Middle school and high school students across the world (and even just across the US) receive extremely different experiences in band at school. By following these tips and staying committed to your involvement with the flute, you can grow your skills and make significant progress (which is usually more fun!).
Bring your flute home from school every day, even if you don't have much time to practice. Practicing consistently, even for short periods of time, is better than practicing occasionally for long periods of time. Even 5-10 minutes of practice is better than no minutes of practice! Imagine going on a 5-mile run once a month... it's likely that it would feel uncomfortable because you'd be out of shape from not running consistently. It would probably be more beneficial to go on a 15-30 minute walk every day, just like it would be more beneficial to your flute skills to practice a little bit every day. How much you should practice depends on your goals.
What should you practice? Again, it depends on your goals, but it's usually a good idea to play some warmups like tone exercises, scales and scale exercises, and then either your band music or solo repertoire and etudes. You can find some free examples on flutetunes.com.
If you live somewhere where your practice time is limited, (like if you have a young sibling or live in an apartment with quiet hours), try to either mental practice, finger along with your music, or listen to recordings of your music. Even better if you can practice flute at school!
If you want some practice accountability, check out the Mindful Practice Room.
One of the most common frustrations that comes from practicing music is playing too fast! You know the story of the tortoise and the hare, right? Slow and steady wins the race! In fact, when I'm teaching flute lessons, I notice that the people who progress the slowest are usually the ones who practice with the least patience, practicing their music much faster than their fingers or brain can handle. It takes a lot of persistence, but by practicing slowly, you'll work smarter, not harder. (I know it's easier said than done, but it's totally worth it). Here are some tips for practicing intentionally.
Take care of your flute
Clean your instrument after you play: always swab out your flute with a cleaning swab after you play to absorb the moisture inside your flute. Doing this will keep your flute in good playing condition.
Ideally, try to take your flute to a repair technician or a music shop for a tune-up around once a year. This is especially important if you have an intermediate or step-up flute, but all flutes deserve to be taken care of properly.
Be careful about where you put your flute! Don't place your flute on a music stand, on the ground, on a bed or couch, or somewhere where a younger sibling or pet could knock it over.
If you're ready to upgrade your flute, try out various flutes from a flute shop or music shop
Flute trials are the best way to buy a new flute because you'll have the chance to experiment with different brands within your budget. There isn't a "best flute", there is only a flute that's the best for YOU within your budget. Buying a new instrument doesn't automatically make you sound better (there's no shortcut to practicing!), but it could make a difference in your sound if your current flute is holding you back.
Take private flute lessons
One of the best ways to improve on your instrument is by taking private lessons so that you have the guidance and expertise of a music teacher to help you with the specific issues you're encountering and to give you personalized advice on how to move forward. As a flute teacher, I love helping my students discover "aha" moments and guiding them in a healthy direction in their practice strategies.
If flute lessons aren't accessible for you because of location or financial reasons, there might be an opportunity for you to take virtual lessons or group lessons. Sometimes it's possible to take lessons through your school for a free or reduced rate. Alternatively, something as simple as playing duets with an older classmate can lead to growth!
If you're interested in exploring flute lessons in Boston or virtually, you can find out more here.