Flute Punch

Failure, Part 1: The Philosophical Embrace

Posted on: September 26, 2012

I have a few students auditioning for All-State groups next week, which requires the submission of 4 recordings. When it comes to recording performances, everyone’s fear is that they won’t get any good takes.

Lesson 1: Failure happens to EVERYONE.

I recall an all-day recording session for our jazz band in college. At the end of the day, we had one tune left to record – a sax quartet. The performers were 3 students (including myself) and our professor. Let’s just say the pressure was thick, particularly since my career as a sax player had been less than stellar.

First take – a student screws up (not me). Second take – another student screws up (again, not me). By now, I was sweating, positive I’d be next. But I wasn’t. The next person to screw up was our professor (insert profanities here).

Lesson 2: You will survive.

The scene is an orchestra concert. Yours truly on principal flute. Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, I believe. We are on the last line of this fantastic piece, which means the amazing soloist is dripping on the piano, the orchestra members have headaches, and the audience hasn’t clapped for about 40 minutes. Guess who plays in the rest at the end of the piece, before the last 2 chords? ME. The Lone Flutist. Sometimes I still feel bad about that one, really. But it’s part of who I am as a musician.

Lesson 3: Failure is essential.

The Rachmaninoff experience taught me never to let my guard down. For 10 weeks, I sat in rehearsals and listened to people make that mistake, and never once did I feel the urge to make it myself. But when performance night came, it had become so much a part of my psyche that I heard it in my mind’s ear, and I played it.

You need failure. Especially as a student. It helps you learn in a way that success cannot. Get as many experiences under your belt as you can to provide yourself with opportunities to fail. Failure is like a Labor Day sale: Fail NOW, while failure is cheap!


2 Responses to "Failure, Part 1: The Philosophical Embrace"

Hi Franji:

Thanks for this post! Valuable for everyone.

Also a reply to a past post on “Alignment”.

This is an issue that has plagued me as an adult. At times I use a thumbport for my RH, other times I push the tip of my sideways RH thumb on the side of the keywork as Debost recommends. And the position of the thumb from side to side (under or to the left of the F key) varies as well.

I simply can’t keep the flute from rolling in with my thumb underneath the flute.

LH is always a pain – I need to get my first finger more under the flute and I use a pencil grip with poster tac to help with comfort. Problem is the tac always slips and I have to frequently move thumb grip back to a better postion as it slips into the thumb hole itself!

And then the fact that the height of the flute and the angle it is held out will affect the direction (think not parallel keys unfortunately) of the plane of the keys. Parallel keys are obviously the ideal. And I experiment with the position of the mouthpiece (rolling in or out depending on the height and angle of the flute).

So it’s complicated, atleast for me.

Maybe someone will benefit from this….


For the left hand, have you tried the Bo-Pep flute saddle? Re: angle of flute – I did see recently where angled flute headjoints are being made. The headjoint is bent at about a 30- or 45-degree angle. As for parallel keys – I think it used to be the case that in-line keys were better in tune, but now you can get professional flutes with an off-set G. Maybe the technology has improved enough!

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