Methods and Etudes - Best Of

When it comes to methods and etudes, flutists are mostly spoiled for choice. We have scads upon scads of pure etude books from all periods - Bach, Kohler, Taffanel, Jeanjean, the list goes on - as well as countless warm-up exercises, daily workbooks, pedagogical texts, progressive lessons... You name it, we probably got it.

And yet - there are new, unique methods, easy to miss if you're not ready to Where's Waldo your way through throngs of books. Here are several methods worth finding. 


Alto and Bass Flute

Alto Flute Method
Christine Potter

Instructional methods for alto flute are like the grass in the pen of an extremely detail-oriented cow: very, very thin on the ground. (And depending on the flutist, possibly inclined to come out the other end as methane). They are not an abundant commodity. This makes Christine Potter's newly published Alto Flute Method major news - and who better to create an alto method book than Potter, one of the world's top proponents of low flutes?
 
It's comprehensive, to say the least - a multitude of exercises on tone development, articulation, breathing, and pitch complement the technical etudes and the pages upon pages of background theory, comprehensive explanations, repertoire lists, tips on buying and repair, alternate fingerings, and transposing (to limit ourselves to a short list of all it contains, of course).
 
If you play alto flute - or are ready to launch yourself into the alto face-first - this book is the absolute best place to start.


Bass Flute Method
Christine Potter

Hot on the heels of Chris Potter's new Alto Flute Method comes her Bass Flute Method - and a good thing, too, because the bass flute could certainly use its own set of studies and warm-ups, from basic to advanced.
 
The Bass Method includes much more than etudes, though. The bass flute presents its own challenges, and those challenges range from the need for unique alternate fingerings and the effect of long tones and tonguing on breath control, to what airlines are large-flute friendly and how to check for intonation problems when buying a bass.
 
All critical issues, and not something you'd find in most resource books. If you've got a bass flute in your life - or want a bass flute in your life - the Bass Flute Method is exactly what you need.


Beatboxing

Flutebeatboxing
Tilmann Dehnhard

Flutists beatboxing has become a New Normal thanks to Greg Pattillo - especially with his recent and extremely popular Three Beats for solo beatboxing flute. However, actually learning how to beatbox can sometimes be... a challenge, shall we say.
 
Dehnhard's flutebeatboxing is the first full method designed to make learning beatboxing efficient. It begins with the very basics - how to create the basic syllables and plosives - and progresses into full studies and concert pieces.

Flutebeatboxing ends with explorations of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, Bach's Badinerie, and other standards - and voice sounds are covered, too, to create even cooler textures.


Beatbox Flute Method Book
Greg Pattillo

Greg Pattillo’s new Beatbox Method holds a bit of a surprise. It's not just a simple beatboxing flute tutorial - it's a comprehensive method that conveys a deep sense of musical and rhythmic understanding. It's also one of the most effective teaching tools for improvisation and vamping we've seen, and that's not even its main focus.
 
Greg builds your ability to beatbox from the ground up, and he does it with the thoroughness and excellence of Kujala, Moyse, and Kincaid. These are not overblown comparisons. Greg instills a deep understanding of beatboxing with thorough, readable explanations of sound production and anatomy as he guides you progressively and intuitively through five sections: Basic Beatbox Sounds, Combining Sounds with Flute, Beatbox Pattern Creation, Buildings Patterns with Flute Melodies, and Creating Melodies Over Existing Beats.

The method is constructed cleanly enough - and with enough intelligent explanation - that it's moved beyond just a teaching method; any self-motivated player will be able to use and learn from this book. Essentially, Greg has elevated flute beatboxing to a versatile, fully-developed contemporary technique, making it easy and fun to learn while being even more thorough than one could hope. An impressive book.


Beginning Methods

60 Lecons Methodiques
François René Gebauer

Part method, part beginning and intermediate duet collection, Gebauer's 60 Methodical Lessons for 2 Flutes progresses from the very basics - whole notes and half notes - to full intermediate study duets on genre and form.
 
 Each duet study focuses on a specific lesson, from whole notes in the first study (duets for the very beginner) to different forms of slurs, syncopations, tuplets, major and minor keys, and musical forms.

What sets the Gebauer apart is the progression from true beginner to confident intermediate player. In all frankness, it's difficult to find true beginning duets; the popular Selected Duets books jump right in, far above a first- or second-week level! The Gebauer encompasses all the levels found in the first Selected Duets, plus that very beginning level, and that's an exciting thing for teachers looking to expand the duet repertoire they play with their students.


