On a whiteboard in my flute studio, I ask my students one question a month. January’s was: “What is your New Year’s Flutalution?” (resolution in flute language!)
It was clear that most students had things that they wished to work on in their flute-playing. It did not matter the age of the student, or how long they have played, but from beginners to advanced, they had ideas and knew what they were aspects of their playing they wished to improve. Here are some of the answers:
*Head up, feet solid, not slam my fingers (6 year old)
*Practice more often (5th grader)
*Learn my high trills (11th grader)
*Not clipping my notes (7th grader)
*Change Embouchure to get a better sound (7th grader)
*Keep Pinky Down on most notes (6 year old)
*Long Tones for a better sound (adult)
*Use my Tongue (7th grader)
*Fuller sound (beginner)
*Get 3 songs ready for every lesson (a student who has been playing for 4 years)
*Tension free playing (student who has played almost 2 years)
*Try to ace my college audition (senior in HS)
*Learn more high notes (10 year old, and yes, she has achieved this and learned most of the upper register in a month!)
*Memorize all 5-note patterns (7 year old)
*Improve Rhythm (8th grader)
*Get my plugs out and get in symphonic winds (Junior)
*Stop hanging my fingers over the keys (10 year old)
*Practice at least 3 days a week (Beginner)
*Learn to play a lot quieter (Junior with a great big, full sound)
*Memorize all my 5-note patterns (4th grader)
*Follow Miss Molly’s advise and listen better, also, get fingers closer to keys (10 year old)
*Practice with a journal while getting ready for college auditions (senior)
*Work extensively on a new Natural/melodic/harmonic minor scale each day (Senior who just got accepted into the Marine Band!)
Now that you have read the list of goals that students wrote down, try to think about each one and if it fits into one of the following categories: Long-term, Medium-term or Short-term goals.
1. Long-term, missional based goals: These goals are based on your core values. In terms of flute playing, it may mean that you would be setting a goal based on how long you wish to play throughout your life. You may wish to play just through high school, or make flute your career, or you simply wish to experience the day-to-day pleasure of playing as an amateur. Perhaps you find some healthful benefits to playing, and you wish to keep playing on a regular basis due the stress release it provides, or breathing benefits.
You may ask yourself, how does playing your instrument fulfill your perceived purpose in life? Some goals may center on this. For instance, if you say “I am making a goal to have fun while I make music”, then you are filling a very needed purpose to add some joy to your life. Or, you may decide that your were given talents to help others experience beauty in life and perhaps turn their eyes from sorrow, so your goal may be to continue playing so that you can help others.
I do not see any answers from my students on the whiteboard to suggest that the students are thinking long term, but I do know that many of them are thinking long term. Apparently, they tend to think automatically about short term or medium term goals to improve their playing. Asking them about their long term goals may be another question that I would like to explore with my students in the studio in the near future.
2. Medium term, strategic goals: I would consider most of the above of my students goals to be medium term goals. Once you come up with something you need to fix in your playing, you then will set yourself a time limit to focus very hard on one aspect for a month to perhaps 3 months. You might not work on this exact goal every time you play, but you may decide something like this:
“I will focus on not slamming down my fingers while doing my scales for the next 2 months”
“I will look in a mirror and improvise music while relaxing my embouchure as completely as I can for 1 month”.
3. Immediate, tactile goals: Some of the goals written down by my students were more immediate in nature. These are more organizational centered goals, where a student decides that they will try to practice more, or they will try to play 2 more songs well in each lesson than they usually do. Focusing on a to-do list will help you achieve smaller objectives that you desire to work on in your playing, but also you may find that writing down a small to-do list for each day for your practice session can help you organize your thoughts and larger goals.
Obviously, we often have to change focus to learn music quickly for a concert or audition. When this happens, we need to set aside some of the long-term and medium-term goals we have so that we can focus on achieving the immediate needs of the audition or concert. This would be another example of a short-term goal.
As an end note, take time to write down all of your goals that you can think of into the three categories. This can help you jump-start your practice sessions by organizing and prioritizing your daily life so that it meets your flute goals. I would also take time to ask yourself which goals were given to you by a teacher or another person, versus the goals that you came up with yourself. This could also be another meaningful exercise, and perhaps a whole other blog post!