Category Archives: Uncategorized

Exploring the new ABRSM flute syllabus 2018: Grade 7

Whisper it quietly but this might be time to invest in whole pieces or compilation books, rather than buy the ABRSM book itself!

List A:

This is another strong list with a more diverse range of periods than often.

The Rabboni Sonata in D major is particularly tuneful and highly recommended, especially for those less likely to be at home in the Baroque period.

For those who are, the Telemann Sonata in G major is a strong choice. Gluck’s Che faro senza Euridice arranged by Boehm is an absolutely wonderful piece published in the ABRSM book but it’s also available in Romantic Miniatures Volume 2 which you could then use for grade 8!

 

Less familiar are:

Frederick the Great: Allegro from Sonata in B flat Spitta No 76.

If you splashed out on the complete volume of these sonatas for grade 5 this one is a great option here. It’s also available separately and is well worth the money as the whole sonata is delightful.

The movement set is a lovely and sprightly fast movement which could be  tricky for the fingers. If you can sort out the tonguing to suit yourself you will be rewarded with a happy piece that will bring joy to everyone!

Serini: Andantino grazioso and Allegro assai from Sonata No 1 in D major

The beautiful slow movement which is quite Romantic in character is followed by a very lively Allegro assai. This is fiddly rather than difficult with the editorial trills making the writing very intricate.  It’s a challenge, as it should be at this level, but refreshingly different.

 

 

List B:

Again, the supporting pieces are strong. You may not need to look any further than the Poulenc, Faure, Berkeley or Tea for Two but there are other really interesting options available to explore too!

Edward German: Intermezzo

This is a lovely Intermezzo with a rather rambling rhapsodic format that is charming .It will need work to cement the ensemble as a result, especially as there are several changes of speed. Definitely worth a look though, especially if you liked the Saltarello from the last syllabus.

Moszkowski: Spanish Dance from 300 Years of Flute Music.

This will be valuable if you are looking for slightly less daunting. The Spanish style is one that everyone knows and there is plenty of character in the writing to help with interpretation. Blessed with a straightforward structure, this is definitely not as technically demanding as some of the other pieces. You may also have this book already so it makes sense to play something completely different from it!

Paul Wachs: La Flute de Pan from Romantic Miniatures Volume 1

This is another great French flute piece that has a lot in common with the  Mel Bonis that is published in the ABRSM book. It’s a little more straightforward in harmonic style though. It has a charming rhythmic simplicity, and if you have a student with a supple tone, good breathing and decent intonation, this is perfect!

List C:

There are some most interesting studies set for this grade which includes both core repertoire and the opportunity to leave your comfort zone! You might have already introduced your student to the Telemann Fantasias, or the  CPE Bach Unaccompanied Sonata so you’re instantly ahead of the game! However, be sure not to miss the expressive Prill Study in D minor from More Graded Studies Book 2 which is a tone colour challenge, and there is  the Toreador’s Song from The Bizet Notebook if you need something very well-known.  As ever though, there is always room for something different!

Alicia Hart: Scats from Scatadoodle

This book features at grades 4 and 5 (good value again!) and introduces the concept of the scat-singing technique used by jazz players. It’s a great choice if your accompanied pieces are more traditional. This piece has a natural swing rhythm which should be quite easy to learn as the patterns are quite repetitive. It’s technically fairly demanding with some big leaps around the flute but it’s is very well written with plenty of places to breathe. Playing this from memory would be relatively easy for any player used to doing this and would be very impressive in the exam!

There is just so much quality in the music set for this grade that you could quite easily never repeat the same set of pieces – even over 3 years!

 

 

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

The Whole Musician: Becoming Happy, Healthy Musicians

Are you inclined to criticize yourself for the smallest things? Are you overly concerned about what others think of you and your playing? Are you fearful of getting it wrong? Are you stuck in a rut? It is very likely that we all have some emotionally charged reactions to these questions in some form or another. Their effect on our musical lives can shape our playing and alter the pure enjoyment we can attain from one simple note.

Christopher Lee: On Accuracy and Freedom

Christopher LeeWhen I first started playing in orchestras I remember it being one of the most stressful things in my life at that moment. You see, at the beginning, I (and I imagine lots of young musicians) felt I had something to prove. That I was worthy of sitting in that chair. So, I focussed on being an accurate player, and what that meant to me at the time was putting all the right notes in the right spot at the right dynamic and in tune. With that mindset, I never achieved this goal. There was something inside of me that made me want to play a phrase a certain way which in turn made it more difficult technically. Therefore, as every concert came up I’d be determined to have an accurate night. At the end of the concert I’d decide that the next night it was going to happen and so on.

