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Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels

Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 1 -
Teaching Flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Beginner Level;
The basics of playing
The basics of music
Foundational skills are put into place.
In this period the pupil has to work and think very hard about what they are doing as habits
are still forming. In around the 3rd year playing becomes easier and more natural and
progress becomes faster, as the pupil enters the intermediate level.
Intermediate Level;
Foundational skills are honed and expanded in relation to the playing of music. I see the
beginner level as lasting for around the first 3 years of playing.
So I see the difference between beginner and intermediate more in how the pupil handles the
flute rather than the level of difficulty in the music they are playing.
Poor habits that are allowed to form at the beginner stage and carried over to intermediate will
need a lot of work and might never be eradicated. They may instead need to be developed for
that pupil`s needs. An example of this would be a side blown embouchure, which for some, is
a result of facial characteristics (i.e. best suited to side blown) but for many is a result of poor
posture and flute position being left unattended at the beginner level.
What about Advanced Level?
The focus is solidly on musical goals
The student is motivated by these goals
Teaching is directed at achieving these goals
Lesson content at the Advanced Level is in many ways pre-defined by the goal and not the
At the advanced level motivation for mastery of the instrument comes for a large degree from
the student`s wish to achieve musical goals. The student will in most cases tell the teacher
what they wish to achieve and the teacher will give help and guidance. The teacher takes on
much more of a role as mentor while much of the responsibility for progress and direction has
passed on to the student. For this reason we can disregard the Advanced level in this lecture.
Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 2 -
But first a little philosophy……Or……..How to get out of and avoid the rut.
We all have our own musical, artistic, aesthetic and pedagogic philosophies. This is what
forms us into individuals and as we develop, so do our philosophies (and of course vice
versa). As a performing artist needs development to avoid stagnating, so does the teacher. If
we get bogged down in the routine rut of doing things the same way, with all pupils, year after
year we will cease to develop and grow and like all living organisms, once we stop growing
we start decaying.
This doesn`t mean that there is no place for applying experience, or that one should discard
methods or techniques that are successful, simply that one should keep an open mind for new
ideas and avoid getting complacent.
The Practical triangle
The triangle represents the different levels
of practical application in teaching

The practical triangle is an aid used when engaged in guidance counselling of pedagogic
students, while they are gaining practical experience. It is designed to help them discover
what knowledge and experience they are already in possession of and how this might be
applied to the task in hand.
The levels explained;
P3 Aesthetic/artistic reasons 
P2 Your reasons for this based on education and experience
P1 What you are doing
This tool can be useful in any application to gain perspective over a new and challenging task
or simply to take stock of what one is doing now.
Put simply; what, how, why?
For young students with little experience the first 2 levels are the most important, to avoid
getting bogged down or overdue influence from the aesthetical side. Students as we know will
often have very strong ideas and principals, but as we mature and gain experience we become
(hopefully) more flexible. This is something to keep in mind but for a more experienced
teacher/player, especially as we are working in an art form, the importance of the levels will
be more equal.
A word or two on Aesthetics
Aesthetic reasoning is more than pure artistic influence. It could be;
The music school policy or goals
”my teacher always did it like that”
Cultural influence
Aesthetic reasons are often based on personal baggage!
Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 3 -
Aesthetics will always play a role in everything we do. If we try to be aware of their influence
it can be easier to be objective about what we are doing. This doesn`t mean that the
importance of aesthetics should be discarded, just that their often hidden influence should be
brought to the surface and examined. The last point regarding personal baggage is not
necessarily negative, it should simply be kept in mind when examining why you want to do
something a certain way.
Circle of Philosophy
The Circle of Philosophy represents
a constant process of evaluation for the teacher.

One`s own methods and motives need to be examined in relation to the task
A circle is perhaps a better illustration of how the ”levels” relate to each other with regard to
the teaching of a musical instrument. One can start at any point, for any task and work
backwards and forwards between the sections to gain a better perspective.
The question ”why” can just as easily be replaced with…….Why not?

