Getting ready for going back to school can be fun because it's a chance to buy fresh supplies and start the school year right. Even though most band teachers have a general list of materials or may even provide materials for each student, there are things you as a parent can make sure your flute student has to give them a chance of success from Day 1.
1. An Instrument in Working Order
Flute is a common instrument which means that most school band programs will have one or two lying around. However, being able to have an instrument to practice at home is essential to make real progress in band. Check your local music shop to see what rental options they offer. It usually includes maintenance, so if your flute student drops the instrument or accidentally sits on it the shop will repair or replace it without extra fees. If you know your student is committed to playing the flute for more than three years, then you may want to look into purchasing a flute they can call their own. Although a local music shop can sell you an instrument, flute retailers usually have lower prices and specialize in all things flute. Not sure what kind of instrument you need to buy? Retailers like Flute Center of New York can work directly with you to make sure you spend your money the right way and your student ends up with a flute they will love for years to come.
2. Cleaning supplies
Did you know that flutes need to be cleaned every time they are played? Proper cleaning on a regular basis can help prevent bacteria buildup inside of the flute and keep your student healthy! Some local music shops will include cleaning supplies with rental instruments, but sometimes they don't and band teachers may not have extras to give to every student. For flute, the non-negotiable supplies are a cleaning rod, cleaning cloth, and polishing cloth. You can find a cleaning kit at your local music shop or buy these supplies from Amazon or Flute Center of New York. For the polishing cloth, make sure it is NOT a silver polishing kit and cloth! This can damage and scratch the flute surface.
Did you know that band teachers recommend students own a tuner and metronome almost every day? A tuner can help your flute student train their ear and play better, and a metronome can help your student build a better sense of rhythm. Your flute student will be their teacher's favorite if they practice with these two things at home! My favorite tuner/metronome app is called Tunable. Even though it's not free, it's definitely worth the purchase. This app was less than $10 as of this blog's publication, and your average physical tuner/metronome can be anywhere between $30 and $100!
4. Music stand
If you want your student to practice good habits and to practice often, having a proper place to put their music is a must. If your flute student is using a chair, table, or their bed to read their music, they can be practicing in a position that can strain their muscles and make it difficult to practice comfortably. You can find a durable foldable or solid music stand at your local music shop or on Amazon. Here are my student's favorite music stands:
5. Ear plugs
Whether your flute student is in beginning band or marching band, they are surrounded by lots of instruments and sound when they play as a group. Hearing loss is a very common issue in full time flute players, and this can start as early as beginning band! Ear plugs can protect your student's ears and make sure their hearing isn't damaged from playing in band. They even have ear plugs designed to protect the ear from high decibel exposure without muffling what your student is playing. These are the ear plugs all of my marching band students use:
6. Durable water bottle
Playing the flute with a dry mouth can be uncomfortable and negatively affect the sound. Hydration is important for flute players, especially if they're in marching band and in the hot sun for hours! Invest in a large but portable water bottle so you don't have to worry about your student passing out from dehydration. I use The Iron Flask, which is like a Hydro flask but cheaper and equally cute with different sizes and almost 30 color options:
7. Alcohol Prep Pads
For flute students who are marching and sweating while playing, or for students who are in middle school and pick up germs throughout the day, alcohol wipes can make you flute feel new and shiny. My students use the small alcohol wipes to rub down where their hands touch the flute body so it doesn't feel grubby or sticky. Tuck a few of them in their flute case or their music folder and they can have them when they need it most.
8. Private Flute Lessons
The hard truth is that most band teachers are not flute specialists. In reality, unless a band teacher is a flute player themself, they can find it difficult to help flute students with issues and problems that are unique to playing the flute. Making sure your flute student has a flute teacher who knows how to adjust a tuning cork or how to teach proper flute techniques can make playing the flute more fun and fulfilling.
Ask the band teacher or look at local colleges for a flute teacher, or see if there's a teacher who offers virtual lessons if there aren't any teachers in your immediate area. As a college flute professor who teaches middle and high school students, I always look forward working with new students who love to play the flute but don't have all the answers!
Final Flute Notes
At the end of the day, these are 8 things that any band teacher will ask or require your flute student to own or purchase for the school year. The great thing is that some of these items are a one-time purchase and will last for your flute student to enjoy year after year, and possibly beyond!
Did I miss anything? What are your musical Back-to-School must haves? Follow our Instagram page for more tips!