Fluting Stars
Ana and Blaz Pucihar

Crystal clear exercises. Quick and well-paced progression. Small solos, duos, and more, all packaged with bright and compelling illustrations, games, homework, and downloadable audio examples and backing tracks to keep your students practicing and moving forward at home as well as in your lessons. 

In essence, the Fluting Stars books are comprehensive, complete, and concise beginner courses with massively attractive packaging. They balance learning (from the beginnings of reading music to composing melodies and filling in chords, or even playing included trios and quartets) with educational games - games that range in level from identifying what a staff looks like, to mazes that follow note patterns and pairing advanced musical terms with definitions.
 
They make teaching beginners easy.

Divided into Book 1 and Book 2, Fluting Stars also naturally provides an effective marking point for where to start your students.
 
If they're pure beginners - fresh from the playground, can't read music, try to hold the flute upside down - Book 1 is the place to start. If they've had a year or so of public school lessons, or they come to you knowing how to play a few scales, are getting a consistent sound, and can read music, Book 2 is what you need.

 

There truly is no friendlier beginning flute method, especially ones with such complete lesson plans.


Contemporary Music / Extended Techniques

Papierblüten
Ulrich Gasser

Contemporary techniques and languages aren't easy, much less when you're suddently thrown into the terrifying piranha pool of a Berio, Clarke, or Takemitsu showpiece. That's where the Gasser studies come in.
Gasser's Papierbluten (Paperblossoms) is a collection of 24 studies designed to teach contemporary music in a truly lovely, accessible manner. The first study begins with free meter, and as the studies progress we begin to see stranger metrical notations, glissandi, harmonics, and space notation; micro-intervals, quarter tones, and alternate fingerings - all these and more, but in a friendly way.

(Friendly cannot be overstated - it's a bit of a relief to progressively work (or even just warm up) on contemporary music that gently stretches your muscles instead of immediately launching you into deep space.) 

But don't be lulled into a false sense of security - Paperblossoms does end with full, in-depth etudes that are no walk in the park. The difference is, of course, that those etudes fully build on what you've played earlier in the book, making this one of the few truly progressive modern methods.


Sound and Tone Production

Harmoniques
Pierre-Yves Artaud

I'm going to make a grand claim about Artaud's Method on harmonics: It's possibly the most important contribution to sound production since Moyse's De la Sonorite.
 
It begins with harmonic long tones, progresses through dozens of scalar and arpeggiated warm-ups and exercises, and culminates in high-level full concert etudes that extensively utilize harmonics (including a version of the Bach Allemande almost completely rewritten with harmonic fingerings - again reminiscent of Moyse, and his 50 Variations on the Bach Allemande).

Like Potter's Alto Method, this book fills a void - harmonics are a tricky business, and no method tackles them as extensively, or with as much focus, as Artaud does.

And as a bonus, the last section includes techniques and exercises on producing polyphonics from harmonic tones.


Vibrato

Vibrato Workbook
Christine Potter

Vibrato production is notoriously a bit of a mystery; there are as many ways to produce vibrato as there people to argue about how to produce vibrato. And, though there have been small sections of texts that touch on exercises and productions (Trevor Wye's Practice Books contain such a selection), there haven't been entire dedicated texts.
 
No longer! Potter's Vibrato Workbook provides hundreds of full, thorough exercises for developing, building, and controlling vibrato. Beginning with basic pulses per beat, Potter moves through different pulses (and different levels of vibrato) to full musical applications.
 
As a side note, we've gone through this book extensively, and it's equally useful to both vibrato beginners and professionals. As a professional, strengthening the quality of vibrato through straightforward etudes is hard to overrate. And of course, as a beginner, what better way to develop clean technique?


Warming Up

The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion
Terri Sánchez

Terri Sanchez's The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion is a ridiculously comprehensive guide to music, practice (of course), and everything you might encounter in your daily musical life.

The Practice Companion is structured in three parts (everything good comes in threes), and here's a quick rundown: 

PART ONE - A multi-chapter resource on developing your personal artistry. This includes practice techniques and routine-building, performance readiness and preparation, taking various aspects of your playing to the next level - and, perhaps most importantly, identifying your own weaknesses and developing specific solutions for them, whether you're focusing on practice issues or on overarching musical and musicianship concepts.
 
PART TWO - One hundred engaging, useful practice games on learning new music, refining musicality, building muscle memory - all that good stuff.
 
PART THREE - Hugely thorough etudes and warm-ups with new takes on learning and teaching a huge variety of techniques, composed by Sanchez, that are designed to supplement (and, in some cases, replace) Taffanel and Gaubert. It includes Sanchez's well-known Epic Flute Warm-up, which you can take a sneak peek at on her blog here.
 
Truly, the Practice Companion is something you'll just keep on your stand. It's that useful.