Flute Methods for Intermediate Students

by Enrico Sartori

When I talk about intermediate flute students I refer to those who had regular flute lessons for a semester or one year, learned all the positions of the first two octaves, some positions of the third (up to a G at least) and can play some easy repertoire. 

There are countless flute methods in different countries of the world for this particular type of student, and here I don’t want to provide a long list with all of them. I would like to focus on Italian flute methods of the XIX century and I will specifically speak about three authors: Giuseppe Gariboldi, Ernesto Köhler and Luigi Hugues. 

You can also follow the link to a video on the same topic that I presented during the International Babel Flute Days in May 2022. 

In the university where I teach there are two paths for flute students: performance and education. I have several students who are enrolled in the education program and would like to pursue a teaching career after graduating. During the course of the year I organize a few seminars about teaching techniques and flute methods. What I generally do in my first seminar is to ask my students to write down a detailed four-year plan of teaching. This plan would cater to students who have no prior experience of playing the flute (what I call level zero) and in four years need to reach a level in which they can enter a bachelor program as a flute major. 

While it is quite clear what method to use at the beginning of this plan, with the Trevor Wye’s A Beginner’s Book for Flute being the favorite textbook, there is always a little bit of confusion on what to do next. Most of the books are too hard and don’t quite help to develop the technique at this point. 

Today I would like to present some of the methods that are out there, then it depends on the single teacher how to use these materials. 

Most of the textbooks that I will present belong to what I call “The Italian Flute School”, which for me is the one based on the flute methods written in the XIX and early XX century. Unlike other flute schools from other European countries, in the Italian flute methods you won’t only find useful technical exercises but also beautiful melodies. Let’s not forget that opera has a central role in the Italian music scene of the XIX century, and its influence, the bel canto, can also also found in the flute exercises. 

Let’s start. 

A student that completed the Trevor Wye’s A Beginner’s Book, or any other similar books, is still in a stage in which he can’t play the main repertoire for flute. Both the digital technique and the sound need to be further developed.

Giuseppe Gariboldi (1833-1905)

Giuseppe Gariboldi

One of the best books that I recommend at this point is Giuseppe Gariboldi 30 Easy and progressive exercises for flute. The word “progressive” is a word that I like very much at this level because it means that some progress needs to be made. 

If you look at exercise number one for example, you can see that it is pretty straightforward, with quarter notes being the fastest notes. Also the range is quite limited, from a low G to the C, it is marked Largo non troppo, which means that also the speed is fairly slow. In addition, Gariboldi writes down the breath marks to give an idea of the phrasing. If you try to play the first two lines of this exercise you will hear that the melody used is quite pleasant.

As you go along in the book, you see that more musical elements are gradually introduced. Let’s have a look at the number five for example. We can see it is marked Allegretto non troppo, so faster than number one, and the eight note is the shortest value. Different types of staccato are introduced, the long one, the short one, different types of accents too. Also the range is bigger, from a low C (with the option of playing this note an octave higher) up to an F in the third high register. 

If we keep going forward we see that both the speed and the range of each exercise is increased; new musical elements are introduced, such as trills in exercise 14, and we arrive at the last exercise, number thirty, where the double tonging (staccato doppio) technique is introduced. 

It is quite an interesting journey. 

The Giuseppe Gariboldi 30 Easy and progressive exercises for flute is available all over the world; there are several editions in Italy, you can also find it online on amazon.com. I have also made my own edition, currently available in print in China but soon available on the website J.W.Pepper this coming fall. The examples in this article are taken from my edition. 

By Giuseppe Gariboldi there are two more methods that can also be used:

  • 20 Studies op. 132
  • 58 esercizi per flauto (58 exercises for flute). 

When I was living in Italy I used this last book very much, 58 Esercizi per Flauto.

I have the Berben edition at home, but again there are multiple editions that you can purchase. The Peters edition uses the German title Die Ersten Übungen für Flöte (The first exercises for flute).

Ernesto Köhler (1849-1907)

Another text book that can be used for intermediate students is Ernesto Köhler’s 20 Easy melodic progressive exercises op.93. Here in addition to the word progressive we find another favorite word of mine: melodic. 

