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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

6 Christmas Books That Your Flute Choir Should Own

Looking for music for your flute choir’s Christmas concert? We’ve hand-picked six great festive 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 ensemble 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! You need 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 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!

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.

Trubcher Publishing

Publisher Profile: Trübcher Publishing

Roz Trübger, founder of Trübcher Publishing, is very enterprising and clearly loves the flute. She has an impressive catalogue of music to her credit with a wide spread of titles. Educational resources, obscure repertoire and ensemble music are her three main niches, and every book has either an accompanying CD or an online audio clip to help you along.

A Listers’ is a highly respected series which aims to facilitate the learning process of core repertoire. All the pieces come with a standard flute part edited by Trübger herself, a piano score, a second flute part and a CD with a 2-speed playalong. Teachers who have limited keyboard skills obviously find this format invaluable, but there is also the advantage of being able to play these pieces as flute duets with or without accompaniment. Meanwhile, the dual speed CD backing tracks help with home practice.

A-Listers features important works such as sonatas by Bach and Handel, concertos by Mozart, Vivaldi, Quantz and Gluck as well as single pieces such as the Fauré Sicilienne, all of which are vital in the building of a strong flute foundation. This collection is a good way to teach this mainstream repertoire.

Trübger has unearthed some real gems for her ‘Forgotten Music‘ series. Again, each title is fully supported by an audio resource, which although computer generated, does give you confidence that you are in the right area. Little-known composers such as Macfarren and Graeff might entice you, and there are other gems that time has forgotten. The Romance in A by the English amateur flute player James Mathews is a wonderful piece, written in 1868 in a Romantic style and beautifully straightforward to play. It’s worth the money for the front cover alone, as the photo of Mathews with his extraordinary gold flute is quite something! The highlight of the series so far however, has to be the Romance by Alfred Bruneau. Written in about 1884, he has accompanied his sumptuous melody with a flowing accompaniment. Pure French pleasure!

As you might expect, Trübger’s arrangements for flute ensemble all work extremely well. She really knows how to handle the spacing of the instruments, which is so important to the success of any transcription. Her choice of repertoire is intelligent, with a wide range of styles to choose from. You could start with the Widor Toccata for four piccolos – not an obvious choice of instrumentation perhaps, but one that is highly effective in the right hands! The famous semiquaver theme is evenly distributed between all four parts encouraging listening skills to develop both accuracy and intonation. The audio clips are again electronic and the speeds chosen are deliberately quite slow. Here, this results in quite a pretty sounding performance but acoustically the piece offers a great deal in terms of skill and stamina, not to mention entertainment!

Von Suppe’s Pique Dame Overture is another excellent arrangement. This is for 6 flutes and the addition of piccolo, alto and bass, together with optional cymbals, gives added scope for textural variety. The style is easy to access and the writing straightforward, with just the right amount of independence in the parts. Both the piccolo and bass flute are less busy than the rest which is good both technically and aurally. The G major key and familiar rhythms also help here, and although 6 parts can seem daunting at first, the overriding aim is to give confidence to developing players as they tackle more substantial works.

If you are feeling yet more adventurous try Six Sweets by Marin Rabadan for 5 flutes and alto flute. Don’t let the title here lull you into a false sense of security: this should be played at helter-skelter speed with all six instruments cascading around the opening section! The central blues is more restrained and the closing vivo has great rhythmic drive. The style is jazz, the ensemble needs to be very tight. It’s a fantastic workout!

Whatever you choose to play from this lovely and very individual publisher, satisfaction is almost certainly guaranteed!

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Exploring The 2014 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 6 and 7

By the time we reach this more advanced level, playing skills should be at the point where the choice of repertoire is based on stylistic considerations rather than technical ones. The 2014 ABRSM syllabus reflects this, with a myriad of pieces to choose from.

The good thing here is that most of the works are originals rather than arrangements. At Grade Six, List A is dominated by Baroque composers but the inclusion of a Walckiers Scherzo in the ABRSM book and a movement from a little-known concerto by Leopold Mozart further down the list means that you also have viable alternatives. The Walckiers in particular will be very popular despite its foray into E major for the lyrical trio, and the ‘bien rhythme et avec verve’ performance direction at the start gives you a flavour of its upbeat style. The Leopold Mozart Presto is similar and perhaps more tricky, but both pieces offer a refreshing change from the ‘there’s nowhere to take a breath’ dilemma. Perhaps the most interesting Baroque piece is actually in the unaccompanied section, again in the ABRSM book, with a sensitive arrangement by Trevor Wye of a Handel Allemande in C minor.