Are there elements in ”what?” or ”how?” that solve ”why not?”?
This sort of instance arises if one is going to attempt something unusual. Are there really
reasons why it can`t (or shouldn`t) be done? Again one can start anywhere and work in any
direction but it is likely that one will be working mostly between how? and why not? Of
course ”why?” can still be included in the circle. If there are problems then maybe changing
the method will open the way. In this case we will have gone from what? to why not? to
how?, back to why? and back to how? again and finally to what? The task, or tools might
have changed slightly in the process of choosing a method.
”Why?” and ”why not?” are two sides of the same question!
The solution to ”why not?”may already be there in the circle.
”Why?” and ”why not?” can be used as simple questions or as the start of a list of reasons to
justify something. This change of perspective will greatly influence their role in the process.
”Why not” can be used both as justification for trying something or as a reason why it might
be better not to.
What? How?
Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 4 -
At last…………What? Teaching the flute at the beginner and intermediate levels!
Why? Research shows that playing an instrument;

Improves cognitive progress
Improves co-ordination and fine motoric
Improves visualisation skills
Vastly improves academic skills
Raises social awareness
Improves self image
Builds confidence
Will make the child a natural leader and
who knows, maybe President of the USA
one fine day!!
There is a lot of of research done (much of it in the USA) into how playing an instrument and
being involved in music programmes affects the child`s development. Some of this research is
of direct use to us as pedagogues as it maps out learning processes.
That said, one should keep in mind;
They are political justifications for investment in music programmes and not reasons for
teaching the flute
Much of this research comes as a result of the limited resources used in music education.
They need to show that they are ”useful” to get funding
While these points may be of interest politically, they have nothing to do with the
philosophy of a musical instrument pedagogue
The research in a large part has been done to justify the ”usefulness” of music programmes
and education in a materialistic world where everything must be measured and quantified.
Where everyone is fighting for funding music can no longer just be for music`s sake, it must
be balanced up and shown to be a magical and jolly useful thing.
In the short term we need to play this game if we are to get necessary funding, but in the long
term we need to work to have music accepted simply for music`s sake. If we fail to do this
then the importance of music and the Arts will be slowly, but surely eroded.
Why should we be teaching flute to kids?
To train the next generation of musicians and thereby ensure the continuity of our Art and
it`s central place in society.
To foster eager amateurs, who love and understand music. To ensure a new generation of
concert goers and patrons of the Arts.
Of course we need to be training the musicians of the future but should this really be our main
concern? There are already too many musicians being trained for too few jobs. We need to
concentrate on the second group much more. By taking more care of the ”average” pupils and
inspiring them, rather than bullying them to work harder or quit, we will hopefully have a
future filled with concert goers and voters who care about where the Arts figure in politics
and the enrichment of society as a whole. If we only make programmes that favour future
musicians then those pupils will graduate into a world of ever decreasing job possibilities
(much like now).
If the second group is missing then the first simply becomes a cry in the materialistic
Never underestimate the power and importance of the general public in the future of the Arts
Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 5 -
Only with a large and eager public, across all classes can music get the necessary funding.
The early experiences are what will have most influence on an individual`s later relationship
to music and as a music pedagogue it is YOU who will influence and secure the future of
Remember the Advanced Level?
The focus is solidly on musical goals
The student is motivated by these goals
Teaching is directed at achieving these goals
When MUSIC is the central element in lessons, then all of the above should also apply for
the beginner and intermediate levels
Although work at the lower levels is mainly aimed at putting foundational and technical skills
into place, an understanding of the musical goals can be the motivation needed to work
properly with problem areas.
Lessons should be aimed at;
Enjoyment and discovery of music
Building general musicianship
Good solid foundations of flute skills
The achievement of obtainable goals
Building confidence and independence in the pupil
The aim should be to develop intelligent, intuitive musical beings, not simply note reading
flute blowing robots. At all levels the flute is the chosen tool but the subject is music. This
means music in all it`s forms, not a snobby hierarchy where classical is at the top and the
other forms are subordinate. I do feel however that classical technique should be central to the
teaching as this gives a good and stable starting point for the investigation of other genre. We
should set our own biases aside and guide the pupil through all types of music so that they can
decide what it is that they like.
You should always keep in mind that…
You can`t fit a square peg into a round hole
You might however, over time, sand and form that peg to fit!
There`s no point in bashing your head against a wall. Do like Joshua at Jericho….

