Sheridon Stokes
& Richard Condon,
Illustrated Method for Flute
(Mel Bay, 2001)

Wow! I can not praise this book enough. Illustrated Method for Flute is the first and only flute book I own that gives pages and pages of detailed explanations of how to hold the flute, body position, breath control for tone variations, sustain, vibrato, pitch, etc. and actual recommended exercises that not only get you in shape but show how they contribute to strengthening the lungs for better control in playing very long or technically demanding pieces.

There are two pages that detail the physics of how the sound of a flute is produced. The authors also explain why experts recommend certain postures, breath control and positioning the lips a certain way gives the best sound. The end result of all of the above it so the air stream will be split equally -- half escapes across the top of the embouchure -- the other equal half is caught and funnelled through the flute. When the two air streams are exactly equal, the most optimal sound is produced. This is only one example of the information available in this book.

The second half of the book delves into traditional etudes and arpeggios. I was initially a bit confused by this section as the first thing you see is four pages of notes you are supposed to read and play. If you are truly a rank beginner and have never played any music instrument before -- and thus haven't learned traditional music notation -- you will need another book. This area, surprisingly, is the only area in which this otherwise excellent book falls short. No explanation is given of how to count measures, key signatures, etc. I found it rather puzzling because it seems as if the first half of the book assumes you will have no access to a teacher and thus explains everything in exhaustive detail. The second half of the book skips over teaching how to read music and jumps right into practicing etudes and arpeggios.

The last pages of the book give excellent little diagrams of each note fingering (plus alternate fingerings where applicable) and their position on the staff.

I would say the first half of the book alone makes it worth getting. No other beginning flute book gives the infomation this one provides. But do not depend on it alone. Get another beginning flute book that teaches traditional music and gives short, simple songs to practice each new note learned. Once you've learned all the notes and how to read music you can go back and begin practing the many etudes and argeggios in the second half of the book.

- Rambles
written by Dana Fletcher
published 22 March 2003

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