[Originally published June 30, 2020 on my former website.]
Hello there, reader! I hope you've been able to enjoy the start of summer despite the world being a bit topsy-turvy this year. Since most of us should still be staying indoors due to the COVID situation, I thought that now would be a great time to suggest some of the best method books for flutists to purchase and work on this summer (and all year round!). They are books that I have used for many years and will continue to use for the rest of my life.
If you've ever felt like scales and arpeggios weren't enough to push you to that next level of flute playing, this list is for you. I've broken down my suggestions into three categories: Tone, Technique, and Studies. Of course, everything is interrelated and connected when practicing the flute, but these books will guide your focus to specific aspects of beautiful flute playing. These books can work for dedicated beginners as well as intermediate and advanced players alike.
Disclaimer: I know most of these books are pricey. I acknowledge that it is a privilege to be able to afford these books and therefore to become a better flute player. I would first check with your local library and see if they have any sheet music and music books available, and then take your time to purchase these books over the course of a couple of years. They will be an investment in the long-term but again, I understand that this is not an option for everyone.
These books will get you to slow down and focus on the quality of your sound as well as expand your air capacity drastically.
1. Wye, Trevor - Practice Book for the Flute: Book 1 - Tone (Novello)
This is a great book specifically for beginners, as it provides basic and foundational exercises for young flutists. The book is split into seven sections: Tone Exercises, Gnomes, Tone Colour, Breath Control, Flexibility, Pitch Control, and Examples. Wye also provides many explanations throughout the exercises to guide you as you practice. His style of writing is quite unique - it can be very forward and blunt, but sometimes that works best, depending on your learning style.
2. Moyse, Marcel - De la sonorité: Art et technique (Alphonse Leduc, Editions Musicales)
If you haven't heard of Marcel Moyse, not to worry, his name will become very familiar throughout your flute journey! (And certainly if you study with me.) Moyse wrote many, many method books for flutists and they are the basis of most other method books that exist today. This one in particular will have you playing with the most beautiful sound in no time. Just like Wye, Moyse explains the concepts behind his exercises in detail (in English, French, and German!).
There are five sections to this book: Timbre and Homogeneity of Tone, Suppleness in the Low Register, Attack and Slurring of Notes, Fullness of Tone, and The Management of Tone in Interpretation. You will also experience a huge increase in your air capacity if you follow the instructions he provides.
3. Bernold, Philippe - La Technique d'Embouchure: 218 exercices pour maîtriser toutes les difficultés liées à l'embouchure de la flûte traversière et acquérir une belle sonorité (Gérard Billaudot Éditeur)
This long title is basically telling you that this book will help with your embouchure and tone! It's similar in setup to the other two books: explanations of concepts and exercises, and there is some overlap in the specific exercises provided. However, what makes this book unique is the first section, Vocalises. They are beautiful melodies or arpeggio figures that Bernold has transposed in all the keys. They are the perfect warm-up material, but they also force you to confront the weak spots in your sound production and support system.
The book has four sections: Vocalises, Intervals, "Sons filés" (Long Tones), and Types of Note Attack. I find Bernold's exercises to be more unique than other method books, which is why this is a purchase you will never regret. He also provides text in French and English.
These books are a workout! They will stretch your comfort zone and instill long-lasting habits for your technical progress.
1. Taffanel et Gaubert - 17 Grands Exercices Journaliers de Mécanisme (Éditions Musicales Alphonse Leduc)
This book is a non-negotiable must-have in your music library. It contains some of the most useful scale and arpeggio exercises out there. There are endless possibilities on how to use these exercises to improve your overall playing, not just your fingers. Taffanel and Gaubert were great flutists and composers and they really knew what they were doing when they wrote this book!
There aren't really lengthy explanations preceding each exercise like you'll find in the tone books. Just a quick note on how to approach it (written in English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese!). However, they do provide articulation patterns to vary your practice regimen, which is very helpful. My favourite exercises: #4 (known to most flutists), #6, and #10.
2. Reichert, M.A. - Seven Daily Exercises, Op. 5 (Carl Fischer)
This is one of my favourite method books to use when I practice! The exercises written by Reichert are so melodious, it's as if you're playing a very short piece in each key. He doesn't provide any guidance through text, so this may be more useful for intermediate players who already have a solid technical foundation going on. I actually often use these exercises for tone practice; I slow down the tempo drastically and pretend I'm playing a Vocalise from the Bernold book. No matter how beautiful the melodies are, Reichert makes sure your fingers don't fall asleep!
3. Maquarre, André - Daily Exercises for the Flute (G. Schirmer, Inc.)
Now this is one for the brave and daring flutists out there! These are seven of the toughest technical exercises you'll find, in all the keys possible. Similarly to the Taffanel et Gaubert book, there are only short tips preceding each exercise (in English and Spanish), but there is a lengthy introduction and general tips for how to approach the book as a whole. This is geared towards intermediate and advanced players who are looking to push the limits of what their fingers can do! Have fun :)
These books are perfect for your one-study-a-week practice. They will make you feel confident in all key signatures while providing a mixture of technical and lyrical studies.
1. 125 Easy Classical Studies for Flute (Universal Edition)
This is a great book for beginner flutists who are familiar with most of the notes on the flute already. It covers a wide range of levels from the first study to the 125th, so this will serve you well for a long time. The studies are from a variety of composers such as Popp, Devienne, Soussmann, and more. There is a short Preface in English and German, as well as brief biographies of the composers included in the book. It's more of an anthology, as you'll notice. If you're interested in taking performance exams, the McGill Conservatory of Music syllabus includes selections from this book.
2. Melodious and Progressive Studies for Flute, Book 1 (Southern Music Company)
This is another wonderful anthology of studies for solo flute that range from very technical (just scales and arpeggios, really) to beautiful melodies. The composers featured in this book are Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak. This is a great book for intermediate players, and the second book in this series is also a wonderful option once you've made your way through this one. I love the variety that this book contains; you'll be using it for a while!
3. Boehm, Theobald - 12 Etudes for Flute, Op. 15: For the Perfection of the Fingering in all the Major and Minor Keys (Carl Fischer)
Boehm was a flutist and the creator of the modern flute most of us play on today. Therefore, he really knew what he was doing when writing method books and pieces. This book is more of a technique book than a study book, in my opinion, as it doesn't really contain any melodies like other studies would. However, it's a great workout for your fingers and specifically for becoming comfortable in all keys, as mentioned in the title. I particularly love etude #10, as it kind of sounds like a melody but it's made up of constant octaves. There is no text at all in this book, so make sure you've explored other method books before purchasing this one. You will be your own guide!
There you have it, 9 precious books that will last you a lifetime. Of course, there are many more that I own and would recommend, but I think this is a good enough start :) Leave a comment below letting me know which books you own and/or if you have other ones you recommend! I absolutely love collecting more and more method books!
Happy practicing! 🥰
Excited to dive into these books but now sure how to go about them? Let me help you out! I've been using these books (and more!) my whole flute life and can provide the guidance you need to make the most out of them. Head over to my Lessons Page to schedule a FREE 30-minute trial lesson! Can't wait to work with you :)