Category Archives: New Music

Flute Tutor Book Recommendations 2017

The Flute Tutor market 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 are 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

This 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.

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.

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.

A 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

This 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.

Pulse and breathing are the first things to be encountered before the book 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!

Notes 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.

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

This 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.

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.

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

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 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 challenge and 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.

There is no doubt that these are extremely impressive books written by two committed educationalists who have a great deal of experience of the flute and a wealth of knowledge of how to teach it. 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 Tutor Books at Just Flutes

Publisher Profile: Tetractys Publishing

Tetractys Publishing is the brainchild of Carla Rees, home to her own compositions and arrangements as well as the many pieces that have been written for her. The range of material on offer here is vast. Obviously the catalogue is heavily weighted towards contemporary music for low flutes as this is Carla’s main area of expertise, but there’s much else to tempt you as well.

Her adaptations in two volumes of the JS Bach Cello Suites [volume 1]  [volume 2] for alto flute are a wonderful way of developing skills whilst using great music. Breathing and stamina are often a problem on low instruments, but if you can manage these it will really help. Aside from suggested articulations, the music is left for you to edit as you wish and you will be able to return to them many times, always finding something new. There are versions [volume 1] [volume 2] adapted specifically for bass flute too.

One of the most interesting pieces of contemporary music for solo alto is Adam Melvin’s Hyperlodic Interpretations written in 2003. Influenced by the jazz musician Eric Dolphy, the format is slow introduction (poco rubato – aggressive) followed by a rhythmic main section which is always driving forward. A much slower jazz melody follows before the momentum increases to the end. The fluctuating time signatures allow for flexibility in the interpretation and the basic multiphonic and portamento techniques are very approachable. If you are feeling adventurous, give this a try.

Another winner is Moss Garden by Michael Oliva for bass flute and electronics. This wonderful piece is all about texture (‘an exercise in simplicity’) with the slow moving flute writing merging into the accompaniment to create the magical world of a Japanese garden. The electronic part is supplied as a download and you will need some basic equipment for performance. It’s so worth the effort though as this unusual piece would enhance any flute recital programme.

If you fancy something a little more mainstream whilst staying with living composers, Attitudes by Jon Jeffrey Grier for 2 alto or C flutes might fit the bill. This is a very striking duet which aims to ‘capture the states of teenage people’. In three movements, the writing is quirky, and at times virtuosic. Although there are no advanced techniques to master and the rhythmic footprint is mainly straightforward, the challenge is in the dovetailing of the parts to blend as one. ‘Flirty’ is rather fragmentary with short rhythmic figures dancing around each other, whilst ‘Pouty’ uses tremolando and trills to provide the colour. ‘Ansty’ is an exciting whirl of notes which will bring the piece to a rousing conclusion.

Another work for virtuosos but from a completely different world is Carla’s own arrangement of The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov for piccolo, flute and alto flute. This is a brilliant romp which is just so great to play!

Quatraine II for 3 piccolos and alto flute is one of Carla’s original compositions. Her aim was to pit ‘the chattering piccolos’ which are given angular leaps and short phrases against ‘the sonorous tone of the alto’ with its mainly melodic line The result is a perfect fusion of sounds that perfectly conveys the differing characters of the instruments. Whilst seeming ultra-modern, Quatraine is very approachable to play, giving you the best of all worlds!

 

Recent publications have included a large range of mainstream works that Carla has transcribed for ensemble. Again, the emphasis is on low flutes, so the result is completely different to that of more conventional arrangements. Crucifixus in 8 Parts by Antonio Lotti is scored for 6 altos and 2 bass flutes with contrabass if available, but three alternative C flute parts are also included. Tuning, balance and stamina are the issues here, but this simple work can sound really effective if played well.

More conventionally, the Quantz Concerto in G for two flutes is scored for 2 solo flutes, 2 flutes, 3 altos, bass and optional contrabass. The concerto grosso feel of this has been captured skilfully. The beautiful slow movement in particular contrasts unison tutti passages with intricate solos accompanied by a simple bass line.

Another winner is the arrangement of the Donizetti Flute Sonata for solo flute, 2 flutes, 2 altos and bass. Again Carla has transcribed sensitively, spacing the parts to allow the solo flute to carry over the main group. The solo part is original, and all the intricacies of the piano writing are seamless integrated into the other flute parts. This is an incredibly good way to showcase a lovely but rather neglected work.

If you would prefer to play an original work, Rainbow Measures by Rob Keeley, (2 piccolos, 4 flutes, and 2 altos) is another effective work that will challenge your ensemble skills. Lasting 9 minutes and ‘imagining each player as the colour of a rainbow’, the swirl of notes, rhythms and textures coupled with varying tempos and extreme dynamic changes results in a very colourful piece that will be a joy to accomplish.

