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  • Writer's pictureSusan Maclagan

Three Steps to Glory with Tadeu Coelho

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

NFA Convention 2008: To teach student to perform in a creative and fearless way and have confidence.


Reading music and playing music are different things. Study these separately when you practice. Thus, approach a new piece by:

  1. Working on the intellectual aspects of the piece, without using your flute and then

  2. Playing the piece on your flute rather than the reverse.

Intellectual aspects: rhythm, memory, etc. Physical flute aspects: fingering, breathing, embouchure, tonguing etc..

Step 1: Emotion: Half-sing the contour of the lines (i.e., everybody can do this because you don't need to be able to sing the exact pitch). The purpose is to figure out what musical idea a you have about phrasing and the music. Use the correct rhythm, dynamics, articulation, breathing places etc. and tons of emotion! Watch what syllables you are using to sing as certain syllables will be better for moving the music forward. If you prefer, you can verbalize what is happening with the articulation. i.e., say "staccato," "staccato," etc.

Step 2: Solfege or letter names: Repeat step 1, but add solfege or letter names. This forces the other side of the brain, the rational side, to be utilized in the learning process. Don't say sharp or flat (i.e., instead of saying F#, say F). As with step #1, there is no need to sing the right pitch. Keep the throat open. Don't strain. You may need to slow down because you are now using both sides of your brain. If you go too quickly, your mind won't be relaxed and the emotion used in step 1 may suffer.

When you perform without doing this step and you are nervous, the rational part of the brain will say "AWK, what note is that!!!??" and you will make a mistake. If you have said the note names, then when you get nervous, the rational side will say "It's C!"

After working on the above steps, take your flute and finger the correct pitches as you do the emotion in step 1 and the note names in step 2.

Note: This step is a great way to practice sight reading too.

Step 3: Act out: Act out the nuances of the music using your hands and body like an Italian opera singer. Use both hands and EXAGGERATE what you are doing. Students are usually shy about doing this. Doing it together with the teacher can help. Don't stare at music when you do it. When you integrate the body motion like an opera singer or dancer, musicality comes more naturally. Alternatively play an [air flute]. Show the phrasing as you play. Tadeu calls this "spiriting."

Step 4: Once you have done a good job of the above 3 steps, it's time to play the music. Be careful to sound ALL notes and apply all that you learned from the intellectual steps to your playing of the music.

Miscellaneous Points:

  • We repeat things so we can relax the mind. When this is done, the music will come through more strongly. How can we tell if the mind is not relaxed? It shows in the face.

  • Things you think of as a technique problem could, in fact, be a reading problem so, for example, a student may need to practice more note naming and less playing of the instrument. [It might also be useful to have the student say the time value names or have them state how many eighth notes are in each note if they are subdividing, etc.].

  • You may think that this process takes too much time, but actually, it takes less because you don't need to relearn what you did wrong.

Master Class Notes by Susan Maclagan © 2008

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