Posts Tagged ‘Boulder flute instruction’

The Little Things

April 22, 2010

By Mike Gersten, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Gersten, Woodwinds Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Gersten

You may be familiar with the expression “it’s the little things that count”.  In track winners can be decided by a tenth of a second; in baseball an inch can decide whether a pitch is a ball or a strike; and being just a little out of tune can turn an amazing performance into a catastrophe.  When it comes to practicing and taking care of a woodwind instrument it is the little things that make all the difference.  This Sunday I’ll be doing a woodwinds workshop at the lesson studio and I’ll be talking about little things we all can do as woodwind players to help make us better players.  Here is a little preview:

We all know that we need to practice in order to get better, but no one has a lot of time.  By using certain practice techniques you can maximize the efficiency of your practice sessions.  Now, I won’t tell you that you’ll be able to learn a very difficult piece in five minutes.  This isn’t a late-night infomercial.  However, I will say that these techniques will help you learn to play the music well in the quickest way possible.

What good is knowing how to play your instrument if you’re instrument doesn’t work?  You’re instrument should run like a well-oiled machine.  After all, your instrument is a machine with you as the motor.  We will discuss how to take care of your reeds, keys, and pads so your instrument will sound its best and you can avoid hefty repair costs.

In addition to these topics we will talk about listening to music and anything you else you want!  Feel free to bring your instrument and any music you are currently working on or have questions about.  Please call The Lesson Studio to reserve your spot as space is limited.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s FREE!  See you there!

Practicing on a Regular Basis

March 18, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

As busy as I’m sure most of you are (I know I sure am) fitting in consistent practice times can be such a pain. I definitely can sympathize with other practice procrastinators. All throughout high school I’d come home from a two hour swim practice or a six hour shift at work and think “Do I really want to practice now?” And even now, I’ll come home from a night of working at The Lesson Studio and think to myself, “Do I want to walk to the practice rooms or crawl into bed and watch an episode of American Dad?” Especially when it’s snowing, the motivation to walk outside in the cold dwindles even more than usual.

Though this may be true, you have to rise above and really when you practice procrastinate, you end up practicing in bigger chunks than normal. Maybe even needing more time to practice than if you had just practiced all week instead. If you plan out a consistent practice routine, that may mean only twenty minutes a day, depending on how much you’re working on. Sometimes you have to approach practicing like going to the gym. You’re not going to get anywhere working out to your complete max three days in a row. You’d accomplish more going every other day, allowing time for your muscles to rebuild and relax. Practicing is the same way. If you practice two hour for three days in a row and then don’t practice for four days, once you return to what you’re working on, it may be familiar in the way you and your second cousin who lives in a different state and you only see every other year at the good ol’ family reunion are familiar (that might be a slight exaggeration) but definitely not familiar the way you and your best friend are familiar.

Finding time during the day can be easier than you think, but sticking to it can be harder than you think. The most effective way, in my opinion, is scheduling it into your planner. Literally writing down exactly when you’re going to practice makes it harder to get out of doing it. Now with little kids, they don’t exactly have that trusty iPhone that they keep all their play dates and snack times scheduled, but consistency can help them get used to practicing routinely. Practicing right after a food event like lunch or an afternoon snack can be a great time. Practicing right after eating can help them to focus longer. Also sitting down and making it a team effort can help a lot. It helps them stay focused and thinking about what they’re doing and it can also make it more fun.

So now, get out that pen and find some practice times that you can really STICK to whether it’ll be twenty minutes twice a day or an hour every afternoon. If you do it could maximize your lesson time and help your musical growth develop at an even greater rate than before!

Can You See What You’re Playing? And I’m not talking about the notes on the page.

March 9, 2010

By Hollie Bennett, Intern at The Lesson Studio

You know you’re a true music nerd when you start finding all the similarities between everything you do or see and how it could relate to music. And you know you’re especially bad when you just see something and bam! Now that you watched that special on the Discovery channel about outer space, you know how you can explain vibrato to the twelve year old. But really, finding those parallels between, let’s just call it this for fun, the “real world” and the “music world” can help you understand exactly what you’re doing even more than before.

Imagery is such a staple part in music, at least for me. Hearing a piece of music that really attaches itself to me makes me feel in colors, imagine stories and truly understand the emotion that the composer or performer was trying to convey. Part of me thinks that as a musician that is your true purpose in life is to tell the story, show the audience what is happening, even if you don’t know, you need to show that you do. Sometimes doing crazy things like pulling out your box of 64 Crayola crayons that you haven’t used since the fourth grade and literally coloring your music the color that you thinks conveys each part of your piece can do wonders. Even making up words to go along with what you’re playing or seeing a story that can play out in your head can get the emotional and expressive side to connect with the technical of your playing.

