October 19, 2009

Flute for shorties!

I played flute through high school and college, while dabbling in other instruments here and there along the way. But flute is really the only instrument I feel qualified to teach without a little refresher course for myself. It's the one I could play in my sleep. So, of course, I still play at home quite often and Hannah Jane really wanted to learn. The problem? Short arms can't reach the foot joint (or even some keys above that) on the flute!

So I did a little research to find the design of the fife, that famous civil war instrument played by the guy typically marching along side the snare drummer in old civil war movies, to find one that uses the same finger patterns as the flute. The C fife has all of the same finger positions, but can only be used to play songs in the key of C. True, this is a bit limiting, but she's 6 so we're not going to be tearing trough songs loaded with accidentals any time soon.

I pretty much compose songs that I think she'll find fun and easy, and she plays them. Each day I'll add a bar or a staff and we just build from there. So now she can read a little music, pat out a beat, and play a little ditty on her own. It's big fun.

The down side is that the fife is seriously unforgiving in tone. The sound, when played by a child (or even some adults for that matter) can be likened unto that of a squeaky hamster wheel amplified by a microphone with some really serious feedback! Yeah, it can be that bad and worse! But the upside is that if you can even squeak out sound on the fife, you will generally have a luxurious tone once you progress to flute because of the intense embouchure required for the fife versus the more relaxed embouchure needed for the flute. So this is the spine for our music studies at the moment. We'll keep doing it as long as it is fun, and move on once it's not.

the video


  1. Branmuffin20.10.09

    I am always amazed at the things you do with your kids! Do you tune a fife like Mr. Senn tuned iccalos?

  2. I just wish every child could have such devoted, caring instruction. How can our schools do this?

  3. Only if by that you mean, do we ignore tuning all together! Everything always gets blamed on the piccolos! What's with that anyway?

  4. Jay, I taught in public schools and sadly, I just don't think you can. If you can, I never figured it out. A 3 to 1 student teacher ration is about the limit for this sort of fun!


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