Exploring the 2018 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 3 and 4

Wonderful music abounds at these two grades and the emphasis is on original music which is great for players at this level. There are also lovely tunes to enjoy, as well as a good helping of pieces in the jazz idiom.

Blog snapshot – my recommendations at a glance

Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 3

List A

This list is crammed full of music by the greats. Bach and Mozart plus Handel, Grieg, Offenbach and Vivaldi– what more could you ask for! There is also scope for something a little different though:

Eisel: Paisanne from Classical Music for Children

This unusual gavotte-style dance in D minor has easy rhythms and a small note range so the emphasis can therefore be on playing the notes quickly. There are also no printed dynamics or articulation so you can be your own editor for the first time! Also set is the Andante by the same composer. This excellent book is a modern version of Flute Fancies – a mix of lovely pieces through the ages up to Satie. The book appears on the Grade 2 syllabus as well, making it financial as well as musical sense.

Shield: Old Towler arranged Emerson from An English Garland

This is a catchy number in 6/8 which will need to be played at a fast pace to be really successful. It’s completely different in mood to He Piped So Sweet (which is set for Grade 2), so the book is worth the outlay for the right student.

List B

You’re spoilt for choice here and there are three blockbuster tunes that everyone can sing along with!

  1. Gershwin: I Got Plenty of Nothin’ from Easy Gershwin
  2. You Only Live Twice from Hartbeat
  3. Hedwig’s Theme and Mr Longbottom Flies (Harry Potter) from Play HollywoodThis is a ‘must-have’ book with a ‘who’s who’ choice of 10 film themes. The playalong CD means hours of fun – exam or not!

But again if you’d like to be a little more adventurous:

Keith Bartlett: Happy Go Lucky from Just for Fun

The ‘No worries’ performance direction sums up this gem with its easy 6/8 tune in sunny C major – perfect!

Wedgwood: Scale-Learning Blues from Up-Grade Flute Book 2

This is another good value book with a variety of pieces that will really keep your student interested. Scale-Learning Blues is very good for teaching G minor with the swing making it all rather acceptable. There is also a D flat – there’s no time like now for learning that!

List C

Jazz-based studies are plentiful and these three are well worth a look. The books are set on other grades and very good in their own right – definitely worth the money!

  1. Of Mice and Keys or Search Engine from Jazz@Etudes
  2. Catch Up from 20 Fantastic Flute Studies. This book also contains pieces from the Grade 4 syllabus.
  3.  Yesterday’s Song or Waltzer from Flute Salad

My personal favourite, however, is something altogether different:

James Rae: Distant Shores from 42 More Modern Studies

This has such a beautiful melody!  A good sound and decent breath control will enable your student to make the most of the expressive intervals and meandering sequences that evoke the title so skilfully. A winner!

Grade 4: The Singing Grade

You can sing your way through a large part of this syllabus with anything from Bach to the Mexican Hat Dance!

List A

Drouet: Cantabile from Sonata in A minor from Three Little Sonatas

There is this a really appealing alternative piece should you need a change. It’s a great example of Classical elegance needing good breath control to sustain the melody and make the most of the phrasing. The other two movements of this Sonata are set for Grades 5 and 6 and the other two sonatas in the book are lovely too. This is a wise investment!

Another good compilation book to consider:

First Repertoire Pieces arranged by Peter Wastall

This is an old-fashioned type of book and if you consider yourself a traditional teacher you’ll love it! The two set pieces are the famous Vivace by JB Loeillet and an equally well-known piece by Wilhelm Popp – but you probably know them already!

Mendelssohn: The Shepherd’s Song

This is a wonderful and valuable piece of Romantic music which is at the top end of difficulty for the grade. Once mastered, however, it can be used for concerts, festivals, encores – in fact everything!

What makes it challenging? Rhythm, key, breath control, leaps, dynamics, and intonation – it even ends on a pianissimo top G. It is so worth it though, and if your student is good enough to play it they will forever love you for suggesting it!

List B

Michael Regan: Harmattan from Desert Winds

This has a lovely gentle jazz style which is held together by a rhythmic unity. You need good finger and lip control for this and as it’s quite a substantial piece stamina will be an issue for some. It has an approachable piano part too – hooray!

Arranged Ledbury:  A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square from Big Chillers

This is a great book to have if your student likes playing to their grandparents – it’s full of classic tunes like this! This one is irresistible and has been very well voiced for this level of flute player. The key is D major but there is an A major section in the middle. It’s relatively low though so it doesn’t have meltdown potential! There is also an element of performance skill required as the piece ends with the piano – hold that flute up until the end!

List C

These two options are sure to please:

Mark Nightingale Hard Drive or Scart Stomp from Jazz@Etudes

This is a great little book which is fun and contemporary with computer-speak titles. Both of these have a small note range to help concentrate the emphasis on the rhythm. Students will love them!

 

Phillip Sparke: Party Piece from Skilful Studies

This is a traditional skills piece in a modern guise but when played well it takes us straight to a knees-up! Simple rhythms and an easy key range are balanced out by higher notes and a mix of tonguing patterns which will should convey all the ebullience of the title. If you are prepared to put in the practice this will be such fun to play!