One of my favorite topics to bring up to students is the Olympics. I’ve probably been driving my students crazy trying to convince them to watch everything from figure skating to the super-g to curling. The parallels between musicians and athletes are really interesting to me. How much work each party puts into perfecting their own craft is mind blowing: hours in practice versus hours on the ice or snow. You can find so many similarities. Figure skating spins and trills is one of my own teacher’s favorite analogies. You can also think of the idea of balancing between technique and musicality as the way a speed skater like Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski balance around their turns with speed skating. So go out and try to find those parallels and start imagining them will you play. It might just help even more than you’d think!

Meet other flute players!

February 23, 2010

By: Hollie Bennett, CU Intern at The Lesson Studio

Music is a social activity.  Meeting new people by playing in small or large ensembles such as duets, chamber groups, bands, etc., is one of the most basic parts of playing music that many people overlook as being as important.  Not only do you meet new people but you also can celebrate your love for music and personal growth with people you care about. In my opinion, this is the best part of music. It brings people together.

Although this is such a great aspect of music, it can also be the scariest. The way we criticize ourselves as musicians automatically seems to carry over into what we assume others think of us. Anyone has been nervous about performing in front of others, even if the people you are performing for aren’t going to judge you musically in any way, the nerves kick in causing us to not be the best we can be. Once you overcome those nerves of playing for someone else, it can show such beneficial results. As a stepping stone of getting there, playing with someone else can really help you get to where you want to be whether that’s playing your favorite etude in a round with the person who sits next to you in band class at school or just sight reading duets with your roommate or brother/sister. Doing something new with your musical routine can help you grow as a musician in different ways.

With some instruments, finding a group of people of people to play with can be more accessible than with some. As a flute player, it can be easier than you think. Joining a group like the Colorado Flute Association (or the CFA as most flutists call it) can link you in with other flutists in your area. Even if you don’t really want to pay the membership fee to become a part of this organization, you can always just visit their website. There you can find directories ranging from links for maintenance shops specializing in repairing flutes ranging from piccolo to bass flute, music groups to participate in such as flute choirs, orchestras, bands, and festivals, and even reputable flute teachers in your area. They even have information about local flute fairs coming up where you can meet other flute players your own age, sit in or participate in master classes, and learn all kinds of new things about your flute and your playing. So stretch out of your box and find a flute choir in your area or maybe even attend the next Flute Fair! (March 6th with Jill Felber on CU-Boulder’s campus)

Rock That Flute!

January 20, 2010
Flute instructor Michael Gersten, The Lesson Studio

Michael Gersten, Flute Teacher

Unfortunately in today’s society the flute is many times thought of as a one-dimensional instrument. Unlike the saxophone, which is frequently seen in classical, jazz, and rock settings, the flute is usually only seen as being at home in a concert band or marching band. My advice for flute players (and any other musician) is to try playing different styles of music. This experimentation can benefit you in numerous ways, both musical and non-musical.
It’s not unheard of to have a flute player playing in a rock setting; the most famous example would be the band Jethro Tull. However, at various times groups from The Beatles to Ray Charles have used certain “classical only” instruments or even full orchestras in their music. Of course, the flute has always been a staple of latin jazz music. Anyone who has seen the movie “Anchorman” certainly remembers Will Ferrell’s character busting out some jazz flute.
My suggestion is to try incorporating your flute into whatever kind of music you enjoy. You can get together with a friend who plays guitar or piano and play your favorite song (you play the vocal line). There are tons of books out there with music of popular songs that you can use. Go explore your local music store or ask the people at The Lesson Studio for advice. If you’re into jazz or jam music, don’t let someone tell you the flute doesn’t belong; go for it!
Practicing can sometimes seem like a chore, but when you incorporate music you enjoy into your flute playing, you’ll find that you will start practicing and playing your flute more often without even realizing it. Also, when you get other people in on the fun, playing your flute can help cultivate friendships that go beyond playing music together. There’s a lot of great classical music out there for flute, and it should be studied, but don’t be afraid to get out there and rock that flute!

For more information about Michael Gersten or Boulder flute lessons, please call 303-543-3777 or visit The Lesson Studio online!