flutist

Holy Grail Packet [+ Free Download]

I'm relatively organized when it comes to keeping my sheet music collection in order. I have everything separated by type into labeled magazine boxes and keep them in alphabetical order. 

That's not to say that half my bookshelf doesn't end up in scattered piles each and every week.

But at least everything has a place!

HolyGrailPacket

Some of my most-used, most-cherished items, however, live in their own, disorganized pile.

These are:

  • Handouts and exercises given to me by teachers during lessons, workshops, or master classes.
  • Exercises that have been generously shared online by their authors, such as those by the Self-Inspired Flutist.
  • My own hand-written notes on exercises that have been passed along through word-of-mouth by various teachers.

They are so special and so loved because of the memories and associations attached to them.

For this reason, I decided to compile them all into one, protected packet.

I can easily have them with me in my bag or on my stand with no worries of losing one of the sheets or wrinkling the pages.

What's in my Holy Grail Packet?


Get Started!

Do you have a collection of treasured handouts? Are there exercises that live in your head that you'd like to have on paper?

1. GATHER

Compile your handouts, write or type out notes, and transcribe exercises that aren't yet on paper. You may wish to scan and re-print handouts onto a new sheet of paper.

2. LIST

Write or type them out in order on the Contents sheet. You can even number the pages or add tabs to make it easier to find what you're looking for.

3. bind

Use a standard binder with a three-hole punch or page protectors, or have your packet spiral bound with a protective cover and backing.

4. SHARE & enjoy!

Share on Instagram using #PracticeRoomRevelations and tag @joleneflute!

How I Learned to Put Paralyzing Perfection Aside and Improve A Little Bit Each Day Instead

Recently, perfectionism and procrastination have come up in one way or another for myself, my colleagues, and my students, and it has encouraged me to take a look at my own patterns and find real solutions to break out perfectionist habits.

What is Perfectionist's Procrastination? 

Have you ever thought about the immense amount of work standing between yourself and your ideal perfect self, and been paralyzed or discouraged from taking any action at all?

Here's what it sounds like for me:

I should really improve A, B, and C, but I'll tackle all that next time when I feel really ready and focused and have lots of time.

I'll wait until I can dedicate a full hour to tone exercises, then I'll finally work on those tapers I need to improve. 

Perfectionist's Procrastination Latches onto ideas like these:

  • Waiting for Ideal Conditions 
  • Waiting for "Enough" Time
  • Waiting to Sound Good
  • Waiting for More Energy

Ultimately, my mind creates an unrealistic to-do list in an effort to fix everything all at once, and when I think about the amount of work ahead of me, I tell myself: next time, next time, next time.


Perfectionist's Procrastination can be deeply rooted in fearing failure and mistakes.

For example, a more honest inner dialogue to the above example might sound more like this:

I could work on my tapers today, but I don't know what I'm doing. I know I'm bad at it, and I don't want to face my weakness.

In addition, the fear of not doing enough leads to fear of not being enough. And that's paralyzing.


Perfection-Oriented vs. Process-Oriented

For at least the past eight years, I've been organizing my practice sessions in the order of tone first, technique second, and repertoire after that, and attempting to do at least an hour of each thing.

However, I often spend most of my energy and focus on the initial stage, losing motivation before I've given the next stages any attention. 

Why do I keep falling into this rut so often? 

  • Perfection in the Practice Room

Perfection wants to finish everything immediately and achieve perfection now. Our faults can give us tunnel vision, and we can throw all our energy into one task, like tone work. While we're giving tone good attention and improving, we can burn out out entire supply of energy and focus, and we have nothing left for anything else.

And musicians need all the skills. Perfection knows this, too, and feels like a failure when giving up before moving on.

Perfection doesn't like to Let Go.

  • Process-Oriented Practice

Process-oriented practice puts in the highly-focused practice that perfection loves, but it comes with permission to let go and move on to the next task.

 

The following two ideas led me to break out of perfectionist mindset and find breakthroughs in process-oriented practice in the past two weeks.


A. "Improve A Little Bit Each Day"

I recently raved about Dr. Terri Sanchez's Epic Flute Warm-Up, which ultimately led me to purchase her book, The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion.

In her book, the smallest phrase came up in the Epic Warm-Up 2.0, and it really struck me:

"Improve a little bit each day."

I've consistently been doing her Epic Warm-Up almost every day for three months because it's fun and manageable, only taking 15 minutes total to feel thoroughly warmed-up. And you know what? I've improved a little bit each day in those three months! 