Use music and take the time it takes!!
Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 6 -
The little people- 5-8 years
Open and ready
Build an early relationship to the
instrument and music
Plenty of time, no rush
Basic skills are put in place early
Why not?
Find it intimidating
Embouchure problems
Size of instrument
Cost of instrument
Unable to concentrate very long
Weigh the “why?” against the “why not?” and then the “why not?” against the “how?”. If
there are real benefits to starting earlier than usual then adjusting the method might give a
way ahead. You should however give good consideration as to whether any of the difficulties
in the “why not?” list can really be overcome.
The little people- how?
Yamaha fife
Group teaching
Parental involvement
Many activities- not just playing
One thing at a time
Regular ”performances”
9-11 years- The traditional beginner age
Some general differences to the little people;
A clearer idea of how a flute should
Much more peer conscious
Impatient to improve
Become demotivated if progress is too
Become demotivated if progress is too
Because this group has some idea of what playing a flute really is, are impatient to forge
ahead but at the same time are sensitive to how they measure up to their peers a fine balance
needs to be made in the speed of progress.
9-11 years- how?
Yamaha fife as a primer
Regular group lessons (unless it is
Parental involvement?
Many activities- not just playing
New challenges
Allow pupil input- talk to them
Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 7 -
Group lessons are useful as the lessons become very dynamic. However one must constantly
evaluate the usefulness against problems like one pupil falling behind or another forging
Likewise the involvement of parents and performances can help in progress and confidence
building. But some children in this age group (especially at the older end) prefer to be private
about their playing and withdraw into the safety of the group. In such a situation the interest
and enthusiasm of parents might be unwelcome and received in quite a hostile manner.
Performances can also be a problem with this sort of child, with them unwilling to play for the
usual audience of family and peers. They will however, often be willing to play in a group
setting for strangers rather than be the only who hasn`t played on a concert.
Adolescence- The danger zone
Why do many suddenly quit playing, for no apparent reason, as they reach their early teens?
A need to exercise control over their own
Trying to make a point with their
Hormonal turmoil?
Changing interests?
A wish to blend in with the gang?
Pressure of school work?
Give them some control over lesson
Cut the parents out of the loop
Be friendly but keep some distance!
Only natural that interests might change
Help them to gain status amongst their
Don`t pressure them about practice
If you can help them through this period they will probably
carry on playing for many years
Some generalisations
Girls versus Boys
Other girls play flute
Easily influenced by peer pressure
Better concentration and fine motoric
skills at an earlier age
Easily discouraged if they feel they are
behind in group
Conscious and individual choice
Technically minded; fast progress driven
by a need to understand
Show uncertainty through disruptive
The general reasons behind a boy or a girl choosing the flute might have some bearing on how
you teach the individual. In general flute is seen as a typical girl`s instrument and this means
that a boy who chooses the flute has often thought long and hard about it.
Likewise the differences between the genders can also play a part in how you choose to teach
a certain pupil. There can also be geographical differences connected to different schools. I
will often adjust my teaching style depending on which school I am at and the general way
that children from that school interact with me.
Teaching flute at the beginner and intermediate levels
Copyright; Dean Stallard 2003 - 8 -
Important in group teaching if it`s going to be fun
You don`t need to scream and shout
Sometimes you don`t need to say anything at all
Self discipline in a group is the same as respect for the others
Poor discipline can be a sign that you are on the wrong track
Discipline doesn`t need to be overt control by the teacher, but it is an important factor if
lessons are going to be productive and fun. Many of my pupils complain that their day at
school is tiring and sometimes stressful simply because there is so much noise in the
classroom. Some children react very badly to group disorder and things get very quickly
boring and out of hand if minor discipline problems are not taken care of immediately.
If the group is in turmoil then your shouting “QUIET” simply adds to the noise level. If you
start talking in a normal voice then chances are that the kids will quieten down because they
are afraid they are missing something. Sometimes saying nothing at all, simply standing and
waiting can have the desired effect, or to tackle a disruptive influence simply moving closer to
them or looking at them is enough.
One should work at making the group self-disciplining, with pupils showing respect not only
yot you as a teacher but to the rest of the group. Respect of course is a two way street and by
you treating all pupils respectfully they will learn that this is the correct way to act.
Lessons should contain;
Playing by ear/ imitation
Improvisation/ creative work
Rhythm work
Polyphonic playing
Theory in practice
Using notation
Performance training/confidence
Remember that the goal is to create musical beings. Working in a consolidation pattern will
help the pupils to have “aha” experiences where they recognise what they already know. I feel
this is also true of theory and notation. If the child already knows something before it is
introduced in the written form then they are more likely to couple it with past experience and
remember it. This is especially true at the beginner level where I feel that notation should
never be used to technically advance the child.
Teaching kids is rewarding but can at times be tiring. Remember;
Patience is a virtue
Everything comes to those who wait
And finally…………………….
If it ain`t no fun then what`s the point!?!

lym068 发表于 2012-3-16 15:07:17



jiangjieke 发表于 2013-9-11 16:34:45

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