Thursday, November 14, 2013

Less Stress and More Results: How to Have More Pleasant and Productive Flute Lessons

 Less Stress and More Results:
How to Have More 
Pleasant and Productive Flute Lessons

The topic of my blog post today is near and dear to my heart.  Through countless mistakes as a student myself and the literally thousands of flute lessons I've taught over the past 15 years, I've discovered that taking flute lessons can often be a huge challenge, especially for advanced students.  If I can save you a little bit (or even years!) of frustration by sharing the following list of tips, that will make me feel really, really good.  

1. Do your best to separate critiques of your work from critiques of you as a person. Taking things personally impedes your own progress and puts a block between you and the person trying to teach you.

2. Realize that you and your teacher have different definitions and shades of meaning for the same vocabulary. Instead of loading up meaning on a particular word or phrase you hear from your teacher in a negative way, ask questions so that they can clarify their meaning to you. Odds are, it was not nearly as loaded as you thought and probably way more helpful.

3. Do not get frustrated if your teacher repeats his/herself. If you are not consistently demonstrating a skill, that repetition is a valuable reminder that you need to place a higher importance on improving in that particular area (and/or ask more questions so that further discussion can lead to further improvement).

4. Be respectful. Make eye contact. Smile! Nod your head. Remember that your teacher is a person and your tone of voice, facial expression and body language affects them just like their mannerisms affect you.

5. Be patient. It takes time to become truly excellent at most elements of flute playing. If your teacher assigns you something that is easily fixable, then by all means, fix it immediately. Learn, however, to identify what is a "now project" and what is an "ongoing project." Letting impatience and/or frustration about not achieving the instant gratification of a skill transformation get in the way of communication with your teacher is unfortunate and unnecessary.

6. Try to remember the point. Becoming obsessed with details for the sake of details is enough to drive any person crazy. When working on fine tuning your music, remember that the ultimate goals are clarity, beauty and effectiveness so that the music can come to life! If you are trying to be too literal and ONLY thinking about the exact instruction your teacher just gave 2 seconds ago, but completely forgetting that this particular passage is supposed to be energetic and a huge contrast to the previous section, you are not giving yourself or the music a fair chance.

7. Remember that your teacher is on your side.
It is not a battle, a judgement or a test. Weekly lessons are for YOUR benefit. The more time you get to spend with someone who is excellent at the very thing you would like to be excellent at, the better! Enjoy and seek out not just instructions and assignments, but also understanding. Learning how your teacher's mind works is one of the huge benefits of having lessons in the first place.