Taking these two grades should be fun and with this amount of variety in the listings everyone should be happy!

Find this exam music and more using the Just Flutes Exam Music Finder

ABRSM Logo

Exploring the 2018 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 1 and 2

So here we are again! Astonishingly it’s 8 years since ABRSM introduced a selection of the music for each grade in one book. This seemed such a big event back then, but now we are all used to the format, like it or not!

The marketing of the ABRSM volumes has been even more targeted this time, and can now be accessed in three ways:

  1. New Exam Packs (Grades 1-5) containing pieces, scales, sightreading and a download code to access performance and accompaniment material.
  2. Selected Pieces for Grades 1-7 containing pieces and the download code.
  3. Scales and Sight-Reading Packs for Grades 1-5

As excellent as these books are, they will become very familiar all too soon! I want here to draw attention to the part of the syllabus that is often neglected nowadays: the alternative pieces. ABRSM examiners are always delighted when players come in with something different, so they really are worth investigating!

Grade 1

Depending on your point of view, the entire syllabus for Grade 1 can seem either safe – with many familiar tunes and books listed – or a little disappointing in that there’s not a lot new. That is really a teacher issue though, and I’m sure that your students will love what’s on offer! Quite a number of the alternative books set for Grades 1 and 2 are great value for money, including Time Pieces Volume 1, Harlequin Book 1 and  Winner Scores All. These books contain pieces for higher grades too, and as they are compilations they also give plenty of additional repertoire.  Study books that fall into this brief include Fifty for Flute Book 1, 125 Easy Classical Studies and Skilful Studies.

If you’d like to branch out a little and still provide a good return on investment, the  Grade by Grade series definitely fits the bill.  This is an alternative ‘exam pack’ with pieces, scales, sight-reading and aural specifically tailored to the Grade 1 player., along with creative tasks which are great fun. Each piece has performance directions to help overall musical understanding, the scales are linked to the keys of the pieces and the both the sight-reading and aural content is very well explained. A performance and accompaniment CD is included. The famous Haydn Minuet and the Susato Rondo set on List A are both very tuneful and have  just the right amount of challenge to effectively stretch a younger player.  On list B Helen Long’s Spooked  is great!

Helen Long – Spooked sample

It’s an imaginative piece with quirky changes of rhythm and articulation in A minor that really capture the title. The piano part is an integral part of this piece, which  gives a great starting point for the understanding of vertical structures. In other words for players to learn that there’s someone else playing with you!

Also on List B,  Ten Top Pops is another book crammed full of pieces kids will want to play.

Set for Grade 1 is the Theme from Wallace and Grommit – who can resist that?! The main difficulty with playing something well-known is playing what’s on the page and not what’s in your head! You’ll also need a good pianist but that shouldn’t be a problem – everyone will want to  have a go at this one!

The most interesting study book on List C is Sad Song or Articulate from Thirty One, Two, Three  Studies. Each of these little gems has a title to give focus to your practice. You can sing Sad Song as well as play it, as it has easy rhythms and a straightforward phrase structure. Articulate is a little more of a challenge and the rhythms can catch you out. As you might expect from this title, tonguing is the challenge but clear dynamic markings help with managing those contrasts so loved by examiners!

Grade 2

This is only a small step up from Grade 1 and, as some books will be already be familiar, the transition should be seamless. There are plenty of classical tunes and familiar songs to encourage tonal development and they are great for singing too!

A lovely choice for List A is Hook: He Piped So Sweet from An English Garland. Those with a naturally good sound will love this piece as it is so beautiful! There are bars rest to count and pauses to negotiate, so working with a pianist will be a top priority.  This book of 12 eighteenth century English melodies is very unusual and quite charming.  It’s also used at grade 3 so it’s great value too!

Harlequin Book 1 is a familiar and well-loved book, so it’s lovely to see that some new pieces have been set from it. The repetitive form of Tchaikovsky’s Ancient French Song makes this piece easy to learn, and it’s good for those struggling with the second octave as all the repeated sections are up there. You’ll also need to have a singing sound to make this sound really French – despite the Russian composer!

List B is all about singing too, and although  Wouldn’t It Be Loverly will be the ABRSM book  blockbuster there are some great – and surprising! – alternatives. There is something for everyone here!

Mr Benn from Mr Benn for FluteYounger players will be thrilled by the inclusion of this popular song and if they are real Mr Benn fans they will be able to learn all the other pieces in the album too!  The familiarity alone should make light work of practising, which is good news as it’s not as easy as you might expect. (The piano part also has it’s moments!) They can play The Wizard for Grade 4 if they can wait that long!

At the other end of the style spectrum  is the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black from HartbeatI’m not sure quite what Mick Jagger would make of his heavy rock number being played by fledgling flutes, but I daresay he is delighted to reach a new audience! Paul Hart has arranged this really well  so the piece is pitched at exactly the right level for the grade. Put away your prejudice – if your student is a good player with attitude, you can’t lose – and their parents and grandparents can rock along too!

