Some parents and students have asked me, “why should I rent an instrument or buy one for $600 when I can buy a cheap one on eBay for $100?”
As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” A rental flute from a music store is guaranteed to be in good working condition when you first rent the instrument. It is also covered under the rental agreement that the store will perform routine maintenance on the instrument while you’re renting it. Even a new flute (especially if it is of poor quality) will need adjustment at a repair shop after you’ve purchased it. A good quality instrument should be taken to the repair shop once a year or so. A poor quality instrument will need more frequent adjustment…and you may find that a $100 flute may start costing you a lot more in repair fees. In fact, most instrument repair professionals will not work on poor quality instruments. This is because many of these repair shops guarantee their work on good instruments for a certain period of time. They cannot guarantee their work on an instrument which was built poorly. More importantly, the poor quality flute will cause frustration and hold back progress because the student has to work much harder to produce a decent sound. Also, the time lost while the flute is in the repair shop does not help.
Please talk to your flute teacher before you buy a flute. Or ask a flute repair person for suggestions on good brands or models.
Check out this advice from a real flute repair professional:
Read “Recommendations for Parents with a 10-Year Old Who Wants to Play the Flute” on Lori Lee’s website.
Here are some of my favorite flute gadgets. I don’t have any connection to or interest in these companies, except that I love the products and hope they stay in production for a long time so that I can use and recommend them to my students.
The one accessory that is essential for anyone with a piccolo is a Piccolo Flag. The piccolo flag is a thin microfiber cloth glued onto a skinny rod used to absorb the condensation from inside the piccolo. I love that the cloth does not bunch up or get caught in the piccolo and I don’t have to take the piccolo apart to dry it. The small size of the piccolo means that a little bead of condensation inside can make a big difference in how it plays. It is also very easy to clean (I use a gel-like hand soap or dish washing liquid, rinse and air dry). I have a one-piece piccolo flag that I leave out at home and a two-piece flag that came with my Burkart piccolo that I keep in the piccolo case.
The Thumbalina and Thumbport are devices used to aid in balancing the flute. Both of these devices help the flutist balance the flute on the right thumb. This prevents the flutist from developing a death-grip on the flute with the right hand. And it frees the fingers to move easily for quick technique. (Just try tensing your Thumb now and then try to move the other 4 fingers quickly. Now relax your thumb and move your fingers. See? Easy thumb = easy technique!) The Thumbalina is made of cork and it is attached to the flute via double-sided tape. It creates a kind of shelf so that the flute can rest on the thumb without rolling backwards for easy balancing. The Thumbport is a plastic device that can be removed and repositioned quickly and easily. It also assists in balancing the flute on the thumb. The Thumbalina is easy to use but it’s not as easy to move around and once you attach it to your flute, you don’t want to take it off. But once you find that perfect spot for the Thumbalina, it’s great. The Thumbport can be easily removed and moved around but it’s not as easy to figure out how to use them. It takes some patience and experimentation. Depending on which device you get, some modification to your flute case may be required if you want to keep one of these attached to your flute while in the case.
Once of my favorite flute cases is made by Case Closed Flute Cases. It’s very rugged and protects my flute very well. But the most attractive part is that it can be locked. At airports, I have had to let airport security inspect my flute case. I have heard horror stories of regular flute cases being opened upside down, etc. With my Case Closed case, I lock the compartment that contains the flute. If they want to open it, they have to wait for me to give them the key. I then have time to calmly explain that I can unlock it, it’s a flute, very valuable and I’d like a supervisor there, etc.
My current flute bag is made by Case Logic. They call it the “Sport Backpack with Flute Storage.” I love it because it is a sturdy backpack with thick back pack straps. The flute compartment opening is right on top and the flute goes in vertically. There is a large sheet music compartment which can also hold a laptop. There is a large compartment where I can put my piccolo and a sweater, as well as my lunch. There are nice pencil and accessory pockets as well. Two zippered/mesh pouches for water bottles or accessories make this a very useful bag. The downside of this bag is that I don’t think that it can hold a traditional double flute/piccolo case.
Zonda woodwind drying papers are my favorite for absorbing condensation from flute keys. They are thicker than cigarette papers and absorbs water very well without falling apart.
I’ll be sure to add more of my favorite gadgets soon!
First, I am not a Suzuki flute teacher but I recommend that all parents read Ability Development from Age Zero by Shinichi Suzuki. This book is great for expecting parents as well as parents with teenagers.
Second, I’ve listed as few ways you can help your child below:
- Provide a quiet, well-lit, private area where they can practice regularly. This can be a corner of the living room or in their bedroom but make sure it’s a permanent area for practice, an area where they can store their music books, stand, and metronome. An area without distractions.
- Take your child to live concerts often. The style of music doesn’t make a difference. Take your child to professional classical music concerts as well as jazz or rock shows. They will also learn from going to concerts given by amateurs or other children.
- Play music in the house. If you play an instrument or like singing, play and sing often. And play your collection of good quality CDs or recordings often at home.
- Be curious. Ask your child what they learned at their lesson today or ask to hear what they’ve been working on lately. Ask them to play their favorite piece for you. Ask them what is the hardest thing about playing the flute. You can have them perform in a more formal concert after dinner for the whole family or have them serenade you while you make dinner or fold laundry, play a piece for Grandma over the phone, etc.
- Frequency of practice is more important than length of practice. Please help your child practice everyday or at least 5 times a week. Help them establish a regular practice schedule. For younger children, these frequent practice sessions should be treated like play sessions rather than homework or chores.
- Attend your child’s lessons. Some teachers don’t want parents to attend lessons. I think it’s better if you do attend the lessons, especially for beginners or younger children. Siblings and friends however, should not accompany the students to lessons if possible.
- Ask your child for a lesson! Have him or her try to teach you how to make a sound and maybe how to play a few notes. It’s not an easy instrument to just pick up and play…even for adults! Make sure your son or daughter knows that you appreciate his or her hard work in learning to play the flute.
It’s the process of learning that is more important than the end result. Help your child practice in a conscientious and thoughtful manner. Practicing consists of many acts of problem-solving. We want your child to gain creative problem-solving skills in order to learn new pieces better and to become thoughtful and problem-solving adults.
I also highly recommend reading the 8-page article from Practicespot titled, “The Role of Parents.”