We began each day with the Moyse long tones warm-up. To do this, first play a B natural in the staff and hold it as long as you can. Focus your air, listen to the sound, and fix it if it's not the clearest, purest B natural you can play. Then, play B natural for one beat and slur down to Bb for four beats. Take a breath, play Bb for one beat and slur down to A for four beats. Depending on your level, you can stop when you reach Eb or C (or if you have a B footjoint on your flute, stop after you play B). Then, begin the exercise again with the B natural above the staff. After going down chromatically for one octave, go back to the B natural above the staff and play chromatically up to the highest note you feel can play. You can vary this exercise by changing the lengths of the held notes.
After warming up on long tones, you should begin scales. If you have limited time, focus on the keys that your band music is in. Here's how I worked on major scales with the flute section at Plantation High. On Monday, we did Bb for one octave and Eb for two, both scales with arpeggios. On Tuesday, we did Ab for one octave and Db for two. Since their drill music and stand tunes were in these keys only, I decided to stay in these keys throughout the week. On Wednesday, I asked the students to play thirds in the Bb and Eb scales. Finally, on Thursday, the students played thirds in the Ab and Db scales.
My college band director used to say, "Intonation is 85% mental." He meant, of course, that too often we as musicians simply don't pay attention to playing in tune. He stressed first focusing on the tone of the note, and THEN the intonation. A few useful exercises for intonation are the Remington exercise (we started with F and ended with Bb). I also divided the students into three groups (two groups of flutes and one group of piccolos). When I gave the cue, the first group of flutes started playing the Bb scale in whole notes. When they reached D, I cued the second group of flutes to begin the scale on Bb. When they reached D, I cued the piccolos to begin on Bb. The result was a beautiful Bb major scale played in harmony. The next day, I did this same exercise in Ab major. If you are doing this exercise alone, you can either record yourself playing the scale and play in intervals of a third with the recording, or you can set your tuner to the tonic of the scale and play intervals against that.
A lot of the drill music that we were working on had challenging rhythms. I discovered that while teaching students to subdivide is necessary, it's essential that they also learn to vocalize the rhythm, even if it's simply on "ta." Vocalizing is effective because students are imitating attacking the note with their air and tongue.
I'd brought a metronome with me and tried to use it in the beginning of the week to establish tempo. While this is initially useful, it's more beneficial to the students to have their section leader start them, especially on the faster pieces. The section leader has already internalized the tempo and can keep the section together. Having the section leader start the piece also has the added benefit of increasing student attention and focus in the rest of section. If you're practicing alone, however, DO use the metronome as much as possible, as this will help you to build a sense of internal pulse.
The students were able to memorize their drill music and stand tunes in two or three days, so we concluded the week by working on their concert music. I showed them some important trill fingerings and reviewed the three different ways to play Bb.
I really enjoyed working with the students at Plantation High School and wish them a very successful marching season. In addition, I hope that this article has given you some insight into your own practicing.
Questions? Comments? I'd love to hear from you!