This was a huge lightbulb moment.

B. Set Yourself Up for Success To Prevent Early Practice Burnout

Now that I've given myself permission to improve a little bit each day, I've created room to realistically invite more tasks into my practice session without feeling overwhelmed.

My next goal involves organizing my tasks in a way that ensures I don't burn myself out too soon, as I was consistently doing before.

I came across a video on Facebook by Denise Tryon, Adjunct Horn Professor at the Peabody Conservatory, on practicing. 

Essentially, she separates her day into three separate sessions, practicing in the morning, afternoon, and evening with ample time in between.

Right away, I realized that I could be improving a little bit, three times a day.
Lightbulb moment number two.

Tips for Beating Perfectionist's Procrastination + Improving a Little Bit Each Day:

After re-approaching my practice mindset based on the above ideas, I implemented a few more ideas to really help motivate me towards consistent, well-balanced, process-oriented practice experiences.

1. Get yourself excited for tomorrow's practice session tonight

  • Re-set your practice space: Tidy up and re-organize your materials, placing tomorrow's first to-dos on your stand so you're ready to go! (Or, place your materials in your bag in the order you're going to use them to make it easier on yourself once you arrive at your practice space.)
  • Listen to recordings, watch videos, or read words that inspire you.
  • Write down or e-mail yourself your schedule for tomorrow, which leads to the next tip!

2. Give yourself a completely reasonable to-do list

  • It is way too easy to prescribe yourself an 8-hour practice session, because your perfectionist self would love that, but I've never executed anything I've planned for myself when it's unreasonable and unattainable.
  • Set yourself up for success! If your to-do list allows you to easily complete every task, you'll feel accomplished and begin craving more rather than feeling burnt out.

3. Use a timer (And actually listen to it!)

  • Many times, I've put a timer on while practicing certain exercises, and have continued on long past the buzzer. When this happens, I usually end up feeling frustrated, exhausted, or both.
  • If your inclination to work past the buzzer comes from feeling antsy or incomplete, learn to give yourself a pat on the back for really focusing and putting good work in, and move on! It'll still be there tomorrow. And the next day. If you leave it feeling like there's more to continue on with, that may motivate you to pick back up and put more work in the next day!
  • In addition, you can now channel all that energy into the next practice task!
  • Timer Tips:
    • Try 3-minutes for one-measure chunks within a piece, 5-minutes for shorter exercises, and 10-minutes for longer ones as a starting point.

In Conclusion

  • I've come to realize that I'd rather put in a highly focused 10-minutes-each on six aspects of my playing every day than one hour of work on only one area. 
  • The best way to improve your weaknesses is by working at them daily. Put your timer on and put in the work!
  • Make the most of your minutes, and keep yourself feeling fresh and focused for each aspect of your practice session.
  • You don't need to "finish" everything. You don't need to solve every issue every time you practice. In order to be sustainable, there must be a point at which you let go and move on. If you feel like you're not done, you'll know right where you need to go tomorrow, and you'll still have energy left to focus on the next tasks on your list. 
  • If you find it difficult to move on before achieving perfection or completion, just remember that there is no end to the possibilities of improvement.
http://media.boreme.com/post_media/2013/pablo-casals-cellist.jpg

Here's permission to put perfection aside and enjoy the process!


Finally, I came across this video the other day, and found it particularly fitting in the context of doing a little bit of work each day with a lot of focus and care. A few months later, the results are beautiful

#practiceroomrevelations

Practice Tracker [Free Printable Download]

Here is a free 31-day Practice Tracker to print and use to keep track of your daily practice habits!

  • Utilize the space at the bottom of the sheet to write your overall goals. Seeing them daily will help to motivate you!
  • In the boxes to the left, list the action steps, exercises, or daily habits that will help you achieve those goals! 
  • Mark off the box to the corresponding day after you've completed each exercise. 
  • Share your tracker on Instagram! Tag @joleneflute or use #practiceroomrevelations!
Practice Tracker.png

#practiceroomrevelations

I am SO EXCITED to see your downloads in use and the ways you're staying inspired throughout the month! Use the hashtag #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute to share!

Top Technique Tips for Flute [+ VIDEO]

As a part of my May Technique Workout, this video will break down my top technique tips for faster fingers, better sound, and easier double and triple tonguing!

Here are my Top Technique Tips:

1. Hand Position (0:30)

Should include ease beginning in the entire body and the entire arm. The hands and fingers can move freely as a result. 

