The Daily Routine

Let me give you a scenario that I experienced yesterday that I am sure we can all relate to.  

I worked all morning, came home, napped, watched a few episodes of my favorite sitcom, all in an effort to delay my practicing.  When I FINALLY took my flute out of it’s case, I noodled around for approximately thirty minutes, had a pretty good tone, and my fingers were moving with enough ease to where it didn’t raise any red flags.  

As I was about to put my flute away, I thought to myself: “Wow Tyler, how much did you actually get accomplished in that practice session?” The answer: absolutely nothing.  LUCKILY, I have a daily routine scribbled down in my practice journal that I can fall back on in times such as these.  

It only makes sense to have a daily practice routine, right?  I mean, we all get out of bed in the morning and have some semblance of a morning routine.  It’s not as though we can wander around doing nothing and suddenly be prepared to head out to work, or school, or what have you.  We have a routine that we go through to ensure all the essentials are in place before we head out the door.

Practicing, in my mind, should be the same way!  I am not saying the routine needs to be elaborate or laborious in any way, but a daily routine is beneficial for a number of reasons. 

1) It ensures that you are practicing the same amount in both duration and repertoire every time you should sit down to practice.

2) A routine gives you something to measure your progress by.  If you are constantly playing different material from session to session, how can you track your progress?

3) As stated above, a routine gives you something to fall back on for those days where practicing is on the bottom of your to-do list.

I have been using daily routines for a few years now, and I think it is one of the few things that has actually kept me going in my flute playing!  My daily routine goes through periods of adjustment, from big to small, week to week, but it is ALWAYS there when I need it to be.  

Now, I have something of a prescribed routine from my teacher Robert Langevin, but I will give you a dose of what my routine looks like, at least for this week!

15 min – Long Tones with a tuner (1st time: no vibrato, forte then piano, no breath between) (2nd time: with vibrato, forte then piano, no breath between) 

5-10 min – Moyse articulation/low register exercise (all 9 articulations)

20 min – Scale packet (as many as you can get through in the allotted time)

5 min – Trevor Wye, right hand ring finger exercise. (This exercise changes from week to week)

10 min – Scales in Octaves (This exercise changes from week to week)

20 min – Etude No. 1

20 min – Etude No. 2

15 min – Etude No. 3 (this weeks 3rd etude is shorter)

10 min – Etude No. 4 (this etude this week is very lyrical and is to exercise breath control)

Then I am able to move along to repertoire.  

As you can see, this ensures that I practice approximately 2 hours each practice session (and this is without repertoire in the mix…)

I highly advise every flutist, students especially, to come up with a daily routine.  Now, you may ask, “but what should a routine include?”  That is a great question!  For those of you who have a private teacher, you can work with them to come up with a routine that suits your needs.  

For those of you who are reading this and do not have a private teacher, don’t fret!  Try including some of the following things in your routine:

– Long tones, scales, articulation exercises, technical exercises (etudes), harmonic exercises, etc.  

The timing is up to you, but my general rule of thumb is to practice each part of your routine until YOU feel like you have reaped the full benefits for that session.  

I hope this helps to solve another “Plight of the Flutist.”  Happy practicing!!!

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The Checklist

Let’s be honest: we all have days where we pick up our flute and the hideous noise that comes out is reminiscent of the first few days we started playing flute when the tone was anything but beautiful. Try as we might, we are not able to find anything wrong with the flute that warrants the awful sound being emitted. These moments are the moments that we simply want to grab our flute with both hands, and snap it angrily over our knees.

We have all been there, I certainly have. But the more I play flute and the more I try to work through these “bad days,” I find them rearing their ugly heads less and less. I believe that we can almost learn more about our playing through these “bad days” than on days where we pick up our flutes and something other-worldly comes out making us forget the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis.

That is why, for these “bad days,” I have made myself a checklist as both a tool to get my playing back to it’s usual place and as a tool for learning. I have found the checklist not only to be a useful tool for myself, but also for my students in an effort for them to address their own problems and learn from them as well.

What should be on a checklist? Well, this is where expert guidance comes in to play. Over the years, I have had lessons where I go in to the room barely being able to produce a competent sound, and, with what seems like the flip of a switch, my teacher is able to get me playing at or above my usual level. It is in THESE moments that we need to take note (mentally or physically on paper) and add these things to our checklist.

This way, when one of our infamous “bad days” pops up, we can reference what we have learned in the past, incorporate it ourselves in the present, and make whatever future challenge with which we are faced become increasingly smaller until it is no longer a challenge, without a constant reminder from our teacher or mentor.

Just for reference, here is what my checklist looks like:

Tyler’s Flute Checklist

1) Am I simply blowing? (Most often I find with my students that bad days are simply caused due to lack of support to the air stream, or the follow-through of the air).

2) How is my posture? Are my head, neck and spine in their proper alignment allowing for ease of playing? How is my stance, are my feet firmly planted on the ground? Is my chest open or collapsed?

3) Am I relaxed? Are my shoulders down, away from my ears?

4) How is the alignment of my flute? Is my headjoint rolled in/out more than usual? Am I covering more/less than usual?

5) Am I doing something differently in my oral chamber? (Try experimenting with different vowel shapes, namely “AHH” and “OOH”).