How to learn really difficult music

How to learn really difficult musicWhen I was in high school, I thought the most difficult piece of flute music in the world was Chant de Linos by Jolivet. I played snippets of it here and there, but had not learnt, nor even dared try to play, the whole thing.

By the time I started university, I still believed Chant de Linos to be the most difficult piece of flute music ever written. By then I had already decided I would perform it for my final piece in my final recital in my final year. Can you tell I was a little obsessed by this piece?

Gradually over the years I played more and more snippets of this really difficult music, and finally it was time to learn the whole thing properly.

At some point while learning this piece, I had a breakthrough.  [Read more…]

Learning new music: Do you start with notes or musical expression?

Learning new music: Notes or expression first?When you are learning a new piece of music, most logical people start by learning the notes first. This is what you’ll do first off when you sight-read the music, but what do you think is the best way to process from there?

Personally I like to learn both the notes and expression at the same time.

The problem with focusing on the notes first, is if your music is technically challenging, it could be weeks or even months of perfecting the notes and getting them up to a standard where you feel you can relax with them before moving on to adding expression and emotion.  [Read more…]

How to play vibrato on flute

how to play vibrato on the fluteThis is an excerpt from my book, Essential Advice From A Pro: For The Beginner And Intermediate Flute Player, which basically contains years of lessons with me condensed into one book with great easy-to-implement tips on playing:

Vibrato can be fast, it can be slow, it can be wide, and it can be narrow. We need to be able to produce a combination of all these variables to make our music wonderfully expressive.

What is vibrato?

Ask five different flute teachers this and you will get five different answers. Some say it is produce by the diaphragm, some say it is produced by the abdominal muscles, some say it is produced in the throat, some say it is simply the pitch wavering up and down, and some say it is the volume going from loud to soft very quickly.  [Read more…]

Musical Expression

musical expressionMusic is such a subjective thing to assess. The technical ability to play the instrument, the right notes, and get a decent sound are all objective, but when it comes to music performance, musical expression is subjective. It is personal preference whether people will enjoy what you do or not.

I don’t know why this is, but for some reason, musical expression seems to be the hardest thing to teach. It is easy to teach someone how to get a sound out of an instrument, how to play the notes, and how to play them in the right order at the right time to get a tune. But to get a tune to sound like music is another thing altogether.

What is musical expression?

[Read more…]

How Today’s Technology Can Improve Your Musicianship

How today's technology can improve your musicianshipI’ve been teaching since the year 2000, and obviously started learning way before that… in the early 1980s. Looking back, and while teaching now, I can see just how great modern technology is for musicians.  [Read more…]

How To Practise Fast Music For Smooth Even Playing

How to practise fast music for smooth even playingI find that when faced with technically challenging fast music, most students will attempt to learn it simply by playing it over and over again. Unfortunately this is not the most efficient method if your fumbling fingers are making a mess of things.

Today I’d like to share with you my secret weapon on how to practise fast music for smooth even playing.

This method was taught to me by my first flute teacher, and whenever I have been stuck with technically challenging passages, this technique 100% guarantees improvement!  [Read more…]

Stretches for Flute Players and Wind Musicians

When I was studying flute at university, so many students had to take time off due to injury. I also had to take several months off playing once I had finished my final exams. This could have easily been avoided if we all knew how to look after our bodies better.

Musicians need to learn a few simple stretches so they can survive hours of practise, hours of rehearsals, and hours of performances.

I put together this short video with my super simple stretches for flute players and wind musicians. [Read more…]