2. Keep Fingers Close to the Keys (2:30)

Precision and speed are diminished when fingers need to travel a long distance to close the keys. In addition, the fingers require more effort to move. Fingers must move at exactly the same moment with exacting precision. Keeping them close to the keys allows them to be light and precise.

3. Airstream (3:00)

An airstream that encourages smoother fast playing is one that can remain constant and adequate. In a long run of notes that spans several octaves, play the highest note and the lowest note. Find an airstream that can accommodate both to use throughout: The high register needs a faster airstream, but the low register can accommodate this faster speed when the mouth and embouchure are positioned low and with openness. 

4. Singing & Playing or Flutter Tonguing (4:45)

To encourage the adequate airstream throughout your technique exercises, try singing and playing or adding a flutter tongue. This is especially useful when practicing double and triple tonguing, as the airstream typically wants to slow down when we begin tonguing. Transition from singing and playing into double tonguing and feel the speed of air traveling through the mouth. 

5. Flute Balance (5:35)

Utilize the repetitions in Taffanel & Gaubert Exercise No. 1 to determine if your flute balance becomes unstable during fingering exchanges that alternate between hands. Middle C to D is a good example of an exchange that may cause the flute to rock forward and back. Find a comfortable, balanced hand position that prevents rocking while still encouraging ease in the hands.

6. Use Good Habits in Slow Practice (8:19)

Put all your best habits into slow practice. When breaking down a difficult technical spot, think of it as a tone exercise. Use your best airstream, resonance, tone color, expression, and effortlessness in the body and fingers. Repeat several times with a heightened level of performance at a very slow tempo to ensure you're not ingraining mistakes through faster, but lower quality repetitions. 

May Technique Workout Plan Exercise Demonstrations (9:15)



MAY TECHNIQUE WORKOUT


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One Way to Reduce Throat Tension

While practicing recently, I noticed that I was feeling very tense - pulling upwards, and leaning into and over my music stand. Upon investigation, I realized how much my shoulders, face and throat were tensing.

Forcing Vs. Allowing

When instructed to open your throat, be aware that this can occur by either forcing openness or allowing openness. 

I was forcing. 

When I let go of my "smile" and allowed the face to drop, (not just the jaw, but the cheeks, forehead, ears, eyes, tongue, and corners of the mouth), my throat tension went away, and everything felt easier. This was especially useful in the low register. Releasing from a smile embouchure and allowing the corners to come forward toward the lip plate led to much more flexibility and consistency! 

Do you experience throat tension?

Do you find that it occurs when there is more general tension all over the body, especially the head?

Tell me in the comments below!

Why You Need A Custom Warm-Up Sheet

Most pieces have that one terrifying spot. Can you think of the most difficult spot in a piece you're working on? For me, the third measure of the Firebird excerpt comes to mind. Whenever I go back to practicing that excerpt, I spend a lot of time on that spot. There are many other examples of moments such as this that come up again and again. 

If having an entire piece on your stand makes it tempting to jump around too quickly, take just a few of the difficult bars and add them onto one sheet. 

All the hardest spots on one sheet.

Cut and paste or transcribe the most difficult bars from any number of pieces onto one sheet, and get creative during your warm-up! Approaching only the smallest and most difficult chunk each day will slow down the process of learning and refining them in a way that can turn them into second nature when they appear in context. Consider putting difficult excerpts transposed higher and lower on there, as well. (I'm looking at you, Classical Symphony!) Utilize a variety of extended techniques, altered rhythms, varied dynamics, tempi, and articulations... and so on! 

Here's an example:

Important Tip: Make sure to include the key signature!

Your warm-up sheet can change every week or month, or you may choose to create one using your audition or recital repertoire. Since orchestral excerpts never go away and it's impossible to practice all of them each day, a warm-up sheet (or maybe two or three to rotate between) containing the most difficult spots is a great way to keep those pesky runs or intervals under your fingers!

What's on your custom warm-up sheet? Use #practiceroomrevelations and tag @joleneflute to share!

Top Picks: Online Video Resources For Musicians

In honor of last week's Inspiration Calendar activity of researching online video resources, I am rounding up some of my favorite videos and channels for flutists and musicians!

Best Channels To Follow For Master Classes:

1. Musaic - Curated by New World Sympyhony, America’s Orchestral Academy 

Also on YouTube!

