Effortless Octaves While Lying on the Floor

I originally wrote this post back in July of 2012, and I vividly remember being in New York and practicing in my room on this day! (I don't think I would've remembered it if I hadn't taken the time to write it down here.)

Since I'm currently thinking about octaves and tapers, this felt like the perfect time to dig up this old, but relevant post!

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I decided to really work on tone today until I actually noticed an improvement that I could describe in words.

I have played while lying on the floor in Body Mapping lessons to note how reducing effort can increase resonance and ease for breathing.

Semi-Supine Position


Today's revelations while practicing on the floor...


  • "Feel air entering through the nose or mouth and let the rest take care of itself."

  • I find myself trying to help my body move to inhale, but it just leads to tension and awkward movements. My body does a better job taking air in when I get out of the way and simply observe the journey the air takes.

  • Alexander Technique teachers suggest placing a book under your head when lying in this position. Without the book, I was very much aware of airway restriction. With the book raising my head a couple inches, I noticed an improvement in breathing and ease in the neck.


I was inspired by Jasmine Choi's Paganini Caprice this morning, specifically her flawless octave tapers!

Her playing is always effortless and stunning!


While lying on the floor, I used just my headjoint to see how effortless I could make my own octave changes. I noticed that I was the least successful when I used the most effort.


  • My habit was to move my jaw forward and pull my lips back.
  • When I inhibited this extra effort, I realized that I made the change in my aperture instead:
    • I noticed my aperture getting smaller and I became aware of the air moving beneath the center of my upper lip. (Never noticed that before!)


Simplifying my movements to focus on only the necessary effort of the aperture worked like magic. I stood up and added my headjoint to the rest of my flute.

Octave tapers were now so easy that they actually became fun!


Turn inspiration into intention: 


  • how effortless can my tapers be?

  • how effortless can octaves be?


March Technique Challenge: Reichert

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In honor of a new month and the arrival of Spring, here's a new Technique Challenge to dive deeper into Reichert's Seven Daily Exercises, Op. 5!


first things first...

Reichert's exercises are available as a print version through most flute sheet music retailers.

They are also available as a free, downloadable PDF through IMSLP:


  • As with previous technique challenges, I've provided a practice guide filled with suggestions for practicing each of these exercises. They include varied articulations, styles, tips, and questions for self-observation.


  • If you are new to these exercises, no need to rush and risk learning mistakes. Consider this a chance to ingrain ease and your best sound at a comfortable tempo. 


  • Always make use of a metronome and record your markings. Should you choose to utilize the Practice Tracker below, you may find it useful to record your metronome markings there.



  • Set an intention or goal for your work with these exercises. (Remember that intentions are overall ideas that can be brought into every practice session. Goals are more specific and measurable. Both are important!)

Here are some examples:

  • Intentions:
    • Ingrain Ease
    • Observe Physical Movements
    • Always Think Musically
    • Allow Natural Breath
  • Goals:
    • Apply Compound Triple Tonguing to Number One
    • Complete Number Two in One Breath at Quarter Note Equals 60
    • Memorize Number 4
    • Practice Each on Piccolo with Drone


Practice Videos

  • I will be sharing my own practice videos on Instagram and Facebook! Please feel free to join in, and be sure to tag me (@joleneflute)!



  • Since there are 7 exercises, I will be posting one per day beginning on Friday, March 2nd.
  • Once I post practice videos of the first seven exercises, I'll continue to practice one Reichert per day in order for the rest of the month! You're encouraged to post as many or as few videos as you'd like!
  • P.S. For week two, I'll be doing these on piccolo! 

Happy Practicing!

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The Secret to Nailing Difficult Runs [Video]

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I recently received a message from a flutist on Instagram. She is preparing for an audition and having a hard time nailing particular runs in her piece, despite having spent a lot of time practicing slowly.


In addition to just practicing slowly to learn the notes and ingrain muscle memory, there are a few extra dimensions to slow practice that I find crucial when it comes to effortless technique.