French music is well represented in the List B pieces of both grades. The wonderful Roussel Aria will have a much wider audience as it’s now in the book, and Caplet’s dreamy Reverie is available in The Flautist’s Collection Book 3, a lovely selection of music edited by Paul Edmund-Davies. These two pieces should be on everyone’s radar! For fans of Gaubert, the Sicilienne is still with us, and it is one of his most loved pieces. When bought together with the Madrigal, it represents a very good purchase.

List B opens up still further with two pieces by living artists. The American flautist and composer Gary Schocker is starting to gather a real fan base in the UK, and Spring Energy (or Heigh Ho) from Dances and Daydreams is typical of his quirky style. Here, strong rhythm, changing metre and unexpected harmonies give the almost-familiar melody a twist. Luckily the main theme keeps recurring in various guises to help with the technique, and the ending is suitably abrupt. Another contender for Best Piece of the Syllabus is And Everything is Still… by Andy Scott. Andy is really beginning to make a name for himself, and this is one gorgeous piece. Grab a copy now and enjoy the simple melody which ‘unravels alongside delicate harmonic statements, creating a calm and gentle atmosphere.

Sticking with living composers, Rob Buckland’s Charming Snakes in the ABRSM book will really appeal to those wanting to move away from the more traditional studies for the solo piece. The exotic writing contrasts a rhythmic dance-like figure with a flowing chromatic melody to produce a compelling piece that would stand up very well in a concert.

At Grade Seven, the ABRSM book may be less appropriate, as by now students often wish to purchase complete works. However, it does still have a part to play in introducing unusual repertoire at a reasonable cost. If you missed the Popp Sonatina in C last time round, here is another chance to savour its virtuosic flute writing. You need reasonable fingers for this, but everyone enjoys flashing around in an easy key! The Sonatina by the Dutch composer Jaap Geraedts is a gem – tuneful and rhythmic, with good ensemble skills essential for a successful performance. The charm of André Caplet’s Petite Valse is embodied in the rubato, where almost every bar changes speed. An excellent choice if you have already learned the Reverie at Grade Six, these two pieces together work well in a concert. The excellent With Life (also available in Russell Stokes’ book Tricky Jazz Singles) provides the best change of style for list C.

Away from the AB book there is an even broader range of genres. The pick of the Baroque choices on List A is possibly the B minor Sonata by Telemann. This is quite a dark work, and the two set fast movements have real technical challenges, especially as the writing is all in the lower registers of the flute. The other movements are not so hard, and playing the complete sonata is perfectly possible at this level.

If you prefer something sunnier, you might like to look at the Rondo from the Sonata in D major by the nineteenth century German composer Johann Wilms. This is a lively Allegro, with a spritely theme and a brief D minor interlude. Thirds and sixths abound in the duet style writing with the piano, which helps the ensemble, and the whole piece is very approachable, not to mention enjoyable!

Two works jump out from List B. The first is an absolutely delightful Nocturne by Lily Boulanger from a bargain of an album entitled Flute Music by Female Composers. Worth the money for this wonderful vignette alone, with its beguiling melody and simple accompaniment, this rather special book contains a range of material from the Baroque to contemporary works and will hold your interest for a very long time. Fujiko in Vocalise: Songs Without Words is another good piece by Andy Scott, this time in a more obvious jazz style. Its languid melody becomes ever more improvisatory without losing its melancholy and reflective feeling. Allthe pieces in this album, edited by Clare Southworth, have a song element but they are varied and well worth dipping in to.

Another alternative to the more traditional studies set for the solo list is the Polka from Dynamic Dances by Allen Vizzutti. If you have already used this book at Grade 5, you will appreciate the rhythmic drive of these pieces which evoke the character of the dance with a modern twist.

If you want to play the Kohler Study from Op 33, you might like to purchase the duet part published separately by IMC. This adds another layer of difficulty – performing the solo version will seem very easy by comparison!

These grades are important for a developing flute player and the need for variety as well as technical development has never been more acute. There is a great deal of interesting material here, which will make the task just a little easier.