There is plenty of good music to choose from on List C, but Jasmine Flower from More Graded Studies Book 1 is possibly the nicest. The Simultaneous Learning concept behind this book points you in the right direction before you start. This should help your student to focus on the musical as well as the technical detail. However, in this case I think they’ve missed a trick. The pentatonic scale used here (D major minus a few notes) is easily practised, and the impact this tonality has on the origin of the piece will really help the understanding of the style. You could even add in some improvisation exercises. Mike Mower has a similar piece in his excellent Junior Musical Postcards which encourages exactly that. It’s a really appealing piece and certainly makes a change from all that jazz.

This new syllabus certainly provides a great deal of choice for younger players.  Mixing and matching between the ABRSM publications and other books will definitely help making the exam process stay fresh for another four year!

Find this exam music and more using the Just Flutes Exam Music Finder

Flute Tutor Books – Recommendations 2017

The market for flute tutor books is crowded and often bewildering. There is almost too much choice, with different approaches, starting notes, rates of progress, type of repertoire and even the basic quality of the publication all jostling for our attention. Here I’ve picked out three lovely books which are aimed at the younger end of the market, and all are written by flute players. They may just help!

Flute Perfect by Doris da Costa and Anastasia Arnold

Buy now at Just Flutes

Flute Perfect - CoverThis is brand new to the market.  It is written by two experts who are passionate about the whole flute teaching process and it really shows.  At its heart is a clear desire to encourage and nurture young players, keeping the development of a good musician to the fore throughout. They are astute enough to price it well too, so it’s excellent value for money.

Advantages

This book has several major advantages. Firstly the layout is relatively simple and uncluttered with no gimmicks. The black and white illustrations are usually pertinent, and if they are decorative they add to the page rather than detract from it. There are no photos to illustrate posture – that is left to the discretion of the teacher.

Secondly, progress is steady. Each chapter introduces a single note and each tune or exercise has a clear purpose. Some pieces use practice bars to help with the learning, and encouraging downward scales at such an early stage is extremely useful. Playing from memory, experimenting with articulation with evaluation of the results, improvisation and  basic writing skills will all stretch the imagination of a young player and make the learning process much more varied. The anticipated grade at the end of the book is Grade 1.

Flute Perfect - Sample

Thirdly, and most importantly, rhythm,  making a good sound and aural awareness are given a very high priority throughout, ensuring that the core aim of musical development never gets lost.  This makes total sense but is quite often missing in the dash for learning ever more notes faster.

Supporting Teacher’s Book

Flute Perfect Teacher's Book- CoverA further plus is that this book is designed for both individual and group tuition. This is supported by the excellent Flute Perfect Teacher’s Book which is  a great resource for all of us but is especially useful for new teachers and those for whom the flute is not their main instrument. It’s multi-tasking with comprehensive teaching notes, ensemble parts and piano accompaniments all included. There are tips and suggestions to help with each  chapter including group activities such as warm-ups and improvisation. These are clearly outlined and can give a welcome structure to a lesson as well as providing material that can be used elsewhere. As the main focus here is on learning through ensemble playing  it’s really helpful that the arrangements are flexible and that all the parts can all be photocopied. Piano accompaniments are included too and can also be purchased separately.

At the very least you will find these books a useful addition to your teaching bag and they may end up as the only tutors in it!

Get Set! Flute by Hattie Jolly and Ali Steynor

Buy now at Just Flutes

Get Set! Flute - CoverThis is the most modest of the three books but the only one to include a backing tracks CD with printable piano accompaniments. It’s marketed as suitable preparation for the Prep Test and pre-Grade 1 so it’s great to see a curved head flute included in the opening photos. There are some lovely illustrations throughout and the book is quite colourful generally.  Picture signs signal Listen up! games, Rhythm Time activities and Find, Say and Play games which are designed to help accomplish various tricky tasks such as the difference between B natural and B flat, or memorising a simple piece.

Starts Simply

The first things the beginner meets in this book are pulse and breathing, before it moves on to some quite extensive work for headjoint only. There is nothing ground-breaking here but everything is explained clearly with an emphasis on rhythm skills, listening skills and tonguing. Basic theory is covered also using the headjoint, so that blowing and reading are already in place before the topics of putting the flute together, holding and cleaning the flute, and posture and balance are introduced. There are more clear instructions here and even parents will be able to see whether or not these elements are being put into practice!

Colour-Coded

Get Set Flute! Sample PageNotes are introduced using diagrams, with different colours used for each hand – blue for the left and red for the right.  The material used is almost all original and extremely well written, and each skill or musical point covered is logically laid out.  There are plenty of written activities too and these will deliver theory by the back door. Inevitably the pages appear busier as the music becomes more complex but as the range reached at the end is only one octave from low to middle D this is not too much of a problem.

Supporting Book

Supplementary repertoire is available in Get Set! Flute Pieces Book 1 which has a printed piano accompaniment and another backing track CD. Although not directly linked to the tutor, running both together will provide a really thorough work-out!