Watch the video below to find out the Secret to Nailing Difficult Runs!


(Samples played from Karg-Elert's Sonata Appassionata, Op.140 for Solo Flute)


1. Mental and Physical Influence (0:38)

2. Replacing Doubt with Positive Alternatives (0:58)

3. 3 Ways to Practice to Observe the Startle Response in the Body (1:33)

4. The Whole Picture Surrounds a Musical Intention (4:53)




9 Essential Pieces of Advice for Music Majors

I had wonderful experiences as an undergrad and graduate music major. Reflecting on my own experience, these are the things I would tell my younger self knowing what I know now.

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1. Take Opportunities While They’re There

There are a lot of them when you’re in school and attached to a program. You may have already heard that you should “take advantage of every opportunity,” and it’s true. Once you graduate, it can become increasingly difficult to come by opportunities to network and build your resume.

If you’re slammed with too many opportunities at once, use your best judgement to say “no” to things that aren’t worth your time and energy. Be as forward-thinking as you can to pursue opportunities that will benefit you both now and in the future.

If I could go back in time, I would take advantage of competitions and auditions while I had the support of my teachers and colleagues, as well as easier access to recital halls, recording equipment, and experienced collaborative pianists. 

2. Create Your Own Opportunities

While you’re in school and have the support of faculty and colleagues, go after your own vision and create opportunities that speak to you! Start an ensemble, dive deeper into your area of research, or start a side hustle while you’re surrounded by potential clients.

Start trying and experimenting. You don’t have to wait until you come up with the most unique vision in the world to begin developing your own unique voice. Your personal endeavors can and will change over time, so take the plunge and start exploring!


3. Keep Your Lesson Notes, if Nothing Else

While practicing on my own after graduating, I frequently pull out old lesson notes and practice journals to be reminded of the most important ideas my teachers shared with me. Your future self will thank you for recording this information in great detail. (Bonus points from your future self if you're well-organized!)


4. Be Efficient With Your Time While Waiting for a Practice Room, Or Adapt to a new Practice Schedule

As an undergrad, I attended a school that had just about a dozen practice rooms (with a lot more than a dozen students wanting to practice.) There was almost always a line for the practice rooms, so I'd do homework or mental practice while waiting.

While I love using 20 minutes to work on something between tasks these days, in school, you could sit there waiting for 20 minutes without ever getting into a room. To ensure I could practice and touch my instrument before my lessons and rehearsals, I ended up adapting my routine to one that allowed me to thrive (although it seems crazy to me now!):

I would wake up by 5:00 in the morning to complete assignments that were due that same day (sometimes earlier if I had a lot of work do), then, I'd get to a practice room as soon as the building opened and practiced until the dining hall opened for breakfast. After that, classes began, and my schedule was usually packed until the late afternoon. I often wouldn't get back to practicing until later in the evening before or after dinner, but I'd always be back in my dorm room by 10:00 to wind down and watch the Golden Girls! (Some things never change!)


5. Get Recordings of Your Performances

Many music schools record recitals and ensemble performances and allow you access to a copy. In grad school, there were times I procrastinated getting particular recordings and I never ended up getting a copy before I graduated. 

If I could go back in time, I would carve out the time to go get myself a copy of the concerts where I had the chance to play solos and excerpts from major orchestral repertoire in addition to solo and chamber recitals.


6. While You're At It, Get To Know the Perks and Resources of Your School and Take Advantage of Them

Does your school have a music library or a dedicated music selection? Go explore and take advantage of the resources! (Don't wait until you have an assignment that requires it like I did!) Does your school have career counseling or guidance? (Go ask them what-on-Earth kind of job you should be looking for once you graduate like I wish I had.)

Do they offer resume assistance? Gig listings? Entrepreneurial workshops? Grants or competitions? Early music ensembles? Discounts or free anything? Especially free or discounted concerts and other live performances? Stop and read the posters!


