Interior and Exterior Care

Flute Cleaning Basics


Cleaning rod or flute flag/wand type swab

Interior cloth 

Polishing cloth (exterior) 

Pad blotting papers

Silver protector strips


It’s important to swab out the flute before putting it away. Moisture that is left in the flute can get into the pads causing them to warp and leak, and can get into the mechanism causing it to rust. Also, moisture regularly left in the flute will cause mold in the case over time. 

Use the cleaning rod and a soft cloth to swab out the inside of the flute. A cotton handkerchief, silk scarf, or cheesecloth are all good things to use. There are also silk swabs and other types of swabs which you can purchase specifically for flute. Flute flag/wand type swabs are excellent, but temporarily lose their absorbent properties when they become dirty. In my experience, they need to be washed a little more often than cotton or silk. Since it is attached to the rod, it can't be thrown in the dryer like a regular cloth swab can, so you will need to use another swab until it dries.

When swabbing out the head joint, don’t pull too much of the swab through the opening in the cleaning rod. Just pull through a little and then wrap some of the swab over the top of the rod so that it can reach the closed end of the inside of the head joint.

After swabbing, do not put a wet swab back in the flute case. The idea is to REMOVE moisture from the flute. Tie it onto the handle or store it separately until it dries. 

Pad Savers 

These are fluffy looking brushes that are left inside the flute. I was confused at how leaving a wet swab in the flute would work, so, years ago, I asked the original inventor of the HW Pad Saver. He said, the pad saver is NOT meant to be a swab by itself. The pad saver is to be stored inside the flute AFTER it is swabbed out. The idea being that any small amount of residual moisture on the pads will be drawn into the pad saver. That’s why it’s called a pad saver , although they originally WANTED to call it a "shove it!"

External care

Use a DIFFERENT cloth to wipe off the outside of the flute. Microfiber cloths are excellent for removing finger prints. Be careful NOT to wipe the cloth on the edges of the pads. This can cause the pads to tear, and then, they may need to be replaced: $$$$. Also, do not wipe the keys with a heavy motion, press lightly only. To remove dust or tarnish under the mechanism, use a pipe cleaner. Craft stores carry nice fluffy ones. Just be careful that the metal end doesn’t poke the pads or scratch the flute. 

Tarnish can be removed with a silver polishing cloth. However, I would not use one very often on student flutes because they are silver plated, and the plating can be worn out. If you do use a silver polishing cloth, be sure to wipe the flute off with a plain cloth afterwards. I find that wiping the flute down with a microfiber cloth after playing and keeping a silver protector strip in the case keeps tarnish under control.

DO NOT use liquid silver polish. 

DO NOT “wash” your flute: water is the enemy of the pads and mechanism.

You CAN wash the head joint once in a while, if needed, although I find that wiping it off or swabbing it out with rubbing alcohol or an alcohol prep pad works just fine.  


Don’t play your flute right after eating or drinking anything other than water, without brushing your teeth, or, at the very least, rinsing out your mouth thoroughly, or you will get sticky pads. 

Even if you do this, sometimes pads can become sticky for no apparent reason. You can use pad blotting paper to stop sticky pads. There are some papers on the market specifically for this purpose, or you can use a cheaper alternative that works just as well: curler end papers, available at any drug store. Un-gummed cigarette papers have been the choice of many professionals for years. It’s understandable that it’s not a good idea for kids to have cigarette papers, so curler papers or Yamaha cleaning papers are what I recommend. 

Put the paper under the pad and close the key. Then, alternately open and close the key on the paper. DO NOT pull the paper out from a closed key because this can damage the pads. 

If the pads are STILL sticky after this, you can try the following things, blot the pad with an alcohol prep pad, then blot it dry with pad papers. If it’s STILL sticky after that, you can put a LITTLE rubbing alcohol on the swab, and swab out the flute. Then, use a clean, dry swab immediately to dry out the tube. THEN, repeat the alcohol prep blotting steps on the pad. 

Powder papers

For a quick fix, like if a pad becomes sticky during a rehearsal, powder paper can provide relief. Powder paper is blotting paper usually with Talc on it. It should be used sparingly because talc is not good for you, and ANY powder can get into the mechanism and cause a problem. Yamaha makes powder paper, but there are also several types of facial blotting papers that contain no talc, and some with no powder that might also work. I’ve tried some that are bamboo and they seem to work fine. 

High tech solutions

BG makes a pad blotter out of some sort of ultra-suede fabric. It works very well on flutes with synthetic pads like Straubinger or JS pads. I am not sure how well it works on traditional pads which are on most student flutes. 

Graphite: On JS pads, which are a synthetic pad without a skin and are embedded with gold, it is recommended to  use the dry lubricant, Graphite. I have these pads and it works very well on them



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For Students

2020 All-State Audition Prep

High School Piece for FLUTE: Griffes Poem

First excerpt: Letter B-C

The most common errors in this excerpt are counting errors. 9/8 time is a compound meter containing 3 beats per measure, a dotted quarter receives ONE beat, and each beat is triply divided: 3 eighth notes to each beat. The rhythm is further complicated by the Quadruplet which is 4 notes played in the space of 3 eighths. Practice this excerpt counting in 9: counting each eighth note as one beat. Don’t worry about the quadruplet at first. Pay extra attention to the tied notes. Miscounted ties are also a common error. Gradually increase the tempo until you can count in 3. Then, add the quadruplet which fits easily into one dotted quarter note beat. Repeated notes under slurs need SOME separation. They shouldn’t sound like one long note. Tongue the repeated notes, while keeping them long. Record yourself and listen back to check note lengths and clarity.

