Technique is one of the more straightforward aspects of playing the flute, and relatively easy to teach. As with every other aspect of playing, it does need to be monitored carefully as students develop. Probably the most important thing to monitor regarding technique is the student’s set up with regards to balancing the flute and left and right hand positions. This makes all the difference to long term success for building useful flute technique for kids. And, of course, that the students are using the correct fingerings, i.e., 1st finger up for middle D and Eb, using right hand little finger for everything except D, right hand third finger for F#, correct high note fingerings (they are all different, see The 5 Most Common Fingering Mistakes)
We all know scale and arpeggio exercises are essential. In my own studio, I introduce scales and arpeggios as soon as the student knows Bb and can play all the naturals from low F to middle F. Depending on what flute method I’m using, the first scale students learn is either F or Bb major. I prefer to use method books that introduce flats and sharps equally. (My favorites for working with band kids are the Gekeler Flute Method and the Flute Student books by Fred Weber and Douglas Steensland. There are also really good flute specific methods available now, notably by Kathy Blocki, inventor of the PneumoPro, and Patricia George/Phyllis Louke). So the order of learning scales becomes F, C, G, Bb, D, Eb, A, Ab, E, Db, B, Gb/F#. As students learn the scales, we always review them in circle of fifths/fourths order so kids get functional harmony in their ear, even if they haven’t got a clue about music theory. So, for example, if we are learning Bb, we will play G, C, F and Bb so our ear is grounded in Bb for all the melodies we will play at the lesson in Bb. Likewise, if we are working on the key of D, we will review scales starting on Bb, F, C, G and then D, which nicely sets us up for the D major tunes we are studying.
If you have an organized way of introducing both flat and sharp keys, students can be playing all twelve major scales and arpeggios one octave within the first year of playing. I also strongly encourage you to have students read notes rather than just note names when practicing scales and arpeggios. It really reinforces key awareness to have them also play simple melodies in the keys they study. Depending on how quickly the students assimilate the third octave fingerings, you can expand scale and arpeggio practice to two octaves. It might take two to three years to get to the point where they can play all twelve scales two octaves, but when the students have that kind of technical mastery, they will have tools for dealing with more advanced band/orchestra literature, MEA audition etudes and solo repertoire.
If you find these entries useful, please subscribe, share with your colleagues and come back regularly. Feel free to comment. If you have a topic you would like to see explored more fully, you can contact me via IM/Messenger on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about clinics, workshops and performances, click here
Woohoo! Thanks, Cate, for stating where the envelope really is for young players, and for noting the method books. I have gotten some blank looks when I relate that beginning students can have several scales in their toolbox in the first year. I blame the “one band book for all lessons” for a lot of this. I have used the Student series for over 40 years, and if it had the materials, CD etc., that the others have, it would be even more relevant.
LikeLiked by 1 person