7. Cultivate Community and Extend Your Network

As an introvert, the word “networking” has always frightened me. However, saying yes to social opportunities during school can be just as important as participating in performance and educational ones. The more people you connect with in school, the bigger your support system will be after graduating.  

If in-person interacting is difficult for you, use social media to your advantage. Friend and follow your colleagues’ pages and support their endeavors. They’re more likely to notice you if you’re interacting positively, and if you run into them in-person, you’ll have something to talk about!


8. Enjoy Your "Academic" Music Courses

Courses like Music Theory and Music History are extremely important for enriching your performing artistry and teaching skills, but the coursework can be dense and demanding while you're juggling everything else. If you’re struggling in one of these courses, apply what you’re learning directly to your own instrument.

Because I went into my music degree without any background beyond playing my own instrument (or any intent on becoming a music major before I got there), I felt like a fish out of water in many of the academic music courses. Bringing flute into it helped me feel more comfortable and confident while learning, and allowed me to apply new dimensions to my performance right away.
  • If you’re about learning about seventh chords on paper, start memorizing them on your instrument.
  • Practice singing solfège using your etudes.
  • Practice analyzing chords using your current solo or orchestral repertoire. 


If your're really struggling, ask for help. Your teacher is a teacher because they want to help you learn. Take advantage of their office hours and get one-on-one help. You can also start a study group to help and support your classmates!


Side Note: If you have to take general academic courses for credit that you're simply not interested in, consider it an opportunity to practice focus and efficiency - another skill that will help you later on. Also, apply anything you're learning to your instrument to make it more interesting. See number two: this could enhance your unique point of view in a new and insteresting way!

9. When You Graduate, Things Might get Hard, But It Doesn’t Have to Stay That Way

After you graduate, there’s a good chance you’ll get a job that isn’t related to music. You are not a failure. If you fall into a low place with your instrument while working an outside job, remember that your degree is still valid.

You haven’t stopped learning and you’re not going backwards - you’re just going slower. (Especially compared to being in school, when you’re going lightning speed for a few years in a row).

Learning to grow slower is all in the attitude - appreciate the process! Continue refining fundamentals a little bit each day. Listen to music as often as possible. Go see live performances. Find out what inspires you the most, and lean into that in your own way.

How I Practice Using the Pomodoro Technique + The Most Effective Practice Journal For You [+ Video]

Last week, I had a lot on my plate with work and taking care of tasks around the house. On Friday, though, I finally had loads of free time, and I was beyond excited to dive into a day a of thoughtful practicing! On a whim, I decided to write out my intentions for the day and shared it in my Instagram story.

I used the Pomodoro Technique to help me focus, and before I knew it, I had practiced for three productive hours! 

I decided to keep sharing my journal for the rest of the day, and it really got me thinking about practicing efficiently and how I use my own practice journal now, plus other ways I’ve approached them over the years.

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Watch the full video here!


The Pomodoro Technique (0:47)

The Pomodoro Technique is essentially a method using a timer to stay focused and productive while eliminating burnout. They recommend 25 minutes followed by intentional breaks.

I set a timer for 25 minutes, and went forth practicing.

I didn’t write anything down until after. This let me totally focus on playing for the 25 minutes. When the timer went off, I was ready for a break – I took a few seconds to write, then did some stretching, laid in constructive rest, watched TV, etc.

I wasn’t tracking the number of minutes I spent on each task – I was just putting in what I worked on during my 25 minutes, plus anything that I noticed that I thought would be useful to me in picking up tomorrow.

All-in-all, this method helped me practice effectively and mindfully for a total of three hours without feeling fatigued or frustrated.


  • When Your Goals Stop You Before You Start (1:47)

Set yourself up for success by avoiding a huge, unattainable to-do list before you've even started.

Read all about how I changed my own issue what that here: How I Learned to Put Paralyzing Perfection Aside and Improve a Little Bit Each Day Instead


  • Intentions vs. Goals (3:14)

    • Intentions are ongoing ideas to carry with you through your practice session.
    • Goals are the individual, specific tasks to accomplish.

It's a good idea to include both!


