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Flute/No motivation to practise


In October a new woodwind teacher - who is primarily a clarinet teacher. He has no experience of flute/oboe/bassoon. He has 'learnt' how to play the flute though he's definitely more suited to clarinet...
Since he has started he has not given me any challenging pieces AT ALL, he keeps wanting to work on the basic things - slight pitch issues, tone etc - even though it's pointless as the main problem is due to my braces( which should be coming off in a few weeks!) I'd understand if I wanted to go on and study music, but I want to just enjoy playing challenging pieces. He is keeping me behind on simpler pieces so I can 'learn' how to play even though i'm quite sure I know how to play. He's been giving harder pieces to the other flutists to play so it's not like he simply doesn't have pieces to give, just me. The pieces he has given me have all been Grade 2-3, with my previous teacher I was at Grade 5/6. As they are so simple, I never have the time to practise as I have so much work to do academically and I can sight-read them in my lesson near perfect. At first I thought he just wanted to perfect those techniques but now it feels as if he is preventing my progress compared to other pupils.

Hi, Jeo.
I thought long and hard before I attempted to answer your question.  I have read it over a number of times.  I am not sure if you are meaning a teacher at school, or if you have a private instructor, to whom you are referring.

If this is a private teacher, you are paying them to help you.  So you could possibly discuss it politely with them.  If this is a school teacher, however, talking will probably not change anything.  Either way, the most important thing to do in this situation is WHATEVER IT TAKES, NEVER, NEVER LOSE YOUR MOTIVATION TO PRACTICE!  (I know this from experience.  Motivation is a fleeting thing.  If you ever let go of it, you can't make it come back without a lot of pain and sweat, pushed by raw determination.  None of that is fun.  But, practicing when you do have motivation is extremely fun and rewarding.)

Pitch problems are a reality on every instrument.  Multiple flutes sound awful together if they all have different pitch problems.  I make a "map" of my pitch problems, especially if I am playing a new flute.  I use my guitar tuner, and make a chart of all the notes I will be playing.  Then I blow, watching the tuner.  I mark each note in the chart sharp or flat, and by how much.  Then I correct, trying to automatically play my scales into the tuner, keeping that pesky little light green the entire time.  Also, I like holding out long notes, and trying to keep the green light on as long as possible.  And playing staccato, marcato, and pianissimo, and fortissimo notes.  Watch the lil' green light.  If everybody in the flute section did that, pitch problems solved.

You can practice pitch, and tone quality now, and just improve on it when your braces come off.  Tell you what, I have a lot of sympathy for you, my friend, because I had to do rehearsals a couple of times recently, with the worst toothache in the world, or so it seemed!  It does change an embouchure somewhat.  But it is not that much to overcome.

OK, now the HEAVY ADVICE you NEED MOST OF ALL.  You want to feel challenged, thereby encouraged to practice.  If your teacher is making you feel discouraged, and boring you with simplistic pieces that make you say, "Ho. Hum.  Boring..." Don't let him be in charge of your emotions that way!  There is something you can do about it.  If the music you are "given" is, in your opinion, more suitable for lining the bottom of a birdcage, so what?  Surprise him.  Take it and say, "thank you."  Then you can use it for warmup stuff.  Here is a game to play with it before you fold it into origami.  Try to play it all on pitch.  Try to play with excellent purity of tones.  And then, use ALL THE TECHNIQUES in your skills set, to make this music sound so beautiful, that you can fool your audiences into thinking it is really hard music!  Cover that "boring" music with skill and PASSION!  And put on a showbiz face.  Never let the teacher know that it is really crap, and you wanna make a paper airplane out of it!  Play it in such a way that he'll cry for the beauty of it!  You can DO IT!

But that is not all that you can do.  Remember, I said this is only warmup stuff.  I am not sure about where you live, but here in the states I know of many, many flute conventions, and flute fairs, and such like, where you can interact with all sorts of flutists, try out various flutes, AND LOOK THROUGH TONS OF NEW MUSIC WITH DISCOUNT PRICES because you are at a festival or convention!  This is what I do.  I had a teacher like you described two times during my public school years.  I bought my own music, which was very challenging to me.  I worked for endless happy hours on it.  I warmed up on the stuff for class.  Then laid it aside, and went after the real stuff that I bought for my own enjoyment. That was even before computers.  Now, all you need is an internet search!

Another thing you can do, is interact, if possible, with the other flutists around you.  They may share their difficult pieces with you.  And it is also fun to work up duets, trios, and quartets with other flute players.  I do this, and it really does bring the fun back into practicing.  In fact, if we did not live so far apart, I would practice with you myself!

Thank you for sharing your question with me.  I'll be wondering what difficult piece you will be working on next!


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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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