The Difference Between Flute Practice and Flute Play

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Learn Flute Podcast SHOW NOTES:

There is something about playing your flute rather than practicing your flute… and it is so important! In this podcast I discuss how and why you should focus on actually playing your flute.

Learn Flute Podcast 107

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Podcast Transcript: 


Oooh, I’m excited about today’s subject here on our Learn Flute Podcast because we’re going to inject a whole lotta fun into your day as we learn how to play flute instead of just practice flute. Say wha??? Oh yah, let’s get started!

So what kind of a kid were you? It’s kind of fun to reminisce and look back on our childhood tendencies because it’s a very big window into what is probably still happening now at whatever age you are.

I recently took a really nice long weekend vacation with my husband for our anniversary. 

We drove to far away mountain range from us that is known for it’s intense beauty and majestic peaks. I shared a picture or two on my facebook, and I’ll put a few more on the podcast page at Learn Flute Online where you may or may not be listening to this episode right now. You might be listening on apple podcasts or on another platform. 

Either way, know that you can always come to the website and find all of the episodes and full-readable transcripts as well. And today – pictures, from my trip! 

Some people like to speed up, slow down, or read along as they listen to the podcasts. It’s a great idea, especially if you are taking notes and keeping a flute journal for yourself as you move along as a budding musician.

The reason I mention the little trip I recently took is because I noticed something while I was there and I couldn’t help but get swept back to the days of my youth. Let me explain- my husband and I knew that we were going to be backpacking into some beautiful lakes and our plan was to relax and enjoy eachother’s company for the long weekend.

Well, as we were packing for the trip, we thought it would be a great idea to bring some books and some magazines to read since we were going to have 4 days all to ourselves. 

Well, here’s what happened. My husband read everything we brought – everything! He read 2 Louis L’Amours, and everything else, we had several other books. I read about 3 pages of a cooking magazine, and that’s all.

Why you ask? Well okay, I thought about this very thing while I was sitting there… and I was wondering why he was sitting there enjoying his books and I couldn’t even focus on reading at all… well the answer is, I could not pry my eyes off the scenery! I honestly could not look away. I have a couple of hundreds pictures from the trip in my phone to prove it. 

Has this ever happened to you? I really just sat there and basked in the amazing views. I stared at the puffy clouds that went by, I watched the ripples in the water as they danced towards or away from me.

I marveled at the reflections, and let my eyes dart around as the chipmunks hopped up and down the tall pine trees. I heard the birds and the trees swaying with the breeze. 

Seriously… I was like my younger self again. Not like this is unusual for me, but it might be something you can learn from today.

I came away from this trip so well rested and fulfilled that I had to stop and think about it. What happened? Then I remembered that THIS is exactly what I was like as a child. I was either going full blast or I was lying in the grass staring at the sky. 


How about you?

What were you like when you were a youngster? I mean, do you even remember what your natural tendencies were?

Like I mentioned before, I was on the go… I was athletic and social, and had quite a drive to succeed at everything I was doing. But my goodness… I do have my own little la la land. And I still need to go there once in a while.

These are my moments of bliss. When I move everything else aside and just do the deep, inside ‘me’. You know I have learned that I have two real times when this reoccurs now as an adult, just like it was for me when I was a child.

The first is, as you can realize from my backpacking story, that the earth and nature have something for me. If I take the time to stop everything and just look and listen- oh, that is something that just fills my little cup. 

And the other is when I allow music and sound to take me away. You know it’s like that commercial you might remember from TV – “Calgon, take me away!” 

Just like I said about the earth having music for those who listen, this music also can reach a hidden part of you that sometimes you may have forgotten you even have. 

You, and me, like many or most humans on this planet tend to get kind of driven or wrapped up in a type of a day-to-day grind or schedule that is so rigid and full that there is no time left over for us to spend in our happy place.