  • Several Mini-Sessions vs. One Long Session (4:09)

For me, attempting to complete an entire practice session in one large chunk with a few smaller breaks in between feels overwhelming. I often become frustrated and give up when I set this expectation.

I'm now intentional about practicing in multiple phases throughout the day to have time away to rest and feel refreshed before coming back.


Put your instrument down during breaks, even quick ones in between tasks. If you're prone to developing pain or discomfort, give your arms and hands a rest before you feel like you need a break.


  • When to Do What During Mini-Sessions (5:33)

You can get to your tone, technique, etudes, and repertoire over the course of your mini-sessions throughout the day, or you can go for all four in each mini-session!

Practice Journals (6:09)


  • Checklists + Free Practice Tracker (6:30)

    • If making a to-do list before practicing motivates you, do that.
    • If making a to-do list overwhelms you from practicing at all, don't do that.
  • If having a single, sprawling list of what you've accomplished each day for a month holds you accountable, a Practice Tracker like this one is for you!

Most Useful Information to Include in Your Practice Journal (7:36)


1. Metronome Markings (8:17)

Track your progress with technique, repertoire, breath capacity... you'll want to know where you were yesterday to work a little bit faster or slower today.


2. The Most Difficult Keys or Two-Note Patterns in Your Exercises (8:57)

If you played a technique exercise in several keys and one key was a train wreck, write it down. You might forget which one it was tomorrow. If you don't do any of the other keys tomorrow to save time, just do the train wreck key. 

Doing what needs work is the only way to improve!


3. The Measures in Repertoire That Will Need More Work Next Time (9:51)

The exact same idea as the above, but related to repertoire.

When you come back tomorrow, you'll want to know which bars were a train wreck yesterday. Be efficient by focusing just on those bars instead of starting over with the whole thing.


4. Breakthroughs! (10:10)

If something goes right or you solve an issue, document it for the next time something is frustrating. Writing it down helps you ingrain the idea to reproduce it!


5. Simple Key Words (10:46)

If writing too much detail in your practice journal feels like a chore, go for one key word only. This goes back to your intentions. How do you want to feel while playing that exercise? How do you want to sound?

Then, write one word of feedback for how it did feel or sound. You'll begin to notice words that are more effective than others, and this can help you for next time.


6. Ideas +  Inspiration (11:26)

I recently heard an idea about resonance while watching a master class, and I decided to write it in my practice journal. When I went to practice, I dove into the idea and had a major breakthrough!

Have inspiration ready to go the next time you practice!


The Takeaway (12:29)


The rule of thumb for determining what's useful to put in your practice journal:


"Is this going to motivate me today?"


"Is this going to help me tomorrow?"


When Good Intentions Stress You Out: Learning The Difference Between Freedom and Forcing

I’m constantly looking at all my moving parts while playing to inspect areas where I’m holding tension or using myself in a way that’s holding me back from finding ease, and this helps me problem solve on a daily basis!


For example, if I scan my abdomen and realize it’s holding a lot of tension, I can direct myself to let go, and often find freedom for more efficient breathing, and therefore, I’ll find a more resonant sound.


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However, I’ve come to notice that there are moments where I am naturally allowing freedom, but other times, I’m forcing myself to let go.


Forcing freedom is not the same as freedom.

Forcing the abdomen to be free is not the same as allowing it to be free.


Focusing only on the abdomen to ensure it's free at all times does not create freedom because my focus becomes too narrowed.


I've become overly cautious, and now I’m stressed.


Stop Thinking In Parts, and Remember The Whole!


When I realize that directing individual moving parts doesn’t work, I remember an initial, key lesson in Body Mapping:


Inclusive Awareness.


Inclusive awareness is key in allowing the entire body to work together from a place of balance and fluid, natural movement:


  • It invites in all the senses.
  • It invites a widened awareness of the space surrounding you in all directions.
  • It allows the gaze to soften, the ears to open, and the entire body to feel supported by space.


