A lot of times when we are warming up, we just play our exercises to get through them. We play them to warm up the lip, and to warm up the fingers. But we are not really thinking our way through them. Every time you have the flute up to your lip, you need to be making music. Whether you are doing long tones or scale exercises, or some type of arpeggio exercise, it always needs to be done musically.

Now I could play my scale study up and down until next week without even thinking about them. If you were listening, you would say that I did them well. That is, they served their purpose of warming up the muscles of fingers and lip. But what about the music? Should I even play anything if I do not play intentionally musically?

You Perform as You Practice
The bottom line is that if you play your exercises musically, this musicality will carry over into your solos. So, since you do want to perform your solos musically, then you should practice your exercises musically.

Let’s face it, warm-ups are the foundation of everything we do on the flute. It is here where we begin to pay the piper. Work on these seemingly insignificant exercises with intentional musicality, and you will go a long way to making music in your etudes and solos and ensemble music.

But Scales are Boring
The next question is how do you make boring scales interesting? You need to look for a way to shape these scales going up and going down. If you were to think of these the same way you would look at the same type of passage occurring in say a Mozart concerto, how would you play it? Where would you emphasize a note (maybe at the top), and that arpeggio might need the first note to be brought out.

Each scale exercise is different and can be phrased differently each time you play. That is a great exercise to change up the musical line of that scale to help you hear something you perhaps have not heard before.

Where’s the Music!
I played an unmusical scale one time for a teacher. She immediately stopped me and exclaimed “where’s the music? What are you playing? Where’s the music to what you’re playing?”

At the time I didn’t really know what she was talking about. She worked with me and taught me how to make music with everything that I play, not just with solos. It was a fantastic lesson to learn.

This teacher also taught me to listen to my articulation when playing scales. She always had me play my scales with all the Taffanel and Gaubert articulations. But I didn’t always phrase these articulations. So, she had me slur a section first. Then she had me do the articulation, but make it sound like a slur. This was an eye-opening experience. It made me realize what a musical phrase should sound like. It really did change me and my playing.

Play Arpeggios Musically?
How about arpeggios? Can you play them musically? Absolutely! I love playing Reichert’s 7 Daily Exercises no. 2. It is an arpeggio exercise that moves between an I chord and V chord. It can be played musically phrasing each chord as it leads into the next. Additionally, every time you play that exercise, it can be phrased differently, thus giving you something to think about, and keeping you focused.

It makes me have so much more joy in playing that, because I find that I’m not mindlessly playing just a scale exercise or just an arpeggio exercise that doesn’t mean anything. Now I feel like everything means something.

This Becomes Automatic
The benefit to this type of intentional musical practice is that when you run across parts of these exercises in your solos, you will automatically play them musically because you have learned to play them musically.

So that’s my advice to you for today. Start your next warm-up session with a musical warm-up because playing musically is much more interesting for you, the payoff is great, and you’ll be much more interested in doing those exercises, if you make them musical.

Have fun!


Watch me demonstrate this: