My Flute Teaching Methodology and Philosophy

My Flute Teaching Methodology and PhilosophyI thought it might be interesting, and maybe even useful for potential students and future teachers, if I gave a brief on my flute teaching methodology and my philosophy as a flute teacher.

As a flute student, I was often told how to play: Where to play loudly, where to play softly, when to add vibrato or remove it, which pieces to play for exams and so on. It wasn’t until towards the end of my high school playing years that I started to think for myself about how I liked the music I played to sound, and it wasn’t until university that I finally understood how to add genuine expression into the music.

I find most flute students who come to me after learning from other teachers are like how I was – they find it easier to play technically well than to play with musicianship and expression.

I think it is very important for people to think for themselves, form their own opinions, and have their own ideas and preferences when listening and playing music (and in any aspect of life, really). Based on my own experiences, and my philosophy of independent thinking, I like to instil a sense of ownership in my students. 

I do this for all students – even the littlies as young as 6 years old enjoy choosing their own pieces, working out what they need to practise more, deciding how they would like to add dynamics and expression.

I enjoy letting students choose their own pieces. Even when they have set works for exams, I suggest they listen to recordings of as many pieces as possible – and it’s so easy these days with YouTube and iTunes – and selecting works that they enjoy listening to. They know their choices are not set in stone, and they can change their mind later if they decide they’d rather learn something else.

At the start of each lesson, I usually guide the student through a warm up, followed by some scales (one of my students had no idea there was a scale book available as I asked to her memorise scales from the beginning, thereby eliminating the sense that some key signatures are more difficult than others), and after that my first question is always, “Which piece would you like to look at first?”

Putting this ownership on the student lets them know their interests are taken care of, and I find that all students start with something they’ve been focusing on over the past week. They know they are better off working through something harder or presenting something they’ve been working on, rather than going through easy pieces in the lessons. I find it amazing that even my students under 10 grasp the concept that the lessons are a great place for learning and improving, and they take full advantage of this. I really believe this is due to be given ownership and me acting as a guide rather than a boss in the lessons.

I ask plenty of questions during lessons – How do you think that should sound? What’s your favourite recording of this piece? Do you want to try it different ways and decide what sounds best? By asking questions, I am allowing the student to think about the music and be active in their decisions about how they would like it to sound. By doing this, they learn not just technique, but musical expression as well.

Of course, I give plenty of instruction when it comes to how to practise, how to learn, and how to improve technique (see this post on my secret weapon to learning fast pieces). But my aim is not to be a boss. My aim is to simply guide the student through the musical process so they can improve.

While this method might sound like it is only suited to mature students, I am always surprised that it works well for young children and adults alike. It makes me smile to know that all my students are thinking about their music, and getting more knowledge and enjoyment because of their active thought process.

If you are thinking about having lessons with me, this is how you will learn too. If you are a music teacher, or planning on teaching in the future, I hope my music teaching philosophy has been interesting for you 🙂

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