2. Carnegie Hall Series Master Classes YouTube Channel

Flute Master Class Playlists

3. The Master Class Media Foundation YouTube Channel

Worth-The-Subscription:

Principal Chairs

I highly recommend the subscription to Principal Chairs if you are preparing for an audition or working in depth with excerpts! There are a wealth of quality, in-depth, full-length video masterclasses covering many excerpts. 

On Performance Anxiety

1. How to Stay Focused During Performance: Carnegie Hall Master Class with Emmanuel Pahud

2. Your body language shapes who you are | Amy Cuddy

3. TEDxBloomington -- Jeff Nelsen -- "Fearless Performance"

4. The Healthy Musician: Dealing with Nerves & Performance Anxiety by Annie Bosler

5. Pre-Audition Meditation for Dancers

The Alexander Technique and Constructive Rest

1. Posture awareness with the Alexander Technique by Carolyn Nicholls

2. Alexander Technique Lie Down by Pyeng Voice Coach

Favorite Channels for Flutists

1. Flutings with Paula By Paula Robison

2. Mimi's Flute Tips by Mimi Stillman

3. NinaFlute - Nina Perlove

4. BevaniFlute - Bevani

5. JustAnotherFlutist - JustanotherFlutist

Inspiring Performances

1. Amy Porter: Poem by Griffes

2. Jasmine Choi: Paganini Caprice No. 24

3. Karl-Heinz Schütz: Mendelssohn Concerto

4. Marianne Gedigian: Liebermann Concerto

5. Alain Marion: Boehm Grande Polonaise

 

What are your favorite videos? Check out my YouTube Channel for more playlists!

The 9 Things I Did Before Every College Audition

In the spirit of college audition season, I am reflecting on my own audition experience for masters programs. In general, I had a really positive experience at each of my four auditions, due in part to each of the steps I took to ensure it was positive and low-stress!

Here are the things I did before every audition for graduate school:

1. Travel Plan

The first step to avoiding added anxiety was to avoid stress while travelling. I know myself well enough to realize that I get nervous while executing an elaborate travel agenda, especially while traveling alone. I planned out every step of transportation, and stayed organized with audition information, directions, reservations, and music. 

2. Scope

Arriving the day before the audition gave me time to walk the route to the music building and scope out the practice rooms and audition space. Knowing exactly where I needed to go the next day eased any anxiety I had about finding my way around on the day of, plus, I could begin to mentally envision the actual audition. (See number 5!)

3. Sleep

Staying in hotels or with family meant being away from my the comfort of my own bed. I was prepared to make myself as comfortable as possible with lavender and sleep essential oils, chamomile tea, ear plugs, white noise, and comfortable clothing. 

4. Meditate

My preparations of the audition repertoire involved quite a bit of mental practice and meditation, and following along with a guided meditation to clear the mind and relax the body has helped me tremendously with feeling positive and grounded. In the night before the audition and the morning of, I could envision myself walking the route to the building and performing well in the actual space.

5. Eat Breakfast

Scrambled eggs, green tea, and a banana nut muffin. Quite simply, I ate foods that I knew would not upset my stomach or leave me feeling hungry too soon. Many people swear by bananas before an audition to assist with nerves!

6. Wear Lucky Pants

I always joke about my lucky pants, because they are the black dress pants that I wear for every audition and concert. (Express Editor Pants!) I have several pairs of them because they are comfortable and help me feel like myself. I also wore the same pair of broken-in black flats to each audition (after changing out of snow boots in snowy climates), and had gloves to keep my hands warm. 

7. Smile

As cheesy as it sounds, smiling at every person I encountered once I entered the audition building kept me feeling positive, and tricked me into feeling confident about being alone in a new place with strangers who were about to judge my playing. I also used some of Amy Cuddy's Power Posing ideas to feel even more confident.

8. Dance

If you were to ask me for the one thing I did to make my auditions better, it was this! I carved out considerable time to warm-up through exercise before every audition. I decided that adding in a 30-minute dance party to 90s boy bands would put me in a good mood, and it definitely did! I didn't want to take myself too seriously or find myself being overly-cautious in my every move before I was to play, so choosing to be ridiculous was the way to go. I followed this with some yoga to ground myself.

9. Have a Plan

Know the order in which you prefer to play pieces, because you may get to choose! I knew I wanted to get the Mendelssohn Scherzo out of the way early, but I wanted my strongest excerpts to come first to ensure I made a good first impression and felt the most confident. Adding labels to the sides of your music to easily find the next piece can help reduce stress as well!

 

How do you keep your auditions low-stress and fun? Tell me in the comments below!

