Monthly Archives: March 2013

Have a Curriculum for your students!

It is that time of year again when flute students and their teachers start thinking about the  end of the year recital. Many times over the course of my flute teaching career I have had colleagues ask for me for recommendations for “recital pieces” for their students.

Frankly this request has always puzzled me. Why would you need to choose a “recital piece” for your students? You as a flute teacher should ALREADY have that done BEFORE you even start teaching!!! You as a teacher should in my opinion have a curriculum set up for all for your students….. if you have a progressive set of repertoire pieces that all of your students must learn there is no need to have to choose a “recital” piece for them…. it will be obvious!

Most college and conservatory flute departments have such a thing! It sometimes is even published in their catalogues or online. Many years ago when I taught at the Boston Conservatory’s Division of Special Programs( their Prep Division) I made a curriculum for all of my students which I followed with everybody! Why not do that for your students too??? It certainly solves this  problem for you….

Of course  I let students choose what they want for their recital pieces…. but it has to come from what they have studied during their regular lessons or has to be a piece that is included in my curriculum ( or sometimes in the case of an advanced students another but  similar piece). Below you can find some suggestions for an sketchy curriculum for students….. which perhaps many of you can use a a guideline for making your own.

Beginner students

Method Book(such as Suzuki Book 1 or Rubank Beginner Book)

tone studies  appropriate for  their level write them out or teach by rote

scale studies appropriate for their levelwrite them out or teach them by rote

Repertoire such as the Suzuki Book 1 or Forty Little Pieces for Beginner Flutists

Intermediate Students

Method Book ( such as Suzuki Book 2/3 or Rubank Intermediate/Advanced  Book)

Etudes such as from  “Melodious and Progressive Studies for Flutists ” edited by Robert Cavally

Scales studies such as the  “Pares Scales”

Repertoire if not in Suzuki Book 2/3/4 from “24 Short Concert Pieces for Flute and Piano” edited by Robert Cavally or sometimes the easier Handel or Blavet Sonatas ( easier sonatas from Telemann or other Baroque composers can be included here as well)


Advanced Students

Etudes from Berbquier, Andersen op.33, 41, 63 or 15 ,  or Altes

tone studies from Marcel Moyse “Tone Development through Interpretation” or the “De La Sonorite” or Trevor Wye Practice Book 1″ Tone”

scale studies from Taffanel-Gaubert”17 Big Daily Excercises”, Reichert studies, or Marcel Moyse Daily Excersises

Orchestra studies from Jeanne  Baxtresser Books

Duets from Kuhlau etc

Repertoire such as Handel Sonatas, Bach Sonatas and the Partita, Sonatas by Hindemith, Poulenc, Concerti such as Mozart, Quantz, Ibert, French repetoire from the Compliation by Louis Moyse of Faure, Enesco, etc.. solo flute repertoire such as Debussy Syrinx, Honegger “Dance de la Chevre” etc Boehm “Nel Cor Piu”, Schubert “Arpegggione Sonata or Variations, Dutilleux “Sonatine” Jolivet’ Chant de Linos” etc

The idea here is not to copy my Curriculum (which is not my complete one by any means!) but to give you all some suggestions to make up your  own. If you want to include things such as Ian Clarke’s compositions or Robert Dick’s by all means do! But Have a curriculum for your students!!! This way the choice is not for your or them to have to scramble at this time of year to find a “recital” piece as if it existed in the air for you to catch….. it will be evident to you and them what their choices are….. especially if you publish this for your studio in advance…. which I suggest you do.

Have fun… Spring is almost here! No stress  should  comes form this process! Just enjoy it and so will your students! If you plan this ahead of time with a curriculum already set up….  it should be easy!



Dynamics— when do you teach it?

I recently was asked the question when to teach young flute students how to play with dynamics. I actually don’t work with my students on dynamics until they are quite advanced. And I thought it might be useful to explain why. So here  it is is. Julius Baker who was one of my private flute teachers used to feel very strongly that  the development of a good strong tone on every note was the most important aspect that students needed to develop. This takes time for young students to achieve. Practicing notes with equality of sound from each note to the next means that young students need to have developed their control of the entire range of the instrument. Even Suzuki Book 2 does not use the highest notes of the flute in any of the songs in that level and , although students do have to add notes in the third register to their fingering of songs in that book…. the highest notes  are not introduced there at all. It takes at least several years for most students to be able to really control that third octave. Tthe development of vibrato should be also be included in the development of equality of tone on every note. And although many students do develop a natural vibrato without me having to teach it to them… they still have to learn to control it before I can say that they can play with equality of tone on every note throughout the entire range of the instrument. Most young flute students take quite a bit of time to conquer  these aspects of flute playing. When students can play throughout the entire range of the flute  with good control  equality  of tone and with a suitable vibrato on every note, I believe they are ready to add dynamic control into their lexicon of playing. By this point students will usually have developed the muscles of thier mouth enough so that they can control every note on the flute through out the range of the instrument. Muscles take time to grow strong. And Many beginning students need several years for all this to take place. If you try to add dynamics into their playing before they have mastered all of the above aspects of good flute playing many times if not all times the muscles and the control of the sound will not be suitably developed so that students can reliably play in tune with good tone and good intonation. In fact they will be able to play loud and soft… but most of the time  it will be by blowing less or blowing more instead of using their facial muscles to perform the dynamical control. In my opinion, this is not a good thing because intonation most often will not be good without  muscle control performing the dynamic changes. Blowing less or blowing more only will make a student sharp or flat…. which is not the outcome we want for our students. Of course we could have them roll in or out… lift their heads…. etc etc… to control the resulting pitch problems which will inevitable occur when they try to play loud by blowing harder or soft by blowing less…. but real control comes with using the muscles of the embouchure to do this. For all these reasons, I do not advocate teaching young students to play with dynamics at all. Instead I encourage the development of a good, large sound with vibrato through out the range of the flute  before heading off into the dynamic territory. Of course there are also exceptionally talented students who can control their tone early… then I will teach them dynamics… but that situation in my experience is a rare commodity and I usually do not get into dynamics until most of my students are in Suzuki Book 3 where exercises to control dynamics are actually introduced. If anyone has any comments to the contrary….please don’t hesitate to add some comments to this discussion….. I look forward to some lively exchanges! Judy

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