Would you give The Flight of the Bumblebee to a 6th grade student, still in the beginning stages of learning their instrument? I recently said YES, and gave it to a student who:
- Went from practicing 1-day-a-week to EVERY DAY, several hours at a time (and actually now has trouble putting her flute down)
- Recently started to come to her lessons more well prepared than ever with material from her 1st lesson book
- Started listening to YouTube videos of flute pieces and famous flutists
- Has clearly developed a passion for playing her flute
- Recently exhibited much more comfort in the balancing of her instrument and has demonstrated a much stronger sound
- The Flight of the BumbleBee is mostly chromatic scales, with a few surprise leaps, so it is rich with note-learning and finger-change possibilities, that can only enhance the flutist’s learning experience
- She looked at me (wide-eyed) and asked me if she could please play the Flight of the Bumblebee!!!
I do not have issues with giving her this piece, for many reasons. If a student develops a passion for their instrument, it is my job to nurture that passion, because when a fire is first lit, it can go out easily. But, I must proceed with caution and not damage the passion by giving her an assignment that is way to hard for her. So, I decided to make the piece all about finger, tonguing and tone exercises. I simply handed it to her and gave her 2 measures to learn. I told her to do the two measures in manageable ways:
- Turn the measures into a long tone exercise, playing each note so slowly that you make each note big and beautiful, full and rich
- Play each note in each measure 8x each, on a breath attack, so she could work on the quality of her sound while slowly learning the notes
- Play each note 8x as a slow double tongue passage, so that while learning the notes, she could start to work on her double tonguing.
- Since the piece is pretty much all 16th notes, I was able to teach her about how to work on difficult pieces by chunking, the lingering method, syncopating, etc. These tools are invaluable for learning difficult music, but she would be able to do this in one week, because, after all, it is only 2 measures of the piece!
Here are the measures I gave her last week, which she actually learned very well and played at a fairly quick piece this week :
During this week’s lesson, she played the above passages for me, and we worked on lightening up her fingers, keeping her fingers closer to the keys and how to listen for un-evenness in the passages. I showed her how I would sound if my fingers were far off the keys, as a beginner tends to play. Then I showed her how the piece was so much easier with my fingers close to the keys, and I played it delicately and fast. I sent her home with the assignment to work on those aspects of playing well. I also gave her a few more measures. She then asked me to teach her the very beginning of the piece (students ALWAYS want to start at the beginning, even when I do not want them to as much) At the beginning the flute music starts up high and moves down quickly in a chromatic passage. Even though she was not playing those high notes yet in her lesson book, I decided that she probably could start playing that notes based on the quality of her sound production. I gave her the fingerings and sent her home with just the beginning 5 notes of the piece to learn. For the record, we continued to work in her 1st lesson book, so that we do not miss any important progressive flute-learning steps along the way!