It’s been a long time since many flute players have conducted live performances. Because of the pandemic, there were fewer chances to perform in person. This list of 13 essential etiquette tips for flutists will help you feel a little more confident when you play live and work with other musicians.
1. Don’t take failure personally.
Competitors in the music industry can range from battling to get into the best music schools to auditioning for summer music festivals and camps. Acknowledge and applaud the accomplishments of others. People will reciprocate your future victories.
2. Apply when there is an opening.
Opportunities in music are not easy to come by. Be sure to inquire or apply for an open vacancy you believe you can fill, but it is best not to ask or send your résumé to an ensemble that doesn’t have an opening. While not intentional, it could be perceived as disrespectful to the current group members. And if you are new to town, send a letter introducing yourself and expressing your interest to be notified if there is an opening.
3. Don’t feel bad if you are not asked to play every time.
Even if you’ve previously collaborated with other musicians, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will ask you to play every time. While it is true, it is easiest to continue to work with the same person if they have done a great job, and for a few different reasons, they may elect to work with other musicians, including you, to varying intervals of time.
Make sure you don’t take things personally. Instead, look for another gig or create your performance opportunity.
4. It’s best to have your alto flute, not borrow one.
When you get called for a job that calls for you to play alto flute, sometimes that is the moment you are meant to buy one. The same is true for any instrument you don’t own—from piccolo to bass flute. While it’s tempting to call your friend who owns one to see if they will loan it to you or rent it to you, having your instrument makes you instantly more marketable, and your commitment to improving on the instrument is very high.
Equally, while most flute players are friendly and generous with their time and resources, borrowing someone’s instrument could put you in a challenging position with your friend if anything goes wrong. Musical instruments are meant to be played and cared for by one flutist at a time. Therefore, it is best to have your own instrument to love to play.
5. Do your warm-up exercises privately.
Avoid warming up in front of the crowd if possible. Warming up on stage with a piece of music you intend to perform is too revealing to whoever is early listening in the audience. The audience could interpret it as a sign that you aren’t prepared, depending on how knowledgeable they are. If you warm up on stage before performing, your audience may also be more interested in comparing how you perform and compare it to your warm-up.
6. Be respectful of your fellow musician.
As a musician, we come to music at different times in life and for a broad range of reasons. While you may be serious about becoming a professional, someone else may want to figure out how to play their flute in a rock band. It’s important to respect all flute players and musicians and to do your best to meet them where they are. Be sure you never say anything about a musician you might regret later. The goal is to make more music friends and share insights and knowledge.
7. The audience appreciates silence.
Being on stage is a magical experience for a patron when others around them are quiet and actively listening. Sometimes as a performer, we forget this is the first time the audience hears what required many rehearsals to prepare. We want our colleagues to have the opportunity to surprise and delight their audiences and create magical moments. Never lose sight of the importance of engaging and entertaining your audience while maintaining professionalism, even when you go out to the audience to listen to that part of the concert you are not performing in.
8. Dress the part.
When you’re on a stage or an elevated platform, and the audience is seated, they’ll be able to see your lower legs and shoes because they’re at eye level. If you’re a soloist, be sure not to wear anything that focuses attention on your feet. If the group you’re performing with has a dress code, abide by it. If you’re a soloist, do not wear anything that focuses attention on your feet.
9. Keep your feet still.
Tapping your foot during a performance can be a distraction, like many other things on this list. When no one else is tapping their foot, it can detract from the overall atmosphere on stage.
10. Change out your music with care.
The piece has ended. What’s the next step for you? The applause for your superb flute playing can be savored, not shuffled (or clicked), in search of the next piece of music. Unless your group has another strategy, wait until the applause has faded before moving on to the next musical piece. While the applause is going on, acknowledge and appreciate it.
11. Turn music pages quickly and quietly.
In the middle of the piece, it’s equally important to try not to flip pages too quickly but instead do it as quietly as possible while you’re on stage. For example, a loud page turn in the middle of a soft musical solo can diminish the experience of the performer and otherwise flawless performance for the audience.
12. Express yourself carefully.
While performing, be aware of your facial and body expressions. The stage is meant to serve as a place to celebrate music making, not have your audience focused on a celebratory high five in between movements or a frown when you miss a note. Do you raise an eyebrow? Stomp? Tend to cough frequently and need that glass of water by your side? Be aware of your facial and body expressions so that others can enjoy your performance that much more.
13. Take a bow.
Showing your appreciation for the audience’s applause with a bow is a nice touch. Avoid bowing too slowly or quickly. Instead, come back up with the same speed as you came down, bowing while saying “do-re-mi.” When bowing in a group, one person can take the lead, and the others can follow.
Most of these etiquette suggestions are easy to implement and will go a long way toward building positive relationships with other flutists and music lovers. Ultimately, the goal is to have a long career, continue to improve your artistry as a flutist and strive to be the happiest person you can be.