First Flute! by Amy O'Neill
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
First Flute! Opens differently than one might expect: headjoint exercises! This is surprising because there isn’t an introduction or any reading at the beginning! In fact, most of the words throughout the book are either brief explanations or lyrics. Visual cues and Kodaly-inspired syllable counting are used for most of the explanations. Throughout the book are interesting games, headjoint exercises, and rhythm exercises. Many of the composition exercises also provide a vocabulary word such as “waltz” with a definition. Notes in this book are color-coded, which gives a vibrant effect to the pages without additional pictures. Fingering charts are provided when new notes are introduced, as well as a blank chart for students to complete as well. Scales and arpeggios are introduced as soon as there are enough notes to do so in the range available (5-note scales, 3-note arpeggios). Key signatures are color-coded as they are introduced to match notes. Toward the end of the book, color-coded key signatures are replaced with black flats or sharps, though notes remain in color.
It should be noted that this is a first or second book in a series, depending on one’s age. The first book is First Flute! – Tiny Toots and intended for pre-readers, with a special extra parenting help if wanted. I’ll review this at a later date.
Range of Notes: D1-C3
Order of notes: B1, A1, G1, F1, C2, C3, Bb1, E1, E2, Eb1, Eb2, Ab1, Ab2, F#1, F#2, G#1, G#2, Db/C#1, Db/C#2, D#1, D1, D2, F1, F2, G2, Gb2, A#1, A#2
Rhythms: quarter note/rest, half note, dotted half note, eighth note, eighth rest, dotted eighth note, sixteenth notes
Time signatures: 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 6/8, 9/8, 3/2, 6/4, 12/8
Key Signatures: no flats/sharps, one flat, two flats, three flats, one sharp, two sharps, three sharps, four flats, four sharps
Headjoint exercises scattered through book and use pictures of fans on pneumo pro
Heads of notes use color-coding to reflect note name
Key signature accidentals color-code with notes
Compositions, musical games, transposition
Use of major and minor 5-note scales
Mixture of North American Folk tunes, some “classical” tunes, and others
Counting using rhythm syllables
Follow-up to Tiny Toots, but good for beginners ages 8-12
From the Author:
When I started working with younger kids, I found that they were capable of so much if they were given the right tools or had the materials presented in a way that engaged them. The standard method books didn’t work for them in the same way that it did with my teens - the pages were too busy, too black-and-white, and many of the methods moved too quickly. So I decided to do something a little different, and created a book that helps younger kids learn to play in ways that come more naturally to them.
Just like in the large-font books used to teach kids to read, the First Flute! music fonts are really big to make the music look more approachable, the note heads are coloured to help the kids remember which note is which, there are note playback/echo exercises to help them develop their ear (so much fun as they try to “trick” you by making things even more complicated!), rhythm duets to help them physically experience musical beat (so much fun with drumsticks!) and opportunities for the kids to create their own music, reinforcing rhythm symbols by dreaming up rhythmic patterns or going over the notes they’ve collected by composing their own pieces.
The book works with the challenge elements that kids love (Long note challenges! Note detectives! Mystery music! Places to keep track of your most accurate speeds!) and uses singable melodies that work their way through keys up to four flats / sharps, so your students grow up playing easily in a wide ranges of keys (not just B-flat!).
The music is chosen from tunes that are close to my heart - lots of Irish, Scottish and English folk music that often makes appearances in the “grown up” band and orchestral pieces the kids will encounter later in life.
It’s the book I would have wanted to learn from as a kid, and I’m excited to share it with you!