner does is measure the pitch frequency of whatever sound you play into it and indicate how your pitch frequency compares to the pitches programmed into the tuner. If your pitch is higher than the programmed pitch, the tuner indicates that you are playing sharp, lower than the programmed pitch is flat. When your pitch frequency matches the programmed pitch, then, hooray, you will be tempted to say that you are ‘in tune,’ which is what you want, right?

But how often have you heard or even said yourself “But I must be in tune, I checked my pitch with a tuner?” Remember when I said that the tuner will not tell you when you are ‘in tune?’ Intonation is affected by many, many factors.  In addition to whether your instrument is warm or cold, whether you are playing loudly or softly, high or low, etc., playing in tune with others and even just yourself involves constant attention and adjustment to what is going on around you. Your tuner will not tell you whether you are in tune with the trombones in your band or orchestra, or even the flutist down the row from you. Only your ears can do that! Check out the post on Intonation in Action to find out more about this:

So what is a tuner good for? Instead of thinking of the tuner’s meter as telling you whether you are in tune, instead think of it as a diagnostic tool, indicating when you hit a target. As you work to hit that target, you will have to master the ability to manipulate the pitch, pushing it higher or lower, to play the pitch frequency that matches the tuner’s programming. Practice with a tuner can help you develop flexibility and control, both necessary to sounding good.

You can also use a tuner to chart your pitch tendencies. Checking every note on your instrument and learning which notes you tend to play sharper or flatter on in comparison to the others is crucial to beginning to gain conscious control of your intonation. Check all your notes, make a chart of your tendencies, then check them periodically. (This is especially valuable for players who play many instruments. The pitch tendencies of every instrument are different, so make sure you have all the intonation information you need to play them all well!)

Practicing with an electronic tuner can be especially effective for working on tone production and control. You’ve probably noticed how sensitive the meter or display can be. Try playing a long sustained note and notice how much the display changes. Does it seem to jump for no reason? Does it show that your pitch rises or falls? What happens when you start to run out of air? What does it show when you crescendo or decrescendo? Maintaining a steady tone that doesn’t change pitch is another necessary skill to sounding good.

Use your electronic tuner or a tuner app as a diagnostic tool to identify pitch and tone inconsistencies, and then use it to develop better pitch flexibility and control. You will get much more out of it than if you try using it to tell you whether you are ‘in tune.’