Enter my thoughts of today: the word ‘play’ is when we are engaged in an activity that is meant for recreation and enjoyment rather than a serious or practical purpose.

And the reason I bring this word up is because when you were a kid, the times you were allowed to free play were possibly your favorite times of the day, right?

Playing sparks feelings of fun, discovery, and entertainment. 

So, since you’re all here listening to this podcast as part of the Learn Flute Online program, with the idea that you want to learn or improve how to play the flute… you can probably see where I’m going with this.

Okay okay, as your teacher I do talk a lot about how to gain the proper skills necessary to be able to sound and feel great on your instrument.

I also talk about setting a schedule, and many other ideas like this. So, why am I talking about all of this free play and taking time to day dream stuff today? 

Well, it’s solely because focusing on grinding out exercises and working on new things that feel stiff to us is often a reason we might forget that we really wanted to learn how to ‘play’ with music.


Alright- I’m here to tell you that no matter the age and stage of your flute abilities, you are hereby assigned to take time to ‘play’ music, this week especially. Whether it’s awesome or not doesn’t really matter.

The more you learn and the more skills you perfect, in time especially – as you learn here, and move through the modules – the more fluid your playing abilities will be. And, let me tell you- it’s quite fun!

Perhaps you were first introduced to the world of music education from someone who gave you not-so-nice associations with strict time limits and mind-numbing drills, and perhaps a little bit of anger. 

I’m here to tell you that those days are gone for you. Long gone. 

And guess what? You’re going to do better than ever.


Remember that drifting into la-la land and noodling around for a while during some of your sessions with your flute is totally okay. It truly is. In fact, it’s necessary to have that fulfillment once in a while, like we’ve been talking about today.

Yes, you’ll get better and better at this as you do it more and more. 

Here is your assignment: when you have the moment you feel like just popping into your creative head, choose to play with skills you are very familiar with, and slow down. Take time to explore. Put in puffy clouds of sound and don’t forget to chase chipmunks up and down the trees. 

This is kind of a metaphor for allowing your fingers to do what they will and see what happens. If you’ve been working through the lessons here and participating as a member of Learn Flute Online, you’ll have plenty of tricks up your sleeves, and, they’ll just pop out here and there as you play… it’ll be kind of fun! That means you’re not going to be reading any sheet music, just take your flute, and see what you can do to ‘play’ with it. 

It’s also important to know that there is no right or wrong with this type of daydreaming flute-play. Just do it. You might come up with something you really like. You may end up writing it down even, and then trying it another day to find out if the magic is still there. 

This would be called free-play, but there are also many other things you can do like pull out every little fairy tale or nursery rhyme song that you can remember. Especially from your childhood. 

You know how I like to help you work on skills that enhance your musical ear, right? This is one of them. What can you discover hidden in your noodle-notes? You know when you’re just letting your fingers go where they will? 


Find the little tunes. They’re there. 

They don’t even have to end properly – just get them started and see where they take you. If it starts sounding wonky, just stop and start again somewhere else. It’s just for fun anyway!

Okay- I’m going to mention something else here that will end up being a very important part of not only your musical education, but also to your creative happiness: and this is to keep the pieces that you’ve learned from yester-year in your fingers and in your heart. This is called repertoire: keeping your list, and playing those tunes often. 

You’ll find time after time in your life when someone says “Oh, you play the flute? I want to hear, play me something” – this is your very important cue to bring back what you’ve played for many months and years. It’s not the time to practice or get all serious with crazy scales or exercises for them or something that you don’t know how to play fully.

They won’t understand or even enjoy that. Play them something. Something that is on your fingers and on your tongue without effort. What do you have?

Think about it. 


At the first of the year, here at Learn Flute Online, I gave a special class where I talked about keeping a nice tidy list of what you could recall by memory if the occasion arose to play for someone. 

Well, here we are again, revisiting this same topic. What’s on your list? What can you actually ‘play’?

