Beginning Flute Notes

After years of inconsistent success with teaching beginning flute, I’m venturing into uncharted territory. Feel free to call the Pedagogy Police after you read this.

I'm also going to experiment with teaching beginning band in an open, flowery meadow.Instead of using the first 5 notes of the concert Bb scale, I’m going to teach flutes using the first 5 notes of the concert F scale. This will eliminate that awkward transition from C to D, but still teach Bb rather than B natural.

After students have become proficient at these notes, adding D, Eb and the higher F shouldn’t be too challenging… right? At least that’s what I’m hoping!

If any of you beginning flute teachers have suggestions on how to overcome common obstacles, please share them here. Or if you want to join me in my little experiment, let me know how it works for you.

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5 thoughts on “Beginning Flute Notes

  1. We start kids in fourth grade. Full group rehearsal 30 minutes a week, small group like-instrument lesson 30 minutes a week. For us, I really like the note sequence from the old Belwin Student Instrumental Course:

    B – A – G – C – F (bottom space) – F (top line) – E (top space) – D

    This has been very successful for us since switching about 6 years ago. Kids can focus on their sound, rather than worrying about their fingers. Approaching the D from the context of the F and E, helps let the D fingering make a little more sense.

    Some argue that it’s better to teach the D first for sake of proper hand position, but I just don’t buy it. Plus, any added benefit in that regard is outweighed by the fingering issues and related tone production problems.

    In full group rehearsal, for the first few weeks, flutes and oboes use supplemental sheets. They play A when the rest of the group has the concert D, G when everyone has the concert C, and B-flat for the concert B-flat. Horns get the trumpet book for the first few weeks.

    Good luck with the switch. I think you’ll be so pleased with the change you won’t go back.

  2. Steve, I think you’ll be pleased with this change. If you feel you need to fit it into the B flat scale sooner rather than later, teach F-G-A-Bflat-C, then high D. Then start with D-D octave jumps, followed by C-C octave jumps followed by the low B flat.

    I must teach in totally mixed-instrument groupings. By the time my flutes are ready to play that octave jump they have heard the brass students playing lip slurs for weeks. When I tell them they are going to do “flute slurs” they know what that means and usually teach it to themselves.

  3. Wow! All your comments make me wish I hadn’t been so apprehensive about breaking from the mold in the first place. Thanks for the comments/suggestions. Anyone else have thoughts?

    I’ll post a follow-up later in the fall.

  4. So, I am changing my flute parts for the first time this year, largely inspired by your blog, Steve. So far so good. I see all instruments at the same time once a week for one hour. I am having my flutes learn A G and F while the rest of the band learns D Eb and F. The flutes are playing a 5th, a 3rd and then unison with the band. It is kind of funny that I was even worried the intervals that the flutes would be playing with everyone else, considering the cacophony of sound that is the first day of band with instruments. I think it has already helped that the flutes don’t have to go from Eb to F. It is really going to help when they can play Hot Cross Buns in F instead of Bb.

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