Overall these are lovely books for enthusiastic little ones and it won’t break the bank!

Fluting Stars Book 1 and Fluting Stars Book 2 by Ana Kavcic and Blaž Pucihar

Buy Book 1 at Just Flutes | Buy Book 2 at Just Flutes

Fluting Stars CoverThis is the top end of the market price wise, so what do you get for your money? A first rate composer in Blaz Puciher for a start and most of the material is original. You are also paying for very high quality books that are beautifully produced in full colour. The illustrations are sumptuous and any young player will surely love looking at them! The scope in terms of notes covered is wider although progress is made via musical complexity in Book 2,  the third octave being left for another day. Piano accompaniments to all the tunes are available as a download.

Clear and Attractive Diagrams

This book is also aimed at the younger pupil so curved head flutes take their place alongside the straight head ones. The drawings and photos are really clear, making assembling and blowing very easy to follow. Breathing and embouchure set-up are covered in detail and here the colourful illustrations really help lift this information off the page. The extensive headjoint section in this book includes the use of the Pnuemo Pro blowing device which is interesting if you haven’t seen it in action before – again there are some lovely photos. Tone quality is right at the heart of the first section of Book 1. A radical departure from the norm is the introduction of singing and playing, single, double and triple tonging, and vibrato before the use of the whole flute. Now that really is interesting! Another unique feature is the initial lack of notation. The first note learned is middle register D followed by low and middle G, A and B. This is done together with a box for naming objects starting with those letters. It is only then that ‘How do we write music?’ is broached.

Kep Leaps

The rest of the books are laid out in Key Leap sections:

Key Leap score sample Each of these introduces new notes, and contains a variety of other items such as theory, finger fitness exercises, dance forms and chamber music. These sections are also supplemented by:

  • The Fluting Star Magazine for more music theory
  • Treasure Chest of Sparkly Tones for tone development
  • Ear Detective for aural awareness,
  • Notes in a Minute and Finger Fitness for technique
  • Cherry on Top which sets a new challeng
  • Stellar Student which uses puzzles to master the theory

This is really quite comprehensive! The format of the second book is the same except that there are more notes and fewer illustrations.

These are impressive books written by committed educationalists who have a great deal of experience of the flute and a wealth of knowledge of teaching. It’s an investment purchase  but they really are quite beautiful!

All these excellent books will make any young student really happy. That also means happy teachers, not to mention parents. Have fun deciding which one to go for – I’m saving up for a complete set!

Browse all Flute Tutor Books at Just Flutes

Important New Regulations on Wooden Instruments

In January 2017, new rules came into force regarding the wood used to make some musical instruments. We’ve put the following advice together which we recommend reading carefully as it may affect you and your instrument.

What’s happening?

From January 2nd 2017 new regulations were introduced concerning all forms of Dalbergia (rosewood), a genus of plants from which many woodwind instruments are made. This includes African Blackwood (Grenadilla), Cocobolo, Rosewoods/Palisander and all other woods from the Dalbergia genus.

Why?

Woods in the Dalbergia genus are used in many products, from furniture to car dashboards to umbrella handles. Illegal logging by less scrupulous individuals has resulted in rapid deforestation in some countries (mainly of palisander woods rather than grenadilla) . As a result, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) introduced regulations, bringing the genus Dalbergia to Appendix II.
More information regarding CITES can be found at www.cites.org

What does this mean?

Appendix II status that any product containing these woods require certification. Manufacturers and suppliers will need to obtain permits to import and export instruments in and out of the EU. In the UK, this costs £59.00 each way – if you are based outside the EU and buying from us, the export licence will be added to your basket.

We will also need to keep precise records of wooden instruments we stock, and where it originates from. We have therefore updated our invoices to show this information.

Any instruments that are affected by the new regulations will be supplied by us with this style of invoice. Customers who have already purchased instruments from us can request copy invoices / documentation that shows this information if required.

What if I want to travel with my instrument?

Currently, it is our understanding that instruments weighing less than 10kg are exempt from these regulations if they are being shipped or carried for personal use. Instruments being shipped within your own country or within the EU can also be sent without documentation.

However, it might be beneficial to check with the relevant CITES Management Authority in the destination country to ensure no extra paperwork is required. CITES have a  list of national contacts.

What happens next?

This is a developing situation, as the CITES regulation was only confirmed in October 2016, so what is written on this page is very likely to change. The music industry is still developing the administrative procedures needed to deal with these changes. We will be keeping this page updated as we learn more about the process. For further information, please contact your local CITES Management Authority.

Enticing Classical Period Repertoire

Classical flute music is dominated by Mozart but there are other lovely pieces to be found amongst his contemporaries and those coming just after him. Not all are household names but as the music is all delightful, it doesn’t really matter!

Jadin

A good place to start is with Louis Emmanuel Jadin (1786-1853).Jadin Sonate in D major He is best known for his operas so you are always guaranteed tuneful writing. Perhaps one of the nicest of his works for flute is the Sonata in D major Op 10 No 1, Characterised by simple harmonies and skillful use of both instruments, it presents quite a challenge. A vibrant Allegro  is followed by a lovely G minor Andante, whilst the closing 6/8 Rondo brings the work to a happy conclusion. Everyone will enjoy this one!

