Flute/Flute Playing


Hi! I have a problem similar to a previous question, I have a chair test tomorrow for flute and I am really sick, I am having a lot of trouble getting certain notes out like "f"s and my tone quality is awful. Is there anything I can do to help get out some of the harder notes?

Hi, Jillian!
Oh, isn't that the worst luck ever?  It's almost like a corollary to Murphy's Law.  If you are going to get sick, you will be sure to do it just before an audition!

It is bad enough that auditions make us all nervous anyway.  Then add to that, being sick, which stifles your breathing, and re-routes your focus to how rotten you feel, rather than how beautiful the music is that you will play.

If I had a virtual "you are fine now" pill, and a "you will ace your audition" pill, I would definitely be popular here on AllExperts.  Oh drat, though, I don't! So I'll have to give you the virtual chicken soup of "grandmotherly advice."

(I do not know what level you are on, or how long you have been playing.  I am not sure what your skill level is, but I can tell a small amount by the way you asked the question.)

"The day before audition" is almost too late to ask for technical advice.  Most of that requires a new technique, and lots of practice to develop.  So let's try another tactic instead.  Let's conquer some of your worry.  Let's develop a "musical test-taking strategy."  Then focus on how to feel better as much as possible before your "debut."

Did you practice regularly?  If you can answer an honest YES, you have little to worry about.  Even sick, you can rely on your body to play much like you have trained it to play.  

Who is judging at the audition?  If it is a band director, or somebody in your group, or school, chances are they already know how you play, for the most part.  An audition just gives you a chance to show them some of the extra skills you have, that they may not have been aware of by hearing you play on a daily basis.  Your best strategy is to focus on playing the music, and enjoying it.  While you are playing, do not let your mind wander to other worries.  Just play the music, and be one with it.

I guarantee that your judge, or judges, will be experienced enough to be able to tell how much of your playing is due to being sick, or if it is a genuine need to develop more skills.

Try to think on these things, and dispell as much of the worry and anxiety as you can.  Get a good night's rest, and use whatever remedies you can that bring comfort, and easier breathing, to you while you are sick.

If you want to try those pesky high notes, they may come out better if you push the air with your tummy muscles.  If you are not able to do that, there is an unprofessional way to think of whacking out notes you can't get otherwise.  I have done it in desperation once or twice.  I stretch my neck like a big ol' goose, and BLOW.  I don't recommend this, but if there is NO OTHER WAY, and you have to make that note, hey, whatever works.  And be sure to try it before you go into the audition room.  But for the next time, try to get yourself and your flute in shape, and make those notes the right way, OK?

To summarize, do this.  Work on conquering some of your excess nervous anxiety.  Calm down.  Give one last ditch effort (one more practice) to get notes that give you trouble.  Be sure you are rested, and try to feel better if you can.  At the audition, do your best to focus on the music, and NOTHING ELSE.  After that, let everything fall into place by itself.  If you do well, WONDERFUL!  If you don't, get busy practicing, and learning, and prepare for the next audition.  You will be fabulous!

My best to you, sweetie.  I'll say my prayers, too.  


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Denise J. Sipe


These are the topics I CAN answer... How to play, from beginner to professional. Tips and tricks, breathing, auxilliary fingering techniques Tone Quality Listening--Developing your ears Technique --Bringing the notes up and off of the page, and making them "your own music". Playing solo, small groups, bands, orchestras Digitally reproduced, vs live accompaniment Accompanying vocalists, dancers, other instrumentals.


Soloist, small groups, large marching bands, symphony orchestras, stage bands and orchestras, theater, church music, jazz, classical, folk music

I'm independent. But professionals have often hired me to play in their groups. Giving back to the community where I played in the High School Band, I am a former member of Williamsport, MD Community Band, a current member of New Horizons Band in Hagerstown, MD, and Bass Flute Player for the TOOT UNCOMMON FLUTES flute choir of Williamsport, MD. I often perform solo as "Toot Uncommon" and had a web-based business where I sold flutes of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The show is uncommon. The locations are often uncommon. And the variety of musical instruments is definitely uncommon! I am a member of NFA, the National Flute Association.

I didn't write for any publications. I leave that up to the more elite musicians.

This should have been my career. I am an engineer,and a trained professional clown. But my music is my passion. Flute is my favorite, though I also play many woodwinds and some brass. I am currently playing percussion in a volunteer concert band, and have drum corps experience, where I often played marching bass drum. I am totally self-taught. But I have often played in groups made up mostly of professionals. All in all I am still the area's best-kept secret.

Awards and Honors
Biggest honor of my career was playing an emotional piece, and looking out over the audience. Two big, tough construction workers had tears rolling down their cheeks.

Past/Present Clients
I've been teaching beginning and intermediate flute/piccolo students of all ages in MD and PA since the early 1970s.

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