(Remember that time I remembered Peripheral Vision? Here I am remembering it yet again! Click here to read "How 2 Words Instantly Took Me From Frustration to Freedom!")


By definition, moving only a few parts is the opposite of using the whole, and therefore, it doesn’t always work if you’re looking for free, natural playing.


Analyzing one part, like the abdomen, without addressing the whole body feeling of support from the floor can turn good intentions of allowing freedom into forcing freedom.

Are You Overly Cautious?


Inclusive awareness also releases the mind from its overly critical and cautious state.


Where do you feel the most confident and natural?


For me, it’s improvising or playing from memory in front of the window:


  • I’m moving towards the window and starting notes before I even get there.

  • No need to stop and "set-up," No self-directing or caution.

  • No pressure.

A Simple Direction for Accessing Your Natural Self


An idea from Missy Vineyard’s book, How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live: Learning the Alexander Technique to Explore Your Mind-Body Connection and Achieve Self-Mastery:


“I’m not playing the piano.”


  • When I “play the flute,” I set-up, direct, and feel cautious. I stop using myself in a natural way.


(I noticed this in A Simple Trick For Better Breathing!)


  • Trying out this direction:
“Smile, dive in, I’m not playing the flute,”

I could access my natural, whole-body self, and therefore, found more freedom in my playing!

In Conclusion


It’s key to understand how you use yourself while playing, and whether certain patterns of tension are present and preventing you from feeling and sounding how you want.


However, constantly living in this critical space makes it more difficult to turn it off for performance mode. Releasing criticism and flipping the switch to inclusive awareness and observation needs to occur most often!


When the intention is to maintain awareness of the surrounding space, music-making is free.

Invite all the senses to the experience.

Release into the space, release into listening,

Remember the whole.


2017 Highlights + The Year's Top 5 Most Popular Posts

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2017 was a pretty great year! I got married, practiced a lot, learned more ways to stay inspired, and had the opportunity to inspire others!


Here are a few of my highlights, in addition to the top five most popular blog posts this year.


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The top post of the year is truly representative of the biggest lesson I learned this past year - that letting go of perfectionism in favor of "Improving a Little Bit Each Day" is truly the way to face weaknesses and seek improvement.

I learned to put self-judgement aside and let curiosity lead, and I feel that I finally climbed out of my post-graduation rut this year. I'm believing in my own ability to improve, and I'm feeling inspired by all that is possible!

Thank you for all the support and inspiration this past year! I'm looking forward to plenty of inspiration and breakthroughs in 2018!

Happy New Year!

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How My Philosophy On Warming Up Has Changed (And How It Helped Me Learn To Love Long Tones!)

I just completed my first Instagram Live session which was All About Exercises! In preparing for the discussion, I began to sort out the what, why and how of each of the initial steps of my typical practice session.

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In doing this, I realized that I’ve come to value my warm-up, tone, and technique studies as independent tasks with specific goals of their own. Viewing them as separate tasks that build upon one another has helped me to find more freedom and enjoyment while practicing.

Let me tell you why...

Up until the past year, I never truly distinguished a difference between warming up and working on tone and technique exercises. I would jump in and start warming up with scales, long tones, harmonics… and by the time I had completed several exercises, I would feel "warmed up."

Some days I would love long tones, and sometimes I would dread them. It felt like the thing I was supposed to do first to warm-up *slash* work-on-tone, but it often felt frustrating to jump in and try to make my best sound right out of the gate. I was missing a step.


What Changed My Mind About Warming Up?

I finally realized the benefits of distinguishing my warm-up from my tone studies when I discovered Dr. Terri Sanchez's Epic Flute Warm Up! In doing this warm-up each day, I’ve come to realize that I have one primary goal for warming up:


It's All About Getting Air Moving.


We normally take shallow, automatic breaths during the day, but when it comes time to play, we need to begin to breathe deeper and with greater intention to make sound. Just like we need to stretch our arms and legs in the morning, we need to stretch the muscles surrounding the structures of breathing to prepare to play.

Think Of It Like This...