The Tetractys catalogue also includes many of the works written for Carla’s flexible group Rarescale. One of the most compelling of these is Andrew McBirnie’s Mechanical for alto flute, cor anglais and bass clarinet, a short 2 minute piece in which continuous semiquavers passed around the group are punctuated isolated notes and rhythmic cells. The exactness of the writing really conveys the predictability of the machine and is utterly mesmerising.

 

Tetractys is so much more than just ‘niche music’. Delve further and you’ll uncover gems galore and there’s something for everyone.

ABRSM Logo

Exploring The 2014 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 1 to 3

ABRSM LogoThe publication of a new ABRSM syllabus is about as big an event as it gets in the publishing world these days, and having a piece set for grades 1-3 will generate a great deal of interest. The two parts of the 2014 listing (the AB books themselves and the extra set repertoire) will represent a large part of the material used by many flute teachers over the next few years, so it is fascinating to see what we have in store and how we can make it work for us.

The ABRSM books themselves provide a good range of styles for young players to experiment with.  The traditional Irish tunes set at Grades 1 and 2 provide a real finger workout, and Renaissance music makes a welcome appearance at Grade 2 with ‘Que je chatouille ta fossette’, attributed to Attaingnant. This piece appears in Music Through Time Volume 2, but is sure to be played much more often now. There is also a lovely arrangement of a Scarlatti Minuet at this level and a stunning Pergolesi song ‘Tre giorna son che Nina’ set at grade 3 which will need a musical player with a silky sound to perform it successfully.

A Flautist's CalendarThe neglected English composer Keith Amos is included at Grade 1 with ‘Lupin, the Pot-Bellied Pig’, a tuneful march sure to be very popular with younger players.  Grade 2 includes ‘February’s Rain’ from another over-looked book, ‘A Flautist’s Calendar‘  by Richard Kershaw. This is a contender for the loveliest piece set at any level, with a beguiling melody and flowing accompaniment.

There is also some rather obscure repertoire included, especially at Grade 3 where both the Claude Arrieu ‘Chanson de la Pasteur’ and David Gordon’s ‘Amazonian Mood’ will take some learning. If in doubt though, you can stay on safe ground with ‘Edelweiss’ at Grade 1!

The solo pieces have the usual mix of straight study, jazz, and simple tune. Highlights here are Nicky Iles’s ‘Jazz Waltz’ at Grade 1 which is a challenge to swing, and the enigmatic ‘Waltzlet’ by Mike Mower at Grade 2. My personal favourite though is Graham Lyons’s ‘Study in C’ which will keep your Grade 3 pupils happy – no key signature and a witty melody!

And what of the pieces that are not in the books? As this syllabus lasts until 2017 we will all surely need them. Luckily at these early levels it is possible to use the same alternative books for several grades, and these will obviously be the best place to start.

Harlequin Book 1Top of my list is ‘Harlequin’, an imaginative set of pieces put together by Simon Hunt and Cecilia McDowall. Harlequin Book 1 serves Grades 1, 2 and 3 and includes a CD which represents extremely good value. Composers used range from Daquin to McDowall herself, whose Grade 2 Circus Rag is not to be missed!

Another multi-purpose album is ‘Winner Scores All’ which appears at Grades 1 and 3. Here the flute part and accompaniment are sold separately and there will shortly be a CD playalong version too. ‘Truly Scrumptious’ set for Grade 1 is the main attraction, but both the Aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and a Grieg Norwegian Dance are tuneful alternatives for Grade 3. As with Harlequin, the repertoire is so varied that the book can be made to work really hard outside the exam environment as well.

Louise Chamberlain (aka Pam Wedgwood) has two pieces from her book ‘Step It Up!’ on the Grade 2 listing. Although both ‘Red Admiral’ and ‘King of Swing’ are jazz-based, this is a nice collection of tunes that most pupils will enjoy, especially as this CD has two speeds for each piece.

Hartbeat’ is an album worth buying for the cover alone! Paul Hart’s light style is already very popular and ‘Rainy Day in Paris’ will not disappoint you. This is the easiest piece in the book, and indeed ‘Lonely and Blue’ actually appears in the ABRSM Grade 4 book. Don’t let that put you off buying it though as there’s a wealth of good material here.

Globetrotters for FluteGlobetrotters’ is another interesting book that appears both in the Grade 1 ABRSM book and separately at Grade 3. Subtitled ‘12 pieces in styles from around the world’ and including a CD, both the Grade 1 ‘Guanabara Bay’ and the Grade 3 ‘Hole in my Shoe Blues’ have lyrics to help learning and a second flute part which really adds to the fun. This will prove to be a very popular book with developing players.

Two books from very well respected composers supplement the unaccompanied music lists. Philip Sparke’s ‘Skilful Studies’ and  James Rae’s ‘Style Workout’ provide interesting contrasts of style, with Sparke’s ‘Classical Theme’ at grade 2 being based almost entirely on a D major scale, whilst Rae’s ‘High Five’ at grade 3 is quite a  challenge. In 5/4 with some tricky rhythms, this will really test all round ability at this level.

However you choose your exam music, have fun and enjoy the new challenges it brings!