Graeff

If you’d like to get completely off the beaten track then maybe you should consider the Sonata in G major Op 5 No 1 by Johann Georg Graeff (1762 – 1829). This is part of a the series ‘Virtually Unknown Music’ from Roz Trubcher, and proves that there is plenty of good music to be found in unlikely places! Graeff was a ‘professor of Flute’ who settled in England in 1802. This charming Sonata, again in three movements,  is short and relatively simple, so it’s ideal for introducing a younger player to the classical style.

Graeff Sonata in G major

Beethoven

Back on familiar territory, It’s good to be able to include a piece by  Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) here, even if the Sonata in B flat major is a really early work that can’t be entirely authenticated. Unusually for this period it has four movements, which is great as he didn’t write any other sonatas for us. The publisher’s note describes the work best:

‘There are a number of stylistic grounds which suggest this is an early work by Beethoven: for example, the surprising  turn to D major at the beginning of the development, or the lengthy development  itself. The Polonaise with it’s trio glows with a Mozartian lightness and grace, the slow movement announces ‘Master of the Adagio’ and the merry variation finale would feel perfectly at home in a serenade by Beethoven.’

The note range is small in this piece and there is plenty of interest in the piano part so it’s ideal for performance by two good students. It’s also a perfect introduction to the world of one of the greats.

Danzi

Beethoven’s contemporaries perhaps rated the flute more than he did and as they were not really quite as innovative, their music is more Mozartian in style.  Franz Danzi (1763 – 1826) is probably best known for his wind quintets but his Sonatina for flute and piano in D major is a gem. The three movements are charming .  A short, slow D minor introduction leads into an airy 6/8 Allegretto which breezes along cheerfully. The central Larghetto is in a lyrical F major and the work ends with a lively Pollacca back in the home key. The whole piece is quite delightful and would  make a very happy start to any recital programme.

Danzi Sonatina in D major

Kuhlau

Kuhlau Sonata in F majorAnother happy recital opener is the Sonata in F major by Friedrich Kuhlau (1786 – 1832). This is music for flute players by a flute player so the melodic line dominates, leaving  the piano with a more supportive role. The outer fast movements are bright and breezy and the middle Andante flows along expressively in B flat major. Some of the writing here would benefit from judicious transposition up an octave to increase it’s lightness still further, but it’s original moderate range is ideally suited to less experienced performers. Either way it’s lovely!

Hummel

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 – 1837) is worth playing just for his name alone! He wrote three flute sonatas, the best of which is perhaps the Flute Sonata in D major Op 50. This is a longer and more substantial work, with an increased range of notes for the flute and change in the role for the piano to equal partner. Although still in the three movement fast, slow, fast form, the first movement is marked Allegro con brio and you will need strong articulation as well as a good technique to convey it’s power. Unusually, the Andante is in the tonic minor, beautifully unsettled and dark, and it leads straight into the closing Rondo Pastorale. Sunny in outlook but anything but straightforward to play, the writing is peppered with more complex rhythms and sudden accents in both parts, and the virtuosity of the writing means that the pair of you will bring the house down at the end!

Hummel Sonata in D major

Schubert

There is always the occasion when we need to play the music of the really famous but, even so, there is still scope for something a little different to entice us away from their more famous pieces. Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) is noted more for his songs than his flute music and to be able play a Schubert melody is one of music’s great privileges.  Six Lieder, fabulous arrangements by Theobald Boehm of some of his most beautiful songs, are a real treat. Ranging from the expressive beauty of Gute Nacht to the lightness of Das Fischermadchen, these songs allow the flute to follow the contours of the voice really well. If you would like to discover more about musical shaping please start here! Worth the cover price for Standchen alone, this is music for a lifetime.

Mozart… Finally!

And finally, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1792) really did love the flute! The six delightful Sonatas KV10 – KV15 were written when he was just 6 years old and are just a joy to play. They are full of all the wonderful things we so love about Mozart. Simply written, they have interesting rhythms, imaginative harmonies and most importantly, beautiful melodies. It’s true that they are not without technical issues and some do have movements that perhaps don’t work quite so well. However, you will enjoy playing them all and if ever you need a really sparkling start to a recital look no further than KV 14 in C major – it’s a stunner!

Browse all Classical music for flute and piano at Just Flutes.

Alternatives to Mozart: Classical Flute Concertos

There are plenty of alternatives to the Mozart flute concertos, and the Classical period has a wonderful variety of composers who wrote very well for the instrument. The manageable string parts mean that some are ideal to perform with a school orchestra, whilst others are very challenging indeed!

Glück

The earlier Classical period is rich in flute concertos, most of which are technically less demanding that those of Mozart. Christoph Willibald Glück’s Flute Concerto in G major is an old favourite, and one of the best. The writing has a simple texture but there is still plenty for a flute player to enjoy. You will need to be agile, as the Allegro non molto leaps around, and have a sustained sound to carry the long phrases in the Adagio. The final Allegro comodo is delightfully uncomplicated. The piano reduction works very well here so it also works well as a recital piece.