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Exploring The 2014 ABRSM Flute Syllabus: Grades 4 and 5

ABRSM LogoBy the time a pupil reaches the level of the intermediate grades 4 and 5, repertoire needn’t be governed by an exam syllabus. Pieces outside of the ‘exam books’ therefore become increasingly important as a player begins to widen their musical horizons.

The ABRSM books for these two grades offer up some interesting music. At grade four, there is a lovely arrangement of a Cimarosa Piano Sonata which will need delicate tonguing to convey the con eleganza performance direction. I can also recommend trying the Honegger Romance in the same book, as this is an original and unusual piece for flute and piano with some scrunchy harmonies to become accustomed to.

Not everyone will take to it, but Allegretto by Russell Stokes (also in Easy Jazz Singles) is sure to be a winner. If you’re starting to think about some programme planning for pupils’ concerts, this selection is about as varied as it gets!

One of the best pieces on the entire syllabus can be found in the Grade 5 book. Léo Delibes’s Morceau is a wonderful vignette that will really appeal to those with a love of French Flute School music.  Written as a sight-reading test for the Paris Conservatoire, the challenge at this level is both technical and artistic. Perhaps here, the first teacher-pupil conversations about changes of sound could take place.

The Largo and Vivace by Daniel Purcell will introduce pupils to a little-known British composer, while Mike Mower’s Mango Tango will provide some jazz-based interest. The big hit of the Grade 5 book, however, is bound to be The Playful Pony from Luna’s Magic Flute by Blaž Pucihar which is a wonderfully tuneful and happy piece. I’m sure that girls in particular will love it!

The exam books alone are unlikely to keep all teachers occupied until 2017 though, and there is a wealth of lovely flute music further down the syllabus lists. It needn’t cost a fortune either, as there are good value books available which cover several grades. Here are some of my favourites to provide your students with a broader knowledge of repertoire:

List A

If you are a fan of CPE Bach, then the volume of his Six Sonatas could be for you. This book can be used for grade 4, 5 and 6, therefore represents long-term value for money.

Classical Music for Flute by Peter WastallPeter Wastall’s Classical Music for Flute had gone out of fashion over recent years, but it is a great hunting ground for simple pieces in the Classical style. The Sonata in C by James Hook is bright and sunny, and will be really useful in developing the neat articulation needed to bring out the clarity of the writing. This is a charming piece which really deserves its revival, and should be popular for Grade 5.

Another good book to invest in is the Telemann Suite in A minor which covers Grades 3-5. All the movements are lovely, and ultimately it is an ideal work to perform in its entirety with a school orchestra. At under £10 (at time of going to press), it works out just around £3 per grade!

List B

Although Latin Connections contains just one set piece (for Grade 4), this is a book that both teachers and students will absolutely love. ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life’ by Michel Legrand is probably one of the least well-known tunes on a contents page that lists all the greats of Latin music. Add in the benefits of a playalong CD and hours of pleasure can be had for not that much money!

Blaž Pucihar: Flute at PlaySome more of Blaž Pucihar’s beautiful tunes can be found in Flute At Play, which is set for grades 4 and 6. This book is beautifully presented with full colour illustrations and a good quality CD. The music isn’t a pushover, and both Flute At Play in a jaunty A major and Dreamy Flute, with its slow sustained melody, will give a Grade 4 pupil a real workout. Flute At Play consists of ten pieces altogether which form a complete story, so there is plenty of scope for performance away from the exam – if you have enough students at this level, you could have a concert with a different player for each piece!

If you are able to splash out, there are some other lovely things to explore, especially at Grade 5. If you have a really promising student, they may be ready for the Claude Arrieu Sonatine, first movement, which is difficult but well worth the effort. As the whole work is on the Diploma list as well, you might find this student able to perform the whole work at some future date! Gerard Meunier’s atmospheric Au Crepuscule (At Dusk) is a beautiful sweeping melody which will stretch musical flexibility, but once mastered will be returned to many times. All the Goran Marcusson arrangements in the album Frösöblomster (Flowers from Froso) are delightful, with Song of Summer being particularly approachable at this level.

List C

There are two study books in particular that will serve you well at several grades. There’s a lot of good material in Flute Studies Volume 1 published by Breitkopf, including some general practice notes. It starts at a basic level and, exam-wise, will take you through to grade 6. Kohler, Gariboldi et al are included, but set at grade 5 is a challenging Allegro by Pal Jardanyi. Rhythmically simple, the G minor centre modulates constantly, with the E flat major meno mosso section visiting D flat and G flat majors before returning home. Great for expanding aural awareness!