Second Excerpt: Letter D-E

DO NOT practice this until you can count excerpt ONE correctly. The same issue, as in the first excerpt, with repeated notes under slurs is present in this excerpt. Again, repeated notes under slurs need to be articulated. Pay VERY CLOSE attention to the accidentals, and remember that they carry through each measure, and apply to the trill AND the grace notes after the trill. The trill is from G#-A#. Finger G# with the thumb on the Bb key, trill your left hand second finger. Using a metronome, practice SAYING note groups of 3, 4, and 5 notes per beat. Then play them, first on ONE note, then, on the printed notes.

Third Excerpt: Letter N to 10 before O

 The most common errors with this excerpt are sixteenths that are too short, and rushing in the Presto. Play very short eighth notes, but the sixteenths shouldn’t be shorter than you can play them with a good tone. When played fast, they will sound shorter than when played slow. Make sure the grace note is audible (often, people play it too fast). Strive for NO loss of tone quality or volume when switching from slurring to tonguing. Use a metronome. Memorize your tempo.

High School Piccolo Piece: Vivaldi Concerto in C,

F VI 4(Ricordi)

First Excerpt: First movement, meas. 19- downbeat of meas. 42 

Tongue relaxed, not too short on the sixteenths. Use firm abdominal support. Try not to over tighten your lips. Strive for a singing sound at all times. Rushing is a big issue: use a metronome. Don’t go any faster than you can play cleanly. In all the measures where there is a note on the beat followed by a 3 note ornament: (meas. 19, the E is the melodic note, the G-F-G is an ornament) bring out the MELODY. Make the melody notes sound stronger than the ornaments. First practice JUST the melodic notes, then add the other notes.

Second Excerpt: 

2nd movement, meas. 154-164: 4th beat. End on the G quarter note. 

Practice E2 and B2 with a tuner. The B is flat on most piccolos! Make a singing sound throughout. If you use vibrato, it should be just a shimmer. Don’t rush the group of 10 notes: first practice slowly in small note groupings (2’s+3’s). Bring out the natural rise and fall of the melody.

Jr. High piece for Flute AND Piccolo: Andersen Scherzino (Rubank)

Measure 60 to the end:

This excerpt begins with the melodic middle section of the charming Scherzino by Andersen. Carl Joachim Andersen was a Danish virtuoso flutist, conductor, and composer who lived from 1847-1909. He was a founding member, and the first principal flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic. He wrote many pieces for the flute including several volumes of etudes which are still an important part of the flute repertoire. He was particularly good at writing beautiful music that covered the most challenging aspects of flute playing. The slur up to the high F# in this excerpt is an example of that. In the section from 60 until the key change, strive for a beautiful, clear, sound on all notes, and smooth slurs: especially the one up to the high F#. In preparing this interval leap, remember this: UPWARD INTERVAL LEAPS ON FLUTE ARE PREPARED FROM THE LOWER NOTES BEFORE THE LEAP. Don’t blow harder on the high F#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Blow down more, and blow stronger on the last 2 notes of the previous measure. Then, simply adjust your embouchure for the top note. Don’t rush the grace notes. Count the trill carefully, and the grace notes after the trill need to fit in the measure without taking any extra time. Practice starting them on the ‘and’ of 3 or later. After the key change, strive for a nice contrast between the slurred notes and the tongued notes. Play SHORT tongued quarters. A dot on the last note of a slur(meas. 92, etc...) means to clip it off short, but NOT to tongue it. Work for good dynamic contrast. (See tips for dynamics on the first page). Practicing scales in G, D, A major, and b minor, will help with this piece.

General notes: 

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving week to start recording yourself. If you record yourself one or two times a week starting now, you will be able to correct more things, and you will be more comfortable with the process when you do make your official recording. You don’t need fancy equipment: a cell phone, tablet, or computer is fine. As always, the metronome is your friend.

All-State Scales: 

Play them every day, especially the full-range chromatic scale. If you get bored of playing the same scales everyday, practice different speeds, dynamics, and articulation. When you record, play them exactly as specified.


10 Ways to Improve


(without Practicing)

While there is no substitute for practicing, and we all try our best to get it done, sometimes we just don’t have enough time. Here are some things you can do in rehearsals that will help improve your playing on the spot:

1: Assemble the Flute Correctly (make sure the head joint and foot joint are in the BEST spot for you every time)

2: Relax

3: Focus

4: Use good posture

5: Breathe Well

6: Make your best sound

7: Keep fingers close to the keys

8: Count! (always)

9: Play the correct dynamics and articulation

10: Finger difficult passages quietly while the conductor is rehearsing others or during long rests