Gluck g major concerto

 

Equally delightful but much less familiar is the Flute Concerto in D major by Rossler-Rosetti, or another in the same key by Anton Fils. These are both very tuneful and provide just the right level of technical stretch to interest a budding soloist.

Haydn

hay020
We are lucky enough to have a flute concerto by Joseph Haydn which is brilliant – even if it has now also been attributed to Leopold Hoffman! Another work in D major, it starts with a lovely Allegro moderato which will challenge your low note projection as well as your articulation. The beautiful Adagio has the flute melody floating above the orchestra and the closing Allegro molto alternates semiquavers and triplets to great affect. This is a wonderful concerto – whoever wrote it!

Schwindel

More robust is the D major Flute Concerto by Friedrich Schwindel which has a greater note range and more complex flute writing. A bold opening Allegro gives way to a soft A major Adagio melody which lies in the upper part of the register. An ebullient Rondo brings the work to a happy conclusion. This is fun to play and will engage both the audience and the players:

Schwindle score sample

CPE Bach

CPE Bach G major concerto

Although CPE Bach isn’t strictly speaking a Classical period composer, he wrote perhaps the most difficult concertos of the 18th century. Try the Flute Concerto in G major if you like your music powerful, demanding and compelling. The first movement Allegro di molto is a workout, with long phrases demanding excellent breath control, tonguing and finger dexterity. The atmospheric slow movement is more Baroque in outlook with a gentle lyricism, but the closing Presto is perhaps even more challenging than the first movement. Extended passages of large leaps, all articulated, will test even the best players. The D minor Flute Concerto is also high-powered with mighty outer movements and a slow Andante of wonderful tenderness. These are standout virtuoso concertos that will bring the house down.

Francois Devienne

970709-image-1A more familiar figure is Francois Devienne who wrote a number of concertos for us. Flute Concerto No 2 in D major is one that will challenge your finger technique considerably. Devienne approached composition purely from the standpoint of player, so the accompaniment is merely a support for the soloist. This consists of the customary mix of scales, arpeggios and sequences that are characteristic of his writing. The overall effect is pleasing though, and the change of key to D minor for the Adagio adds extra interest. This concerto is full of notes, and will test your flute playing skills considerably.

Late Classical Flute Concertos

Composers of the late Classical period were writing for a more advanced instrument, so their concertos are more technically difficult. If you want something completely off the beaten track that doubles as a workout, the August Eberhard Müller Flute Concerto in E minor might be just the piece for you:

The writing is darker and more dramatic throughout with a first movement that changes frequently from minor to major. The second movement Adagio uses the full compass of the flute to weave its melodic line, and Müller uses an unusual theme and variations structure as a finale. This sparkles despite the predominant minor key, and you will need very good articulation to fully convey the character. It’s a good piece, one worth exploring.

All of these fine works will please both you and your audience. Don’t forget the cadenzas though – some editions include them, but it’s actually much for fun to write your own!

Buy flute concertos – and other Classical flute repertoire – at Just Flutes.

7 tips on choosing a beginner flute

Yamaha YFL-211 Flute

This article was first written in February 2011, and has been updated in July 2015.

Buying your first flute can be daunting: there are so many different makes, models and types of flutes available, and the variations in price can be hundreds of pounds. Below, we’ve compiled our top tips to help a complete newcomer decide on a new flute.

1. Do plenty of research on the different brands available

The ABRSM Viva Woodwind forum has a lot of helpful information from players and teachers, detailing some good and bad brands. If you already have a flute teacher lined up, they should also be able to offer their own advice on what to buy.

2. Be careful of flutes which look too cheap…

This is important. Some supermarkets, high street chains and online-only warehouses sell their own brand of flutes. In our experience, these flutes should be avoided: while the quality of Chinese flutes has undoubtedly improved since this article was originally written, there are still many poor-quality, cheap flutes around, and while the initial outlay is low, the running costs can quickly overtake the price of a good branded flute.

As well as the high running costs, cheap flutes are not as easy to play, and can be difficult even for an advanced player to make a decent sound on. We see so many players on the verge of giving up because they thought they were just no good at the flute – when in fact the problem was caused by a poor-quality instrument.

Our own-brand budget flutes may be priced a fraction higher than the cheapest high-street flutes – but they have been designed by flute players (us!) and will give a student a good start.

We recommend that you should budget between £200 – £500 for an entry-level flute, although rental schemes, Take It Away and buying second hand can help to reduce the up-front strain on your wallet.

3. …But don’t buy something that’s not designed for a beginner

It should go without saying that flutes classified as ‘beginner flutes’ have been designed specifically for beginner players. A good quality beginner flute should be easy to play, lightweight, and be able to withstand knocks and bumps.