When we warm-up at the gym, we're preparing for our workout. The first 5 minutes on the treadmill are about loosening up and getting the heart ready (Warm-Up). Then we're ready to strength train (tone), and jump into more cardio (technique). When the basics are refined, we can use these tools to enhance our artistic choreography (repertoire).

Messy Sounds = Less Perfectionist's Tension

The first page of the Epic Warm-Up provides the perfect opportunity to begin breathing deeply and flowing through notes without forcing to transition from not playing into playing. I don’t analyze my sound or try to perfect anything.

I especially love the singing and playing and breath kicks, because opening up with messy sounds is a great way to start off a practice session - it’s freeing and fun! I add in even more “air movers” with jet whistles and beat-boxing syllables.

Dr. Sanchez strategically includes a warm-up for the lips, fingers, and tongue towards the end of the warm-up once you’ve had a chance to open up the sound with freer breathing.

Warming up in a fun way that addresses what the body needs to transition from not playing into creating a beautiful, resonant sound has been key for allowing me to enjoy long tones and subsequent tone studies!


I Can Achieve More When I've Prioritized Air First

My mind is ready and I’m no longer dreading how I’ll sound. I’ve invited more of my whole self into breathing, and from here, I can refine the focus, resonance, and projection of my sound, and translate this to all register with long tones. I can work more in depth on lip flexibility because I’ve prioritized air first. I can more easily practice phrasing with shapes, dynamics, and colors because I can support efficiently from the start of my tone practice.

In Conclusion

I was missing out on really digging in and refining all the good stuff when I was using my exercises as my warm-up! Now that I’ve made the distinction, I’m enjoying my warm-up, and I'm diving in to bigger and better goals and improving with intention each day!


What I Learned Judging A Round of Pre-Screening Recordings

I was recently asked to be a judge for a round of pre-screening recordings, and it was my first time being on the other side of a recorded round. Listening through each candidate, I began to think about how I was listening based on the recording, and I made a mental checklist of things to take into account for myself and my students in future recording sessions.

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Here's what a I learned while judging a round of pre-screening recordings:

1. Recording Quality

Recording quality is really important for showcasing your true sound. The listener will have to guess about your tone if the quality is low or the distance from the microphone is off. Your tone is the first basis for determining your level of playing when it comes to competition recordings, and it makes the difference between the listener falling in love with your playing versus trying to decide on your ability in the first few moments. (Don't make them guess, make them love!)

2. Microphone Set-Up

Microphone angle and distance are just as important as a good recording device. Too far, and the quality can seem too low - the intricacies of your sound will be lost. Too close and you'll hear loud breaths and possibly even keys moving. Both things can distract the listener from how great you are.

3. Intonation

Intonation translates no matter the quality of recording! Take the time to practice playing in tune, and tune well on your recording day. A recording with few technical flaws but poor intonation throughout is very distracting to hear. Bring a recording device into your rehearsals - a phone works fine for listening back for pitch issues!

4. Play for the Space

Know the space you're playing in. If it's a dry room, be intentional about creating vibrancy and spin in the sound, and releasing the ends of notes. If it's a live or echoey space, keep things clear and precise.

5. Take a Sample First

Listen to the recording tests for yourself. Are your contrasts coming across? Are you happy with the balance? How's the distance and location of the microphone? Take a moment to make sure you're happy before proceeding.

Thinking back, I never heard the recording tests for myself - only the recording engineer listened. I didn't know how I was coming across in the room through the microphone, and in some cases, I would've played differently had I listened first. This can also help you hear whether you've tuned well or not before you proceed with a full take!

6. Have a Back-Up

Use a back-up recording device when possible. If you had a great take, but the recording device shut off halfway through (or you forgot to hit record altogether), you'll thank yourself for having a back-up device!

7. Don't Forget About Your Collaborator

Don't forget, your pianist is most likely going to be using an instrument that isn't their own. They may have insights or a preference as far as the location of your recording based on the instrument available, so account for this before deciding!

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