 

Maximizing Improvement With Video Recordings

If you've been following this blog, you may notice the theme of focused self-improvement. I approach my practice sessions with great awareness in observing from within, but often have difficulty perceiving myself from the outside. I know how it feels to play, but how am I coming across? Am I effective musically?

Maximizing Improvement with Video Recordings.png

Video recordings are a perfect solution. Many of us dread listening to ourselves, or dwell on mistakes from recordings of live performances. Rather than judging the performance, choose to use it as information and focus in on smaller chunks, either from a performance or from a practice session, and examine specifics. 

BOEHM GRAND POLONAISE

My example is from Boehm's Grand Polonaise. I recorded an early progress video of this small section, and when listening back, I noticed several things right away that could be more effective.

1. Listening and Score Study

Identify the Bigger Picture of the Piece. What is the context? Allow the score to guide musical choices. Commit to the character of each section, you will then use your own recording to measure whether your contrasts are effective.

Listen to as many recordings as possible of these few measures. Search on YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud, and more, to hear a range of interpretations, and take notes on how the character is achieved, as well as details that make for an effective (or less effective) performance. It won't take long to hear 15-20 recordings when comparing only a small section. (Observe the ideas of others to learn, do not judge.)

  • Here are my notes from the many different recordings I studied: 
    • Maintains a flow and grace through the fast moving notes and resonates through each - every note can be heard without sounding overly athletic or held back - flows forward with solid tempo rhythm.

    • Follows the piano as a guide for taking time, growth, direction, and “punctuation” of phrases.

    • Flows, effortless in the upper register, not forced, stays graceful throughout, even through technical passages. Takes time and makes a statement when piano drops out.

    • Peppy and Bright! Faster than the others, but with clarity and always energetic in character.

    • High notes sing and connect as melody notes. Brings out style contrasts within this small section by singing on the higher notes. Push and pull of tempo to shape the phrases, moving forward with the piano, and lingering when along (high notes), punctuating each as a statement.

    • Flows - Second phrase begins small and graceful, tension and release but always graceful and singing - every note is heard, and each has the supple and warm tone, never forced. Triplets flow and move forward, not static.

    • Effortless light upper notes, she has lots of flexibility to shape them and keep them singing, warm, and alive at soft tempo, never forced or closed, and moves effortlessly through all registers with consistent sound.

    • Other performances that seemed less effective did not let the longer, high notes ring out at the ends, could not hear every note projected and placed as clearly. High notes may feel too aggressive and less resonant - maintain AHH openness and add vibrato to these notes to keep them warm. The last notes of phrases should ring and have vibrato, even the shorter notes at the bottom of runs.

    • Drive through the triplets if lingering on the higher notes to keep energy up and to make a contrast and add character! Don’t let it slow.

    • Effective to make choices on how the longer notes relate to one another. Where do we want to come in lighter.

2. SELF-RECORDING + NOTE-TAKING

Listen back to your recording and identify specifics of what was unclear, not effective, out of tune, not in tempo, and so on. Some of the notes I made were:

  • I made note of the dynamics - the opening is 'mp' with no written crescendo in the repeated triplet figure. Measures 13-14 feature a crescendo to the height of the phrase, the high G, and decrescendo down to the end of the phrase at m. 16. The new phrase begins at piano, and should feel much lighter and contrasting. 
  • Allow the high notes to sing effortlessly, translating the same open sound to each, rather than closing down just before leaping up to the high notes.
  • Lengthen the last note in m. 16, and maintain intensity to avoid losing presence and pitch.
  • Make a contrast in beginning the new phrase at m. 17 by coming in with a new color at a distinct dynamic level lower than the opening, and keep the notes short and light.
  • Make a greater distinction between the articulation noted in m. 9 and m. 13.
  • Clarify the first note of measure 12.

3. Practice, record + repeat

Address and practice the ideas listed. Find solutions to each through trial-and-error or personal reminders, and record the selection again. Listen back to hear your progress and repeat!

The Takeaway

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD PDF GUIDE

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD PDF GUIDE

In choosing to focus on a very small section with heightened detail and immediate feedback, we're ultimately learning more in less time. I am guilty of listening back to my recordings of live recitals, wishing I would've spent more time studying recordings ahead of time. I always find sections where I regret not having been more intentional in my musical choices, finding out too late that I needed to do more to achieve the appropriate character. Taking it section by section requires you to make musical choices and practice with intention. 

 

FREE DOWNLOAD

CLICK HERE to download the Self-Lesson Guide for Improving with Recordings!