On the other hand, step-up flutes, professional flutes and so on, have been designed for players who can already play the flute to an extent. They’re not designed to be as easy to play, but they don’t need to be – they tend to be heavier, offer the fuller sound and increased projection that an advanced player needs.

4. Stick to ‘traditional’ specifications

There’s a whole raft of options available on flutes. Open holes, C# trill keys, E mechanism, B footjoint, D# roller, silver this or that.

In our opinion, a beginner should start on a silver-plated flute with closed holes, E mechanism (sometimes called a Split E) and C footjoint. If you want to know what these terms mean, read our Jargon Buster, but basically a flute with these specifications will be (a) easier to play and (b) easier to re-sell at a higher value when the time arises.

5. Get the right size

Flutes don’t come in different ‘sizes’ as such, but you can get curved headjoints for a small beginner. This brings the keys of the flute closer to the body, reducing the stretch. If your child needs a curved headjoint, the truth is that it will cost more; but the problems if you don’t get a curved headjoint could far outweigh the price difference. Neck and back pain from over-stretching can arise, and players can easily get into the bad habit of poor posture. It can take many years to sort out a poor posture that wouldn’t have arisen with a curved headjoint.

For very small players (ages 5 to 7), you could start on the fife or Apprentice flute, both of which are affordable ‘mini’ flutes.

6. A good brand will hold its value

Unlike many things in this modern world – cars, computers, phones etc – flutes can hold their value very well. Many model numbers have been around for years – so you shouldn’t worry about your flute being obsolete in six months’ time. In fact, because of increasing metal prices, some customers have been lucky enough to discover that a Yamaha 211 flute bought new a few years ago is now worth more second hand than they paid new!

7. Think ahead

Hopefully, you’re buying a flute with the intention of sticking at it and developing your ability and sound. Certain beginner flutes – notably the Pearl PF-505 and Yamaha YFL-211 – are upgradable by replacing the headjoint (the part that you blow in to). Putting a handmade silver headjoint on one of these is like loading it with rocket fuel – the improvement is immense, for a fraction of the price of an intermediate flute.

Follow this advice and you’ll have an instrument that will give years of use and enjoyment. What’s more, it will give you room to develop your playing skill, too.

Now that you know what you are looking for, view the selection of beginner flutes on offer at Just Flutes
Haynes Flute

8 Top Tips on Testing a New Flute

When it comes to testing out a new flute, the experience can be overwhelming – what is the best way to test a new flute? We’ve put together our top tips to help you narrow down the choice and find your perfect upgrade flute. Whether you are looking for a step-up instrument or a professional model, follow these pointers to help you on your way!

1. Warm up on your current flute first

It’s natural to be excited about trying new flutes, but don’t test one of the new flutes with Flight of the Bumblebee quite yet – hold back! Get your chops warmed up on your existing flute with some long notes first. This has the added benefit of giving you a reference point for what you are comparing the new flutes to.

2. Scales. Sorry!

Once you’re warmed up, hold off the tunes for a little longer. Play some slow scales on each flute – this will give you an idea of how the instrument sounds across its entire range, and may expose weaker areas.

3. Check the dynamic ranges

This is something that can be done while you are playing scales. Can you play the low register with a strong, full sound? Can you play high notes quietly and sweetly?

4. Test the articulation

How responsive and clean is the articulation? Again, simple scales played slowly and tongued will give you a good idea. Also, try without tonguing (diaphragm only).

5. Get an idea of its tone colours

Play low, simple tunes (good ones are Fauré’s ‘Pavane’ or ‘The Aquarium’ from ‘Carnival of the Animals’), and aim at a very hollow, open sound. Go up an octave and see if you can produce the same sort of sound. It is very important that an instrument is capable of producing a similar quality of sound throughout the full range. Next, try a much harder sound with lots of harmonics, again in different octaves (Moyse 24 Easy Melodic Studies No. 10 – strong and trumpet like, is ideal).

6. Get a friend to help

A listener comes in useful when testing the projection. Some instruments appear to play loudly close up, but cannot be heard at the back of a concert hall. Others don’t sound loud close up, but the sound travels better – this is projection, and can be very deceiving. A good way to test this is to compare instruments while you have a listener outside the room with the door closed: which sounds louder?

7. Be prepared to compromise

You may have a pre-conceived idea of your ‘perfect’ instrument, (in terms of sound, feel or any other area really!).  But – take our word for it – it probably doesn’t exist!

8. Be realistic about what an upgrade offers

A new instrument can’t compensate for shortcomings in your playing – only hours of careful practice can do this. But a new instrument gives you the potential to improve your sound in all areas – practice will then make this a reality!

Composer Profile: Geoff Eales

Geoff EalesIt’s lucky for us flute players that jazz pianist-composer Geoff Eales and the talented Andy Findon are such good friends. As a direct result of their collaboration for the CD The Dancing Flute, we now have some of the best flute jazz music to play for ourselves.

Eales studied composition with Alun Hoddinott and wrote award-winning large-scale orchestral works before he became more interested in jazz. His stellar career since then has enabled him to carve out a niche as an improviser, and it is these two aspects of his style that underpin all his works for the flute.