Don’t make your friends wait until you go set up your music stand, and find some sheet music. That’s definitely a kill-joy when they just want to have an little quick moment watching you do what they only probably dream of, which is get peppy with a happy little tune that makes the corners of their mouths turn up with delight. They will love it if you can play for them. 


You can do it.

Learn to play with your instrument.

Now, we all know you’ve heard about practicing, but what can you actually play?

I hope this is both entertaining and thought provoking at the same time because it’s pretty important to the longevity of your desire to keep on with your instrument.

How long do you feel you’ll be working on playing the flute? Well, if you do it right, you’ll never lose the thrill of what you might could learn next. It will just never end. 


Oh it’s been so much fun talking about play and our instrument today with you. 

You know, I love it. I really do, and I’m so happy to have this to share with you. I especially enjoy hearing from you and those of you who are in the members area here at Learn Flute Online.

Here are a few things that I hear – like what Lisa said, she says “The way you teach is so refreshing Rebecca. I don’t find it frustrating or overwhelming at all.” Well, thank you Lisa. I’m so glad you find my program a great fit.

And here’s another one, what a nice comment I received from Arioso who says “I’ve had some flute teachers before but you are the best I have ever met.” Oh man, what a great compliment. I should frame this one on the wall. It’ll help me keep going and keep finding new ways to help you enjoy your time in the lesson modules and with the other classes and activities here at Learn Flute Online.

Pat thanks me for the wonderful online lessons and says that during this pandemic when she hasn’t been able to get out to any in-person lessons or with her band that this instruction, at Learn Flute Online, has been absolutely lifesaving!” Wow, and thank you again Pat for your kind words.

I agree though, this pandemic has gone on far too long. But, we will get through it and we will be so happy we stuck with our goals and kept our musical happiness in the forefront.

It’s a great way to keep physically AND mentally healthy.

So, some words from your wise teacher here, take the time with your instrument as like a self-prescribed get-away that people will respect. They will!

Have you tried telling someone that you cannot oblige them in their request for you because you have a session on your schedule? Try it!

This is our fancy way to say we’re working on furthering your musical education. 

Just say “Oh, I can’t do that today because I have a session at that time.” And you’ll see people say “Oh, okay” and they’ll see that it’s serious enough that they should wait for you to finish.

It’s not like I’m perfect at this myself, but it is going right into my fall schedule today, as I schedule out the rest of my year. How about you? Can you work out some regular practice AND play time this fall? I hope so. I also would love for you to report back to me on how this goes for you.

It’s truly is another important skill to learn how to play flute instead of just practice flute.

Well, good day to you my flutie friends- we’ll see you next time! I’ll play you out with one of the most playful pieces of all time- Rimsky Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, which is in the learning modules here, at Learn Flute Online. 

See you later!

Thank you for Tuning In!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the difference between flute practice and flute play. See you next time! 

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Flute Practice and Flute Play”

  1. Rebecca, this rings so many bells. Your story about your holiday exactly reflects my time on Kangaroo Island. Our cottage had a fabulous view over the ocean to the mainland. Being Winter the weather was always changing, with amazing cloudscapes. I could (and did) sit and watch it for hours while Valerie read book after book! The other thing this brought up is that, really, I have no tunes on the flute that I really know, well enough to play for others. I do on the Irish Flute, and I do on the Irish Whistle but I’ve been playing these for many years. The whistle’s not a great solo instrument of course! The Concert Flute is sooo different and I am still spending far more time in practice than in playing. This is now gradually starting to change, and your podcast is very encouraging. Thank you.

    1. Rebecca Fuller

      Yes David, I understand. It’s a really good idea to start back at the short folk tunes and teach yourself too play them memorized. Keep an index card of what you know and play them every single day without looking at any sheet music. It’s helpful to remind yourself of the first two or three notes on the index card. I can’t wait to see what your list looks like within a year. Keep it up. I’m glad you had a wonderful holiday. Rebecca

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