Each exercise, or lesson to be more precise, is divided into 3 distinct parts. The first part is for the development of the sound and technique: in the first line there are some long notes to play for the development of your tone, followed by a scale and different arpeggios. The second part is a melodic exercise, and the third part is a duet that can be played with the teacher or played together with another student, perhaps a more advanced one. 

This book is very interesting because it develops your technique as well as your idea for melodic phrases. 

Luigi Hugues (1836-1913)

Anonymous Piedmontese 19th century, Trio Hugues: (from left) Costantino Nigra – famous politician – Felice Hugues and Luigi Hugues. Source: Wikipedia

Another flute method that was very popular in Italy when I was a young student is Luigi Hugues La scuola del flauto op.51. This method is divided into four volumes of different levels with the first one being the easiest. Also the exercises inside each volume are progressive and they get harder toward the end. 

This method is quite unique because all the exercises are in the form of a duets. The student has to play the top line, and the teacher or a more advance student can play the bottom line. When I was a young student in Italy generally only the top line was played and it was almost never treated as a duet. 

I personally think this is a great book for all those teachers who like to “get their hands dirty” so to speak and who like to play together with their students during the lesson. I am one of those teachers, I enjoy very much to make music together with my students, and I see that most of them, especially the young ones, are really enjoying the time when we play together and they generally put more efforts when studying their part at home. This is a suitable method for teachers who like to be active, who take their flutes and play during the lessons. Not only do these duets develop the technique of the students, but many of the exercises are very pleasant with nice and interesting melodies. 

Teaching advice

So these are some ideas for intermediate students. Of course there are many more methods, both in the Italian Flute School tradition, and others. A general piece of advice for students who are at the second year of their learnings, is to focus on one problem at a time. I know there are many things that can be said about each single exercise, but I tend to focus on one specific aspect each time. For example, for one exercise I would like to focus just on the staccato, meaning that the staccato needs to be clear, with tongue and fingers well synchronized. If an exercise is in Bb Major for example, I will focus on the middle eb, making sure the index finger of the left hand is not down and so on. If an exercise has more than one important point, let’s stay for example that we have a staccato exercise that happens to be in the tone of Bb Major, I will make the student play the exercise a first time in order to check, and fix if necessary, his left hand index finger on Eb. Once this problem is fixed I will ask the student to play the exercise a second time and this time I will only focus on the staccato. 

At this level I also tend to focus either on the digital technique or on the sound. I treat the two problems separately. It will be the topic of a future article how to develop the sound or how to work on intonation. 

These are my ideas about teaching flute to students who are at the second year of their learnings. What are your ideas? Which flute method would you use? Which multi-year plan would you make for your students?

Please let me know about your thoughts in the comments below or reach me on my social media. 

Enrico Sartori

www.enricosartori.com | YouTube | Spotify | Apple Music

Enrico Sartori is professor of flute, conducting and vocal coach at the Northeast Normal University in Changchun (China). Since 2019 he is also the main conductor at the International School in Changchun as well as the Jilin Baroque Youth Orchestra. 

He played as a soloist with numerous orchestras in Europe, Russia, Asia and America and collaborated as principal flute with many orchestras such as the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (2015), the Opera National de Lyon (2014), the Turin Philharmonic Orchestra (2013-2014), the Italian Philharmonic Orchestra (2013 – 2017) and the Harbin Symphony Orchestra (2018 – 2019). 

Enrico Sartori graduated with full honors at the Conservatorio G. Verdi of Turin, earned his Master degree from Yale University in 2005 and Doctorate from SUNY, Stony Brook in 2011. In 2003 he studied at the Academy of the Teatro alla Scala of Milan under conductor Riccardo Muti. (Italy). His main flute teachers include Carol Wincenc, Ransom Wilson, Antonmario Semolini, Bruno Cavallo and Patrick Gallois. 

Winner of many international competitions, in 2009 maestro Satori made his solo Carnegie Hall debut (New York) as a winner of the Artist International Competition. His stunning performance at Weill Recital Hall received an unanimous standing ovation. 

Also an accomplished conductor, Enrico Sartori has been invited as a guest conductor of many professional orchestras around the world including the Xi’An Symphony Orchestra, (China), the Changchun Theatre Orchestra (China) and the Kaliningrad Philharmonic (Russia).