indirect procedures

Spring Practice Favorites: Books + Apps

I'm always on the lookout for new resources to make my life easier and more inspired while practicing. Recently, I've been loving a few brand new and some new-to-me resources.


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The Virtuosic Flutist

by Nina Assimakopoulos


Right when I saw the first sample of this book, I knew I'd love it! This book thoroughly explains how to practice and develop important expressive tools, and has inspired me to think in more dimensions with an elevated focus with everything else I'm practicing. I especially love the Grounding and Repertoire sections!

Available in Print and Digital Download!



The 28 Day Warm Up Book for All Flautists.... eventually!

by Paul Edmund-Davies

If you're trying to get yourself back into shape, this is the book to do it! There are four sections, Sonority, Fingers, Articulation, and Intervals with 7 exercises in each. There's a chart at the beginning of the book showing how to divide each section over 28 days. I've been loving this book to challenge myself beyond the typical tone and technique exercises, and it's paying off!

Learn More Here!


Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique

by Pedro De Alcantara


This in-depth book gave me a lot of ideas in the first few pages alone. If you're learning to apply to Alexander Technique to your playing, this book will help you develop a deeper understanding of your thoughts and self-use as a musician.


See More on Amazon!


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Seconds Pro Interval Timer

This app was introduced to me by two musicians on Instagram, and it's designed to assist with Interval workouts. If you read my "How I Practice Using the Pomodoro Technique" post, you'll know I love using a timer and dividing up my practice session into 25-minute chunks. This app lets me customize each task and duration, and will count down and lead me right into the next task. It's much easier to let go of each task and move right along into the next without dwelling or wasting time. If you need help focusing and getting through a number of tasks, give this one a try!

Apple App Store

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Drone Tuner

This genius app lets you tune to the sound of real instruments! I love using a drone to work on intonation, but sometimes it's difficult to blend into the only sound offered by other apps. I like to rotate through several instruments and pitches to prepare to play in tune with a variety of instruments and ranges. (The piano option is helpful to prepare students to tune to a piano!) Plus, you can tune chords and harmonies!


Learn More Here!

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How I Beat "Bad Tone Days" Using Ear Plugs

You put your instrument together, play a few notes, and things just aren't feeling or sounding right. You're cracking notes and struggling to find comfort. All of a sudden, your tone is gone.

In an effort to sound better, you force your sound to come out. All in all, nothing is working, and it's frustrating.

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Where Did My Sound Go?

There are several reasons why a bad tone day can happen. Here are a few reasons I find to be true for myself:

  • I'm physically tense, fatigued, or congested.

  • I've just eaten something cold.

  • My headjoint is slightly off the ideal mark.

  • My flute has a leak.

  • I've gone several days between practicing and feeling "out of shape."


Let's look at that last one...


I've gone several days or weeks without playing many times. (Such as that time I slammed my finger in a door and couldn't play for a month.)

I've found that it is possible to come back and feel like nothing's changed. In some cases, I'm so refreshed and excited to play again that I sound even better than before.


A Deeper Reason

This week, however, my two days off were associated with guilt and fear because a deadline is looming only a few weeks away. When I came back to playing, I was nervous about having diminished my own progress and worried about how much work I still have to do. 

Before I even played a note, I was imagining my sound as being closed off and stuffy.

I convinced myself I was out of shape, and I played that way.


Beating the Cycle of Frustration

  1. Before I began practicing, I told myself I was "out of shape."
  2. I played with the closed off sound I heard in my head before I even started.
  3. I heard my sound and confirmed I was playing poorly and without ease.
  4. I judged myself for taking two days off and began self-loathing.
  5. The frustration extended to my physical use, and I tried forcing sound out.
  6. More tension meant more frustration, more judging, and more self-loathing.
  7. The cycle continued until I became too frustrated to continue.



I've recently been reading Indirect Procedures: A Musician's Guide to the Alexander Technique by Pedro de Alcantara. One of the first Alexander Technique concepts discussed is the principle of End-Gaining vs. Means-Whereby.

As described by Alexander Technique teacher Hilary King:

"End gaining is the tendency we have to keep our mind and actions focused on an end result whilst losing sight of, and frequently at the expense of, the means-whereby the result is achieved." 
(Click here to read the full article on End Gaining by Hilary King!)

I'm discovering that this concept can appear on many levels, from the action of a single note, to long-term life goals. When it comes to sound, I was desperate for the end-result of "sounding better," and I found myself forcing sounds and feeling frustrated. I lost sight of the means-whereby.



When I was first learning about the benefits of singing and playing in relation to support and optimal body feeling during grad school, Professor Amsler had me use ear plugs to turn attention to feeling rather than hearing. With the work we were doing to change and improve sound, the dramatic difference in tone from my ears often sounded strange from my own perspective: my sound no longer sounded big to me, because it was projecting and sounding big for the room. 


using ear plugs, the emotional response of hearing and judging can be replaced by feeling and observing.


Since my sense of hearing caused me to end-gain, adding ear plugs re-directed my reliance on hearing and allowed me to include more senses into my approach.

I could invite my kinesthetic sense (the sense of movement) into my awareness, and observe the movements that would allow me greater freedom:

  • The 6 Places of Balance
  • Can I Release the lower back and abdomen to allow freedom for breathing and support?
  • Where do I lose support from the ground?
  • Where is my tongue?
  • What is the space between the teeth like?


Singing + Playing

Singing and Playing naturally encourages me to notice optimal support within the body without forcing. Doing this with ear plugs is a powerful way to observe the body with greater clarity, and the first thing I lean on when I'm bringing my best sound back.


20 Minutes Later...

After using ear plugs and lots of singing and playing, I was out of the loop of self-misery and enjoying a more resonant sound with ease! I could move on to a more productive practice session, feeling grateful for having worked through it!


Want 20+ Ideas For Bad Tone Days?

One of the first posts I wrote back in 2012 is called How To Cope with a Bad Tone Day.

Reading it again now, I still rely on these same things! (Minus travelling up and down 3 flights of stairs to the practice rooms at the University of New Hampshire!) 

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