Then, something changed somewhere. I forgot about my long-standing challenge and all it took was one concert where that focus wasn’t in my mind. It worked. It was an accurate concert, and also, musical! I realised then that my one-sided focus to be accurate was not going to work for me because my musical side was one to take risks and react to what others were doing in concert. Once my mind had switched to simply enjoying the music-making I found that the accuracy also became consistent.

This led to a freedom of feeling and thinking which runs through all the repertoire that I play. It takes me a long time to come to an interpretation of a piece simply because it’s always changing as I discover more and more sounds, colours and moods. At times I incorporate so-called “extended techniques” in old repertoire because it gives light to a more musical sound. These are not things I learned from school, or from reading a textbook. These are things that came from imagination, and, happy accidents in the practice room. So from there, every “mistake” I make in practicing is merely an opportunity to see if I hear something else in a phrase.

This constant search for colours in sound can be somewhat addictive! Yet, for me, it is the way to tell my story when I play for others. A natural extension of this is my belief that everyone has something to say. For some of us it could be bottled up inside and we may not even know what it is yet! I use some acting techniques in workshops to help free this creativity in others. For we are all actors the minute we step on stage to deliver our story.

Meg Griffith: On Perfection and Perception

Meg GriffithAt a crossroads in my musical life, I sat trying to decide which direction to take my career. With so many inspiring opportunities surrounding us all, one would think this would be an exciting pastime. Unfortunately, I was filled with negative energy – there was a lack of passion towards music and disappointment and sometimes disgust directed toward myself and my playing. I thought I had no idea how to get to my goals efficiently and positively so I just stared at the seemingly unattainable, building my own walls around me and giving myself permission to expend less energy towards my goals. I thought of quitting.

Then I began to consider why I chose the flute in the first place – simple enjoyment of the instrument and the music itself. This idea had become clouded during the busy years of musical schooling in which I focused on what I ought to sound like and what others thought of me. I dusted the idea off, made it the basis of every aspect of my teaching and playing, and let it guide me as I determined how to approach problem solving on the road to my goals. The difference in both my attitude and the attitudes of my students was incredible – we still worked hard, still competed, still performed, still obsessed over small mistakes, but the approach, both intellectually and emotionally, was hugely different and far more positive. We spend so much time trying to attain perfection (whatever that really is in the long run) that we forget to look at the beauty we offer in each moment.

That is all well and good you say, but easier said than done. For me, things began to come together when I stood back to watch my reactions during my practice sessions and then ask questions to better understand those reactions:

  • After intense criticism over the smallest things, how do I feel? Is this helping me get to my goal? Why am I being so critical?
  • Are my reactions helpful and detailed in ways that lead to decisions that can help me get to my goal? Or are they overly general? (That sounded bad. VS I liked the musical approach, but I lost control of the register and it became airy. What tools do I use to solve the sound aspect while keeping the musical idea?)
  • Why do my reactions tend to be negative or critical? Am I afraid of getting something wrong? What happens if I do? (Nothing – except that I find a new understanding of my mental or physical approach to playing which helps me avoid the same mistake in the future.)
  • Is my fear of getting something wrong based in shame or embarrassment within the view of others? Where does this comparison come from? Do I feel my offerings are not worth as much as others? Why should another’s offerings define my own?

Asking these types of questions, even if you find out you don’t know every answer, is the first step to understanding yourself and therefore having compassion for your challenges rather than frustration and shame. One of my favorite teaching moments after walking through questions like these is seeing the emotions on a student’s face when he or she fully realizes that not only is there nothing to be ashamed about (relief) but that they do know the answers and have every tool to lead them to success (pride).

On Where to Turn

Whole MusicianOpportunities for one-on-one coaching in topics dedicated to these challenges as well as discussions with people just like us who can provide anecdotes like the ones above make up one of our favorite aspects of being musicians: the support within our community. Expand your network and open your mind to new approaches by surrounding yourself with positive energy and supporting yourself in mind and body. Whole Musician retreats bring all these aspects of musicianship and more into our awareness with the aim of making us all happy and healthy musicians. We will be presenting workshops on these ideas and more in London from August 26-28. If anyone is curious about what goes on at Whole Musician retreats, by all means look for our registration information online at WholeMusician.net.

Welcome!

Welcome to the Just Flutes blog.

The Just Flutes showroom in Croydon, London, UKOur plan is that this blog will develop to become a huge resource for flute players, comprising of ideas for flute music, books and recordings, instruments and accessories – some of which will be new, some not so new, some hidden gems you may have missed, others old favourites that every flute player should have in their library.

So, watch this space, enjoy, and feel free to register, comment and make suggestions!