If you would prefer something a little more contemporary, try Allen Vizzutti’s Dynamic Dances. The Flamenco on the Grade 5 list is great, with strong Spanish rhythms (it brings Toreador’s Song from Carmen to mind). This is one of the easier pieces in this book, so it will readily add another dimension to technical work for more advanced players.


There is plenty here to make the exam route more interesting as well as stimulate a young flute player. Enjoy the variety on offer!

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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!

Back-To-School Inspiration

It’s that time of year again, but don’t fret – we’re here to bring some inspiration to the new school term.

For Teachers

The myfife MethodThe myfife Teacher’s Resource Book by Liz Goodwin

This is a teacher’s resource pack to accompany the Fife Book, and if you’ve never thought about using a fife as an introduction to flute teaching, then take a look at this. It is packed with lesson plans, exercises, games, practice sheets and report forms as well as flashcards. Topics covered include ‘Flute Techniques Taught Using the Fife’, ‘Individual or Group Lessons’ and ‘Embouchure Development’ – if you are working with young students, this book could really change your life.

Pneumo Pro Wind Director Pneumo Pro Wind Director

This wacky-looking piece of kit helps beginners to make a good sound from the outset. It is very lightweight and simple, based on a system of fans to help with both air direction and speed. This can be particularly useful if there is a problem producing the sound in the early stages as it is also colourful and fun! Developed by Kathryn Blocki, you can use it in conjunction with her excellent Flute Method. Every flute teacher should have one of these!

For beginners

Razzamajazz Flute Book 1Razzamajazz Flute by Sarah Watts

Learning the flute is so exciting and it really helps if you can start making music at home as soon as you can. The first piece here, ‘B Groovy’ uses just the one note but the CD accompaniment is so good that you feel as if you’re really performing ! Only 10 notes are used altogether and the material can be all used again up the octave. A piano part is included as well. Highly recommended!

Duets for One - Rickard & CoxDuets for One arranged by Rickard and Cox

This book is crammed with 16 pieces that range Pachelbel’s Canon to Scarborough Fair. It is very flexible: the book itself has a melody and a harmony part, the CD has performances and separate parts as well. Not presented in a progressive order, it seems easier to just dot about and play what you fancy. Starting with the harmony part, there is then real incentive to improve and play the melody line. Great supplementary material.

For Intermediate Players

Light Aerobics - Clare SouthworthLight Aerobics by Clare Southworth

If you feel you need to zip up your flute technique, this book of exercises could be just the thing to give you a kick start. Each section follows the same format – principle, method, exercise and notes, allowing you to move at your own pace. Tone, finger work and articulation are all covered, together with rhythm and finding your singing voice. There is also material suitable for groups. Clare’s introduction tells you how to use the book to its best advantage, so get working!

Mighty Boom Ball Speaker Mighty Boom Ball Speaker

It’s really easy to record yourself on your smartphone now and this is a great way to see if you’ve improved. The Mighty Boom Ball is a natty little gadget which is small enough to fit on your keyring, but can turn almost any object into a loudspeaker. Suggestions range from a cardboard box or bike helmet to a picture frame or microwave – wherever you are, you will find something to convert in to a speaker!

For the more advanced:

Lefreque Sound BridgeLefreque Sound Bridge – Dutch original sound solution.

As used by Emily Beynon. If you would like to give your sound a real boost then this could be just the gadget for you. It consists of 2 small brass plates which attach with plastic strips to both the headjoint and the body of your flute. The improvement in sound is astonishing! This device really has to be tried to be believed.

Know The Score - Mark TannerKnow the Score by Mark Tanner

If you are thinking about taking a performance diploma that involves any sight-reading, this great little book will really help make the test seem easier. Mark Tanner has divided up the task into various bite-size elements, for example tempo, tonality and final polish, which help to organise the brain rather than scramble it. He guides you through the first pieces and then leaves you to your own devices. This is an excellent buy, even if an exam is not on the horizon.

Cecilia McDowall

Composer Profile: Cecilia McDowall

Cecilia McDowall

Cecilia McDowall

It is very unlikely that you will not know at least one piece by Cecilia McDowall – even if it is the very popular Comic Song from the ABRSM grade 4 book! She isn’t a flute player, but her father, Harold Clarke, was. He was principal flute at the Royal Opera House, and professor of flute at Trinity College of Music. So it is inevitable that Cecilia would write music for us, and write it well. She is completely woven into the flute fabric in the UK, with works on exam lists and commissions ranging from contemporary solo pieces to music for large flute ensembles.

