THE FLUTE NERD blog

Your Core Practice Checklist

Identifying your personal ‘must practice’ list will help you strengthen your weak areas and get the most of your flute practice. In this guide, I’ll walk you through creating a practice routine tailored to your specific needs

Every flutist has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. For some, playing with a beautiful, rich tone comes easily but their fingers trip over themselves as soon as they try to play faster; others may have fleet fingers but wish they had a larger palate of tone colours to play with. And this means no two flute practice routines should be the same.

Identifying your own specific areas for development will help you target your practice sessions and ensure that you improve faster.

In this blog, I’ll dive deep into how to craft your personalised practice playbook. It’s about shifting from a one-size-fits-all approach to a practice routine that speaks directly to your needs and goals.

It’s not about practicing more­­—it’s about practicing smarter. By the end of this blog I hope you’ll be able to you assess your own playing with compassionate criticism, identify your ‘must-hits,’ and structure a practice routine that not only addresses your weaknesses but also builds on your strengths, ensuring you get the most out of every minute you spend with your flute.

The Importance of Self-Assessment

The first step in building your ‘must-hit’ list is to learn how to assess your own playing. Even if you have a private teacher (or a space like the Flute Nerd Lab) and are getting regular feedback on your playing, you should still work on developing your own self-assessment.

I’ve written a whole blog on how to assess your own playing here, so make sure you check this out first!

Identifying Your ‘Must-Hit’ Exercises

Now that we’ve embraced a balanced and objective approach to self-assessment, it’s time to pinpoint those crucial ‘must-hit’ areas in your practice. These ‘must-hit’ exercises are ones that will help you improve your weaker areas. For example if your breath control is not what you wish it to be, then you’ll make sure you hit at least one breathing exercise every practice. The more we stretch ourselves in each of these weaker areas, the better they get.

Here’s how you can help identify your ‘must-hit’ exercises.

Analyse your current repertoire: Start by examining the pieces you are currently working on. What technical or expressive elements are the most challenging for you? Is it maintaining even fingers in a particular passage, articulation, breathing, etc?

Technique audit: Look closely at the mechanics of your playing. Break down your technique into several components: finger agility, breath control, tone quality, intonation, and rhythm. Where do you feel least confident? Which of these cause you to trip up in your playing the most?

Prioritise for progress: Now that you’ve got a good sense of the areas of your playing that cause you the most trouble, it’s time to prioritise. It may be tempting to address every single area you’ve identified, but spreading yourself too thin can lead to frustration and burnout. Instead, choose two or three ‘must-hit’ areas that will make the most significant impact on your playing.

Be as specific as possible: When trying to determine these ‘must hit’ areas, try to be as specific as possible. Being specific about your weakest points will help you improve faster. For example, instead of saying ‘tone’ as one of the must-hits (we can ALL always be working on our tone), perhaps the low register is where you struggle the most. Or maybe it’s tone quality as you change dynamics. Or maybe while articulating… etc.

Tailor your practice: Now that you have your ‘must-hit’ areas, find or design exercises that you can add to your daily practice that will really exercise each area. Again, where possible try to find exercises that stretch your specific weak areas rather than ‘tone’ or ‘finger agility’ in general.

Set goals and track progress: Where possible set goals and track your progress for each area. (Don’t forget to make the goals SMART!) I recommend using a practice notebook where you can keep detailed notes of your progress in each area.

Reflect and adjust: As you incorporate these targeted exercises into your daily flute practice, reflect regularly on your progress. Are the exercises helping you improve? Do you need to adjust the difficulty or focus of your practice items? Over time, your ‘must-hit’ areas will shift as you improve, and new challenges will arise. It’s a dynamic process that evolves with you.

Creating a Balanced Practice Routine

With your ‘must-hit’ areas identified, it’s time to construct a practice routine that fosters both growth and confidence. The goal is to build a flute practice routine that strengthens your weak spots while also reinforcing your strengths.

Here are some tips on how to create your ideal routine, but make sure you check out my other blog for even more flute practice plan tips!

Start with warm-ups: Just like athletes need to warm up before exerting themselves, we need to warm up our body and air. Start with gentle exercises aimed at waking up your body and breath. I’ve got loads of ideas for good warm-ups here.

Tackle your ‘must-hits’: Following the warm-up, start working through your ‘must-hit’ areas. This is when your mind and body are the freshest, and you can tackle the challenging tasks with vigour. Dedicate a substantial but reasonable amount of time to these exercises to ensure focused, uninterrupted work.

Make sure you leave time for other areas: While it’s tempting to really home in on these must-hit areas and spend all of your practice time on them, make sure you still make time for other things. We should always aim to practice scales and tone, whether they made it on our ‘must-hit’ list or not. Etudes are great for us and can be fun to play. And of course you’ll want to be working through some repertoire.

Finish up with something fun: End each practice session on a high note with something you love to play. It could be an improvisation, a piece of pop music, or an old piece of repertoire that you love. This ensures you leave the practice room with a sense of joy, eager to return.

Further Help  

Building a personalised practice routine with targeted exercises to strengthen your weakest areas is the quickest way to progress. Being able to self-evaluate your own playing is super important, sometimes it’s worth getting some outside help in the form of a teacher or peers.

A good teacher will be able to not only help you identify your weak areas and suggest good exercises to help them, they should also be able to give you the tools to learn how to self-assess your own playing. For more information about lessons with me, check out my flute lessons page here.

Finding a supportive community of other flute learners is another great way for outside help. I created the Flute Nerd Lab for exactly this reason! Inside this community, you’ll find personalised feedback from me on your videos, accountability in the form of practice challenges and the support of a wonderful community of enthusiastic flutists of various levels!

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Identifying your personal ‘must practice’ list will help you strengthen your weak areas and get the most of your flute practice