Dreamy Melodies

Eales certainly knows how to write dreamy melodies. Song For My Mother is beautiful, with a simple tune over a sustained accompaniment. There is no huge technical challenge here, but the 16-bar piano intro sets a relaxed ambience for the whole piece. There is a real feeling of freedom in the flute writing which is quite enchanting.

Remembrance is in a similar style, but the minor key adds darker sonorities. This is captivating, drawing you in as you play – absolutely lovely!

Change of Tempo

If you’re in the mood for something upbeat, Eternal Dance is rhythmically tough with 7/8 alternating with 5/4 in the manner of Bartók (the metronome marking is 162, so this is a real workout!). In a completely different style is Elf Dance. Here three fast and furious sections alternating 6/8, 3/4 and 5/4 contrast with something slightly more lyrical to produce an exciting piece that’s always on the move. Farewell Patagonia is different again with a driving tango rhythm taking us to South America. In all of these works the piano is so important, and there are frequent improvisatory-style piano introductions and breaks. This makes the performances even better!

Music for Other Flutes

Geoff has also written repertoire for other members of the flute family: there isn’t much original music for penny whistle, so In The Eyes Of A Child is very special. A simple lullaby in waltz time, this is a piece that wonderfully captures the innocence of youth. You can of course play this on the flute but it really does sound great on a quality whistle!

This could not contrast more starkly with Force 11 for piccolo and piano. The performance direction for the opening improvised section here is manically and atonally and this leads on to the notated main body of the work that is marked demonic! This will stretch even the most accomplished player with its extreme range and relentlessly changing times. Intensely fun!

For low flutes, Geoff has written us two gems. Lochria’s Rhumba for alto flute and piano is a real fusion of styles. The mysterious melody is based on the Locrian mode and weaves its way enticingly around the lower reaches of the alto. The accompaniment adds a slow rhumba to the texture. The result is another laid-back and free work that casts an evocative spell over the audience. His work for bass flute and piano is Ice Maiden, another hypnotic piece which is again really sultry. The pulse is more clearly defined here with gentle syncopation in the piano allowing the sensuous sound of the bass flute space to sing the rich melody. Both these pieces are extremely well crafted for each specific instrument, using it to its maximum effect and reflecting the individual character.

Jazz for flute doesn’t come much better than this. Geoff and Andy – thank you!

Geoff Eales’s music is published by Astute Music and is available from Just Flutes.

6 Christmas Books That Your Flute Choir Should Own

Searching for Christmas music for your flute choir’s festive concert? We’ve hand-picked six great seasonal books that every flute choir should own.

1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Ricky Lombardo’s arrangement of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas gives the solo to the alto flute, with three accompanying flutes providing a sumptuous backing. This is a masterstroke of arranging and really works, giving a lucky player a fantastic chance to shine and sending the audience home happy!

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

 

2. Frederick Delius’s Sleigh Ride

Nancy Nourse’s transcription of Frederick Delius’s Sleigh Ride for piccolo, 4 flutes, alto, bass and sleigh bells is a chance to play less familiar music. This is an early Delius work which delivers the crisp clarity of a snowy day together with the pulse of a horse-drawn sleigh. The bells add a lovely touch!

Sleigh Ride

 

3. The Nutcracker (in 5 Minutes)

No review of Christmas flute choir music would be complete without a mention of The Nutcracker (in 5 minutes). Judy Nishimura has crammed your favourite dances from the ballet into a very short space of time – and it’s not easy! Your flute choir needs a piccolo, four flutes, alto, bass and contrabass for a successful performance (but she has also produced a version for flute and piano so no-one need lose out!).

The Nutcracker (in 5 minutes)

4. White Christmas

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas in the Wonderful Winds catalogue is written for four C flutes. This clever arrangement perfectly fills a short slot in your concert and your audience will enjoy spotting the hidden traditional carols. Includes three easy parts, with a trickier jazzy fourth part.

White Christmas

5. A Christmas Collection

Robert Rainford’s two-volume Christmas Collection (Vol 1, Vol 2) will provide you with 14 best-loved traditional carols, including Once in Royal David’s City, Away in a Manger and The Holly and the Ivy. Although scored for flutre choir with every kind of flute from piccolo to contrabass, this collection works well on four C flutes too. Teachers will be able to use this book in so many different situations – a life saver!

A Christmas Collection

 

6. Simon Desorgher: Jingle Bling

If you’re looking for something a little different why not try Simon Desorgher’s Jingle Bling. Fun to play, it’s written for instruments in C only (piccolo, 6 flutes and bass) it’s basically in C major and it features a popular Christmas tune (can you guess which one?!). There is a complexity between the parts due to the canonic nature of the writing, so although none of the parts is overly difficult, it will take some putting together. The ending is a little unorthodox, but this is a great piece to spice up your Christmas concert. Jingle Bells will never be the same again!

Jingle Bling - Simon Desorgher

 

We’ve chosen these six best-selling books from our Christmas Music section, but there is much more good music available for the festive period, and something to please everyone. Merry Christmas!