Cecilia McDowall - Six Pastiches for Flute and PianoThe Comic Song actually comes from one of my favourite of her albums for emerging students. Six Pastiches for flute and piano is a book of little gems, each one having a quirky take on their individual title. For example, there is a disjointed “Hornpipe”, in which the tune appears almost but not quite as you would expect; the minor key “Comic Song” full of clown-like pathos; and a truly slapstick “Music Hall.” Easily accessible but full of scope for the imaginative pupil to explore the unusual, these are invaluable as both teaching and performing resources.

Three Concert Studies develops technique by the back-door – the “Chromatic Waltz” for chromatic scales, “Tongue in Cheek” for articulation patterns and “Spaces” for intervals. In a popular harmonic language, these are all very appealing. Soundtracks, another album of intermediate pieces, is worth having for the sumptuous Russian Encounter alone. The wonderful melody and off-beat accompaniment make this a winner!

The Moon Dances by Cecilia McDowallAt the other end of the spectrum, The Moon Dances, commissioned by Susan Milan, represents a serious challenge. Here McDowall uses contemporary techniques to evoke the colors with which to illustrate the “intense imagery of the Spanish poetry” – the inspiration behind these contrasting dances. The whole of the second movement, “Black with Shadows and Wolves”, involves the flute being played into the piano, resulting in a pervading veil of ghostly harmonics. Rhythmic complexity and drive characterize the outer movements “Paper Sea” and “Silver Coins and The Red Star Trembles”.

McDowall is greatly influenced by her Scottish background. Piper’s Dream draws inspiration from Celtic folk music, with the flute at times reflecting the sound of the bagpipes! Essentially a fantasy, the improvisatory style of writing creates a dream-like quality that eventually fades away into the mist.

Eleven by Cecilia McDowallAnother of her important works for flute and piano is Eleven, illustrating her ability to create a sound world distinctly foreign to the instruments used. It was written at the time of the troubles in Kosovo. She writes: “I became obsessed with what happens to a culture when it is dispersed due to war. ‘Eleven’ means ‘alive’ in Hungarian, and I dedicated it to all those in danger of losing their cultural identity, in the hope that they can keep their cultural ‘voice’ alive.” The mesmerising nature of the indigenous religious music of the region is graphically illustrated here, and the depiction of suffering is intense. The piano part is written to reinforce the sound of the cimbalom, and the improvisatory nature of the folk song writing for the flute adds to the passion. I think that this is one of her best pieces and is impossible not to be moved by the strength and depth of feeling underlying every nuance.

Her latest project is Crossing the Bridge, an exciting new work for flute orchestra, commissioned by Margaret Lowe for the National Flute Orchestra. A whole array of flutes feature – piccolo, 4 flutes in C, 2 alto flutes, bass flute and optional contra alto and contra bass flute. As she explains:

“The structure of the work is like that of a bridge. The short middle movement, ‘London Bridge’, spans the divide by taking the last phrase of ‘Mostar’ as its opening, exploring the darker tones of the lower instruments, and the first bar of ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ as its close. In this middle movement I took the old English song, London Bridge Is Falling Down, and played around with it, sharing it between the instruments, until it ‘falls down’. The opening movement, ‘Mostar’, refers to the old single arch stone bridge in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which became such a symbol of peace and hope in the late 1990s. In the outer sections of this movement the flutes explore the characteristic ‘fall’ at the end of the phrase which is quite a feature of some middle European music. The central section is lively and has a whirling, folk-dance feel to it. At the time Brooklyn Bridge was built (1883) it was one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. It connects Manhattan with Brooklyn across the East River, always busy with traffic, and has a powerful presence on the New York skyline. The third movement of Crossing the Bridge is one of perpetual motion, opening with a bright, staccato texture, and is in the shape of a palindrome or arch. (Appropriate, I hope, for a piece about bridges!) It is restless and energetic, driving full speed to its final cut off.”

If you add to all of this Seven Impressions for piccolo and piano, and Winter Music for wind quintet, you start to understand how important the flute is in the life of Cecilia McDowall. Her father has a lot to answer for and we are in his debt!