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  • Writer's pictureSarah Robertson

I Don't Have Time to Practice!

Marching band season is winding down. However, stress is still high, NATS is coming up, and marching band trips happen in a few weeks. Also on the agenda? Studio class, studio recitals, flute choir rehearsals, and college audition prep. I constantly hear “I just don’t have enough time to practice, Sarah!” as students come to their private lesson. I get it. I struggle to find quality practice time with my schedule as well!

But, guess what? There’s hope! As you walk from one class to the next, as you drive to work, as you do your homework, and as you sit on a bus heading to Florida, you can practice! You CAN make the most of your time. Yes, it’s a busy season. Yes, you can still practice. Below you will find six ways that you can practice without your instrument!


Breath control is so important in our flute world! Breathing helps calm the body, releases stress, prepares you for long phrases, and makes playing the flute possible! Breathe in for 4 beats, out for 4 beats. In for 4 beats, out for 8 beats, in for 4 beats, out for 12 beats, in for 4 beats, out for 16 beats. Repeat! Remember to fill your whooooooole body with air- bring the air all the way down to your toes. Finally, focus on tension points and release the tension while you exhale.

Vibrato You do not need your flute to practice vibrato! Form your flute embouchure and work through your vibrato exercises. Start by manipulating the air at a metronome tempo of 60. One vibrato wave per beat. Then move to 8th note waves, triplet waves, and finally 16th note waves. The goal is consistent wave lengths.

Double Tonguing You can be that friend who walking around silently double tonguing. Use an articulation that is comfortable for you; my studio uses tu-ku. Form your flute embouchure and start “tu-ku-ing” away! Start slowing and gradually speed up. Work on consistency of speed and try to keep the articulation light and the tongue low in your mouth.

Score Study Bring your music on those long bus rides and start studying the piece. Find the various sections, identify the form, and see how it fits together. Identify the phrases and breathing points.

Listening This goes hand in hand with score study. Listen to the piece that you are working on as it is performed by a professional flutist. Follow with your music and make notes about what you like and don’t like. Add in the points of interest like ritardandos and rubato. The best way to become the flutist that you want to become is to emulate the professional that you admire (#emmanuelpahud <sigh>).

Pencil Playing

This one is my favorite! You don’t need your flute to practice those difficult passages. Simply pull out a pencil, look at your music, and pretend your pencil is your flute. Work those problem sections through slowly. Feel free to sing or hum along while your air play on your pencil.

Bottom line? Time is valuable. So is your musicianship. You’ve got this, my friend. Play on!

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